Getting To Know: Courtney Bianchi Chapa of Whiskey & Pearls
Courtney is one of those people that when you meet her, and she gives you one of her immensely powerful hugs, and then pulls back to look at you, she really sees you. She understands people so well, and that is what makes Whiskey & Pearls so uniquely different. Whiskey & Pearls is not your traditional networking event. Courtney meets with each person before they receive an invitation because it's most important to her to create meaningful connections, and she does that by organizing each event so that you have dedicated time with a smaller group of women with similar interests so that you can walk away with more than just a couple of business cards.
And I can attest to the power of this format!
I went to my first Whiskey & Pearls event last fall, and the connections I make each time have been remarkable. It was at a Whiskey & Pearls event last fall where I met Ashland Viscosi of Creatives Meet Business for the first time. Since then, I participated in her Creatives Tribes group earlier this year, spoke at the CMB event in February about email marketing, and was a speaker at CMBXP earlier this fall. Not only have these events helped to propel me outside of my comfort zone and grow as a business owner, but it has also directly led to me booking new clients.
It is so unbelievably refreshing to find other people who value those intimate connections, and who are taking intentional strides to make that happen. Courtney is on a mission to provide more opportunities for women to connect in the most meaningful ways, and I cannot wait to see what else she has in store! She is hosting a weekend retreat in early November where the focus is all about getting out of the city and away from your routine so that you can reconnect with yourself and take some much-needed me-time before the craziness of the holiday season descends upon us. I'll be there, and I'd love to see you. Courtney shares more about the retreat below!
Let’s start from the beginning! I’d love for you to share how the idea for Whiskey & Pearls came to be, and how you got it started.
When I moved to Austin 6 years I loved how many amazing, creative, strong women I was meeting who were also craving more connection and conversations with other like minded women. Thus the concept of Whiskey & Pearls - create <> connect <> collaborate came to be. I believe every women is a unique like a pearl and strong like a whiskey cocktail. Whiskey & Pearls is a connecting community with the intention to empower & encourage women to follow their arrow.
What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?
It’s important to me that everyone feels welcomed and know, when they attend these events, they will walk away feeling inspired + meet rad gals around town. When I see connections being made or fun collaborations between members flourish that is the most life giving.
Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about Whiskey & Pearls so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?
W&P is a community at its core and listening to members' and attendees' suggestions are important to me. Like your Own Your Why program, which gave me clarity and a plan I felt confident following. Outside of that and the core business mentors I have, I happily ignore outside advice.
There are plenty of models out there for how to organize networking events. What were some of the key components that helped you shape Whiskey & Pearls into what it is?
One of the key components that helped shape W&P was listening to my community and myself on what we did and didn’t like about networking. Not being able to maximize the experience, going with a friend or colleague and spending the whole time chatting with them versus new people, craving more intimate, inclusive experiences. This helped me shape W&P to fulfill a need and offer a solution. Each meet is curated and the focus is on the connections. I seat everyone in pods of 3-4 ladies, no more than 30 attendees, which encourages everyone to dive deeper into their conversations.
Each Whiskey & Pearls event is carefully curated, and I know that you dedicate a lot of time meeting with potential members. Will you share more about this process of how you get to know each member?
Attending a networking meet alone can be intimidating so I meet with a new member beforehand to learn more about their goals, business, hobbies. That way when she attends the next event I know who to introduce her to. My hope is to make the experience more welcoming and less uncomfortable. My process is finding a fun local coffee shop (love me some Native Hostel or Figure 8), learning more about her story and what she is looking for in a networking group. I value an honest, fun, healthy, positive culture within Whiskey & Pearls and protecting that is very important to me - by meeting each member first I can clearly communicate those expectations and what we are about.
As women, we crave connection and conversation, and you are making some serious waves in providing a safe and encouraging space for women to do just that. As it stands, Whiskey & Pearls is a series of monthly networking events. What are some of your future plans or vision for W&P?
My goals for the future are to continue offering quality connecting meet-ups that foster a positive space for connection and conversations, host bi-yearly retreats and long term, I'd love to produce a women’s conference and eventually an inclusive event/co-working space for women entrepreneurs.
Who and/or what is inspiring you lately?
Brené Brown and her magical new book - Braving the Wilderness
Jen Sincero and her You are a Badass book - It's my go-to morning pep talk.
Sun Woven - Erin Barrett's Instagram account
I am always so impressed by your consistent positivity and dedication to Whiskey & Pearls, even more so because it’s your passion project; you have another full-time job that takes up a lot of your energy! How do you balance all of your pursuits while still honoring your own time?
It is a daily choice because I’m so passionate about Whiskey & Pearls and my full time gig with Batch Austin has me creatively fulfilled and busy - so if I could work on these projects non stop I would! However, that is not sustainable + I cherish my time with my husband.
I make a decision every day to walk in the morning before I start my work routine. It kick starts my day, I think clearer and am less stressed - it’s my time for me. Because I’m pursuing so many different opportunities I have to be strategic with my time and blocking out my day, by the hour, has been a game changer. I don’t look at my e-mails until I’ve created my to-do list for the day. I dedicate Saturdays for “fun/family time” with my guy (which means no checking or answering emails that day), and Sundays are for accomplishing goals and tasks for W&P.
I’m able to rest and relax while still accomplishing my goals. I also had to get comfortable with saying no - if you’re a yes person, like me, saying no is hard. To keep building the muscle I make it a point to practice this every day - NO on projects that don’t align with my brand, toxic negative people, unnecessary drama...anything that does not serve me. Getting comfortable with the power of no feels freeing and empowering. If you need more tools saying no or setting boundaries check out these books: You are a Badass and/or Boundaries.
Outside of monthly events, you are coordinating the inaugural Whiskey & Pearls Retreat this November (and I am so excited to be a part of it!). Please tell us more about what we can expect from that weekend.
I am so excited to have you share your amazing Own Your Why group session with the gals in November!! Self-care is so important, especially for women, and our W&P retreat will allow attendees to do just that + connect and collaborate with other women in Austin. This intimate experience will take place in Wimberley, TX, Meals catered by Beth DiBaggio with La Pera - she is an exceptional chef curating incredible meals. We will close out the retreat with a delicious dinner by The Elephant Table + a Bath Salt Workshop by Benjamin Soap Co and much more! It’s a weekend not to be missed.