Gather, grow and go. With those three words, and resulting G3 logo, three local women have launched a series of unique women’s conferences that are striking a chord with attendees near and far.
Piper Abodeely, Anne Marie Sebastiani and Michelle Dale saw a void in the market for a combination retreat and business conference – one where women could explore topics of work-life balance, self-image and well-being.
“No one else was offering anything quite like this,” said Dale.
The three founders brought different strengths. Abodeely is an executive coach who has worked with Fortune 500 companies. She brings a focus on strategic communication skills. Dale has a background in corporate recruiting, sales, management and training in the food and beverage industry. She focuses on the importance of cultivating healthy and well-balanced life styles. Sebastiani played a key role in the founding and building of the G3 brand but she recently left to focus on other projects. G3 is now G2, in terms of leadership anyway.
Each G3 conference features a dozen speakers and workshops. “We create a thoughtfully curated agenda featuring experts and experiences so that women can learn about these topics, together in one place, with great wine and food,” said Dale.
“The conferences are for any woman, any age, at any stage of life,” said Abodeely. “Our topics resonate with women no matter what their situation is. A session might be on improving relationships, and for some people that’s their children, for others a spouse, and for others, their colleagues at work.”
Recent topics have included: taming your inner critic, engagement in marriage/parenting/career, graceful aging, and socially responsible investing, among dozens more.
“Whether you want to live a healthier lifestyle, or manage your time more effectively, or better understand your passions, these are goals that resonate across age or situation in life,” said Dale.
“Many women choose to attend the conference for one reason, and leave getting something entirely different out of the experience,” said Abodeely.
Sonoma realtor Kathleen Ball had no expectations when she signed up for the conference last March. “I was new to town and it ended up being fun as well as valuable for me both personally and professionally,” she said. Local business owner Lisa Carlsson has attended two conferences and said that the sessions on the life-work balance, prioritizing and maximizing one’s time were particularly valuable to her.
The women form bonds that continue after the conference is over. “Attendees stay in touch with each other and with us through small groups and our newsletter and blog. And about 20 percent of all attendees return for another conferences, as each is different,” added Dale.
The conferences draw between 60 to 80 women each time, about half of whom hail from the Bay Area. The plan is to always keep attendance under 100. “We want it to be a boutique experience and we want to be able to learn from each other,” said Dale.
The next big G3 event will run Nov. 8 to 10 in Sonoma at Ramekins. The three-day conference will feature almost a dozen speakers and workshops, as well as networking opportunities, nutrition and exercise.
“We gather women in an idyllic, intimate setting and provide great food, wine, conversation and company,” said Dale. “The setting is a huge draw.”
The G3 “empire” now includes conferences twice a year in Sonoma (November and March), a monthly speaker series, a bi-annual conference aimed at teens and private on-site team building and leadership coaching services for organizations and companies.
Once a month on Wednesday evenings, G3 invites the public to hear speakers on topics that vary but, stressed Dale, “always, in some critical way, support our goal of adding to the enrichment and education of a woman’s life.” Past speakers have included the nutritionist from “The Biggest Loser,” comedian Cyndy Bragg, the author of “Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career” and social media expert Karen Clark.
Dale and Abodeely are now giving a lot of thought to how to make G3 accessible and affordable to more women. To that end, they register dozens of women and girls for free and have launched the G3 Angels program where donors can sponsor a participant. “We would love to partner even more with those organizations who share our mission of supporting the lives of women and girls,” said Abodeely. “We are about empowering and changing lives. We aren’t going to turn anyone away because they can’t pay to attend.”
A G3 Girls event in September was a big hit with the two dozen girls who participated. Sonoma Valley High senior Ellie Rohrbacher got some great ideas for her senior project on female empowerment. “I was particularly impressed by the session on mindfulness,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of research for my project and wasn’t sure what new things I would learn but it was really helpful and interesting.”
Like the women who attend, the G3 founders themselves are gathering, growing and going.
“Our idea for G3 started from a place of passion and a desire to leverage our expertise,” explained Dale. “As we expand, we know we personally face a steep learning curve. But by approaching the challenge with belief in ourselves, we’re now doing exactly what the women at our conferences are asked to do.”
At the end of each conference, the women write down what they have “gathered,” how they have “grown” and what they are going to “go” out and do now.
“That piece of paper is private,” said Dale. “But we each say one word out loud to each other to sum up our experience. And then we toast each other with a glass of champagne.”