What’s Kept Me Going During COVID-19 and What I Am Thankful For – Laurel Delaney

What’s kept me going during COVID-19 and what am I most thankful for? Spoiler alert: Forming new relationships and strengthening existing ones have been great gifts to me in 2020. They have kept me sane, motivated and feeling very much alive, all with a greater sense of purpose. Gratitude is the key to fulfillment. Here is my shortlist.

Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global® (wegg®) – Serving as the founder and president of wegg, a nonprofit organization (501c3), which educates women business owners on how to go global, is an exciting and rewarding experience because I get to work with so many interesting people who are eager to take their business global. Our weekly wegg Virtual Café gatherings, for example, which began after COVID-19 hit, have become a sanctuary for women who discuss whatever they want to talk about without judgement or criticism. Through these engagements, I’ve met and facilitated women who write music jingles, sell via ecommerce, sing gospel music, and import products from India, to name just a few. Many of the women have become my friends – an unexpected but much cherished outcome. This year wegg has hosted 8 wegginars, 35 wegg Virtual Cafe gatherings, 2 workshops, 2 weggchats, and one big town hall gathering when COVID-19 struck in March. In a year filled with fear and anxiety, more than 500 women business owners learned something about going global. I am so grateful to the wegg team, our Board of Directors, all the women business owners who have participated in our programs, and our sponsors for their dedication and support to wegg. When folks stay with you during a crisis, you know they will be with you forever, and stronger than ever when COVID-19 is behind us.

Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) – Same goes with WPO, another nonprofit membership organization (501c6) for women presidents, CEOs, and managing directors of privately held, multimillion-dollar companies. Serving as the Chicago Chapter Chair since 2003 is an honor and a privilege, but what WPO members don’t realize is how much I not only enjoy facilitating their monthly chapter sessions, but how much I look forward to connecting with them. They are fuel that feeds the soul. Through 2020, I’ve facilitated more than two dozen WPO business meetings. I will continue to do everything in my power to help WPO members scale and grow, in good times and bad. My work for WPO, along with all the other WPO chapter chairs spanning more than ten countries, helps keep women business owners focused and growing despite tough economic times.

The Global Small Business Forum – I am the founder and director of this very cool forum, which gives a voice to business owners on what they need to do to go global. But it requires a village to put it on – from top-notch speakers, to sponsors and hosts – all of whom support the growth of global small business owners. In this 5th year, the forum was virtual, and it was super successful thanks to our participants, speakers, sponsors and vendors. Individuals participated from all over the world – from USA and Germany to Singapore and New Zealand! And the icing on the cake? The raffle prizes at the end. Who knew the excitement we would generate by offering prizes at the end? Goes to show that freebies still matter – COVID-19 or no COVID-19.

GlobeTrade – I am the founder of GlobeTrade, a consultancy that helps small business owners go global, prospective clients find me largely through my websites, books, blogs, online articles, and referrals. I am forever grateful to the people who keep reaching out to me with questions and projects, regardless of tough times. Going global is here to stay, especially with the new emphasis on digital trade. The trick is to stay ahead of things, follow the new trade agreements, tariffs and trends. For example, if China is not a good country to conduct business in, then go elsewhere. It’s that simple. If you can’t find customers in one market, move it to another market. Make life easy, not complicated.

Edward Lowe Foundation, System for Integrated Growth (SIG) – Serving as a vetted global business consultant for SIG is another impactful experience I relish. SIG provides business acceleration services to help small companies grow more profitably. On SIG assignments, I work with the best and brightest business owners, men and women alike, who are focused on taking their business global. Further, I get to meet up regularly with more than three dozen other highly specialized business consultants, so my ability to keep learning is vast and deep. I am inspired and grateful to be part of such a wonderful organization.

Illinois SBDC International International Trade Center at SIUE, Edwardsville, IL – I want to call out this particular SBDC ITC because I have known Silvia who heads up the International wing of it for a number of years. I’ve had the great pleasure of connecting with her on a couple of projects this year. Her dedication to helping small business owners go global, her undying spirit and her exemplary professionalism have brought me joy whenever I connect with her. Had it not been for COVID-19, I don’t think we would have worked together as closely as we have, and what a pleasure it has been.

The Virtual No Name Book Club – Never in a million years would I have imagined being part of a virtual book club. But how could I turn down a business colleague’s offer at the outset of COVID-19 when she wanted to connect virtually on a regular basis with a small group of smart, ambitious and business-oriented women business executives? Through the club, I’ve made some wonderful new acquaintances, conducted a couple of Zoom calls outside the club on helping each other grow, participated in a virtual wine tasting, and learned new business concepts from some of the books we selected to read.

Snapping photos – I’m a runner and I always say that I don’t know if I run to take photos or take photos to run. Regardless, taking photos brings me calm and pleasure and I love sharing them online (refer to graphic above)! These photos maintain my well-being and help me appreciate how people in the fall, decorated their homes outside during COVID. Beautiful.

My husband – I never lose sight of the fact that my husband, who I love dearly and is a talented Grammy-nominated gospel music historian, remains my constant rock and relentless supporter to who I am and what I do for a living. Yes, friends and other family members matter, but my husband must live with me every single day. During COVID-19, that’s no walk in the park, mask or no mask.

What’s kept you going during COVID-19? What are you most grateful for? I would love to hear the ways you have stayed focused and energized each day! We have a long way to go on this global pandemic journey and we don’t want to be asleep at the wheel for fear of missing the important turnoff to the future.