Business women creating change in Reno |

Business women creating change in Reno

Women as Change Makers brought powerful business women and influencers to a collaborative professional summit in Reno on Sept. 15.
Cassandra Walker / Sierra Sun |

Change doesn’t happen overnight but a lot can happen in just one day, especially with women at the helm of leadership.

Jen Gurecki, founder of Zawadisha outreach program in Kenya and better-known as CEO of women’s snow company, Coalition Snow, exemplified just how powerful collaboration among women is during the Women as Change Makers business and networking summit in Reno on Sept. 15.

Gurecki is a proponent of women in powerful roles, and has used her own success to empower women who’ve had less opportunity growing up in Kenya.

She developed Zawadisha to remove the barriers for rural women to access renewable energy and water products. Zawadisha has eliminated the up-front costs through an in-house financing program and delivers items, such as solar lamps, rainwater tanks, and clean cook stoves directly to their villages. They also employ local women as Peer Educators, who provide financial literacy, micro-enterprise, and leadership training to their borrowers.

“I wanted to do something different where people felt that they really got something out of donating,” Gurecki said.

In exchange for donation dollars, sponsors were given tickets to the Women as Change Makers all-day event, which included a social good marketplace featuring local products for sale in addition to a full day’s itinerary in the interest of advancing personal and professional fulfillment.

“The Women as Change Makers summit completely exceeded my expectations,” said Allison Reitz, founder of her business, Community Yogi, and one of the summit’s pitch showcase competitors.

“I had a wonderful time meeting and networking with Reno’s most passionate and powerful women. The speakers were spectacular, and the entire event held a feeling of collaborative support and growth. I’ll definitely be back next year,” she said.

The event included breakout sessions where women could choose various ballrooms to attend talks on differently themed topics, all relating to personal wellbeing and business success.

One breakout session, led by Melinda Choy, a licensed acupuncturist and CEO of Elevate Wellness in South Lake Tahoe was entitled “Being Yin: Preserving Your Health on Your Journey Toward Success”.

“I’m not going to tell you to wake up an hour earlier to meditate, just so you can be stressed out for the rest of your day. These tools are designed to help you relax while you’re being productive,” she said.

By educating on ancient Chinese medicine practices, Choy equipped the women participants with tools like breathing, sleep, and waking techniques and other ways to better connect with people.

The tools are designed to help powerful, high producers integrate moments for rest in their busy workday to keep from burning out, and to keep stress from manifesting in the body as various health issues.

Rayona Sharpnack was the keynote speaker, who hosted a workshop on how to become a change maker and set realistic, tangible goals for success.

Sharpnack encouraged attendees to cut to the root of their wiring in order to get the most out of their experience.

“I trust that each of you were raised in loving households and were told how wonderful and smart and gifted that you are and that’s great, but that’s not what we’re doing here today,” she said.

During the exercise she instructed people to think back on their earliest memories of self-criticism as possible to determine what recurring themes are standing in the way of their success in adulthood.

Participants shared themes of not knowing enough about a subject to be the very best in that field, about fear of not being good enough or successful enough or educated enough.

“When you get the youngest version of your conclusion, you’ll see it everywhere in your life,” she said.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.

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