Business for a Better World: NAWBO
Magie Cook became a successful businesswoman by overcoming her own fears.
She endured numerous rejections and even doubt, including from several close friends, to turn her salsa company into a household brand.
Cook was the headline speaker at the 39th annual NAWBO Celebration of Achievement Conference late last month in Oak Brook.
The annual conference met for the first time in three years at the Hyatt Lodge on April 29. The event honored Chicagoland women business owners and included numerous activities and segments, including segments for pitching your own business and a speed coaching.
Cook was the key speaker at the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Chicago Chapter. A trailblazing Latina entrepreneur, philanthropist and expert in the field of business and personal development, Cook spoke on the importance of empowering women to be successful in business.
Cook told the story of founding her company "Maggie's Salsa LLC" with an $800 gift when she was homeless. She sold the company to Campbell Soup Company for $231 million in June 2015.
"When I started my salsa company, I won a salsa contest, and I created a long list of stories to call from the smallest to the largest," Cook said during the conference. "It was a couple hundred stores ... I remember I was so nervous, because I had never picked up the phone and made a call."
Cook said the first 90 stores immediately denied her product, causing her to feel rejected. But Cook said she believed in her product and maintained her desire to find a company suitable for her salsa.
"I knew I had something special, and kept pushing and pushing," Cook said. "My best friends told me to quit, that I could get a job. I believed in something. ... I knew I had something (special). ... I kept believing and having that resiliency and decided the next day I would take that list and turn it upside down," she said.
Cook said her everything changed when she made a call to Whole Foods Market. She drove from West Virginia to Maryland, driving all night after making salsa for the presentation. She arrived to the presentation with her salsa and chips and immediately received a positive reaction. Her first order was 10,000 pounds of salsa.
Her life immediately changed from that moment. Since becoming a successful business woman after "starting from zero," Cook said she's motivated to inspire women of all color and ages, as she received a standing ovation after a 30-minute speech.
The 39th Celebration of Achievement, which was billed as "The Power Of Community: Support, Energy & Rejuvenation," was an enlightening experience that included numerous speakers in several fields.
Elizabeth Colón, the founder and owner of Metaphrasis Language & Cultural Solutions and NAWBO Chicago President, said the 10-hour day was filled with memorable moments.
"It's been too long since we've gathered in person for the Achievement Celebration and you had to be there to experience the level of energy we had," she said. "I'm beyond proud of the work we did to make the conference a huge success. The networking was unbelievable, the workshops top notch, the laughter, hugs and the exchange of contact information was long overdue."
The NAWBO Chicago 2022 Achievement Award recipients included Cook, Shital Daftari, Vanessa Jackson and Amelia Forczak. Cook received the Visionary Award, while Daftari was named the Woman Business Owner of the Year for her business, Saris and Things.
Jackson was named the Member of the Year for "The Lemon Ad Stand." She credited her husband for believing in her, even during times when Jackson doubted herself.
"We all need that believe in you when you don't believe in yourself," Jackson said. "That is what NAWBO is: a group of people who tell you it's good luck when you fall."
Forczak received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Pithy Wordsmithery. She praised NAWBO for recognizing her business.
"I'm especially passionate about working with people who want to write books but are scared and they don't if they can do it," Forczak said. "Writing a book is a big project, but it should be fun if you have the right support team. That's what I like to help people with. This award means a lot to me because I've worked so hard to get where I am, and I've made a career of telling other people's story, so I'm grateful NAWBO is helping tell mine."
In addition, Mea Konopasek (BMO Harris Bank), Amanda LaFerriere (C2FO), Morgan Ciani (Cultivate Advisors), Gia Ormond (First Midwest Bank), Alicia Ponce (APMonarch, LLC), Paula Finch (Greenfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.) and Laura A. Stauber (Miller Cooper & Co., Ltd.) were all honored with the award for the Corporate Women of Achievement.
Antoinette Morales, CEO of The Mindful Pro, said the conference was the ideal way to highlight strong and successful women in business.
"It was a most amazing day filled with inspiration and powerful women," Morales said. "I'm so happy to have been a part of this."
Kara Cenar, an Officer at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale. P.C., said the conference showed that anything is possible.
"The NAWBO event was fantastic," Cenar said. "Inspirational and full of NAWBO energy that left me feeling anything is possible and everything can be done when you believe in yourself."
Gina Lipscomb, President of RJ Lipscomb Engineering, said it was a great experience to meet and talk in person following the pandemic canceled the 2020 event and last season's conference was held virtually.
"My first NAWBO Celebration Event was virtual last year and you managed to create such a supportive and energizing atmosphere virtually that I knew in person would be phenomenal. I was right! I'm so proud to be a member," Lipscomb said.