By Cathy Stierhoff, Sausalito-Viña del Mar Women in Business Sister City

Last fall, twelve women from our Operations Council traveled to Viña Del Mar for an amazing week, continuing our mentorship of the women business owners that we have been working with since we re-ignited our sister city relationship with Viña in 2011. AGEP (pronounced a-HEP), is the acronym for the group in Viña, Asociación Gremial de Empresarias y Profesionales, or Assocation of Business Owners and Professionals. The group has between 30 – 40 very active members, all working to support one another.

This year our delegation presented five workshops for our “sisters” on a range of topics including “Speaking with Authority” from Deana Kardel of EOS Consulting, “The Many Ways to Market Your Business” from Lorna Newlin of Sausalito Pottery, and “Taking Risks and Making It” from Aness Pogni of Jewelry By The Bay and Soxalito.

In addition to the presentations, we made on-site visits to a number of the women-owned businesses, shops and studios. At these visits we were able to give first-hand feedback on a more in-depth level and in real time to the participants. We visited an organic/vegan restaurant, a uniform shop, a caterer who operates her business completely from her tiny home, and several retail and manufacturing spaces.

During our visit, AGEP hosted an international congress of women business owners including women from all over Chile, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic. The first of what is planned to be a regular event, this successful program included four days of lectures, presentations and artisan exhibits, all with the goal of creating connections between women business owners throughout South America.

In addition to the workshops and the congress, we made connections with the American consulate in Valparaiso, and met with the mayors of both “Viña” and “Valpo”. We visited several museums, took a bus tour of Valparaiso, and were treated to seemingly endless lunches, dinners and soirees. By now many from our Sausalito group have come to know and grow close to the various members of AGEP, creating friendships and lifetime bonds.

Sausalito and AGEP delegates at the University of San Miguel, where we gave our presentations.

Members of the Sausalito Delegation at Laguna Sausalito.

Delegates from Sausalito, Chile, and Uruguay after the AGEP congress.