Spokane entrepreneur and graphic designer Anna Abel has launched Vested, a company that provides networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs.
Vested sold out its kickoff event, which was in November at the Washington Cracker Co. building. Abel, who initially was worried about people in the area participating, was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
She says she’s still working on a future vision for Vested, which currently is a one-woman operation and a branch of Cast & Co., her design company. Being mostly a self-taught businesswoman, especially in terms of marketing and design, she created her own branding and web design and manages all of Vested’s digital platforms. Through Vested’s lively and vibrant social media presence, Abel was able to garner the attention of myriad creatives and businesswomen in the Spokane area.
Vested doesn’t charge for membership. For now, revenue comes from ticket sales for events and workshops, Abel says.
Abel says she founded Vested because she found self-employment to be isolating after she moved to Spokane from Bozeman, Mont., in the winter of 2017.
She says Vested is inspired by a casual business group she belonged to in Bozeman that was organized by her friend, Lauren Caselli. That group, she says, cultivated a sense of community through weekly gatherings featuring snacks and libations.
On those nights, Abel and the other entrepreneurs discussed good and bad aspects of managing their businesses. As the group grew, it became known as Boss Lady Bash, opening itself up for more female business owners in Bozeman.
She says she searched for a similar niche in Spokane, but found groups she came across to be more corporate with rigid commitment levels. With encouragement from Caselli, she founded Vested, a less formal women’s business support group.
Her intention is to add a flexible option for women to engage. To be a member of Vested, it just takes showing up to events, staying connected, and making a contribution, even if it’s just through conversation, Abel says.
Abel kept the name Vested on a list for potential future endeavors, and she always liked it. She wanted it to be scalable, and a word that denoted a commitment to a project or a goal.
“It doesn’t have a financial meaning as much it does a personal investment meaning,” Abel says. “My hope is that it would grow into something bigger than a small-town event.”
She describes Vested as a platform for creative, female entrepreneurs to build a sense of community, share resources, and grow their business.
“I think of it as a business Rolodex for female business owners. There’s no competition. There’s no hierarchy,” Abel says. “Everybody is on an equal playing field, and it’s a place to collaborate, network, and socialize without any stuffy stereotypes or long-term commitments.”
Amanda Dixon, community manager at Fellow Coworking, provided the venue for Vested’s first event. Several others in the community donated their time and efforts to help make the event a success.
Aside from holding social events for networking, Abel plans to have guest speakers with question-and-answer sessions and classes or workshops with instruction and guidance regarding various aspects of running a business. Topics will include employee management, bookkeeping, and financial planning. Upcoming potential workshops might include a photography course with Spokane photographer Alycia Lovell and a “build your brand story” workshop with Julia York, of Creative Crumb, a Spokane company that specializes in branding and web design.
The next Vested event will be Feb. 20 at The Bartlett, at 228 W. Sprague, where attendees will hear from featured guests discussing their own business backgrounds.
Although Abel doesn’t want to set strict parameters for who can be a Vested member, she says it’s for women who are independent entrepreneurs or who are working toward the goal of being their own boss.
“To feel seen and heard by the community is really profound, and to have the opportunity to get out of your routine and meet other like-minded women, it’s amazing,” Abel says.
Abel wants to offer encouragement to any women who desire to branch out on their own career-wise, but may feel daunted by the task or lack the tools.
“Come to an event and you’ll see the realness of the women who have done it before you, that nobody is an expert. Everybody is intimidated at some point in their career, and that’s what fuels the drive to make it happen,” says Abel. “So, don’t be intimidated, but be resilient and know that it can be done if you put in the effort. And know that there is a huge group of people who will support you if you look for them. You just have to get out of your shell and open up, because that’s all it takes, and we’re here for you.”
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