Robyn Spirtas started S.W.A.T. Networking (Successful Women Aligning Together) in the depths of the Great Recession in 2010.
Several businesswomen struggling in the fallout of the Great Recession approached her for advice. After all, Spirtas had a doctorate in counseling and psychology, as well as a 26-year career in family therapy.
From an initial group of just two women, the group quickly grew to 10, resulting in the creation of the first chapter in Bradenton.
It has since grown to seven chapters and more than 300 members and was selected as a 2017 Manatee Small Business of the Year nominee.
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“We are now in three counties,” Spirtas said. “We are a sisterhood, and as women, we really support each other. It’s just an amazing organization. We believe relationships come first, and the business will come later.”
We believe relationships come first, and the business will come later.
Robyn Spirtas, founder of S.W.A.T. Networking
S.W.A.T. Networking urges prospective members to come on board to network and build relationships, meet other professional women, learn marketing techniques, build their business and have fun.
Chapters include Bradenton, meeting at Renaissance on 9th; Lakewood Ranch, meeting at Polo Grill; Venice, meeting at Ramada Hotel Venezia; Manasota, meeting at Primo! Ristorante; Parrish, meeting at Popi’s Place in Ellenton; Anna Maria Island, meeting at Bridge Street Bistro; and Brandon, meeting at The Shrimp Boat in Valrico.
“Our guests walk into our meetings knowing no one and are made to feel welcome,” executive director Deborah Gerard said.
There are three things to know about S.W.A.T. Networking, Gerard said:
▪ It is not an exclusive organization —— there is no quota on an occupation that can belong to the group.
▪ There is no requirement to attend meetings, although it is probably better for the member’s business if they do.
▪ S.W.A.T. Networking knows who its members are.
A few other things to know: Meetings start at noon and end by 1:15 p.m., and speakers come from the membership and are limited to five-minute presentations.
“No outside speakers are allowed,” Spirtas said.
“We grew so fast and for a few years, Robyn was doing everything,” Gerard said. “Then she decided to have directors and make one responsible for each chapter.”
More growth may be in S.W.A.T. Networking’s future. Spirtas would like to have a chapter in Sarasota and another in either Sun City Center or perhaps Apollo Beach.
S.W.A.T. Networking is not only networked internally, and chapter to chapter, but externally as well with memberships in the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, the Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.
Membership dues are $125 a year. For more information, visit swatnetworking.com/.