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2018-04-27 / Community (County Spotlight)

Annual Bedford event showcases local leaders

Spotlight on Bedford County
BY CHRIS MORELLI
Pennsylvania Business Correspondent


Photo courtesy of The Beford County of Chamber of Commerce “Our community is better for having more women-owned businesses. We are better for the diversity of products and services as well as new ideas coming into our communities.” Photo courtesy of The Beford County of Chamber of Commerce “Our community is better for having more women-owned businesses. We are better for the diversity of products and services as well as new ideas coming into our communities.” BEDFORD – The fifth annual Women in Business Conference is set for Friday, May 18, at the historic Omni Bedford Spring Resort and Spa.

The conference is one-of-a-kind in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Business Central recently spoke with Kellie Goodman Shaffer, president and CEO of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce about the conference. She touched on numerous topics, including what attendees can expect this year, what makes the conference so special and where it’s headed.

This is the fifth annual Women in Business Conference. As it enters year five, how do you keep the event fresh?

The conference has grown and evolved each year under the leadership of the planning committee, which takes into consideration ideas and suggestions from the attendees. We are very fortunate to draw guests from throughout the state of Pennsylvania, so the event has created a wonderful network of professional women. One of the best things we’ve done over the years is moved away from “professional” speakers and focused our efforts on showcasing outstanding local leaders. The discussions sparked by the stories of inspiring local women have been a highlight of recent conferences.

What has the response been like for this year’s event?

The response for this year has been outstanding. We have put together what we think is our best lineup yet of speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions, as well as a conference- closing business fashion show, so there’s really something for everyone.

How many people and groups will be attending?

We close attendance at 200 guests, and we anticipate selling out. Most guests register for the full day, but others will come for just the breakfast or lunch program – we expect breakfast to be very well attended this year in particular. We will have attendees from all kinds of companies throughout the state, everything from non-profits to manufacturing and everything in between. We also work to create breakout sessions that will appeal to a wide array of people. Some are more geared toward managers, others toward more entry-level positions, so we encourage companies to bring multiple attendees. We have a few companies that close for the day so their entire staff can participate. That may be the greatest compliment our event could receive.

The Breakfast Trailblazers panel features the Women of Law and Order. How did you come up with that idea?

We started the Trailblazers Panel last year with three amazing women who live in Bedford County and have truly paved the way for other women in their professions: Pat Hensel was the first woman photographer for NASA, Lynn Ashe was one of the first women foreign operatives in the CIA and Dorothy Krupa is one of the first women park managers in the state of Pennsylvania. That panel was so well-received – real women telling real stories of overcoming challenges and finding success while serving their country and their communities. We knew we had to continue this idea in future conferences.

This year, we wanted to focus on women from one particular field. We chose “law and order” knowing that we have some phenomenal women in our region who lead in courtrooms and in their communities. The panel we’ve assembled includes Blair County Judge Jackie Bernard, PSP Investigator Dana Martin, Bedford County DA Leslie Childers-Potts and Attorney Brandi Hershey among others. These are women who are passionate about the law and work every day toward justice and truth in our region. So we are very excited to give them a platform to share their stories and experiences as part of a discussion on leadership. We expect another outstanding program.

Is it a challenge to put together such a stellar schedule of speakers?

The speaker schedule is always the biggest challenge of the conference because we always have so many choices. We try to provide something for everyone and a wide array of topics: leadership, management, marketing, health and wellness, life balance, personal development, etc. We are fortunate to have cultivated relationships with authorities in their field from throughout Pennsylvania, so the task of pulling it all together is a great problem to have.

Why is the Women in Business conference important?

We started this conference as a response to our members asking for programming specifically for professional women. It has truly been one of the best things we’ve done as a Chamber. Bringing women together for a day of education and inspiration is incredibly rewarding. We know there have been important synergies created through this conference, and valuable connections made between businesses and individuals. Women face unique issues and challenges in the workplace and that can be overwhelming at times. To have an event like this gives women the opportunity to come together, share their stories and experiences with one another and hopefully go away with an experience or a tidbit of inspiration that will help them in their businesses and in their lives.

I should also note that it is not a “women only” conference. Men are welcome and encouraged to attend. We have quite a few men who come to breakfast and/ or lunch, men who present or exhibit and men whose companies sponsor. I think the men who attend gain valuable insight into the experiences of their female peers and employees.

How excited are you for Bedford to host this event once again?

We are thrilled to host this event in Bedford each year. Our county is proud to welcome attendees from surrounding counties as well as Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, State College, etc. It’s a great chance to showcase the historic Omni Bedford Springs Resort, which is one of the premier venues in the country, and we are so fortune to have that amazing property in our community. We hope that those who attend from around the region get a feel for the many attractions in our county: wonderful restaurants, unique locally-owned shops, beautiful scenery and welcoming people. Hopefully they’ll come back again and enjoy more of what our area has to offer.

How important is it for Bedford to host this event?

Bedford County has become a popular destination for folks around the region for our dining, lodging, shopping and other opportunities. To have the honor of continuing to host this regional event allows us to showcase the Resort, as well as Bedford and our business community. We are a small town and a comparatively small county in terms of population to some of our neighbors, but thanks to our business community, which understands the importance of excellence in hospitality and service, we are able to combine the small-town feel with meeting the large expectations of the customers who visit our community.

We’ve seen a growing number of women starting and running their own businesses over recent years. Why do you think that is?

I think that women have aspirations in business just as men do, particularly entrepreneurial dreams: a desire to take something that they are passionate about and create a way to make a profit while doing something they love and that they control. I think our society has evolved to a point where women have so many more options than even just a generation ago, and we as a culture encourage everyone to pursue their interests with fewer limitations than ever before. And I believe that our community is better for having more women-owned businesses. We are better for the diversity of products and services as well as new ideas coming into our communities. .

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