Alyssa Morin

Local group introduces a new conference for women in business

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Mickey Marraffino (left) and Bibi Goldstein are two of the women behind Friday's conference.

Mickey Marraffino (left) and Bibi Goldstein are two of the women behind Friday’s conference.

The forces behind the South Bay Business Women’s Association charged themselves with an ambitious task this year.

Last month, the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce moved away from what was once a Women in Business Conference and instead hosted a South Bay Business Leaders Summit. The South Bay Business Women’s Association decided to step in and create their own conference to fill what they saw as a void in women-focused forums.

“When the other conference kind of went away, there was nothing for us, really, in the South Bay that was women centric,” said Bibi Goldstein, President of the SBBWA. “And we feel that a gathering like that is crucial to create bonds between like-minded women.”

The SBBWA was part of the American Business Women’s Association for over 20 years. The non-profit became its own entity in 2010 with the mission of raising money to provide scholarships for local women to return to college and pursue degrees for the betterment of their lives.

“We are a small group but we have been able to raise close to $5000 each year for scholarships,” Goldstein said. “I presented to the board the idea of expanding our scholarships to include high school women pursuing degrees. I felt like we could reach a larger audience.”

Upon hearing that the Women in Business conference in Manhattan Beach was changing, the SBBWA began planning their own summit. As a result of their efforts, the South Bay Women’s Conference will be held Friday, May 9 at the Torrance Marriott.

“We went after this,” said Goldstein, who is also the conference chair. “A lot of the women who had worked for the Manhattan Beach Women in Business when it was truly a conference for women joined our effort. Forty percent of our committee came from there.”

The South Bay Women’s Conference is an all-day forum for purpose-driven and service-minded women to motivate, educate and empower themselves while forming connections to one another. All profits go to the SBBWA scholarship fund.

“The theme of the conference is ‘Live, Laugh, Learn,’” said Mickey Marraffino, conference marketing chair. “We want to address issues that women have in their work lives and their personal lives, as well as address the work/life balance.”

Three keynote speakers will address each element of the conference theme: Marianne Williamson, author, lecturer and current candidate for United States Congress in California’s 33rd District, will speak about holistic living; Lulu Powers, celebrity chef and entertaining guru, will talk about the lighter side of life; and Caterina Rando, a renowned women’s business coach, will educate attendees about building their businesses.

Attaining Williamson was a particular feather in the cap of the South Bay Women’s Conference team. She is an internationally acclaimed author with six of her ten published books on the New York Times Best Sell­er list. She is also a sought-after public speaker who created Sister Giant, a series of seminars teaching women the tools needed to become political candidates.

“I will be talking about what it takes for a woman to find strength within herself to move from a place of weakness to strength,” Marianne Williamson said. “The journey from limitation to power is not only an individual journey but a collective one and a collaborative one.”

Williamson will draw from her book “A Woman’s Worth” and will speak to the conference attendees about the crucial role of women in the world today.

“I have been giving lectures for 30 years about empowering and awakening women,” Marianne Williamson said. “The topic of really spreading our wings is something about which I have been speaking and writing for decades, and I am eager to bring this message to the conference.”

In addition to the four keynote speakers, a panel of accomplished women, including sports journalist Molly McGrath and financial advisor Reva Shakkotta, will discuss breaking through the glass ceiling. The conference is also offering nine breakout sessions on topics like personal branding, publishing, stress management and practicing mindfulness to achieve goals.

“One of the things that was interesting in building the conference was basically starting from scratch,” said Bibi Goldstein. “We had to find sponsors and speakers. It is amazing how much the reputation of the people involved helped with that.”

The South Bay Women’s Conference received major sponsorship from Kaiser Permanente, the South Bay Galleria, Terranea and the Manhattan Village Mall. Tickets to the event have sold out.

“It is an honor to give back to our com­mu­nity in a man­ner that sup­ports women seek­ing to advance them­selves through a col­lege edu­ca­tion,” said Bibi Gold­stein. “In pro­duc­ing this con­fer­ence, we con­tinue our mis­sion of empow­er­ing and enlight­en­ing women.”

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