As any successful businessperson knows, sometimes taking the next step begins with a little push.
For Karen Donaway, marketing director at SKC & Co. CPAs, the road to becoming an NJBIA ambassador began at NJBIA’s 2019 golf outing, where a day volunteering and a dose of gentle coercion led to a new opportunity where she keeps meeting new businesspeople and growing her professional network.
“It happened very organically,” Donaway recalls. “People from NJBIA noticed my enthusiasm chatting with other businesspeople and thought I would be perfect as a volunteer ambassador welcoming new NJBIA members. So, I asked them to tell me more and it sounded like something I’d enjoy doing.”
Although she likes to joke that she was “volun-told” to be an ambassador that day, Donaway couldn’t be more excited about this ongoing opportunity to meet business owners and entrepreneurs, and help these newest NJBIA members get the most out of their NJBIA benefits.
“I always like to call the new members to offer to accompany them to an NJBIA event because sometimes people are uncomfortable going by themselves when they don’t know many people,” Donaway said. “Then I check back with them after a few months to see how everything is going and ask them if they have utilized any of the NJBIA member programs and if I can help them to do that.”
Donaway meets quarterly with other NJBIA ambassadors and NJBIA’s membership team to learn the latest about the newest member benefits, services, and discounts available exclusively to NJBIA businesses. The outreach to new members is important, but she also values her connections with other NJBIA ambassadors, some of whom have gone from being professional colleagues to close friends.
Donaway said she and fellow ambassador Camille DiLorenzo, an account executive at All-Ways Advertising in Bloomfield, recently teamed up outside of NJBIA to host a professional networking event at the nonprofit Barn Theatre in Montville, where DiLorenzo is a member of the board.
“I call Camille my very first friend at NJBIA,” says Donaway. “I met her very early on at an NJBIA Women Business Leaders Forum conference and we clicked right away. We have so much in common in terms of our customer base and our clients and have similar personalities.
“The Barn Theatre is a community theater company right up here in Montville, and here at SKC we have a foundation. Camille brought to me the idea of potentially using Barn Theatre for a fundraiser for a charity event. So long story short, she brought us to meet the board, we were approved, we did a huge fundraiser there and it was a total success. We have been close ever since.”
SKC & Co. CPAs, based in Boonton Township, is a mid-size CPA firm that prides itself on being the go-to accounting firm for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The firm recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and Donaway has been proud to be part of that growth for about 20 years.
Donaway welcomes the chance to chat with new NJBIA members, not just the ones in her northwestern corner of New Jersey where her firm is located.
“I’m such a proponent of NJBIA and the way it has evolved over the years, particularly the Women Business Leaders Council’s monthly programs and the annual Women Business Leaders Forum,” Donaway said. But really all of NJBIA’s programs and events are top-notch.
“NJBIA is the voice of New Jersey and I would encourage every business owner in New Jersey to become part of it,” Donaway said. “They lobby for you, and they support you, and there’s really no other organization quite like it in New Jersey.”
Any new NJBIA members who would like to connect with Donaway can reach out to her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo caption: NJBIA Ambassador Karen Donaway (left) and fellow ambassador Camille DiLorenzo at a recent professional networking event at the Barn Theatre. Photo courtesy of Karen Donaway.