Photos by Claudia Kirkwood
Carol Gooch’s sharp wit and engaging sense of humor makes for a memorable first impression. Getting to know her further, it becomes obvious Carol has a deep and abiding passion for helping people through education and empowerment. She has always been dedicated professionally to assisting others as she has served as a school teacher, a school counselor, and had a private practice as a psychotherapist. Carol says, “I have been with psychiatric hospitals in business development and marketing since 1995, and currently I am the Director of Business Development for Aspire Hospital in Conroe, Texas. I also do a lot of community education in Montgomery County as well as surrounding counties. I do presentations on mental health issues, customer service issues, networking and leadership.” She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Carol has worked in the Montgomery County area as a mental health professional since 1988.
Eleven years ago, Carol became aware of a real need in the community to help women grow their business as she founded the Montgomery County Association of Business Women (MCABW) in August of 2005. The group was one of the first women’s networking associations in the county, and its success has spurred the creation of many similar groups.
After I graduated from Leadership Montgomery County in 2003, I knew I had to do something to enable women to get together to help each other not only to grow their business, but to enrich them personally. I wanted to help not just women that own businesses, but any women in business—whether they are working for someone else or wanting to start their own business.
I contacted the American Business Women’s Association, where I have been a member for 25 years. I was planning to form a chapter of ABWA in Conroe, but learned that the money we collect would not stay in our county. It’s important for me that we give back to our county, so I founded our own group, MCABW. We help each other grow our businesses, and we give back to our community.
There is social media networking (obviously), and that’s a good thing. It’s certainly a way to put your business out there, but I believe it’s real important to do one-on-one, face-to-face networking. I’ve had younger ladies who really have never done that and only know about social media. They say, “I really like this.” You really get a connection and can tell how somebody feels. You just don’t get that online. Networking is hard, though. It’s a job if you do it the right way, because it takes time and effort. You have to know, “Where do I want to go, where are people that can use my business?” But the biggest thing to me is, networking is not about you, it is about the other person. It’s about what you can do for them. If you can give them a referral for their business, then you have their loyalty, and they will use your business. It’s all about building relationships.
We have all kinds of members, people just starting out, retired ladies that just want to be there and give back to the community. You don’t have to own a business to come to our meetings or to be a member; you can come to promote the business that you work for.
Yes, but they pay membership for each business they represent. Some of our ladies represent men, because we don’t have men in our organization. One of our ladies has a financial company, and her husband has a plumbing company, so she has two memberships because she represents both businesses.
We started in 2005 with 52 ladies at the Conroe Chamber boardroom. I never dreamed it would grow so much. We now have around 180 members. We have from 60-80 attending the monthly luncheon. We have monthly coffees and mixers as well, so you can network your business at 3 monthly MCABW events.
There is a membership fee of $75 a year. We don’t really have a lot of rules and regulations, like having to attend a certain number of meetings. We just ask that they support our causes when we do any of our fundraising events. The more they are involved, the better it is for them and their business. If people get to know you and like you, they will trust you and use your business. We also ask them to go to our directory online and use our businesses that are listed there before going outside the group. That’s how we help each other build our business. We don’t make the directory available only to our members; anyone can go to our website and see our directory.
Besides the many opportunities to network within our meetings, you can also promote your business and publicize its events and activities online on our website and our Facebook page. You’ll have the resources of a professional photographer and a PR team to promote your events, as well as cost-effective advertising in our semi-annual publication, MCABW Magazine. Members have a free listing on our Online Member Directory, which displays your company information and allows members and other MCABW website visitors to locate you and your products and services.
We are dedicated to your Professional Development. There are free or low-cost educational seminars, as well as a Mentoring Program for one-on-one guidance. There are also various opportunities for personal growth by participating in our many community service projects and events or by becoming a mentor in our program.
The advantages of being a member of MCABW at such a low annual membership fee are beyond compare. Please visit our website at www.MCABW.org for a complete list of member benefits.
There’s a group of ladies within MCABW that have volunteered to be a part of our mentoring team. Any member that wants to be mentored fills out an application to tell us what they need (whether it’s networking, starting a business, or whatever). Dawn Candy, the mentoring program team leader, will sort out which person on the mentoring team would be the best to talk to that member. There are different ladies that provide help in social media, business finance, business etiquette, networking, etc. After the mentee goes through several sessions, she will graduate and receive a certificate.
We meet three times a month. We try to make it so our members can work their schedule around the meetings.
Our main meeting is the Monthly Lunch Meeting held the fourth Tuesday of each month from 11:30 to 1:00 p.m. at Incredible Pizza, 230 South Loop 336 West in Conroe. We have from 65 to 80 ladies attending the lunch meeting. This meeting is open to anyone who wants to come and find out more about the group. We like ladies to visit to see if our group is a good fit for them. We ask them to place membership after two visits.
We also have a Business Builder Coffee the first Tuesday of each month from 8 to 9 a.m. It’s usually held at The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce but sometimes we meet at the Conroe Chamber of Commerce. It’s a smaller group with usually about 10 to 15 ladies attending.
And then we have a Monthly Mixer held the second Thursday of each month from 5 to 7 p.m. The mixers are held at different locations depending on who wants to sponsor it. Some of the ladies want to sponsor it so that we can see what their business is all about. 20 to 40 ladies usually attend the mixers. The locations of all our events can be found online at our website, www.MCABW.org
You walk in at Incredible Pizza and pay your $6.50 for the buffet meal. We have a sign in table, and we have “diplomats” who are there to meet and greet everyone especially those who are new. We sell raffle tickets for door prizes, and that money goes to our scholarship fund. We network, then the meeting starts at noon. We have announcements about upcoming events, and we either have a networking game to get everyone to network or we have a guest speaker. We are finished by one o’clock, because people need to get back to work. It’s a lot of fun with lots of positive energy.
We didn’t start out giving back to the community; we started as a business networking group. But, giving back is the one thing we’ve done that I absolutely love, and we have a charitable arm of the association, the MCABW Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit. The college scholarships are funded through the MCABW Foundation.
We give back to the community quarterly. In June, we gave $500.00 to Tri County Behavioral Healthcare. Every year, our big event is our scholarship fundraiser. We give scholarships to Montgomery County high school graduating females. This year, we raised $20,000 by having a fundraiser at the Volkswagen dealership in The Woodlands. It cost $50 to attend. There was also a live band, silent auction, raffle, food and beverages. Many of our business women choose to sponsor this event. We look forward to the event again this year.
MCABW is a valuable resource for the women in this county. As a forum for business women to develop and enhance professional and personal relationships and promote their businesses, Montgomery County Association of Business Women is a valuable local resource. Carol Gooch’s love and devotion for her community is evident in the many hours she puts in as the founder and executive director. As she says so concisely, “We’re a part of the community and want to make it even better and stronger.”
Montgomery County Association of Business Women