The Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce held its Women in Business conference online for the first time Tuesday, Sept. 22, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
With a theme of “Together, We rise,” the conference’s keynote speakers were Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, and Celeste Ducharme, vice president of self-storage development at The Rancon Group.
Stephanie Howells Scoville of dōTERRA Blue Diamond and Annamaria Loven of Lululemon also led workshops on “Leading a Team Through Uncertain Times” and “The Practice of Possibility,” respectively.
Wells is a business strategist, adviser, author and founder of RLVNT Media, which is “a multimedia content venture serving entrepreneurs, tweens and culturists with authentic representation,” according to the Chamber of Commerce, and has been recognized by Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and other publications.
Wells shared some of the ways she has been supported and helped by other women – going with the “Together, We rise” theme – during her career, giving her publicist as one example.
“I still remember the day Katie gave me a call and she said ‘I’m going to tell you something right now that is going to change your life,’ and I thought, ‘OK, that’s a little dramatic. What could Katie possibly tell me that’s gonna change my life?’” Wells said. “And she proceeded to tell me that I was going to be in a cover story for O Magazine on entrepreneurs that they love, and I thought at that moment, ‘OK, this is definitely a life changing experience,’ and I was very, very fortunate to have Katie advocating for me to have her telling my story and to have her really coordinate what really became one of the most important business moments of my life.”
Wells discussed not only the ways she had been helped by other women, but also the ways in which she said she has tried to give back during her career.
One impactful experience for Wells, she said, was visiting Uganda on behalf of the United Nations Global Entrepreneurs Council. She and her group visited a remote island there, where a group of women entrepreneurs wanted business advice.
“I can’t tell you how humbling that was for me,” Well said. “You know, here I am thinking I have challenges as an entrepreneur, thinking all the complicated things I have to think about back at home, but I have running water. I have electricity. And I am humbled and awestruck. And here are women who had created businesses that are sending their children to private school, that were creating a huge impact on their economy and their environment, and they were asking for advice about scaling their businesses.”
Wells said a second big moment for her was deciding to launch Elevation Tribe, a platform she said she started two years ago “to help women launch, grow and lead companies.”
“And my real focus there is on women of color,” Well said. “You know, I obviously, as a woman of color, a Black woman who started in marketing and advertising over 25 years ago, I recently read a statistic I’m glad I didn’t know at the time – less than 10% of executives working in marketing communications and advertising are women of color, Black women.”
She said in her early career she had not understood the impact she was making just by being a Black woman in business.
“I didn’t understand, at the time, the impact that my career was having for other women who would open magazines like Essence and read my story and really learn about what I was doing,” Well said. “I was just doing this thing that I loved to do, this thing that I had been passionate about since I was a teenager, but I didn’t really understand yet this idea around representation.”
She said she watched a few years ago as more networks and organizing groups popped up for women to assist each other in business and noticed that women of color were a missing piece.
“What was really missing for me was women who looked like me,” Well said. “And I thought if I couldn’t see that, maybe there were other women who couldn’t see it as well.”
She said Black women have unique challenges that she wanted to help other Black women overcome.
“If I needed that kind of community, if I needed that kind of tribe, maybe other women did as well,” Wells said.
Ducharme, while keeping in the same theme, focused her speech on challenges she has overcome and her advice to others to do the same.
Ducharme, according to the chamber, has spent more than 30 years “building businesses and managing teams within several high-profile companies such as Nordstrom, Dennis Uniform Company, The Rancon Group and Ranch RV & Self-Storage.”
She also is a co-author of the book “Turn Possibilities into Realities” and will be appearing in the Netflix documentary “Beyond the Game.”
Ducharme said whatever her successes are now: “Ladies, life hasn’t always been this way. Yes, I’ve had to go from frazzled to fabulous time and time again.”
She said while she knew her parents loved her and each other, she struggled with self-esteem issues in her preteen and teenage years, in particular because of a relative in Los Angeles who she visited during her summers.
“Her comments about the clothes I loved to wear, the makeup, they were harsh, they cut through like a knife,” Ducharme said.
One moment that stood out to her was a birthday present she received one year from that relative.
“I opened the first present. I ripped off the wrapping paper; I opened the box, and it was as though time had stood still. I was numb,” Ducharme said. “It was a gift certificate to lose 10 pounds at a nutrition program. Not the feeling a little girl would expect to have on her birthday.”
Ducharme said when her parents divorced as she began high school, it added to the pain.
“I turned to some things for comfort,” Ducharme said. “Maybe you can relate during this time of COVID-19. This pain, this pandemic, where food, alcohol, and yes, sometimes substances, seem to take away the pain.”
Ducharme said she does wonder how she survived her teenage years, but she did have one positive thing to put her energy into.
“I had one huge thing going for me; I loved sports. I was talented at what I did,” Ducharme said.
Success at the things she is good at, Ducharme said, is what has always kept her going.
“One of the biggest things I want you to walk away with today is find something that feeds your heart and soul, that gives you strength to overcome,” she said.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.