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UTWNG is about building relationships and collaboration

Aug 08, 2023 03:46PM ● By Peri Kinder

Karin Palle can name each of the 10 women who got together in 2011 for their first networking meeting. Most of the women worked from home and were starting businesses in fields like real estate, consulting and photography. Their goal was to encourage each other and provide insight into building a successful company. 

Now, the Utah Women’s Networking Group, founded by Donna Rudzik, has more than 750 members across the state. It has grown to become one of the most successful networking groups for entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals in Utah. With a focus on collaboration instead of competition, group members are mentors, cheerleaders, counselors and friends to help build women in business. 

Palle took over UTWNG after Rudzik stepped away from the group. The mission of building relationships has stayed the top priority over the last 12 years. 

“We want to connect people to build valuable relationships that will last beyond business,” she said. “We’ve helped people through deaths, we’ve helped people through births, we've helped people through businesses falling apart or starting businesses. A lot of these women have fought depression and anxiety and all types of mental health issues because they needed to belong somewhere. They know they belong with us.”

The organization’s Facebook page is run by UTWNG ambassadors who engage members on a daily basis, encouraging them to share lessons learned, best practices, hard-won advice and their sense of humor. That daily connection is valuable, especially for women (and men) who run small businesses out of their home. 

Facebook page administrators are quick to enforce the no bullying, no politics, no selling and no religion rules to keep the social media platform a safe place for everyone. 

“You can go on other groups and everybody's selling, selling, selling and trying to be better,” Palle said. “I don't see our people like that. They’re not trying to be better than someone else, they're just trying to be the best they can be. And there's a huge difference in that.”

Besides building relationships, UTWNG’s second goal is to educate. Whether it’s online training seminars or the annual women’s conference where the organization has awarded more than $125,000 in grant money to female entrepreneurs, members can be involved at any level. 

UTWNG members can learn business skills like creating a resume, marketing or understanding best hiring practices. By partnering with other groups like the Women’s Business Center of Utah, the Utah Microloan Fund and local chambers, there is access to a wealth of knowledge. 

The popular Coffee Connections that went away during COVID is getting restarted. People gather at a local coffee shop to have a relaxed conversation in an informal setting. It’s a chance for people to connect and share their wisdom. 

Angie Gallegos is a UTWNG member and ambassador. She and her husband, Pete, own Utah Scale Center, an independent dealer of industrial weighing equipment. Gallegos joined the group five years ago as a way to create friendships. 

“I think at my age, and just kind of being isolated at this small business, my world has gotten small, as far as friendships go,” Gallegos said. “So really, for me, the biggest benefit has been meeting other women that I’ve been able to connect with, on a personal level.”

Although many members are entrepreneurs and owners of cottage industries, there are also members who are part of larger companies looking for support and networking opportunities. And while it’s called a women’s networking group, membership is open to any gender. 

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“[UTWNG] brings a level of support and camaraderie,” Gallegos said. “We gain things from one another like our ability to succeed, especially if it’s in a male-dominated field or company. That is a real benefit to networking with other women.” λ