On the first and third Tuesday of every month, laughter, friendships and connections all are fostered in a back room at Drew’s Family Restaurant in Forest Hills as the east chapter of the Women’s Business Network comes together for breakfast during its regular meetings.
Led by Chapter Chair Carol Orient, a retired social worker who now focuses on rescuing cats through volunteer work, the meetings begin with endless chatter among businesswomen who range in fields from pilates instructing to house cleaning to a traveling notary.
“I love this organization and I have stayed with it,” said the chapter’s longest member, Donna Meshanko of Forest Hills. “I came to the first meeting here at Drew’s 21 years ago.”
WBN is an organization that consists of enthusiastic women business owners and professionals in western Pennsylvania who meet twice a month. The mission is to build an effective group committed to integrity of performance and service, as well as the creative exchange of business.
There are 23 chapters in the region with more than 400 members total.
During each meeting’s opening, each woman presents a “30-second commercial,” showcasing the latest news from her individual business. One member, Mary Lou Byrnes, who claims to be “the prettiest” of the group with a lively laugh, is a geriatric caregiving consultant.
While the jokes run high at each meeting, they are only matched with the size of heart carried by each member, offering advice, support, hugs and more.
“If there is anyone out there who needs advice for caring for an older person, I would be more than happy to talk to them for free,” Byrnes said during her own “commercial.”
Orient said she enjoys being a member of the group because it helps her to create a network of women who support her efforts, specifically with the Kopy Kat Sanctuary based in Delmont.
“It’s all about creating good connections to raise money for the cat sanctuary, coming here and learning what all the women are doing,” Orient said.
Mary Kay Baum, owner of in Forest Hills, stressed the importance of community service and volunteering, a key aspect of being a member of WBN. Baum regularly prices jewelry on a volunteer basis at the Flea Market, she said.
The east chapter of WBN recently donated funds to the Greensburg Ministerial Association to help aid victims of the tornado that recently damaged the area. Jean Ellen Flohr, owner of , read a thank you letter from the association during Tuesday’s meeting.
In addition to community service, the group also takes time to discuss new members.
“I talked to Bernie Ogurchak and she’d like to join, so she will be at the next meeting,” Meshanko said of the Forest Hills Heaven’s Scent Pastries .
Another member said, “Those blueberry scones she made - I was just drooling all over them,” as members excitedly discussed the new addition.
During each meeting, the women brainstorm ways to support each other’s businesses, while at the same time, supporting the larger citywide group of WBN.
“We are just different from other chapters,” Meshanko said. “There’s so much connectedess and caring for each other.”