The first time Women In Business Unlimited (WIBU) President and Open Door Health Services Director of Community Engagement Dorica Watson attended one of the organization’s luncheons 12 years ago, she was greeted by colorful hair and artificial fish heels. What she learned that day is that anything can mean business.
“I started seeing people who, naturally, I didn’t identify as professional because I had been told what professional was,” Watson said. “I didn’t really have the opportunity to see what professional was.”
WIBU Vice President and Farmhouse Creative Project Manager Amy Leffingwell had a similar experience when she was invited to join an event by a prior president four years ago.
“I looked around, and it was such a diverse group of powerful, respected women, and that got me very interested in more networking and serving for other women to join,” Leffingwell said.
WIBU, a volunteer-based organization, is centered around giving all women networking opportunities in Muncie and the rest of East Central Indiana, per its website. The group hosts monthly luncheons, calendar events and more.
“This is a space for all women, no matter what walk of life they are on,” Watson said.
As Watson and Leffingwell continued their involvement in WIBU, they took the time to find out what the organization personally stood for. Along with empowerment, growth and experience for Leffingwell, WIBU is also about supporting other women, she said.
“I’ve learned, within this group, that it is OK to throw your hat in the ring,” Leffingwell said. “It is OK to toot your own horn because we’re all tooting each others’ horns.”
For Watson, WIBU also stood for representation among women of color.
“There is no one that has ever looked like me before that has held this role,” Watson said. “As a Black woman, I know how important representation is. I know that if I am the first, I don’t ever want to be the last.”
As a group, WIBU members have worked together to implement these elements throughout the years in their meetings. Now, as a president and vice president duo, Watson and Leffingwell have begun 2022 with these same expressive women in mind.
“I want to work alongside women to embolden them so they can really become their best selves,” Watson said. “Sometimes, we don’t become our best selves because we weren’t given permission to.”
Providing members a welcoming space to network, learn and expand their reach is WIBU’s priority, Watson said. The organization gives each member permission to shine.
“It can be a weird space because we don’t get to say, ‘We are proud of us,’” Watson said. “Then, we stand in the background and watch other people be proud of others.”
To kick off the year and highlight women in the community, WIBU adopted “Warrior Women Wednesday” as a way to share projects being completed by women or give congratulations to women who are continuously making their mark via Facebook.
“Not just amazing things [for the business community], but also for themselves,” Watson said. “It’s important for us to honor and acknowledge all sorts of women.”
WIBU board member and Ball State Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation Lindsey Speers also appreciates the organization’s new approach to giving women of any age in the area a platform on their social media.
“We’re trying to empower even young people to know that you don’t just have to be empowered as a professional — you can be empowered in what you’re capable of,” Speers said.
“Warrior Women Wednesday” also allows for members, businesswomen and women alike to virtually stay in touch with WIBU and its accolades while maintaining community awareness.
“I will always be connected as the organization grows and diversifies,” said WaTasha Barnes Griffin, WIBU secretary and YWCA Central Indiana CEO.
Along with social media, Barnes Griffin said in-person WIBU events are “a place women should be” as it supports and encourages relationship building, and WIBU is dedicated to providing professional development. Speers noted how every event gives members an opportunity to reintroduce themselves as they grow within their careers.
“Every event we have, you do an introduction,” Speers said. “And you own that introduction … like ‘who am I?’ [It’s about] empowering yourself to empower other people.”
Speers recalled her first form of involvement in WIBU through their annual ATHENA Awards Programs, which “celebrates the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of our community and recognizes those who support them,” according to the website. Speers received the Young ATHENA Award in 2014 for her work as a young professional within the community.
“That brought me to WIBU in terms of opportunities, resources, networking and what the organization had to provide and offer,” she said.
Speers attended multiple WIBU events and started making connections, which led to her wanting to serve on the board during summer 2021.
“As a professional and as a woman, I am able to provide to others what WIBU provided to me,” Speers said.
As the organization continues to support, represent and empower future businesswomen, Watson wants the community to know WIBU will always have a space to do just that.
“Sometimes, we don’t know our power because we’ve never been given the permission to activate it,” Watson said. “We want to open those doors.”