When Michelle Winters, Lisbeth Calandrino and Rachel Berlin founded the Women of the Flooring Business (WOFB) social media group back in 2019, the main idea was to create a forum that would provide female business owners, managers and sales agents in the flooring industry a platform to share best practices. Several years into the initiative, the group has achieved that primary objective and so much more as it continues to not only build scale and evolve beyond social media but also grow its influence in the industry.
First and foremost is the change in the number of women now actively participating in the group. What started out as just a few hundred members has swelled considerably. “We’re at 1,200 now in our informal Facebook community, which is what it started with,” Winters explained. “We’re also seeing more followers—not only members participating here but on other platforms, too. So, altogether between different social media channels, our Facebook group and our membership site, there are about 2,000 people participating.”
Role of educator
Winters attributed the growth to the value the group brings to its members. Beyond providing networking opportunities, WOFB has become much more active in the education department. “We are holding online classes once a week for our members, focusing on topics designed to help them grow,” Calandrino, a longtime FCNews columnist, said. But it’s not a one-way street, she added. “We’re always asking them, ‘What would you like to hear? What would you like to see? What would you like for us to do?’ We’ve had some pretty prominent women participate in the online courses and share their stories and best practices.”
Winters cited a recent session focused on social media marketing. “We had 30, 40 women who had never used Instagram Reels before learn how to use it during one of our workshops,” she explained. “They’re now getting 10,000, 20,000 views on their Instagram and seeing leads come in their stores from Instagram Reels. That’s one example of how our ‘Workshop Wednesdays’ have impacted their business. Everyone’s on fire about that.”
In an era where retailers are selling to four different generations of consumers, it’s critical that WOFB members know how to leverage all the tools available. And that’s where training and shared experiences come in. “Social media is such a rapidly evolving ecosystem,” Winters said. “It’s incredibly time consuming for a single business owner to try to stay up on what is working and what is not. One of the cool features of coming together as a group is we’re able to look across the board to see what’s working for members and then distill that down.”
Another focus area for educational development is interior design. Calandrino cited workshops currently being developed by WOFB co-founder Rachel Berlin, an interior designer by trade who also holds the title of sales manager at Precision Floors & Décor. “Interior design classes are the next thing that we’re going to be able to provide for members,” Calandrino said. “These are great training courses.”
Bringing flooring into 2022
While the group’s primary mission is to get more women engaged in its various programs and activities, its founders also understand the importance of educating their male counterparts, managers, business owners and even vendor partners on the supply side as to the issues of concern to women in the industry. “Let’s face it—the big mills are all run by men,” Calandrino said. “A lot of things we hope to see change in these businesses have to be brought up by women. Within these organizations, women have to be able to educate themselves and have those conversations with the men who run them.”
Ongoing challenges range from elevating more women to senior and executive-level positions to providing perks and benefits for those who need to take time off to have children. Or perhaps it’s providing accommodations that allow female employees to maintain a better work/life balance. “It is a juggling act, as we all know,” Winters said.
This is a critical point in today’s competitive job market, Winters noted, as companies place a higher premium on hiring. “Companies want to cultivate the kinds of workplaces that attract top talent, and if they want to do that, then they have to adapt to accommodate the female professional. When you add a woman to any equation, the equation gets better.”
(Winters and Calandrino will speak at TISE 2022’s Women in Leadership Conference, slated for Monday, Jan. 31.)