I attended the first group meet up of WIAS, Women in Action Sports last night. It was a good first showing and there were a lot of enthusiastic women in action sports there. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of groups and listening to comments from Linked In, Facebook and Twitter recently to try and get some perspective. Here’s a Tweet from someone I found today, @Votteri. His profile says: Location: Los Angeles, CA, Bio: Marketing consultant, action sports lifestyle &; film specialist, brand strategist &; part time chiller. Today, Thurs 4/23 @Votteri Tweeted, “Is the action sports community becoming the latest industry 2 have 2 many meetings? Can’t keep up w all the groups meeting. Please advise.” It’s a valid question. There are a ton of new groups popping up everywhere, especially in Action Sports. More and more people seem to be flocking to join these groups on social networks like Linked In and Facebook. Is it getting out of hand? I’ve found some of these groups to be a total waste of time and others that are pretty good. You have to do the research and find out if the group has something of benefit to you. Is it active or dormant? Does the group manager SPAM members or constantly try and sell them his services? Is the group an obvious trap to build someone’s Direct Mailing list? Does the group leader make you feel like she owns you and makes negative disparaging comments if you hint that you’re planning on attending a different group event? I could go on… The important question for this post is, do we need yet another Action Sports group and more meet ups? In the case of Women in Action Sports, my answer is YES! Here’s why… Let me first say that it’s true that the WIAS folks are friends of mine, but I promised them an honest opinion and recap of their event. Just blowing smoke doesn’t do anyone any good. I believe there is room for another Action Sports group and for meet ups, especially one like this. This group is special and dynamic. It was formed by women, for women and that is a special niche. Too many meet ups to choose from? I don’t think so. Are there too many action sports brands? No. My advice is to choose meet ups based on your needs and schedule. Since there is something happening locally almost monthly with various groups, you’ll never miss a beat. Choices are a good thing, especially for people searching for something new or to meet a need that isn’t being met. Women in Action Sports seems to be filling the need for women in action sports to gather and talk candidly about issues they are facing. I also observed their panel speakers and heard them talking about opportunities and practical advice about things like: How to get venture capital, How to start your own clothing company, Following your dreams, and other really great stuff. I will say that I felt a little out of place. First of all, the event was held in a great little space but it was a women’s clothing shop with racks of girly stuff for sale everywhere. Next, it was 10-1 favoring females and there were a lot of really bright women huddle together. It was intimidating to say the least but also hard to meet people since they didn’t seem interested in talking to a “male” like myself. I was really nervous when I found out they were doing door prizes based on the business card I dropped in a bag when I arrived. When it was time for the raffle, they pulled out a little black dress and a low cut scoop neck t-shirt! As they reached into the bag to randomly pull out the winning business card I made a white knuckled fist, saying in my mind, “nooooo, please God, don’t pick me.” Luckily, two happy women won. I enjoyed listening to some of the panel speakers who offered great nuggets of information. But some of the other panelists weren’t as strong and it was like listening to a 10 minute commercial. I cringed a little and felt uncomfortable when they talked about their experiences with men in action sports. They spoke about their struggles in a male-dominated industry and having to fight for their right just to skate or to do business. They mentioned dealing with ridicule and other adversity brought on by men or an industry that doesn’t offer many opportunities for women. So back to my point about supporting a group like this… I felt uncomfortable. So what? Duh! I’m male. No kidding I might have felt a little out of place with door prizes that come in size 4 and scoop necks. That’s my point. This group isn’t for everyone. It’s not designed for everyone. It’s for women, and for men who support women in action sports. This group is great. What do women in action sports need most? In my opinion, they need good men to support them for starters. These are talented, bright, driven women in business. Creative thought leaders with a special female perspective. They are motivating other women and trying to change the status quo. Let them do their thing. Let them gather where they want, wear what they want, complain and vent about a male-dominated industry, discuss issues, follow their dreams, shred, develop their talents and passion. There is always room for a passionate community with active members who are joined in unity in a cause for good.
~ Bryan Elliott, Chairman SoCal Action Sports Network