By Ifesinachi Okpagu
It’s not every day you get the opportunity of meeting forty awesome women at a prestigious five-star rated hotel, including four women, who have created numerous opportunities in the economic fabric of the nation, yet the weekend of July 5th and 6th was one that not only provided this opportunity but planted the expression ‘sisters helping sisters’ deep in my heart.
The Success Factor Ladies Retreat began as a seed that grew into a massive tree as it came alive at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, the venue for the retreat. The much anticipated event began Friday evening when I received a phone call shortly after I arrived at the hotel lobby.
“Hello, this is A. I am on my way to the hotel. What do I do when I get there?” she asked.
“As soon as you get into the lobby, mention you’re here for TSF Ladies Retreat and they will assign you to your room immediately. You won’t have a problem,” I assured one of the participants.
I had just checked into my room for the event and I was still reeling from the fact that I had a room to myself for the weekend, away from home and duties, when it suddenly dawned on me that this was it! The event was about to begin. With a deep breath, I walked downstairs to welcome other participants and the speakers that would arrive for the Cocktail.
By the time we gathered for the Cocktails and I had double checked that the food was in order (of course food is important at such a gathering!), we were about thirty something ladies, huddled in small groups, with people they were familiar with.
Publisher for TW Magazine and event host, Mrs. Adesuwa Onyenokwe, called me aside and thrust a microphone into my hands.
“Well, you have to handle the introductions,” she said. “You’ll be fine. Nothing spectacular. By the way, have you met my friend Audrey?”
Still holding the microphone and reeling from the thought of an impromptu speech, I was introduced to one of our amazing speakers, Mrs. Audrey Joe-Ezibo, M. D., Falcon Petroleum, who seemed so relaxed in the tense environment.
Then it began; the icebreaker that would initiate an amazing evening of informal chats, networking with new women, business card sharing, dancing, a mini-session with Mrs. Joe-Ezigbo and of course, food and unlimited drinks. Mrs. Onyenokwe made us all feel welcome. At the end of the evening, not only were participants on a first name basis with each other, some had spotted others with mutual interests and had seized the opportunity to exchange contacts for future collaborations. We were laughing, telling jokes among ourselves, discussing topics we would never have the opportunity of talking about outside the walls of the event hall.
And I got myself a valuable gift – Mrs. Joe-Ezigbo announced she would send me a copy of her book once it was launched! Priceless.
After a night of dreamless sleep at the hotel, I was up early in the morning to ensure the restaurant was ready to receive all forty of us for the breakfast buffet, while some of the participants exercised with Mrs. Onyenokwe at the gym early Saturday morning.
It was a pleasure calling the ladies I met just the night before by name when they came down for breakfast.
“Hope you had a great night, Catherine?”
“Were you able to use the gym facilities, Dayo?”
We shared a table for breakfast and then it was off to the workshops where the C.E.O of House of Tara, Mrs. Tara Fela Durotoye was waiting to start the sessions with her topic “Keys to Work/Life Balance for the Career Woman”. Her session was insightful with ladies throwing questions and coming up with answers. An important point I took away was this – our thoughts attract what we get, so if we think positive thoughts, chances are higher that we will receive positive things.
Mrs. Audrey Joe-Ezigbo’s session was awesome with her taking us on “The Power of Creating Meaning Networks”. From her session, I learnt, among other things, that follow-up is the most important aspect of networking.
After the networking session, we had veteran actress, Mrs. Joke Silva takes us on passion and business. Her session was spiced with personal stories and we found ourselves sharing one or two tips on how to attend to the business side of your passion.
Mrs. Silva’s session gave way to the session handled by the Chief Technical Officer, MTN, Mrs. Lynda St. Nwafor, who took us up on the values of her brand and then shared with us on what it takes to lead a team in a global organisation like MTN. It was so obvious the passion she had for her job and the values her brand represented.
By the time we broke for lunch, we were addressing each other like we had been friends for ages. In fact, when it was time to say goodbye, many of us were still flinging arms across shoulders taking photos to stow away in our memory bank.
Did I say the event was awesome? Scratch that. It was super-awesome, and we hope that there will be another opportunity for women to connect and interact on a level that is so informal that the thought “sisters helping sisters” was really the summary of what happened on the weekend of the TSF ladies retreat.
As a host myself, I was fulfilled.