By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — Fourteen local women sashayed down the runway on Tuesday afternoon at the annual “Women in Business” event at the Holiday Inn, which featured a fashion show by two local women’s boutiques.
The featured boutiques taking part in the fashion show was annual participant Girls in Pearls, and newcomer Bria Bella & Co. The networking event drew close to 200 in attendance, with a 50/50 raffle and giveaways throughout.
However, the event was more than just a professional luncheon. For Bria Bella & Co. owner Tara Manzke, taking to the runway isn’t just all for looks; but also empowerment.
“It means a lot for them, as well as people watching, because it’s important for everyone here to see that people they know can come and do this,” said Manzke. “Together, we want all women to feel that they’re beautiful.”
Model Lorraine Avery is a retired bank executive for Associated Bank, and is an active member of the community. Aside from motivational speaking, Avery is active with Junior Achievement, as well as The Women’s Fund. Avery found the comradery between women to be inspiring.
“It’s wonderful — anytime women can come together and kind of spur off of each other to empower their own personality and style always brings a certain amount of joy.”
The show featured dozens of outfits, six from each boutique, in three different categories — casual, business, and formal. Girls in Pearls owner Margaret O’Connor Govett is a former chemistry lab manager for UW-Stevens Point, and believes that the 12-hour days and sleepless nights preparing for large-scale fashion show is more than worth it.
“All women can look and feel beautiful, no matter what,” said O’Conner. “The downtown Stevens Point area is really coming together and it’s nice to be able to do this event with Tara and getting her on board.”
In the end, the biggest takeaway for Portage County Business Council Director of Programs and Events Karen Schanock is the success of small businesses in Stevens Point.
“The success of small business is a big part of it,” said Schanock. “You can see how well both businesses are doing, and the organizations in our audience that support these businesses play a huge role. We have 175 women from all different businesses here — our economy is strong, and this event shows a portion of that.”
Expect Girls in Pearls and Bria Bella & Co. back for next year’s event, but this time with an additional boutique, as Clark St. mainstay Assembly is rumored to join next year’s event. Girls in Pearls is located at 1016 Main St. Bria Bella & Co. is located at 925 Main St.
Photo Credit: City Times