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The Pink-Collar Network

By Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2008

The women call themselves divas and own matching baby-pink business card holders. They've literally hosted breakfast at Tiffany's. Once a month they bus up to New York City for a day of retail therapy. As the members of Success in the City like to say, if men can network over golf, women can do business while shopping. Or attending high tea. Or relaxing at a spa.

Success in the City, a local organization for female executives, is bringing a whimsical approach to Washington's networking scene. In a town of power suits and happy-hour schmoozing, these businesswomen are looking for a personal connection beyond the 30-second pitch. And as membership -- now at 145 -- grows, founder Cynthia de Lorenzi is working to expand this networking niche into a business by promoting books, seminars and an Internet TV network.

"We want to have the good ol' girls club," said Jennifer Sterling, president of Reston-based marketing firm Hinge. "The good ol' boys have had theirs for so long. It's our turn."

Sterling went on a Success in the City spa day at Lansdowne Resort with a dozen women and left rejuvenated with a new client and a $10,000 contract.

"We were there in our robes, wearing these lobster mittens, sipping wine," she said. "I walked out of there thinking, 'This is the kind of networking I can do.' "

Tracy Allen, a vice president at engineering firm ECS who made that deal with Sterling, said a relaxed, social atmosphere makes all the difference.

"I would say more business gets done when you're in a personal setting like that versus a table of 10 eating lunch in a formal setting," Allen said. "You can walk across the room, you can share stories, you can let your guard down."

Membership, which costs $350 a year, is expanding through word of mouth. Men are not excluded and three have joined. "Men are welcome but they have to understand, you have to embrace your pink," de Lorenzi said.

The group has even attracted the attention of a Hollywood producer who wants to pitch a reality television show featuring their escapades. (They declined.)

At a recent Carnival celebration at a Chima Brazilian Steakhouse in Tysons Corner, men and women threw on beaded necklaces, downed $1 drinks and took pictures with the colorfully costumed women.

"It's kind of silly, the name is a little silly, the events have humor," said Kristina Bouweiri, president of Reston Limousine. "It's a great place to go and de-stress."

The group is meant for well-established businesses only, said Laura Lee, a D.C. handbag designer who sits on the organization's executive committee.

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