Innovative Woman Sheila Ronning

Sheila Ronning HeadshotMeet Innovative Woman Sheila Ronning CEO & Founder of Women in the Boardroom.

1. How/why did you begin your business?
I started my 1st business in 1996 as a marketing, PR and sales consultant. While networking to find new clients I ended up creating a networking event for small business owners that grew into a very popular event attended by 700 people 5 times a year. A friend and mentor approached me in 2001 to start an event that would help educate women on how to get onto corporate boards. After a few years of filling the room with 300+ women at an annual event, I started hosting it in various cities across the U.S and by 2010 we were in 15 cities.

2. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge to date was the complete re-vamp of our service offerings. For 9 years we were an event company that financially relied heavily on sponsorship and then the financial crisis hit and while it took a few years to affect us, when it did, it hit hard. Coupled along with the fact that many organizations started popping up that were duplicating our efforts. And to really top it off, I wasn’t seeing any movement in women getting on boards. A big change had to happen and I didn’t know if I had it in me or if I even knew what to change it to. In 2011, I rolled out our membership platform and each year our VIP memberships have doubled. We constantly add new benefits to our program that really help them move closer to that board seat. Not only did we change from an event company to a membership platform but I feel like we really are making a difference.

3. How do you define SUCCESS?
Success to me means being able to live your life the way you want, doing the work you love and giving back to others whether it is a monetary give or your knowledge and guidance.

4. If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?There isn’t anything that I wish I knew because if I had known how tough this would be at times or how many hours I would need to work or how I would be solely responsible for the welfare of the people who work for me, I highly doubt I would have started it. Of course the work that I do makes all of these things worth it, but I am still glad I didn’t know them.

5. What makes you an innovative woman?
I created a Matchmaking program. While working with our members on the structured networking process I created, I realized that a large percentage of our members have amazing board connections and not all of their board connections are sitting on boards that the member would be interested in pursuing (i.e. wrong industry, conflict with their job, etc.). In this context, I came up with our Matchmaking program so that our members could share their board connections with other members. In order to see the master list of these companies where the board connections are, members have to contribute to the list. We rolled this out at the end of 2014 and we have over 250 companies on this list with 75% of them being public. I truly think this will be a game changer for our members.

To find out more about Sheila visit womenintheboardroom.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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