Noralynn Doyle Goold is a Modesto-based artist who paints murals and does lettering by hand for businesses. Cassy Takaki is an Oakdale resident who sells custom vinyl decals that can be installed on storefronts.
They didn't know each other before Monday. But at a meeting of a newly formed women's business networking group, Goold realized that their services might complement each other when a client wants permanent signage in addition to her artwork.
Those are the sort of connections that are made within this group.
The effort was launched in January by Elizabeth Zapien-Plata, the owner of Queen Mab's boutique in downtown Modesto. She posted an invitation on Craigslist for female entrepreneurs in the area to meet for breakfast and to chat about their businesses.
Six people showed up at the first meeting. Now, about 30 women are among the group's regulars who meet on the second and fourth Monday of each month at Deva Cafe in downtown Modesto. They listen to occasional guest speakers, exchange business cards and fliers, drink coffee, offer advice and talk about their businesses.
Anyone is welcome to attend -- even men, Zapien-Plata said. The majority of the 16 women who attended Monday's meeting are self-employed in occupations that range from massage therapist and telecommunications representative to the founder of a relief organization for Liberia.
"Everyone comes here to share ideas," said Annette "Justine" Brasil, an empowerment consultant who gives workshops and lectures. "It brings us together to create bigger things."
Brasil, who has been attending the meetings for about three months, described it as a "new way of networking," without the strict structure of other business organizations. People can come to the meetings and share their triumphs and struggles, she said, and find support among a group of other women.
"We pull together as women, wives and mothers," she said.
On Monday, Zapien-Plata offered advice on how to market a business by using the Internet and other tools. She said Web sites such as MySpace and ModestoFamous are free resources for finding new customers, along with more traditional print advertising.
"I love what I do, and I'm shameless about promoting it," she said.
Zapien-Plata said she started the group in large part because of the declining economy. She wanted women to have a place to come together to talk about their experiences.
"You know you aren't alone," she said.
Women's business networking group meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday of each month at Deva Cafe, 1202 J St., Modesto. Breakfast is at 9 a.m. and the meeting starts at 9:30. For more information, contact Zapien-Plata at 544-1896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at email@example.com or 238-4574.