Five speakers graced the stage to share laughs and life lessons at the third annual 425 Women to Watch event at Meydenbauer Center.
We’re all a little awkward. We’re all trying to develop ourselves to advance our careers. We’re trying to preserve hope during difficult times. And we’re also in an age bombarded with curated social media that can leave a person feeling like they’re not good enough.
The silver lining is that we’re all in this together. Most of us experience these feelings, and that’s ok. In adulthood, no one feels like they’re doing it right, but there are lessons along the way that can guide us toward sculpting our best selves, and that was the overall spirit of our third annual 425 Women to Watch event.
With wine glasses in hand, nearly 400 men and women gathered at Meydenbauer Convention Center last night to hear our speakers divulge their roadblocks and how they came out the other side stronger people.
King 5’s Amity Addrisi emceed the event and our speakers were: co-founder of MOD Pizza, Ally Svenson; MOViN’ 92.5’s radio co-host Brooke Fox; Regional Vice President of Comcast, Amy Lynch; owner of Uniquely Savvy, Kim Peterson; and co-founder of LEAD, Claire Durrell.
Our presenting sponsor, Kitsap Bank, kicked off the night with words from Chairwoman of the Board Cydly Langer Smith, who shared the bank’s history of female leadership. Hannah Langer served as the fifth president of the bank after her husband, Frank, the then-president of the bank, passed in 1952. At the time of his death, she was encouraged to sell the bank, but decided to continue his legacy, and became an early female leader in banking during a time when women typically only served as teachers, nurses, or secretaries.
Kim Peterson was the first speaker to take the stage, sharing a message of preserving “hope in times of change.” As a baby, she was adopted into a white family that split up when she was 6 years old. When her parents divorced, she lived with her mom and suddenly became an only child — her eldest siblings moved out and lived on their own, and her dad took the two middle children. Feelings of unworthiness and abandonment sprouted at an early age and grew like weeds into her teens and early adulthood as she experienced sexual assault and multiple abusive relationships. However, her relationship with God became a guiding light and she’s grown her style consulting and life coaching business, Uniquely Savvy, exponentially. It’s taken nearly 40 years, but she finally has her fairy tale, in her career and in her personal life.
“As my good friend Barbara Niven said, ‘Don’t give up five minutes before your miracle,’” Peterson said. “Don’t give up. When you and I insist on hope, hope activates change and healing begins to happen inside out. When that happens, we begin to reclaim our lives.”
Our event was branded with the hashtag #425WomentoWatch, but if speaker Amy Lynch had her own hashtag, it would be #lifelonglearner. One of her earliest lessons was as a college intern in the finance department of a telecommunications company. Her male counterpart was getting all the best assignments, and she initially chalked it up to him being a man and her being a woman. When she confronted her supervisor about the quality of her work and lack of opportunities, he responded with simple words. The male intern — we’ll call him Rod, she said — asked for the assignments. He created a development plan for himself. What was her development plan? “I went home, and I wrote a 50-page manifesto about what I wanted to do,” she said half-jokingly.
Lynch has since built a career in part by seeking out opportunities instead of waiting for them to appear. Her long-time career with Comcast has been full of lessons that she’s used to further develop herself, and hopefully to become a leader that inspires others to do the same.
LEAD (Ladies Elite Athletic Development) Co-founder Claire Durrell was a star student and athlete growing up. She was an overachiever in all aspects of her life, but when she went off to college, she fell apart, she said. All her life, she was told to “work harder to be better,” instead of honing in on the traits that made her stand out in a crowd. Years later, after attending a workplace leadership development retreat, she decided to create LEAD, a program for girls and women that couples leadership training with physical training in the gym.
“We all have strengths,” she said. “We all can write, we all can time-manage. Those are things that you do, but in a very cut-throat environment, like the one we live in, those strengths simply become commodities. What really matters are your competitive differences. That’s who you are, which is way more important. (Those qualities) are how you captivate… It took me 35 years to learn that I was in fact a rock star. No seriously, that’s my archetype. I’m a combination of innovation and passion.”
Her archetype defines her as an “out-of-the-box thinker,” which was hard to lean into at first. “I’ve lived my archetype for the last year and a half, and it landed me on this stage with you guys,” she said.
After a brief intermission for refreshments and a raffle provided by Lake Chelan, Redmond Town Center, and Margaret O’Leary, Ally Svenson, co-founder of MOD Pizza, graced the stage. At MOD Pizza, it’s all about the people. MOD is proud of making “impact hires,” employing people that maybe need a second chance, have disabilities, or have fallen on hard times. When MOD launched in 2008 in Seattle, it’s origin story was similar to that of the Svensons’ first entrepreneurial venture, Seattle Coffee Company in London, where the married couple were living at the time. For their first three years in the United Kingdom, you couldn’t buy a Seattle-style cup of coffee. So, the two decided to open their own store and later sold the company to Starbucks.
“If something doesn’t exist, it might not mean that it’s a bad idea,” Svenson said. “It might just mean that nobody has taken the time to create it.”
The Svensons approached MOD with the same mentality. They were looking for a fast, casual restaurant their whole family would enjoy. Thus, MOD was born. Today, MOD is the fastest-growing restaurant concept in the country with more than 300 locations nationwide and 100 more to come this year. Its true driving purpose, however, is giving back to the community by serving people — literally and figuratively.
Radio co-host Brooke Fox rounded out the night with a presentation that had the whole audience in laughing fits with a school-aged photo of herself wearing coke-bottle glasses and a wide, gummy-toothed smile. Fox is beloved by many for her authenticity. She argues that she doesn’t know how to be anything else, but in an age of picture-perfect, Instagrammable content, it’s refreshing.
She left listeners with a handful of action points to help everyone love themselves more: accept compliments; don’t try on a swimsuit in fluorescent lighting; do something that makes you sweat a little (not to be skinny, but to be strong); volunteer; and don’t beat yourself up if you only do one thing on the list.
“The last, and really I think the most important thing about being your authentic self, is the ability to laugh at yourself,” she said and pulled up a photo of herself standing in front of a bathroom door with a sign that read: Out of Order. Brooke took a HUUUGGEE Dump!! “You don’t believe it do you? It doesn’t matter if it happened or not because it’s funny. That’s why I posted it on social media. As my favorite band, the Indigo Girls, once said: ‘You have to laugh at yourself, because otherwise you’d cry your eyes out.’”
We’ll leave you with those words.
Also a huge thank you to our 425 Women to Watch event coordinator MadCap Marketing + Creative.