By Annika Tomlin
Women enjoy collaborating with other hardworking women.
At the KNOW Women Summit, presented by PNC Bank, women can connect, engage and learn from powerful businesswomen from across the country.
The two-and-a-half day summit created by KNOW Women runs Thursday, October 21, to Saturday, October 23, at Civana Spa and Resort.
“KNOW Women started in 2017 right here in Phoenix, Arizona, as a concept for a resource guide that showcases women to know and do business with,” says Sarah Benken, founder and CEO of KNOW Women.
“It was a vetted guide called the KNOW Book where we selected and vetted and approved women from all different industries, all different ages, all different races to be part of this resource guide to showcase the amazing dynamic women who are doing big things in their industry as well as in the community.”
Published in February 2018, the first KNOW Book profiled 130 women. By June of that year, there were 176 nominations for the next book.
“I really just did this for my community because I wanted to meet and show the community all of these dynamic women that were in our cities, in our backyards doing big things,” the serial entrepreneur says.
Following the launch party of the first KNOW Book, Benken realized she needed to go beyond a book and create a community.
“I knew I wanted to be aligned with high-achieving women,” Benken says. “Women who were busy and juggling work and home, and really I wanted a place to let my hair down and be seen, so I created it.”
KNOW Women is working on its fifth Phoenix volume, and the organization has expanded to 15 other cities across North America.
“By the end of 2018, we launched four additional publications: Raleigh, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina, where I’m from; Tampa, Florida; and Calgary, Canada,” Benken says.
“We have local markets that host these KNOW Books, and we really launched in conjunction with that, along with memberships for women who want to align with our mission of women supporting women. We’ve also just expanded to becoming a full-service media company where we’ve got a podcast and we publish 16 articles a month on our KNOW Women’s site, which are the voices and stories of our members.”
The 15 cities host events throughout the year, leading up to the national summit that — in nonpandemic times — is hosted in May. Benken assures that the summit will go back to May next year.
“The summit is our annual gathering of women who are excited to learn, to be inspired, to grow with like-minded women,” Benken says. The summit begins with a “big welcome reception party” Thursday, October 21, followed by a slew of programming Friday and Saturday.
“We have 18 breakout sessions that we’ll be hosting between the two days,” Benken explains. “That’s going to be learning workshopping and really getting tactical knowledge for your business and your life.
“In between all of that, we have our four keynote speakers, two fireside chats, and we’ve got six panels. Panels are going to be more in depth and they are going to be in the afternoon, and they’re going to be focused around inspiration storytelling.”
Keynote speakers include America’s foremost “auctiontainer” Letitia Frye and business success coach Vanessa Shaw. Fireside Chat speakers include JaSheika and JaNeika James, writers and producers for shows including “Empire” and “Desperate Housewives” and currently co-executive producers for HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl,” along with basketball Hall of Famer Ann Myers Drysdale.
Speaking to women
Shaw became an official KNOW Women member earlier this year after learning Benken was in her professional orbit.
“I believe it was one of my own clients or someone in the community who said (Sarah and I) should really speak,” says Shaw, the chief executive officer and founder of Business Growth Academy.
“We are just up to a similar mission as it relates to supporting women and businesses to grow businesses. Once we discovered that, it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I want to jump on board,’ because this can be a beneficial community (for me). I want to be a part of this amazing community that she has built. Equally, I know that I have value that I can add to the community as well.”
According to Shaw, her keynote speech will touch on money, whereas Benken described it as “how to get rich without being a (expletive).”
“I’m going to be covering the question around ambition and ambition for women,” Shaw says.
“I’m going to be covering the topic or several topics about how women really hold themselves back. We’ve discovered with all of my work at this point with thousands of women, but there is really three key areas that come up time and time again, so we are going to be looking at those.”
Shaw says her favorite part about being a keynote speaker is “really about getting what I believe is an important message out for women, business and financial success. Getting in front of a larger audience so that more people can hear it.”
She hopes that her speech will have a “powerful ripple effect” and encourage others to normalize the conversation of talking about money and business.
“I think as women we still hide out, and we don’t necessarily talk about finances,” Shaw says.
“We don’t necessarily talk about really wanting to be ambitious and successful in our businesses. Our male counterparts don’t seem to have a challenge talking about those things, yet we still do, and it’s time for us to shift that conversation.”
Shaw says she appreciates KNOW Women’s resources.
“Honestly the favorite part is just the whole vibe, the environment that Sarah has created,” Shaw says.
“It’s a very positive, uplifting environment, which is, again, unusual for women’s organizations. Women’s organizations — unfortunately — can get competitive and catty. I think Sarah is very keen on the type of relationships that she wants to build within the organization. That’s reflected in the caliber of people who participate in KNOW.”
Benken calls the event a “no-fluff summit, so women will probably cry and laugh harder than you have ever had — especially now, given COVID.
“You will leave with best friends — like friends for life. You will leave with partnerships and collaborations. Really by the end, you will be filled up spiritually and mentally.”
Benken hopes attendees will be “ready to tackle the world” after the summit.
The summit goes beyond speakers. It features workshops and a 2,500-square-foot area with a “beauty bar/braid bar, workstations, a mimosa bar and juice bar, and then snacks all day and coffee on tap,” according to Benken.
“We also have a KNOW Women marketplace, which is going to be styled like a retail boutique,” Benken says.
“We’ve got, I would say, about 50 women-owned businesses/products that are going to be housed there. Women will be able to shop from these hyperlocal community business owners who we’re pulling from all over.”
The organization offers two memberships — empower and elite. Empower is available for any woman, while elite has guidelines.
“They (elites) are the experts or the thought leaders who are actually pouring into the empower community,” Benken says.
Through all the hard work, Benken says her organization has “been really fruitful” and loves to see the impact that it has on her community.
“By far, my favorite thing is watching this organization transform the lives of women,” Benken says. “I have seen women expand their businesses, create new businesses. I’ve seen people who have side hustles retire from their corporate careers and actually launch their side hustle until they’re a full-time hustle.”
Benken notes “it’s just been hard” and that she is excited to continue to see her organization grow.
“It’s been a lot of work,” Benken says. “I think of this as my legacy and as my passion. The hardest part had been really just balancing everything with my life and my family. I would work on this every hour if I could, but life doesn’t allow that.”
“By far, my favorite thing is watching this organization transform the lives of women. I have seen women expand their businesses, create new businesses. I’ve seen people who have side hustles retire from their corporate careers and actually launch their side hustle until they’re a full-time hustle.”
KNOW Women’s Summit
WHEN: 3 p.m. Thursday October 21; 8 a.m. Friday, October 22; and 8 a.m. Saturday Oct. 23
WHERE: Civana Spa and Resort, 37220 Mule Train Road, Carefree
COST: $197 to $1,500