At the fifth-annual Women’s Leadership Conference of Northeast Ohio (WLCNEO), next month in Cleveland, there is a place for all women in business.
Entrepreneur Robin Grzeskowiak, the event’s founder, says there are many elite business events for women to attend in Cleveland. But those tend to be tied to award ceremonies or geared toward executives and entrepreneurs, she believes.
“When I came to Cleveland 16 years ago, I would never have been invited to those events,” says Grzeskowiak, originally from Paris, Ohio. “I was straight out of college and I was motivated to move my career forward. But I wouldn’t have been nominated for an award then, and I didn’t fit any specific business category. But I could see there were a bunch of women in Cleveland kicking butt in their careers who maybe didn’t ever want to become executives. But they wanted to be the best they could be in their careers.”
So she created WLCNEO. Working with a group of volunteers, Grzeskowiak’s conference attracted 350 attendees the first year. It is on track to host more than 600 people next month. Her mission is to give women a place to learn no matter where they are in their careers and provide them with tools for success at an earlier point in their professions. She loads her conference speaker list with the best and the brightest from for-profits and nonprofits, as well as both local and national names.
Keynote speakers this year include: New Yorker Lauren Maillian, founder and CEO of LMB Group (an umbrella for several companies) and owner of her own winery at 19; and Brittani Bo Baker, vice president of Bubba’s Q and co-inventor of Bubba’s-Q. (Yes, she is the daughter of former Cleveland Browns player Bubba Baker.) Thirteen speakers in all are scheduled.
Grzeskowiak has her own personal experience as a credible business conference promoter. She is vice president and general manager of Snip Internet, a fiber-based internet service targeting apartment buildings in downtown, Tremont, Ohio City, University Circle and Lakewood. (You have to love a company whose official motto is “We Suck Less.”) She is also president of Cleveland SHRM Foundation, a nonprofit that helps human resources professionals achieve their company’s goals and advance their personal career paths.
“We will continue the conference as long as it is impactful,” says Grzeskowiak, an identical twin and mother of two young sons. “I see a whole community of female experts killing it, and other women need to hear them.”
Grzeskowiak’s undaunted, enthusiastic spirit developed at an early age. She was a cheerleader for the football team, as well as men’s and women’s basketball at Kent State University. She also was on the cheerleading roster for the Cleveland Cavs, “before LeBron,” she says.
“As a cheerleader, I learned to be comfortable in sometimes uncomfortable situations,” says Grzeskowiak.
Think of the conference as one big giant cheer for businesswomen — minus the cartwheels.
The WLCNEO Conference will take place Sept. 25 from 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, 300 Lakeside Ave. E. For more information, visit wlcneo.com.