Last week, Charlene Lambert and Akkie Okma spent a stimulating and enjoyable afternoon with the women’s business club ‘Ceres’ of Flora Holland, the renowned Dutch flower auction cooperative.
“The spirit was positive right from the beginning, and it was great to meet and talk to women who are like-minded”, Akkie said. The women of Ceres (the name ‘Ceres’ was chosen because it is the name of the Roman goddess of agriculture) wanted to create a platform within Flora Holland where women can meet and exchange ideas and experiences. Their focus is also on learning and collaborating, just like it is for the WBII. If there is a difference, it is in the fact that the members of the WBII are entrepreneurial women who run their own business, whereas the entrepreneurial women of Ceres are all working at the same company.
Ceres recently started as a business club, and wanted to learn the best practices from other women’s network clubs. Charlene spoke about the WBII, and fact that it includes women representing many types of businesses and professions, and women from both the Netherlands and all over the world. “We thrive on diversity”, was an important message that Charlene shared with Ceres.
She also shared our stories and tips with the group. The most important lesson the WBII has learned over the years is to be flexible, and to adjust and strengthen the network formula of our organization, as the demands and the times changed. Also important is to look for ways to share resources and to collaborate with each other, and to be on the lookout for friends (e.g. sponsors). Last but not the least, is Charlene’s tip to recognize achievements and to celebrate successes. For example, on March 8th, we put women in the spotlight by giving them an award for Ambition, Social Innovation, Networker of the year and the Strong award.
Following this introduction, Akkie organized an interactive exercise for the members in the group to interview each other. They got a chance to talk to someone in the group they did not know before in order to establish a new connection. The focus in these short interviews was on sharing best practices with each other, and to suggest how to make the connections among the members of Ceres even stronger in the near future. Akkie shared some tips in networking: In these small moments of interacting with each other, just listening and being there with your full attention can be the start of a new collaboration. If you know each other’s strengths, new connections can develop.
In the evaluation at the end of the afternoon, one remark really resonated. There is a big need within the group to support each other. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright formulated it as follows:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

This quote doesn’t need further explanation, but another more positive way to say it is: We all need sisters!