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Chamber holding first-ever women’s conference

Business and personal growth conferences are nothing new, even holding one in Surry County for local business folks is not necessarily a rare occurrence.

But one coming up next week is a first — a seminar for area businesswomen, led by businesswomen. At least, it’s a first-time event for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, according to the chamber’s Jordon Edwards, events director.

Taking the Lead, Businesswomen of Surry Conference is slated for Wednesday, featuring talks and panels by locally prominent businesswomen and internationally known speakers. The event will be taking place at The Barn at Heritage Farm in Dobson.

Edwards said a confluence of events and existing situations led to the first — and hopefully annual — event.

“Surry County is really interesting in that we have a lot of women business owners, CEOs, entrepreneurs, what I like to call Mompreneurs, with the emergence of that family-owned business coming from the mother,” she said. “We felt like we wanted to give them an opportunity to explore professional development and really create those connections locally. We hope that women can walk away finding mentors and finding a way to be a mentor to other women.”

She said timing in the busy chamber events calendar couldn’t have been better — when chamber officials were reviewing the events for 2022, they decided to drop one of the chamber’s fundraising golf tournaments.

“We needed another event, we needed an event that is not already being done, especially one that would cater to the business community.” After talking with several key businesswomen in the community, she said Taking the Lead, Businesswomen of Surry Conference was born.

The gathering will include several general sessions, with addresses from internationally known speakers along with local business leaders, combined with an afternoon panel discussion. The event will also include ten vendor slots “that are women-owned businesses set up showcasing what their business is, pitching it to the attendees of the conference.”

The conference is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m., with an address by internationally known motivational speaker Leigh Brown. The founder of Charlotte-based One Community Real Estate, Brown has more than 20 years experience in the real estate industry and is the author of three best-selling books.

“She has often been referred to as the female Zig Ziglar,” Edwards said, referencing the well-known motivational speaker.

The lunch-time keynote speaker is Cathy J. Pace, president and CEO of Allegacy Federal Credit Union. She has been with Allegacy for more than 40 years, and is credited as being instrumental in the credit union’s growth from 17,000 members and $50 million in assets in 1978 to more than 166,000 members and more than $2 billion in assets today.

Edwards said that Pace is also a Surry County native, having been born and raised in the county, graduating from East Surry High School.

She has won numerous awards, including Triad’s Most Admired CEOs, Triad’s Top 40 Most Influential People, Triad Power Player, Women in Business, and Business Leader’s Women Extraordinaire. She was named “Marketer of the Year” by the Credit Union Executives Society, “Woman of the Year” by YMCA of Forsyth County, and a 2016 recipient of the YWCA Women of Vision Community Catalyst award.

Others scheduled to speak or serve on an afternoon panel discussion include Emily Zimmerman, founder and CEO of the marketing firm Grace Communications; Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda, an author and editor-in-chief of Emotional intelligence Magazine; Surry Central High School alum Pam Smith, work management support supervisor-engineering at Duke Energy Corp.; Sue Brownfield, former director of marketing and product development process at General Motors and now working as president of YESurry – Young Entrepreneurs of Surry; and Sharon Joyner-Payne, Ph.D., executive vice president, corporate communications and great teams, Inmar.

While the chamber is sponsoring the event, Edwards said the program has really been put together by a committee under the leadership of local businesswomen Deirdre Rogers and Allison Johnson.

Edwards said organizers plan for the event to be a sell-out, but there might be a few spots left, along with sponsorships for local businesses wishing to support the conference. For more information, contact Edwards at the chamber by email at or by phone at 336-786-6116, ext. 204. The conference gets underway at 9 a.m., with check-in at 8 a.m., and lasts until 3 p.m. The Barn at Heritage Farm is located at 152 Heritage Farm Lane in Dobson.



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