AWOB’S Beginnings…

How The Alliance of Women Owned Businesses Got Its Start

An Interview with Julie Tappero

How The Alliance of Women Owned Businesses Got Its Start

Like most bright ideas, this one came from the mind of one very successful woman who owns and operates her own very successful business.

In early 2010, Julie Tappero was in Seattle, at the annual awards banquet for Women Business Owners organization, where she was a finalist for the Nellie Cashman Award.  “I didn’t win, but it started me thinking that our South Sound area needed to offer this kind of recognition to women business owners,” she reminisces.

Julie returned to Gig Harbor and started doing what she does best, planning and pulling people together to address an idea.

She made an email list of women who owned businesses, which wasn’t easy because she says didn’t know many others…or at least she didn’t know she knew any.  She checked out the membership list of the Chamber of Commerce and the state’s list of certified women businesses, and then she sent out an email that invited them.  “Let’s Talk,” she said.

Then she spent $25 to rent a room at Harbor Place and on February 17, 2010, fifteen women showed up at 7:30 am to explore the idea of a local organization to support women business owners .

“I was amazed.  Fifteen people showed up!” she exclaims.  She took notes, threw out questions to see if what she was envisioning was what others were thinking as well, and then she took the next step. She asked.

“Who wants to sign up and help get us started?” Five women raised their hands, and they were off and running.

Over the next two months, Julie met weekly with the a small group of women who became the nucleus of  The Alliance of Women-Owned Business, including:  Pat Schmidt, Sharon Kresse, Pam Peterson, and Cheri Johnson.  They reached out to two others whose expertise they felt they needed:  Linda Shiraiwa, a CPA, and Lisa Markman, a business coach.  Together, the organization began to take shape.

The group agreed that their initial impact needed to be BIG, so for their open meeting, and to set the tone for the organization’s future, Cheri Johnson initiated an invitation to one of the region’s best-known women business owners to speak:  Sunny Kobe Cook.

“Sunny, or maybe it was Cheri, told me to plan on 70 people to attend, and I thought she was crazy!” Julie remembers. “But she was right!  We had 75 people there.  There was so much energy and excitement in that room!”  It was a very auspicious beginning.

And it was free.  At that point, there was no membership required and no dues to be paid.

She reassembled the nucleus immediately and reviewed the results.  Now the trick would become to keep the momentum going with equal quality programs. “We wanted to blow their sox off!” says Julie. Cheri Johnson was already working on the next month’s speaker,  Tammy Michaels, a regional radio personality.  The rest fell into place quickly.

If the organization was to succeed, however, it needed to have a paid membership, it needed to be officially recognized, and it needed a plan to continue to provide value if people were to be asked to pay membership dues.

On July 6, 2010, the Secretary of State of Washington issued a certificate of Incorporation in the name of the Alliance of Women Owned Businesses (AWOB).  The articles were signed by the seven original women who organized the group, with Linda Shairiwa as its registered agent.

So what was it in Julie Tappero’s background that led her to this leadership role for AWOB?

“I was raised in a family who believed in service…in giving back to the world we live in.  My Mom was a Girl Scout leader and worked in PTA.  My Dad was a Scout leader as well.  And they expected us to do the same.

“I wanted to see AWOB support women, because as women in business, we often hold ourselves back. Some of that is valid…we are caring for 3 little kids, or aging parents, or some other role that absorbs our time and energy.  And of course that is important.  But some of it is insecurity, and I wanted to help other women with that…to build up their confidence so that they could be successful.


“I have been successful, and that has given me a lot of satisfaction, and it has also allowed me the freedom and resources to give back and help others. It’s part of being grateful for our bounty.”