LIVE FROM THE CONFERENCE: Blogger, Louise Tutelian

10/27/09 | Louise Tutelian | 5 Comments

Louise Tutelian, Blogger

Coming to you live from The Women's Conference 2009 where an unprecedented 25,000 are gathering for two days of inspiration and transformation.

Change is Sweet

Sabrina Vegnone’s colleagues were in love with her cookies. For years, she had brought them to the mutual fund company where she worked, these spectacularly hand-iced and decorated treats. And for years, her colleagues told her to go into business with them. So when Vegnone was laid off in July, she saw an opportunity. Today, just three months later, she is on the exhibition floor here at The Women's Conference with a banner touting Sabrina’s Sweetery ( hung behind her.

“It was hard when I got laid off but it gave me the chance to try this out,” said Vergone, whose business is based in North Hollywood, CA. “I’m not sure I would have quit my job to do this and I have no idea where it’s going, but it’s been really busy and great,” she said. How busy? “I rent a kitchen and bake twice a week, about 20 dozen cookies, but sometimes as many as 500 for a single occasion,” she explained. Claiming the benefits of a very steady hand, Vergone decorates every single one, down to the last sugar pearl. In her booth today are bikini cookies, surfboard cookies, bride and groom cookies, and baby onesies cookies.  Sabrina’s Sweetery claims ownership of 500 cookie cutters, including basketballs, sailboats, even lobsters and seahorses. If a client can’t find the perfect shape, Vegnone will design one.

Visitors to the booth inquire about corporate catering, local delivery, cookie and icing choices. It’s clear that Vegnone is reveling in her new career.  “I loved my job,” she said. “But I loved cookies more.”


The Big Picture

Picture this: One creative woman and her two equally talented sisters team up to develop a totally new (patent-pending!) photographic product called Pic-A-Pak ( and show it off at The Women’s Conference, their first visit here.  Allene del Rosario Michel, Pic-A-Pak’s creative director, chattered nonstop with visitors to her exhibition booth as they handled the sample triangular 3-D packets.  “Clients supply an image and we customize it, “ said Michel, of Arcadia, CA. Filled with anything from jelly beans to Jordan almonds to tiny pots of lip gloss, the packets can be used as party favors or keepsakes for any personal or corporate event. They come in two sizes, are affordable and can be studded with rhinestones and other decorative elements.

Jennifer Taylor, Pic-A-Pak’s managing principal, explained why the conference is a particularly potent venue in which to meet potential clients. “We’ve had women planning their own weddings, their daughter’s weddings, their daughter’s quinceanos parties,” she said. “Grandmoms love these.” The sisters had heard about the conference last year but couldn’t get tickets. “When we heard about the opportunity to present here this year, we jumped at it,” she added. “We knew the exposure would be great.”

The conference really has been a terrific networking opportunity for women entrepreneurs.  For Taylor personally, the highlight has been seeing the range of other services, crafts and entrepreneurial businesses on the exhibition floor, including businesses in her area with whom she will keep in touch. “From H & R Block to adorable high-end baby aprons, there is so much here,” she said.  But it wasn’t all about work, either, she added. “The book-signing event, with “Caroline (Kennedy), Maria (Shriver), Paula (Zahn), and Valerie (Bertinelli) was like an adult Disneyland.”


Tea Party Angels Take Flight

Cheryl Beck stands in her booth on the vast exhibition floor here, explaining how she intends to change the world, one tea party at a time. Beck’s concept is a non-profit initiative called “Tea Party Angels” ( in which mothers and their 7 to 12-year-old daughters host tea parties across the country. They raise money for girls in need of education—and get a lesson in social responsibility themselves. For $40, the hostess receives a tea set for six, T-shirts to decorate, handmade beaded “Angel” bracelets, and an educational DVD. Party attendees contribute donations earned from performing chores at home and as a group choose a charity from an approved list, including Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute.

 “I was inspired by ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson,” said Beck, “and the difference one person could make.”  So it was no coincidence that Beck chose this year’s Women’s Conference, which Mortenson is also attending, to make her debut. She feels as if she is among friends.  “There’s such a diverse crowd here. It’s a gracious group of people and they are receptive to this concept,” said Beck, who traveled from New York to be here.  The theme of the conference is also particularly appropriate, she says--It’s never too early to teach young girls to be Architects of Change.


Louise Tutelian is an experienced journalist who has written for over two dozen national and regional publications and websites, including The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Parenting and Working Mother, where she wrote the "Learning Curve" column. Her work can be found at

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  • ver inspiring! i like! =)

    Posted by proj1jps, 16 November 2009.

  • I'm so inspired by the women who find opportunity in a change of circumstances. In the clutches of job loss, or a job search, it's hard to see the silver lining or the potential lemonade. Your story reminds me to look for it.

    Posted by M.arianne, 28 October 2009.

  • Greg Mortenson's 'Three Cups of Tea' is exceptionally inspiring. I had never heard of it until a colleague of mine from Kashmir excitedly told me about it. We can all make a positive difference! I'm glad that the Women's Conference and the Minerva Awards both honor those who go that extra mile for the welfare of others.

    Posted by Californiality, 28 October 2009.

  • I am also Trying for new Search and make myself as an entrepreneur.Whenever you come back please contact me.

    Thanks For post

    Posted by davidklein9, 28 October 2009.

  • Loved reading about these entrepreneurial women and their ventures.
    Very inspiring. I had no idea there were exhibitors at the conference. I wasn't able to attend this year but hope to make it next year.

    Posted by Kim Dominique Agnew, 27 October 2009.