The San Antonio chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners
By Blithe Wiley
Photography by Suzanne Pack
Today, The San Antonio chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO-SA) is the second largest chapter in the country, with more than 200 members. NAWBO’s vision is to serve as a one-stop resource propelling women entrepreneurs into economic and political spheres of power.
The local chapter was established in 1997, with 30 San Antonio women business owners joining the national organization. It was the brainchild of San Antonio businesswomen Dixie Kingston, Lynn Weirich, and Pat Stout, who were inspired by attending the national NAWBO conference in 1996.
NAWBO-SA holds more than 70 public events and more than 30 smaller events each year. It also operates several programs designed to benefit local women entrepreneurs, including Million Up, a prestigious forum exclusive to NAWBO-SA Premiere Members whose businesses generate $1 million or more in annual revenue; Scale Up, a program aimed at women business owners who are striving to meet and exceed the $1 million mark in sales; and Digital Up, a program that encourages the growth of women business owners in the digital space.
NAWBO-SA also actively gives back to the local community. Through the NAWBO-SA Foundation, it runs a high school girls mentorship program. Developed in 1999, this program encourages young women to explore entrepreneurship as a means to financial independence and learn what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. In addition, NAWBO-SA recently launched its Service Saturdays program, where once a quarter, members volunteer at a local nonprofit organization.
For four members of NAWBO-SA, their involvement with the organization has inspired them to set the bar higher for themselves and the work that they do.
Graciela Urruchua has served as the Executive Director of NAWBO-SA since 2016. In her role, she supports the NAWBO-SA Board of Directors in providing the resources and events to serve the chapter members.
“We are very much aligned with the mission of NAWBO HQ, which is to serve as a go-to resource for women at all stages of their businesses,” Urruchua explained. “Our mission is to be a place where women can connect through relationships and mentorship.”
She noted that NAWBO-SA provides support and connections to women business owners, regardless of what stage they are at in their business. “It’s the place where women can get the most support and encouragement as female entrepreneurs.
“Our members range from brand-new business owners to 30+-year veterans,” she said. “They are operating businesses in industries ranging from beauty to trucking. Connecting with all of these talented women business owners has inspired me to really up my game!”
Urruchua’s responsibilities range from serving as the liaison between the Board members and the chapter members to serving as the bridge between the chapter and its corporate partners. She also works with the NAWBO-SA Foundation activities and spearheads the execution of the chapter’s numerous events throughout the year.
Certified High Performance Coach™️ & Style Strategist
Melissa Bedard Coaching
2022-2023 President of NAWBO-SA
Bedard is the 2022-2023 President of the NAWBO-SA Board of Directors. She joined the chapter in 2019 and quickly found it to have a remarkable impact on her professional path.
“When I joined NAWBO-SA, I was a brand-new entrepreneur,” she said. “Getting involved with NAWBO-SA gave me a lot of confidence in my business. I got to know women further along in their entrepreneurial journey – women who were so eager to help me to learn and grow in my business.”
She noted that, for many women business owners, it’s very easy for them to find themselves working in a silo. “Joining an organization like NAWBO-SA prevents that from happening. This organization provides its members with a wonderful sense of community.”
Bedard observed that when a woman is working for a corporation or large company, she has access to IT support, marketing support, HR support, and more, to help her to succeed in her work. “NAWBO-SA offers women those resources in terms of our fellow members,” she said. “We have members who are attorneys, marketing professionals, IT specialists, HR consultants, you name it. There’s always someone you can call on for advice and support,” she explained.
“I wish I had found NAWBO-SA as soon as I launched my business,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to find a place like this that offers collaboration, professional growth, and personal development. Being involved with NAWBO-SA has been so good for me in so many ways.”
Real Estate 210
President of the NAWBO-SA Foundation
Yvette Allen, who joined NAWBO-SA in 2018, is the 2022-2023 President of the NAWBO-SA Foundation, a 501c3 organization. In her role as President of the Foundation, she oversees the High School Mentorship Program.
The High School Mentorship Program is a six-month program where interested female high school students are matched one-on-one with NAWBO-SA mentors to learn about entrepreneurship. Each student develops a business plan, which is entered into a competition for four college scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. The program currently has more than 90 female students at 12 area high schools who are working with 13 NAWBO-SA mentors.
“Some of these girls have never been told that they could even think about owning a business,” Allen explained. “We encourage them to think big and believe that they can be anything they want to be. We want to plant that seed and encourage and empower them.”
Allen said she originally joined NAWBO-SA because she realized it would be a positive experience to network with and learn from women in other industries. “Being part of NAWBO-SA has turned out to be a gift for me,” she said. “It’s all about amazing women cheering other women on. I always tell other women that NAWBO-SA is a community of women with open arms welcoming other women from all walks of life.”
Chief Community Inclusion Officer
All Hearts Initiative
Director of NAWBO-SA’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Division
Bennett was introduced to NAWBO-SA in the fall of 2021 and quickly became involved with the chapter. She is currently a member of the NAWBO-SA Digital Up group and also serves as the Director of the chapter’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Division.
“In NAWBO-SA, we are focused on expanding the chapter’s diversity in terms of industry, age, race, location, and duration of business operations,” she explained. “We don’t want all our members in the same space. Diversity in all aspects of the organization enriches the experience for all of our members.”
In terms of equity, the committee works to get corporate funding to subsidize or pay for the chapter’s membership dues for women who can’t afford it. “In addition, inclusion means we make sure we are creating a space that accommodates and welcomes everyone,” Bennett said. “Our focus on belonging is making sure we encourage members and prospective members to show up as their full and authentic selves. We want them to know we welcome and appreciate that.”
Bennett emphasized that NAWBO-SA members reap so many benefits in terms of community connections, networking, and advocacy. “We are a group of women who wholeheartedly believe in our fellow member business owners. We believe in you and are your champions,” she said.
“NAWBO-SA is different from a Chamber of Commerce because when you become part of NAWBO-SA, you take it with you always. It becomes part of your DNA, and it’s a sisterhood that is very hard to find.”