B’More Creatives, a local networking group gathering women in creative professions, will close at the end of the year.
It will end a 13-year run for the group. Over the years, they’ve run events, provided mentoring opportunities and created an online community with 1,500 members.
Board leader Jessica Watson, who owns Points North Studio and has been a member of the group for 10 years, said the decision to close was a tough one that she and other leaders agonized over. It comes as the group still has plenty of members, and the online community continues.
However, there were a number of factors involved in the decision to close. For one, the number of active groups in Baltimore’s creative community has grown.
The group was founded when then-AIGA Baltimore President Joe L. Wagner wanted to provide space for women entrepreneurs running creative businesses to connect, and offer support. Wagner has been involved all along as an advisor, but the group has been run by women.
When Watson got involved in 2007, she said there were few frequent events to attend, as groups like AIGA and the American Marketing Association’s Baltimore chapter were in transition. For her fellow board leader Kendall Ludwig, who owns branding, print and web design firm Curly Red, the opportunity to connect with women was also lacking.
“When I started my company not only was there not a lot of networking opportunities for creatives in general, but there was no support system in place for women creative entrepreneurs,” she said.
Wagner said it was also designed to be a community, and the internet helped create that.
“It wasn’t made to be an association where you had to pay dues,” he said, adding that membership has remained free.
“It was really a professional networking group.”
Now, both Watson and Ludwig there are more networking groups to find support. It’s something Ludwig called “a good problem for Baltimore to have,” but nevertheless meant that groups were in some sense competing for the same audience.
Before joining, Ludwig, whose company will be 11 years old in January, was often among the only younger people in the room, and the only women. “I’d be overwhelmed over how different I felt and how out of place I felt,” she said. Upon connecting with a woman mentor, she said she learned how to turn the differences into strengths.
But some board members transitioned out over time as is natural for a community group. Watson said the current group was ready to pass the reins on to the next leaders, but others weren’t immediately emerging.
“Ultimately, we didn’t have the funding or leadership to successfully continue it on in the way that it should be,” she said.
There was also the way the group wanted to go out. Watson has seen many community groups go dormant even as they remain active. Inevitably, people start asking about what happened to them. Watson doesn’t want B’more Creatives to be that group.
“We don’t want B’more Creatives to be this group that peters out at some point in time,” Ludwig said. “…We both feel like it makes sense to go out just as strongly as we came in.”
To that end, the group is holding a party on Dec. 6 to officially close it out. The End of an Era Masquerade Party will be at The Elephant in Mt. Vernon.
In announcing the decision to close, Watson said the impact is worth marking.
“I know that we’ve added value and I don’t think that’s lost in us closing,” she said. “I think that should be celebrated.”
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