Successful companies are built on great ideas. That was the belief a group of Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce women had when they launched the region’s first Women in Business Alliance in 2011. “I had been hearing from many women that there needed to be a better focus on networking with other women,” said Lorraine Holcombe, vice president and CFO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, who has run the program from the beginning. “As we reached out and spoke to more women and heard their comments we knew that we were creating something unique.” That belief was confirmed when the Women in Business Alliance, or WIBA as it has come to be known, held their first women’s networking event. The result was a sold out-evening with 150 women in attendance.

Since that first event the WIBA program has expanded well beyond its original networking focus. In 2012 WIBA launched the first regional Women’s Leadership Conference drawing more than 400 attendees from across the central New Jersey region and state. The Leadership Conference, which is now in its fourth year, has established itself as the premier leadership forum for women in central New Jersey. In 2013 WIBA continued its growth and introduced the Women of Achievement Breakfast recognizing women leaders from corporate and nonprofit businesses across our region.

“The ability of WIBA to grow rapidly while continuing to make a positive impact in our region is a tribute to the women who serve on the committee,” said Peter Crowley, president and CEO of the Chamber. “They have set a high standard with their programming and events that businesses across the region have taken notice and joined in partnership with them.”

The program is proud to have gained national attention and bring nationally recognized speakers to the region. The group has hosted Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post; Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, Washington Bureau chief for People Magazine; and Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk, advertising creators of the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign.

Even with the program reaching more than 3,000 women through its educational, networking, and leadership programing, the heart of WIBA is women reaching out to network with and support other women. “We are proud of our growth and the impact that we have had in the region,” said Beth Hampton, the chairwoman of the WIBA committee. “This impact has been recognized as more and more corporate partners are reaching out to the committee to integrate their women’s business teams with the WIBA programs. Even with our successful growth the mission of WIBA continues to connect women in our region with each other and to make the region a better place for women in the workplace.”

Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, 182 Nassau Street, Suite 301, Princeton. 609-924-1776, www.princetonchamber.org/wiba.

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