B.I.G. Connecticut bounces back after pandemic pause

The Ridgefield Pod of B.I.G. Connecticut, a women's empowerment group, is hosting its next in-person event at TerraSole Ristorante on Oct. 14. The panel features four local business owners.

The Ridgefield Pod of B.I.G. Connecticut, a women’s empowerment group, is hosting its next in-person event at TerraSole Ristorante on Oct. 14. The panel features four local business owners.

Mary Dougherty / Contributed photo

RIDGEFIELD — Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn how to become more successful on both a professional and personal level with the help of B.I.G. Connecticut. The empowerment group offers a place for inspiration and community in which women can grow or launch their businesses.

The organization was founded in New Jersey and has several chapters nationwide. B.I.G. — which stands for “believe, inspire, grow” — first gained traction in Connecticut seven years ago with the establishment of the Ridgefield pod.

“In New Jersey ... women pod-hop and exchange ideas with women outside of (their) town,” explained Mary Doughtery, director of B.I.G. Connecticut. “In marine life, female fish travel together in pods — that’s how they survive. We help each other grow and connect with people doing similar things.”

She added, “Not everyone who joins has to have a business. If a woman has a creative idea but doesn’t know how to get it out there, she can join and learn how to do that.”

B.I.G. typically hosts in-person networking events, which took a hit during the height of the pandemic. Last year, Dougherty bought a license to establish more pods in the area and expand the organization’s reach in Connecticut.

Ambassadors in Danbury, Redding and Mystic act in synergy with the Ridgefield pod to bring more people into the organization. Dougherty hopes to add at least one more pod to the network by the end of the year.

“We’re back on an upward trajectory (and) now offer hybrid events that cover topics for business and personal growth,” she said. “This (enables) access to meetings to people beyond our borders.”

Christine Santori is the new leader of the Ridgefield pod. As a special needs mother and owner of Personal Touch Welcome, “B.I.G. was a good fit for me,” she said.

“My business is about making a brief connection that’s much more long-lasting, and B.I.G. (does) the same exact thing,” Santori explained. “This is the place (for women) to take their ideas, goals, passions and push them forward. They wouldn’t be able to do that if they didn’t have voices in their ears saying, ‘we did it.’”

B.I.G. Connecticut will host an in-person panel discussion on Oct. 14 highlighting four small-business owners from the area. The panelists are: Barbara Nevins, of South West Cafe; Kathleen Kweskin, of Grow Wellness; Nicole Interlandi, of Bella Home; and Peggy Honore, of Cruise Planners.

“The speakers … (are) getting their talents and gifts out there,” Dougherty said, “and by showcasing that we can inspire other women to do the same.”

For more information about the organization or to register for the panel, visit bigconnecticutregion.com.