It’s hard to imagine an evening more fun than one spent with your closest girlfriends drinking wine, eating ice cream and cookies, and taking glamorous selfies. Except perhaps a night that includes all those elements and incorporates a lineup of local woman speakers with extraordinary, inspiring stories.
That was the scene at Kirkland Performance Center last night during 425 Live’s second annual Women to Watch event hosted by Amity Addrisi.
Speakers included T’wina Franklin, founder of Ladies First; Emily Welbourn, national spokeswoman for Go Red for Women; pop singer and American Idol contestant, Candice Russell; Heather Tuininga, founder of 10|10 Strategies; Rian Buckley, CEO of Fitcode; and Lee Rhodes, founder of Glassybaby.
Tuininga — who supports a family of siblings in Uganda who lost their parents at a young age — took the stage first to talk about the joy of giving. “If you give food to someone who is hungry they are going to be better off, but generosity is good for the giver too,” she said. “People who give their time and money are 43 percent more likely to be happy.”
To encourage the audience to give, Tuininga offered instances where individuals could be charitable, like paying for the coffee of the person behind them in the drive thru. To facilitate this, Tuininga and her network of charitable friends gave each person in the audience a $20 bill to give away and experience the joy of giving.
Buckley was up next sharing her story of love, loss, and startups. During one emotionally charged week in 2015, Buckley got engaged, began her business, and found out her mother was dying of breast cancer. Through her mother’s year-long battle, Buckley said she learned an important lesson about the art of the pivot (insert Friends joke here), pointing out that if you fail nine times, you must pivot ten times.
“I can fail as long as in that failure I ask myself what my next best move is,” she said. “What can I do right here, right now?”
Buckley was followed by Candice Russell who not only shared her songs Ignite and Through My Eyes, but also shared her battle with Graves Disease — a thyroid condition — during her early twenties, which lead to many treatments and surgeries that left her feeling broken.
“I would look at people my age chasing their dreams and there I was with my dream on the back burner; I just hit rock bottom,” Russell said of the period of her life before she realized she poured her experiences into her music.
After a brief intermission where guests enjoyed wine from Kasia Winery and ice cream from Snoqualmie Ice Cream, Welbourn spoke about her stroke. The then 27-year-old runner had been participating in a typical 5k race when she began experiencing stroke symptoms, which she mistook for exhaustion.
The cause of the stroke was a blood clot that killed close to 3 million brain cells and left her without feeling on the left side of her body, making simple tasks like typing on a keyboard or putting her hair in a ponytail a virtual impossibility.
In the days following her return home from the hospital, Welbourn had an epiphany. “Between napping, my newly retired mom kept me company on the couch and I remember telling her I don’t want what happened to me to go to waste, but I didn’t know what that would mean,” she said.
Since then, Welbourn has begun running — even going so far as to run the Boston Marathon — and she will tell anyone who will listen about the warning signs of stroke. “I may not look like the face of stroke, but if one person here or anywhere in my lifetime hears my story and it helps save a life, I would relive May 21, 2013 in a heartbeat.”
Welbourn was followed by Ladies First founder, Franklin, who opened with the same line she repeated throughout, “Super Woman is an illusion.” Franklin explained that as a mother of four, small business owner, educator, and elected official she often is accused of possessing super powers and she said this just isn’t true.
Instead, Franklin attributes her success in life to her three values. The first is strategy, where she makes a plan about what is best for her, her family, and her community. Franklin also said having a team — call it a brotherhood, sisterhood, squad, etc. — to stand by you is important. And most importantly, she said to stay in the game, explaining that “Plan B is just another way to execute Plan A.”
Finally, Glassybaby’s Rhodes graced the stage and evoked bouts of laughter from the audience with her dry humor and matter-of-fact recounting of her fight with lung cancer while raising three children under 3 years old.
During this time, Rhodes said she took comfort in colorful glass votive holders, finding solace in the way the dancing light made the colorful glass glow. She would give these to friends during her struggle, knowing that when they lit the candle in their own homes, she would momentarily be in their thoughts.
“I didn’t know anything about starting a business,” Rhodes said of the early days when she decided to seek out space for a hot shop to produce more Glassybabys while getting phone calls from big names like Martha Stewart and Jeff Bezos. She said she just wanted to offer something simple that people could give as gifts when they wanted someone to know they care.
The evening ended after a brief question and answer session with all the guests with audience questions about organization, faith, and startups.
The next 425 Live event is The Best of 425 Party, which will be held May 3 at the Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland. For more information about upcoming events, subscribe to our newsletter, or purchase tickets, check us out online.