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Women's task force

The Rev. Richard Pokora, vice president of the Bettendorf Business Network, shows a display for rack cards to promote businesses during the June meeting of the Women’s Downtown Bettendorf Task Force. Others at the meeting were Kristin Frymoyer, Cari Henson, Terri Brown, Nicole Murphy, Leann Themas, Denice Enfield, Olga Loghinovici and Michelle Blunk. Not pictured is Debbie Hereau.

By cross-promoting, increasing use of social media, and working together on group advertising, the Women’s Downtown Bettendorf Task Force is making strides in getting the word out about the benefits of patronizing downtown businesses.

The task force, which is comprised of women who own or manage businesses downtown, has met monthly for almost two years, discussing strategies for increasing their customer base. It is a subcommittee of the Bettendorf Business Network.

Cari Henson, owner of 5o2 Creative, a graphic design company for print and digital projects, coordinates the group meetings, sends out agendas and facilitates the discussion. A Bettendorf native, she said that what happens in the community is “near and dear to her heart.”

In addition to Henson, core members of the group are: Pat Bereskin, owner of Bereskin Gallery & Art Academy; Michelle Blunk, owner of State Street Interiors, Conceptual Designs Inc., and Interiors by the Sewing Room in Bettendorf (also, Once Again Furniture & Accessories in East Moline); Kristin Frymoyer, co-owner of Frymoyer Stone Fabrication & Supply; Debbie Hereau, owner of Concept Bath; and Leann Themas, owner of Tango Salon.

Joining the group at meetings are Terri Brown, Bettendorf Business Network administrator, and Denice Enfield, public relations, social media and event specialist for the City of Bettendorf.

Initial gatherings were spent trying to decide how best to get the group’s message out, as well as becoming familiar with each other’s businesses, which represent a wide variety of services.

Several years ago, the Rev. Richard Pokora, vice president of the Bettendorf Business Network, compiled a directory of downtown businesses generally located between 6th Street and Devils Glen Road. He noticed at the time that about one-third of the businesses were either owned or managed by woman.

“I said to myself, ‘Women are great collaborators. Maybe what we can do is get the women downtown to start working together.’ ”

He said research by Main Street Iowa showed Bettendorf residents spend about a half-billion dollars a year on goods and services. The task force would like to see more of those dollars land in downtown businesses.

Among the projects the group has worked on are a new map of downtown (which Henson designed), collaborating on group advertising, and the newest project, displaying 9-inch by 14-inch rack cards from each other’s businesses for their customers to take. The rack card displays also will be available in apartment complexes and public buildings.

Task force members also plan to have a professional video done touting what their businesses offer and inviting people to shop downtown.

Some of the business owners had never met prior to the formation of the task force. Today, they freely promote each other’s businesses to their customers.

Blunk, who is also on the board of the Bettendorf Business Network, said the task force has helped forge relationships that didn’t exist in the past.

“We are busy doing work every day to keep our businesses in business,” she said. “We all are pushing and promoting our businesses. The building of a community of women business owners is important.”

She feels part of her role on the BBN board is reminding larger businesses of what small businesses are doing downtown.

Themas said part of the task force’s goal “is that we want people to remember that we do have a downtown. Even through the bridge construction and the loss of other businesses, we hope to attract new businesses. It’s a work in progress.”

As the owner of a salon, Themas says she looks for opportunities to talk to her clients about the services offered by the other businesses represented by the task force.

“When people are talking about things they are doing to their home, for example, whenever that can relate to somebody’s business that I’m aware of, I will bring it up,” she said.