VENICE — The Venice Area Chamber of Commerce talent team is a staff of seven women who understand the importance of promoting business growth and success.

To support this mission, the organization is hosting Women Empowering Women, an entrepreneurial women’s program on Friday at the Venetian River Club.

M.K. Mueller, director of culture engagement at Venice Regional Bayfront Health, will speak at the event. Her topic will be communication. She’ll be sharing secrets to listening skills and how to make people feel they are being heard and understood instead of feeling disrespected and ignored.

“Women are known for having third-party communication — we have a very bad reputation about that issue,” Mueller said. “I’m going to teach one skill that can change that and explain how to make that triangle fall apart. We really are each other’s best coaches. Our strongest relationships are with other females. We make each other stronger and can help each other soar.”

Mueller is the author of two books, “Taking Care of Me: The Habits of Happiness” and “8 to Great: The Powerful Process for Positive Change.”

Sharon Roush, president of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System/Venice Campus, said supporting events like these not only helps women reach their potential; it also supports the ongoing efforts to ensure gender equality.

“There are more opportunities for women to serve in leadership roles than ever before,” Roush said. “Look for networking opportunities and mentors in your personal and work life to support and sponsor your professional goals.”

Roush added that women have come a long way — in education, business and philanthropy.

Another speaker will be Gretchen Bauer, founder and CEO of BSWANKY, a design company that creates handbags for a higher purpose — including bags that transform from a tote to a backpack.

Bauer said Sarasota-based BSWANKY isn’t just a handbag manufacturer. She considers the company to be the product of three industries: manufacturing, design and retail.

“We are proud to say we properly manufacture in the U.S.A. in our own factory in Sarasota,” Bauer said. “As our team members take pride in creating our products, we take pride in our team.”

BSWANKY began when Bauer became aware of the shocking working conditions endured by women in the American garment industry. To address the issue, she created the luxury handbag brand that is made by women, for women.

“I did not originally set out to design and manufacture handbags,” she said. “I set out to change the way women in the U.S. garment industry are treated. Yes, the handbags are beautiful, but that is simply a by-product of being the difference.”

BSWANKY’s tagline is “B The Difference” which defines Bauer’s mission to create transformational bags that are Made in the USA, empower women in the garment industry and give back to a spectrum of local and international causes.

G-Man Home Watch co-owner and co-founder, Barbara Martinez will kick off the event with a motivational piece rather than a traditional topic.

“I will reference my experiences in the FBI in ways that are intended to empower the audience to believe in themselves,” she said.

This is the second year the event is being held. It is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

“We are so pleased to have our WEW event return by popular demand,” said Kathy Lehner, president and CEO of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce. “We believe this panel will be both empowering and entertaining for our attendees.”

The event is open to men and women. The Venetian River Club is at 502 Veneto Boulevard in North Venice. For more information, visit


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