the bubble
The Impact of Networking
PR Insight

They say that networking is one of the most important components of PR, which works out great for me. I love meeting new and interesting people and constantly making connections on behalf of HC. So when Cassandra Gaddo and I decided to set up a date to get coffee, I couldn’t have been more excited. For those of you who don’t know, Cassanda Gaddo is managing director of Step Up Women’s Network in Chicago. You may also know her from Today’s Chicago Woman, where she was not only managing editor, but touched all facets of the publication for nearly five years.

You know when you immediately click with someone? Within minutes of having coffee together, Cassandra and I hit it off and I quickly realized that some of the things I’m most passionate about align exactly with what Cassandra does on a daily basis at Step Up. Just another example of how networking can work wonders.

To be honest, I didn’t know much about Step Up, but now that I do, I’ve already committed to volunteering my own time to support the organization. It’s a remarkable one, and it’s time we’re all aware of it. I asked Cassandra if she would give our Bubble readers some insight into Step Up Women’s Network, and she gladly accepted. So, without further ado, I’m handing you over to Cassandra…

10 things You Didn’t Know About Step Up Women’s Network

By Cassandra Gaddo

In Chicago, there’s no lack of events competing for our attention. From cocktail mixers to networking receptions, charity luncheons to restaurant openings, brand launch parties to dinner with friends, each week we try to balance commitments that help us grow professional networks, give back to the community and spend real life face (not Facebook) time with friends.

What if there was one organization in Chicago that helped you combine networking, philanthropy and social time? Enter Step Up Women’s Network, a national non-profit membership organization that launched in Chicago in 2006. Our mission is connect you to the professional women you need and the teen girls who need you. We do that by creating powerful afterschool and weekend programs that enable teen girls from under-resourced communities become confident, college-bound and career ready, and empowering professional women through professional development and social networking opportunities. And then – here’s where the real magic happens – we bring those two groups together, allowing our members to serve as mentors to our teens, who are 9th-12th graders in Chicago Public High Schools. Our members’ diverse personal and professional backgrounds open our teen girls’ eyes to the possibilities of college and career.

What else should you know about this membership of fabulous women? Below are 10 things to know about Step Up Women’s Network.

1. You can mentor as much as or as little as you like. Do you have one Saturday a year? Great! Can you give one Saturday a month for six months? Well, that’s just peachy, too. Our mentoring programs are designed specifically for women with busy professional and personal lives. We update our volunteer opportunities regularly on our online calendar, or contact Whitney at whitney@suwn.org.

2. Our teens have a 100% graduation rate and college acceptance rate. That’s right—in the city of Chicago, where high school graduation rates hover around 60%, 100% of our teens have graduated from high school and been accepted to colleges like Johnson & Wales University, DePaul University and Bradley University. We’re pretty proud of them, if you couldn’t tell.

3. It’s our birthday! In November, we’re kicking off our big 15th anniversary year. You can help us mark the occasion by joining us at Stepping Up in the City, a membership celebration held on Wednesday, November 14 in all of our cities. Current members and members-to-be are welcome to the hip cocktail party, where there will be special guests, cool gifts and plenty of reasons to celebrate being a member.

4. We’re looking for that special partner. When your brand supports Step Up, our members support you right back! More than 82% of our members say they’d choose a Step Up partner over another brand when making buying decisions. Our unique model gives corporate partners the opportunity to be leaders in the community, while placing their product in the hands of today’s chief purchasing officers at home and at work: women. Contact Cassandra at cassandra@suwn.org to learn more.

5. You don’t need any special expertise to mentor. People often think, “What can I give to a teen girl?” The answer: YOU! Step Up teens love to hear about our member’s experiences in college and their career journeys. Whether you’re working with a teen in a one-on-one mentoring pair, or speaking about your experience in a panel at our College Connections Conference, your life experiences helps Step Up teens see possibilities in their own lives and for their futures.

6. Our guests are kind of a big deal. What do Advertising Age Publisher Allison Arden, ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and Deloitte Vice Chairman Deb DeHaas have in common? Besides being incredibly successful women, they’ve all spoken to our members at Step Up events. Our professional development programming puts you within a handshakes-length of our city’s most inspiring women, where they share their insight and advice—with you. Next up: Our View from the Top panel on September 12, and a Power Breakfast with Nextions President Arin Reeves on October 11.

7. Our Confidence programming was created by national confidence expert Jess Weiner. Our foundational confidence-building programming is designed to offer our 9th and 10th grade girls a solid foundation in life skills that will help them to pursue their college and career dreams. For example, 86% of girls enrolled in Step Up programs report that participating in Step Up helps them feel more comfortable speaking in front of a group.

8. There are many ways to volunteer. While mentorship is a pretty big piece of the Step Up pie, it’s not the only way you can give back. Whether you love event planning, or are motivated by connecting exceptional women with each other, Step Up has a place for you. Contact Emily at emily@suwn.org (for events) or Kristen at kristenf@suwn.org (for membership) to learn more.

9. We take the “work” out of “networking.” Refinery 29 recently called Step Up one of “Five Chicago Clubs to Keep You Fed, Fit and Fabulous,” noting, “We can’t think of a more positive group to hang out with than the fabulous ladies behind Step Up Women’s Network.” Toss any ideas of stuffy networking, where half-enthused participants trade business cards in what seems like a contest for who can collect the most. The women of Step Up attend our events to truly connect and collaborate with other women. We call it social networking for a reason.

10. You can put one teen through one year of Step Up programming. When you join Step Up as a Luminary Circle member, your $1000 donation supports one teen through our programming to make her confident, college-ready and career-bound. But if you’re not quite ready for that commitment, our membership levels start at $75, and you’ll still be able to attend our fantastic professional development programming and work with our amazing teen girls. Contact Kristen at kristenf@suwn.org to learn more about becoming a member of Step Up Women’s Network.