Polka Dot empowerment: Local chapter of women's group connects and inspires
● By Richard Gaw
The circular tables in the conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kennett Square last Wednesday afternoon were filled to capacity by nearly 30 women, each of whom shared a similar need that was firmly tethered to the reason why they were there: To connect with others, and share their story.
It was the latest monthly meeting of the Chadds Ford chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse, a local branch of a national organization that brings women of all ages and backgrounds together in a positive, action-forward method of networking meant to inspire, encourage and empower.
Reintroduced in southern Chester County in 2018 after serving the Wilmington community for a few years, the Chadds Ford chapter continues to gain traction in the community by opening doors of support for its current 28 members, who are looking to collaborate in business, share knowledge, help “rock the dots” of opportunity. In short, it's sisterhood accelerated, woman to woman.
“We believe in not only building powerful, positive connections, but also in using them to educate, collaborate, and change the world,” said Polka Dot Powerhouse founder Shannon Crotty. “When you're grateful for a great connection, the logical next step is to gift it back. We reward people for their involvement, because we believe people who take action toward the betterment of their own lives and the lives of others, deserve a thank you or two (or twenty).”
“We are unlike any other networking group out there, in that we are all about supporting and empowering each other,” said Denise Ciancia, the Chadds Ford chapter's managing director. “Too many times, we join groups and we become uncomfortable, because we feel like we're going to be judged, or we're not brought into the fold or we've worn the wrong outfit or we're afraid to say the wrong things.
“For this group, the minute you walk in, everyone is welcoming. It doesn't matter what you do or what you're selling or what you're wearing. It's become a judgment-free zone.”
For a yearly fee level of $300 – or the Diamond membership level of $700 – members receive invitations to a monthly luncheon that includes lunch, networking opportunities and a featured speaker. At its Feb. 13 luncheon, the chapter invited American Heart Association instructor Eileen Knopf, who gave a presentation on how heart disease prevention for women.
The “power of the dot” also extends to social media, where members can attend several on-line “zoom” workshops and business meetings every month, that allows them to connect with Polka Dot Powerhouse members at chapters across the nation and in Canada.
“I can log into my computer from home and say, 'Find me Dots who are in marketing,' and it immediately connects me with every single member who is in the field,” said Jackie Crego, the chapter's social media specialist and the owner of 'That's What She Said,' a marketing company.
“It's learning from each other, in terms of sharing the tips and tricks of a particular trade.”
Close to home, the chapter is looking to expand its networking by introducing evening social activities and structured meetings, targeted to women who are unable to attend monthly luncheons.
Ciancia said that the truest definition of the Chadds Ford chapter is found in the diversity of its membership.
“We have a few members who are health and wellness coaches, and a couple in real estate and some who are financial advisors and planners, but none of us are in competition with each other,” she said. “Rather, we learn from each other. We truly believe in having an abundant mindset.”
The accelerated growth of Polka Dot Powerhouse – there are now 76 chapters in 26 states and Canada, including six in Pennsylvania – arrives at a moment when the definition of the modern woman has not only included the breaking of glass ceilings toward opportunity, but the colossal juggling act of balancing motherhood, marriage, work, children and family.
For many women, it's a collision of roles that has served as a common and connective bond for those women in the Chadds Ford chapter.
“For so many years, everyone expected us to show up to everything and fill in every gap – have a career, make dinner, make sure our kids wore the right clothes and did well in school, and that we attended all of their activities,” Crego said. “It began to become ingrained in our heads that we needed to be everything to all people.
A lot of women nowadays are looking at each other a different way, not from a judgmental viewpoint, but from an empathetic one, by acknowledging that we're all simply doing the best that we can. Polka Dot is an opportunity for women to be real and genuine with each other.”
Crego pointed to a recent Chadds Ford chapter luncheon, when a guest speaker gave a presentation on meditation and personal reflection. When she looked up after it ended, she noticed that two women at her table were crying.
“One woman told me afterwards, 'I so needed this today,'” she said. “She left that meeting feeling like the seven people who were sitting at the table with her made her feel that what she was not alone. It's the support that tells us that we all go through the trials of life. Women tend to think that no one will understand them, but the truth is that we all go through it. Polka Dot allows for the connection that tell us, 'I am okay.'”
After teaching in the Avon Grove School District for 25 years, Ciancia left to begin Share My Secret, a Ciancia, a health and wellness solutions company, in 2010. While she experienced the fear of transitioning from one chapter of her life to the next, Ciancia began to embrace the idea that change was beneficial, a feeling that she shares with her team and those at the Chadds Ford chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse.
“We realize there is more to life than following our Plan As,” she said. “We're on our Plan Bs, and for me, Polka Dot Powerhouse is an extension of that incredible change. It's what happens when we begin to empower ourselves, and in doing so, we begin to empower others.”
To learn more about Polka Dot Powerhouse, visit www.polkadotpowerhouse.com. To learn more about the Chadds Ford chapter, email Denise Ciancia at email@example.com or visit the chapter's Facebook page at Polka Dot Powerhouse – Chadds Ford, Pa. chapter.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.