Dr. Davia Shepherd was one of six women—all entrepreneurs, business owners, or managers with full lives and families—who found time in their busy schedules to gather for lunch on a Monday afternoon seven years ago. What came of that was a collective of women that came to be known as the Ladies’ Power Lunch.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Dr. Shepherd about how the group evolved.
NAN PRICE: The Ladies’ Power Lunch has grown from six women to thousands. How did that happen?
DAVIA SHEPHERD: At the end of our initial lunch, everyone wanted to know when we’d be able to sync our calendars and gather again. We decided to meet the same time and same place every month: the third Monday at 12:30 p.m. at Ruby Tuesday on Route 6 in Bristol.
I did no marketing whatsoever. I didn’t have time for that! We had always told people to invite a friend. That’s how it grew. At every lunch, someone would bring someone new. That person would bring a friend the next time, and so on.
Soon, we outgrew our original location and had to find other accommodations. It’s just grown from then. Six women in a Ruby Tuesday and now our list is somewhere in the 1,200 to 1,500 range and reaches about 50,000 women.
I think the reason it’s grown so much is because we only have one rule in Ladies’ Power Lunch: We support each other. Women resonate with that. They’re looking for other women who truly want to support them.
NAN: Are the women involved all business owners or entrepreneurs?
DAVIA: Most members are entrepreneurs or they’re in corporate positions. We do have a few members who are retired or homemakers or engaged in other nontraditional ways of doing business. So, we’ve expanded in terms of the types of professions who show up, but we never really had any limitations.
NAN: What would you say is the greatest benefit the women are gaining from these connections?
DAVIA: The greatest benefit is the support. We started out as a social hangout. But we realized we all had questions about different things, whether it was personal development or business-related. So, once we changed our location, we started hosting speakers and hands-on workshops every month. The women were elated. They could ask questions and get answers.
They say information doesn’t teach, but experience does. Women like the comradery, they like the support they’re getting from other women, and they like knowing that when they attend Ladies’ Power Lunch, they’re going to learn about something new.
NAN: In the current situation with social distancing, obviously the physical lunches have been put on hold. How have you been working around that and keeping the group connected?
DAVIA: As we evolved into being a company, we were hosting in-person retreats, summits, and conferences in addition to our monthly workshops. On March 16, we were scheduled to have our spring conference. That was also the first day we went into quarantine, so the week before we had to make a quick decision about how we were going to proceed.
Thank goodness for technology! We went virtual and had a fantastic spring conference on Zoom. Ever since then, we’ve been having our monthly meetings virtually. We’ve received comments from some of our members who actually enjoy this better, because not all of our members are local. We have members in the Caribbean, Canada, and United Kingdom. Those members have been enjoying the online events because it’s given them the opportunity to participate with Ladies Power Lunch in a bigger way than they have in the past. They can easily attend our monthly meetings as opposed to planning way ahead to come to one of our retreats, summits, or conferences.
So, even though this has been a challenging time for a lot of us, there’s also a silver lining because it has brought our communities closer together.
NAN: Who is the “we” in Ladies’ Power Lunch?
DAVIA: I believe we should always have a tremendous amount of support. So, when I use the term “we,” I’m talking about the team I’ve accumulated to support me. For example, my business manager takes care of everything to do with our practice and everything to do with Ladies’ Power Lunch, our online business manager ensures that technology is working well because I was trained to be a physician, not to troubleshoot technology! Having a lot of support is important to me. I never take full credit for Ladies’ Power Lunch because I always invite help.
NAN: How do women become involved with Ladies’ Power Lunch? Is it a paid membership?
DAVIA: That’s a great question. Ladies’ Power Lunch is free to join. Women can simply fill in a form on our website. Our monthly meetings are free to attend for our members and their friends. We also have a Facebook community where people share and get support from other members.
We also offer a next-level of membership for women who are passionate about what they’re involved with and are interested in using speaking, publishing, and podcasting to get their message out. So, there’s opportunity for business growth and personal development inside of Ladies’ Power Lunch.