Even the organizers were surprised when 67 women turned out for Maine Women’s Network Open Networking at Top of the East at the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel last week.

“Two years ago there were seven of us” at a networking night, said nurse practitioner Maria Glad. “Now it’s like this. It’s amazing.”

“This is the best turnout we’ve had,” said Mackenzie Arsenault, first vice chair of the Portland chapter. “So many of my connections I’ve made in Portland have been through Maine Women’s Network. All kinds of connections. Sometimes it’s important to meet girlfriends. You come to a networking event and maybe go to dinner afterward and make friends.”

Many of the women were first-time attenders, including Kim DeMado, co-founder of Triple Jump Fitness. “I felt led here – with women, business and entrepreneurship,” she said.

“Anything that’s about women and women empowerment draws me right in,” said Kelley Newkirk, a consultant with It Works! “Women who come together to build each other up – that’s something I want to be part of.

“This is a generous group,” said Sarah Kotzur, a naturopathic doctor. “It doesn’t feel competitive.”

“I thought I was coming to a smaller group, but it’s very broad,” said Becky-Sue Betts of Morton Real Estate. “It’s very good energy. Everybody is networking their businesses.”

“I’m interested to see there are so many young 30-year-olds and also where the 50- and 60-year-olds are going,” said Karen Schlegel of RE/MAX Realty One of Kennebunkport. “Because we’re not done.”

Schlegel was talking with MWN member Patricia Mulholland, a music therapist. “I knew her name, she knew my name, and we live in the same town, but we’d never met face to face,” Schlegel said.

Mulholland, a MWN member, typically goes to the monthly luncheons. “They have really good speakers,” she said.

“We do a lot of education around women’s issues and what’s going on in the community,” said Kris McCrea, chair of the Portland chapter. For example, a Feb. 9 luncheon focused on women in the food business will feature women from representing Bao-Bao Dumpling House, Black Dinah Chocolatiers and Alewives Brook Farm.

“Our speakers are women,” McCrea said. “We want them to share their story and have people say, ‘Hey, maybe I can that, and I’m going to take that step because of this woman who inspired me.’ ”

Portland is home to MWN’s largest chapter, but there are Androscoggin and Midcoast chapters for women further north. For more information: mainewomensnetwork.com.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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