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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Do Your Networking Activities Leave You Exhausted ─ or Exhilarated?

By Ann Barczay Sloan

Women's Networking Editor

Ann's article is brought to you by The Joy of Connecting

Introducing Bonnie Ross Parker

Founder / CEO, The Joy of Connecting®

It’s that time again ─ time to meet another woman of passion and determination!

Bonnie Ross Parker does not mince words. “If you’re feeling mentally and spiritually drained after attending a networking event,” she says,” then your NETworking isn’t working.” So she has taken the initiative to create an empowering, joyful solution to this dilemma. Out of her passion for enriching the lives of business women, in 2002 Bonnie licensed an innovative and highly successful marketing program for women called The Joy of Connecting®: a female-based model of networking, based on the concept of “permission marketing”.

How I first heard about Bonnie:

On three separate occasions, Adam J. Kovitz, TNNW Founder / Publisher of this publication, suggested I contact Bonnie and interview her for TNNW. He made it sound important! Well, after a few weeks of having to focus on other priorities, I was ready to follow through. Bonnie and I finally connected ─ but she was the one to contact me! Synchronistically ─ just a day or two before getting her e-mail ─ I was searching through my files for her phone number Adam had given me.

I was happy to talk with this dynamic entrepreneur at last, to have my questions answered and my curiosity satisfied.

Let’s start with my standard question, Bonnie: How would you briefly describe what you do?

“I am the CEO/Founder of a unique marketing program called The Joy of Connecting®. In that role, I serve as a mentor, coach, and motivator and oversee the daily operations of the organization by supporting its licensees.”

What is your primary goal ─ the mission of what you do?

“We all know that in a crowded marketplace, everyone is networking in order to secure their share of business. Entrepreneurial women, female business owners and professionals are competing in an environment that is insensitive, interruptive and challenging ─ in other words, the antithesis of the way women connect best.

So, in essence, the mission of The Joy of Connecting® is to provide a nurturing, non-threatening atmosphere where women can be heard, valued and appreciated for who they are and what they offer.”

Is this a membership organization, Bonnie?

“No, the Joy of Connecting® is not a membership. Instead, by design, women participate as their schedule allows ─ and when they do, are introduced to the products/services of other attendees, connect with new and returning relationships and foster business.”

Would you describe how you got started in this journey?

“Let’s go a way back. In 1983 after a twelve-year teaching career, I became the first Mail Boxes Etc franchisee in the Virginia, Maryland and DC Area. As a pioneer of that company (now the UPS Store) I faced many challenges as a female business owner representing an innovative concept. Mail Boxes Etc. Corporate was less than supportive of its female franchisees.”

For instance?

“Well, for example, we could only secure a lease if we had a male co-signer! That would never happen today! In 1995, with 28 stores under my supervision as The Area Director and owning 6 franchises of my own, I sold my entire operation back to the corporate office and moved to Atlanta. I told my husband I was going to find a way to support women in business so that women would have access to help which was lacking in my career.”

How you did you arrive where you are currently?

“Initially, I began a free, drop in mentoring program called, “The Red Door” – red for energy and door as in opening. Every Tuesday morning from 7:30 - 9, I parked myself at The Atlanta Bread Co in Buckhead, GA and helped whoever showed up. The Red Door and my sessions increased in popularity over a three year period. Eventually, I added to my volunteerism by becoming the Associate Publisher of a local newspaper – pioneering a women’s section called: ‘Women to Women: Cultivating Our Community’. Not only was I impacting women through my weekly sessions, I now had a much larger platform to share ideas, insights and education.

The paper eventually folded due to lack of advertising support. While I dabbled in other endeavors, my heart stayed true to supporting women. In August 2002 I decided to close The Red Door and open my home monthly for women to participate over dinner in an interactive, networking program which I named ‘The Joy of Connecting®’. Designed to support entrepreneurial women, female business owners and professionals, the program eventually became licensed and is now available nationwide. In my home so far, 1700 women have participated!”

That’s quite an achievement, Bonnie! Clearly, all of your work is focused toward women?

“All of it!”

What are some ways and/or places in which you promote your enterprise?

“There are currently several projects in various stages of development which will each add huge value to The Joy of Connecting®. The most recent is the partnership that JOC has created with I am one of its Featured Advisors – selected to offer networking insights and strategies to its viewing/listening audience. The Joy of Connecting® is also listed as an endorsed organization.

In addition to myself (Bonnie Ross-Parker) and JOC partnering with, the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance (DSWA) and The Joy of Connecting® are now aligned to bring the value of both organizations to women in direct selling/network marketing.”

Sounds like a huge step forward!

“Yes, thanks! This relationship will enhance the brand of both entities and create new exciting opportunities for the women they serve.

Other collaborations being created ‘behind the scenes’ will have a major impact on Joy of Connecting visibility and credibility. Lots of opportunities over the next few months will be unveiled.”

Whom / what does your network currently include? How far does your network extend?

“Currently there are 4500 women in our data base who have chosen to stay connected and informed about what’s going on with The Joy of Connecting®. JOC continues to expand as it spreads nationwide. The number of licensees keeps changing every month!

Participants represent women who are in the Direct Selling/Network Marketing industry, entrepreneurs who have created their own businesses and professionals (attorneys, dentists, CPAs, financial planners, etc.) While we are currently ‘the best kept secret’, it won’t be long before The Joy of Connecting® will be the greatest discovery. We are positioning ourselves for major success.”

Which of your projects are you currently most passionate about?

“I love the playing field I’m on. I continually look for new opportunities to promote The Joy of Connecting®, my licensees and the difference this program is making for the women who participate. Read or listen to testimonials on the site ─ you’ll see what I mean! Yes, JOC has my entire focus.”

What has been the best about building a network: Positive experiences? Benefits, expected and unexpected?

“I have traveled to cities nationwide and continue to be in awe of what women are doing, what they are accomplishing and the wide variety of products/services they represent. Because my goal is to be at every launch of a new Joy of Connecting location, I get to experience first hand beautiful, intelligent and committed women everywhere.

When I first began, I was a mentor – helping a dozen or so women from week to week. Now, I lead a community of women who are eager to not only create their own success, but who are equally willing and eager to support the success of others. When I receive testimonials (unsolicited), letters of appreciation and referrals from attendees who want their colleagues/contacts to know about JOC, I feel blessed that my seed of an idea has translated ─ or I might say transformed! ─ into a major force.”

What challenges (if any) have you found in your networking experiences? Any benefits emerging from challenges in the long run?

“I am so focused on women acknowledging themselves for who they are and their accomplishments, it’s sometimes difficult to hear complaints, self-doubt, set backs and learn of lack of support on the home front. My schedule doesn’t allow me to offer the one on one support I was able to provide when numbers were smaller and my time was more available.

Traditional networking is still a challenge for most women and is necessary to grow one’s business. I see The Joy of Connecting® experience like a ‘safety net’. When the marketplace is crowded and insensitive, The Joy of Connecting is nurturing and supportive.

My challenge? I want to grow the organization to include communities all over the country – where women can be and have and feel fulfilled.”

What are the achievements you’re most proud of at this time?

“In October, 2001, my most significant personal achievement was completing the 60 Mile Avon Walk to support two women dealing with breast cancer. My greatest professional achievement occurred in 2002, when I received the Athena Award in recognition of my leadership. It was that same year that I birthed The Joy of Connecting®. One more significant accomplishment occurred in 2003 when I authored my first book, Walk in My Boots – The Joy of Connecting.”

What are your plans and goals for the future ─ organizational, personal?

“I have huge goals for The Joy of Connecting® ─ and I’m currently working on projects that will have a significant impact on JOC’s growth. My personal goal: To establish a legacy where women will recognize that one person’s idea combined with unwavering vision and focus can make a huge difference in others’ lives. I’m also in the process of co-authoring a book with my husband, Phil.”

With your husband? Sounds interesting! What’s the book about?

“Sorry,” Bonnie laughs, “can’t share contents yet!”

Anything else you would like to add? Perhaps words of encouragement, inspiration for our readers?

“Yes! I’d like us to spend some moments reflecting upon these thoughts:

Life is a journey. Each of our lives is a reflection of the experiences we have, the people we meet, the thoughts we consider and the feelings we embrace. Life is meant to be shared. No one chooses to travel life alone. Joy results in sharing with others. It’s the opportunities we say, ‘Yes’ to, the people we embrace along the way, and the ‘ah ha’ moments that awaken us to a new way of looking at something familiar.

What better way to enjoy your journey than to share it with the women in your life? It’s the friendships we create, the sisters we embrace, and the ‘our’ in the word ‘journey’ that sustains us and strengthens us. Choose to support one another in all of life’s endeavors.’

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Contact Information:

Please feel free to contact The Joy of Connecting® as follows:


Telephone: 1+770-333-7923 or 1-877-411-6611

Mail: 1231 Bickham Way, Smyrna, GA 30080

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