"There is peace in knowing that others trust me with their stories, and I feel comforted when others listen to mine." Dotsie Bregel, founder of Boomer Women Speak and NABBW
BACKGROUND: I'm talking to Dotsie Bregel today, who founded Boomer Women Speak approximately four years ago and the NABBW last October. Boomer Women Speak is now the #1 website for Boomer Women. Why do women trust this site? Read on.
MARY: I like your comment featured above which is on your biography page. Is that why you started Boomer Women Speak?
DOTSIE: Sort of. I had been a stay at home mom and took the job seriously and did lots of volunteer work and then learned that my Mom had six months to live. I dropped all volunteer work to help care for Mom. Then after her death I experienced a real valley not only was she gone, but my kids were growing up and I was facing the empty nest. I had always dedicated myself to my family and I knew I needed to do reinvent myself for the next stage.
MARY: How old were you when you started?
DOTSIE: Oh, I was about 43 when I got the idea and then I worked developing for about a year before I launched the site. It will be four year’s old October 31, 2006. We're really talking about two different sites, the original site was www.boomerwomenspeak.com and that was designed to give women a voice and a place for their collective stories. Due to the success of BWS, I launched the NABBW – the National Association for Baby Boomer Women. Which is membership based and only 7 months old.
MARY: What’s the difference between the two sites?
DOTSIE: Boomer Women Speak is a virtual home for boomer women to share their personal stories both in the forums and/or in the Our Voices section. There are also pages of books, resources and links for midlife women. It's free to anyone who wants to participate. The Association [NABBW] educates and empowers women at midlife. Of course we won’t always be at midlife since we’ll be growing older, but the intention is to always keep our generation informed.
MARY: How’s the NABBW doing?
DOTSIE: It’s doing very well. Last month we processed 60 new members. That’s pretty good considering that it’s only been online for seven months. It takes time for people to recognize your credibility and I hadn’t started publicizing it until it hit the six month mark.
MARY: What’s the participation level of Boomer Women Speak?
DOTSIE: We’re getting anywhere from 1-1.6 million hits to the site each month depending upon the advertising we do each month.
MARY: Do you keep track of how many women are participating in the forums?
DOTSIE: Currently about 1800 women have registered for the forums.
MARY: You got into this to give midlife women a voice, do you feel you’ve accomplished that or has it changed and gone into a new direction?
DOTSIE: I definitely give a generation of women a voice on Boomer Women Speak. You can read our stories in the Our Voices section that begin with our childhood and take you through our second adulthood. You will also find over 60 forums where women correspond hourly about the same topics we discuss with our sisters and girlfriends. The forum also allows for daily correspondence between the participants.
MARY: What has been your biggest surprise so far?
DOTSIE: I think the biggest surprise is the number of women who want to share information - that there is such a need for women wanting to connect. Our mothers talked over back fences and our generation doesn’t have that opportunity. I think there are a lot of women who just want to run their story by someone else and ask “How does this sound to you”? Do you have any advice for me?” There’s a sounding board inside this virtual community which connects and encourages baby boomer women.
MARY: Why do you think women need to do that?
DOTSIE: I think it’s just another way of getting together. Technology today allows us to communicate differently. This proves that boomers are interested and up to date in terms of technology.
MARY: Do you find you have large concentrations by regions?
DOTSIE: Primarily it’s heavy with the East and West coast but I think we now have someone from every state. We also have women from other countries. They share similar experiences concerning issues of children, work, and caring for our parents. And that’s nice to see too, that we have more similarities than differences even though we are in different parts of the world. I received stories from women around the world. They are just as heart felt. I could be talking to a next door neighbor about the same issues. One woman learned she was pregnant again later in life. She was struggling with the decision to either stay at home, or take the big promotion she had just received. She was from Australia.
MARY: I’ve been following the blog conversation between the stay at home moms and working moms, are you seeing the two groups forming on your site?
DOTSIE: What I am trying to promote is supporting of one another. When I was a stay at home mom, people often looked down on me because I wasn’t climbing the corporate ladder with the rest of the boomer gals. There were certainly days I would have liked to walk out the dorr to go to work. I also know friends who worked who would have given anything to stay home for a few days. I’d like to see us accept each other where we are, then we’ll all be more peaceful.
MARY: I think that is happening as more women talk to each other and realize that they aren’t alone in their issues. In a way it gives them permission to talk more.
DOTSIE: That’s why I launched the boomer women speak site because I didn’t want women to feel alone. It’s interesting when women finally say what’s really going on in their life and then others in the group tell them “I’m so glad you said that, I feel the same way.” I think there is a solidarity that happens when you share stories.
MARY: Have you had men participate?
DOTSIE: We’ve had a few who come in and post on the site, but we had to tell them, “We’re sorry, but you’re not welcome here.” It’s funny because men could be reading the forum and I’m sure they are, but they don’t actually interact. The women really don’t like men in the forum because it changes the dynamic. A couple men have said that they need to start a boomer men speak and that’s great, but I don’t know if men would be as open to share as women do.
MARY: I see that you partnered with the National Association of Women Writers is that your only partner site?
DOTSIE: I have tons of other associations on the site, but I know the founder of NAWW personally and I really value the way Sheri' McConnell runs her association. Besides, writing is an extension of hearing what women have to say. In the future I do plan to partner more with other organizations; it’s definitely something that I’m interested in.
MARY: For other women who might want to form an association, how did you set this one up?
DOTSIE: I used $30,000 of my own money to launch it. Currently my office is in a wing of my home. My husband, who was my high school sweetheart, is very supportive as are my children who are 17, 18 and 21. They are all home this summer, which makes it very busy around here. When they all leave this fall, then that’s when the real empty nest hits, but I now have my heart and passion into this and it has given me new purpose.
MARY: What kinds of businesses have taken an interest in you? What will you accept and what will you steer away from when it comes to advertising or partnering?
DOTSIE: Well, I’m a Christian so I am interested in partnering with other Christian sites but they don't have to be Christian based. If it’s something that doesn’t fit well with my faith, then I might steer away from it. If someone submits information, we take a hard look at their site and make sure it doesn’t represent a topic that we can’t support. For example, we had a site on witchcraft which we turned away, but in general we’re open to anything that is positive and educational for our group. It’s my site and I have to believe in what I’m supporting. In my bio it does state that I’m a Christian, but that’s the only place it’s said. I don’t believe in being so evangelical that you turn people away. I’d rather let my personality and words speak for my faith.
MARY: You can’t fake who you are and it looks like you’ve struck a good balance.
DOTSIE: I’ve had some people tell me that it’s too Christian centered, but I can’t help if that’s who’s attracted to the site. People like to be with those who are more in line with who they are. That’s just the way it is and I can’t change that. I do have a forum that’s for “spirituality” which is designed to be inclusive of all walks of life.
MARY: What else would you like people to know?
DOTSIE: I guess I would like your readers to know about the benefits of joining the NABBW. It’s like a magazine. We offer an ezine that’s just full of information for women at midlife. We support business women as well. We might have a section on how to increase traffic to your website and then the next month have information on male menopause. NABBW is for the "whole women." And just to differentiate the sites again, Boomer Women Speak is all about women personal stories from birth to now. The NABBW is really about educating and empowering women to help them get through midlife and the years beyond.
I also would like them to know that women like to help women and we enjoy encouraging each other and we’re not worried about other women taking our ideas. I know that there are competitive women, but I have to say that overall, we’re in it for the sisterhood. I find the same thing at another local networking group that I belong to. People do what they can to buy each other’s products or promote each other’s business. Women are just great about spreading the word. I just think that we’re networkers by nature.
MARY: I agree. Thank you Dotsie, for your insights into why both of your groups are growing. Reading between the lines, business can learn a lot about how to increase their female customer base using the same personal attention that you applied. Congratulations on a great #1 site.
WHAT BUSINESS CAN LEARN FROM DOTSIE: - Embrace ideas, not diplomas.
- Women need to connect. Encourage women to talk, but stay out of their way.
- Be willing to be authentic even if it means losing members or customers.
- Dedicate yourself to women and they’ll dedicate themselves to you.
Dotsie is looking for more positive companies and associations to partner with. Contact her if you have an idea.
INSIDE WOMEN'S GROUPS is a series focused on the founders of womens' organizations which were started within the last 10 years. Would you like your organization profiled? Contact me.