SIREN Women’s Cooperative: Growing Stronger Together

SIREN Women’s Cooperative aims to build knowledge, connection, and inspiration among a diverse range of women in Rhode Island by providing professional development and personal growth opportunities to all women. Cofounded by Dr. Sarah Nadimpalli in 2018 and based in Portsmouth, the organization offers relationship-based networking opportunities, social meet-ups, and a Ready to Work Exchange, which mentors women in job search and interview skills.

“We want to serve the work-minded woman, and we want to make sure our programming feels accessible to those across diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds,” says Sarah. “So let’s say we’re going to have a financial talk for our SIREN members. We need to make sure that financial talk is applicable to women who may be really struggling or going through a challenging economic period. And I think that’s part of the special sauce. That’s where it gets really exciting, where we can have open and honest and sometimes hard conversations about what some women may have privy to and other women may not — and about how we break down those barriers that divide us so that we can all elevate together and find common ground.”

SIREN’s lively Ready to Work Exchange is one of the organization’s standout programs and underscores their mission to serve all women. “We mentor women to develop job interview skills,” says Sarah. “Through the Exchange, we bring together women of all different backgrounds and resources, and the only requirement is that you need to be work-minded. We’re trying to help women who might not have some of those resources and support systems to get to the job interview and be successful.”

The SEG Network Effect

 Sarah was initially drawn to SEG at a crucial time when she was asking herself questions about SIREN’s identity. “I think I was at one of those pivot points where SIREN in her infancy ended up being an LLC,” she explains. “And we just never felt like we got traction in that model.” After a conversation with SEG CEO Kelly Ramirez, the solution became clearer. “She had heard about some of the work that we were doing in giving back to the community and suggested we consider being a nonprofit. Thankfully I listened to her, and we became a nonprofit, and I do feel like folks think that this is SIREN’s true nature.”

SIREN then joined SEG’s 2020 Impact Accelerator and continued to build on this new identity. “The program was phenomenally helpful,” she says. “It introduced us to a wide range of support — legal, marketing, business, the whole array of what an organization needs to grow, develop, and thrive.  The folks running the program are incredibly accessible and knowledgeable. All of the staff at SEG are there to help. And if they don’t know the answer to one question, they’ll ask someone who does.”

“It just was a very supportive, like-minded community of folks to learn and grow from, and I feel confident that the affiliation with SEG will always be there for SIREN.”

Even months after completing the Accelerator program, Sarah comments that SIREN and SEG’s connection has remained. “It seems like an enduring link,” she says. ”Even after graduating, I’ve still been very plugged into the work of other cohort members that I met, such as Sandra Enos from Giving Beyond the Box. It just was a very supportive, like-minded community of folks to learn and grow from, and I feel confident that the affiliation with SEG will always be there for SIREN. I even asked for SEG tech support the day of my fundraiser, and they were there.”

In the Age of COVID

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SIREN’s programming had to go completely virtual to ensure the health of their members, although the organization has taken that shift in stride. They held their annual fall fundraiser virtually for the first time in 2020 and still managed to meet their goal of $4,000, which will support up to 80 hours of Ready to Work consulting. The fundraiser focused on creative and dynamic women duos and was facilitated via digital tools.

“We hope to reach up to 25 women this year with the support of our Ready to Work 2020 fall fundraising effort.”

“We had a raffle on Instagram, as part of the Creativity as Conduit fundraiser,” says Sarah. “We had 28 items from local businesses donated to these fabulous swag bags for participants. We achieved sort of a quadruple win with the fundraiser.  First, we were able to promote a lot of businesses who supported us who we’ve known for many years.  Second, we cultivated our own SIREN network and simultaneously were able to make our funders who bought the swag bags feel really great about all the items inside. And lastly, we obviously supported Ready to Work participants by funding that program. So our fundraiser was really a win-win all around and a positive, feel-good event.”

SIREN’s Ready to Work exchange also adapted by going virtual and has already assisted two women in 2021. SIREN is not allowing the ongoing pandemic to hold their programming back. “We hope to reach up to 25 women this year with the support of our Ready to Work 2020 fall fundraising effort,” says Sarah. “So if we can get 25 women through the Ready to Work program, which focuses on four main parts — resume development, mock job interview, dressing for success, and life coaching — then that is a huge success.” They also have a busy 2021 event calendar to look forward to, which include a series of personal and professional development talks, book club meetings, and socially distanced, group nature walks.

Sarah’s advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs? “If you feel like you need to stop — rest, don’t quit,” she says “Take a rest, don’t quit. And sometimes you need to pause to meet that next person who you’re supposed to meet, get that new piece of information about entrepreneurship that you didn’t have, or have your own next creative idea to move forward. And in that time where you take a pause, that’s fine. Just don’t quit.”

By Melissa Pineda Brown
SEG Community Outreach & Communications VISTA