OPINION: A league of girlfriends to inspire and support

Founder Angie Sims (center foreground) with members of the League of Girlfriends. (Courtesy of Angie Sims)

Credit: Courtesy of Angie Sims

Credit: Courtesy of Angie Sims

After nearly two years in Acworth, Angie Sims woke up one day and was moved to go to her computer and build a website.

For years, she was in charge of online training at Smith Barney in New York City, so her ability to bring people together wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. But Sims and her husband had had enough of the hustle and bustle and had come to Cobb County for a better quality of life. Metro Atlanta, they’d discovered, had a lot to offer, not the least of which were freebies and connections.

After an hour or so, she pushed away from her desk to admire the League of Girlfriends, the website she’d created to expose women to networking opportunities beyond work.

“League of Girlfriends? Well, whatever, God,” she said then hit the publish button.

That was on Sept. 16, 2016. Sims remembers the moment like it was yesterday.

About a month later, with very little effort on her part, 3,000 women from all over the country had visited the site. How could they replicate the “girlfriend culture” in their towns, they asked.

“I realized then that every woman needs a girlfriend,” she said.

Sims got busy. She began hosting social events across Atlanta, empowerment conference calls, outings like pedicures and wine tastings, auto workshops, potluck dinners and a pop-up shop at the library where survivors of domestic violence could shop for free.

In May 2018, the league hosted its first girlfriends retreat.

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The women, in fact, wanted to spend time together in a more useful way, and they were willing to give time and money for the fellowship.

In the beginning, there were just nine of them; shortly after the retreat, 30 and on and on it went until the league had grown to more than 350 members.

Sims realized this was greater than just social.

“It was about making sustainable connections,” she said.

But let me be clear. This wasn’t just about business either. As Sims put it, “it was also personal, but you have to get personal to get to the business.”

When it comes to women, that can be nearly impossible without drama. After all, they can be, well, catty. That’s Sims' word, not mine, and yet Sims was undaunted. If anyone could help them see they were stronger together than apart, she could.

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Not surprisingly, the coronavirus threatened to knock them off their collective high heels.

“When it was announced in March that students wouldn’t return to school and my Girlfriends wouldn’t be able to attend in-person networking events, we created the LOG SuperGirlfriends, a virtual show featuring our members twice a day,” Sims said.

To date, more than 100 episodes have been produced, but that’s not all.

The league also created the Girlfriends Leadership Academy, which helps women increase their entrepreneurial footprint by teaching them how to ask for the sale, helping them find the money left on the table, define their avatar and branding and become more proficient social media users.

It should be noted that Sims is president of Atlanta Women’s Network, Georgia’s first networking organization for professional women, and is a founding Business/Affiliate member of the first-ever Global Black Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

She knows women are stronger together because she has been the beneficiary of their superpowers and influence personally and professionally.

It used to be that Sims didn’t believe in what she called “new old friends.”

“I was your typical A Type personality, girl boss who sat two seats from the CEO and took myself too seriously,” she said. “When I moved to Georgia and started meeting women, I realized you could get new friends.”

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

In December 2016, Sims met Susan Guthrie, who welcomed her into her space during a networking event in Acworth.

Guthrie then invited Sims to another event she was hosting the following week.

“I’ll pay your way,” Guthrie offered.

“I thought, ‘Where do they grow these people?’” Sims remembered, laughing. "I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which the Huffington Post labeled the worst place in America for Black women, so as you can imagine, I was taken aback. I said to myself, ‘Toto, we are not in the NYC Tristate anymore.’” (The distinction was based on a study released last year by the city of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission.)

Sims, who is Black, immediately connected with many of the women at the luncheon, many of whom later became members of the League of Girlfriends. Guthrie, who is white, was her first friend in Georgia and is now her new old friend.

The League of Girlfriends has become her purpose, a way to catapult women’s businesses and increase their social connections in a drama-free environment.

“I mean, where can grown women go to find new girlfriends?” Sims asked. “And where do women who move here, who like me left their girlfriends back home, find resources like hairstylists, reflexologists, lawn care and pet sitters? We go to our girlfriends. Our girlfriends support, refer and encourage each other.”

Sims wants women to know they don’t have to go it alone. That has never been more important than right here, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, right now.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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