As a chiropractor in Ahwatukee since 2005, Angela J. Christopher has demonstrated a talent and passion for business and community as much as she has for tissue and bones.
Three years ago, her business, AZ Spine Disc and Sport bloomed from a 2,000-square-foot, nine-employee office into a multi-specialty health center with 40 employees in a 14,000-square-foot building at 4530 E. Ray Road.
Simultaneously she has collected water for Project Humanities, a homeless outreach program run by Arizona State professor Neal Lester of Ahwatukee; has been active in the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, earning her first nomination for a “Women in Business Award” last year; and has worked with interns and students as a mentor and adjunct professor.
Now, she’s turning her business acumen to help a different community – women who own businesses in Ahwatukee.
With a core group of 15 women – and a kick-off party slated 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, at AZ Spine Disc and Sport for any others who want to learn more – Christopher has launched an all-woman networking group, Ahwatukee Women in Business.
“We know that women have unique challenges and we want to be effective as a networking and marking group without the extreme rigidity of some of the larger network group chains,” said Christopher, who is president of the group.
Though members will have to pay $180 in annual dues, Christopher said that money will be put into marketing them.
While the group’s leaders didn’t want the dues to be so high as to be a burden, she added, “We wanted to have an amount that would allow us to have enough funds to use to help our members make more money by investing It into marketing ourselves in multiple ways.”
“All funds will go back to our members,” Christopher stressed. “There is no parent franchise organization or founding member who will make profits from our dues.”
But Christopher has other plans for members as well.
“We also plan to put a lot of focus into personal relationships between our members.” She added. “There is no better way to effectively market each other than to fully understand what the ideal client is for the other women in the group and to get to know and trust them, so that it's easy to recommend their businesses to our own inner circles.”
Along with that, the group will provide “an ongoing educational piece to help our women tackle all of the challenges that come with growing a successful business.”
The education component is an extension of Christopher’s involvement in teaching men and women who have an eye on healthcare-related careers.
“We are involved with several schools and take on interns in many fields,” she said.
“We are also very involved with Carrington College and take interns for billing, medical assisting and physical therapy techs. Although our initial job is to teach these students in their internships, it has been a blessing for us as we have nine current employees whom we hired out of internships.”
One of those employees has been with her business for seven years and has worked his way into a management position.
Christopher and the core group of Ahwatukee Women in Business are picking up the pieces of another effort to organize women-owned businesses in Ahwatukee that collapsed earlier this year.
“We realized we truly had a wonderful group of women from different business and marketing backgrounds who, with the right structure, could be great assets to each other,” she said. “I decided to take on the project with the help of several other women.”
And she and other leaders also are putting more structure into the group.
Among the requirements is that the business not only be owned by a woman. It must be in Ahwatukee as well.
They have established categories of businesses as well and will accept three women in each category.
“We plan to qualify each candidate on an individual basis prior to accepting them for membership, ensuring they have a business that is in good standings with all regulatory boards and that she will be a like-minded candidate,” Christopher said.
The group will meet twice a month – once for lunch at AZ Spine Disc And Sport and once in the evening at Diamond Cut Pet Spa, another longtime Ahwatukee business.
“If we outgrow those spaces we will relocate,” she said. “We will have 24 regular meetings per year and each member is required to attend a minimum of eight meetings per year. We also plan to hold special events for education and the occasional expo for the Ahwatukee community.”
Although her network has the same name as a subgroup at the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, Christopher said the two groups are different.
“I didn't realize that the Chamber has a subgroup by the same name. We had already formed our new LLC before that was brought to my attention, so we decided to roll with it. Hopefully it doesn't cause confusion,” she said, adding:
“I don't feel that we are in any way competing with the Chamber. We hope to be a presence in the chamber both as Ahwatukee Women in Business and representing our own individual businesses.
“We have lots of great plans to help each other to grow and become even bigger presences in the Ahwatukee community.”
The kick-off party will have an open bar free catered food as well as “lots of great door prizes,” Christopher said. The party is designed to get women to network and socialize, as well as learn more about the group and apply for membership.