[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the holiday party.]

The Santa Barbara Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners kicked off the holiday season in style and with a touch of democracy at an annual holiday party hosted at the Montecito Country Club that featured an evening of live entrainment, scrumptious foods and the installation of the charter’s new officers and board of directors for 2013.

NAWBO-SB has more than 90 acting members, including a dozen founding members.

“I am so proud of this charter and the generous women leaders who helped us become one of the best in NAWBO’s national association,” said Patty DeDominic, emcee, managing partner of DeDominic & Associates and award-winning author. “NAWBO propels women into the spheres of influence in business and our economy.”

Established in 2007, NAWBO-SB is a nonprofit organization made up of a diverse group of women who own all or part of their businesses, and members are committed to helping other business owners network to expand their business, form alliances, create strategic alliances and work in unity to instill economic growth and strive to transform public policy.

NAWBO is the only dues-based organization representing the interests of all women entrepreneurs across all industries and boasts more than 7,000 members and 80 chapters across the country.

Since founding in 1975, NAWBO has become a unified voice of America’s more than 10 million women businesses representing the fastest-growing segment of the economy.

The organization prides itself on being a global beacon for influence, ingenuity and action, and is uniquely positioned to provide incisive commentary on issues of importance to women business owners as a one-stop resource helping to propel women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide.

Holiday cheer was heavy in the air as guests and NAWBO members mingled around a massive Christmas tree that nearly reached to the ceiling in the spacious reception area with a magical view of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Live music from alternative rock band Highway, winner of the 2012 Santa Barbara Youth Battle of the Bands, flowed from the ballroom adjacent to the reception area, where guests helped themselves to a complimentary Mexican buffet at tables laden with an assortment of tasty appetizers.

Over the festive atmosphere, bouts of conversation turned to the state of the economy and the looming “fiscal cliff,” with discussions on the impact of rising health-care costs coupled with an onslaught of new regulations, and whether business conditions will be improve or worsen in 2013.

Emcee Patty DeDominic and keynote speaker Lynda Weinman. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Emcee Patty DeDominic and keynote speaker Lynda Weinman. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

NAWBO-SB members are recession-tested entrepreneurs whose experiences and determination to succeed, despite the turbulent economy, have implemented strategic ways to stay afloat during the Great Recession.

Ninety-five percent of NAWBO-SB members are small-business owners, and the majority who spoke with Noozhawk said they focused on cost control, while others concentrated on increasing sales and using social media to generate business and participate in outreach opportunities, such as social and civic events, to promote business, gain more exposure and generate value within the community.

“It’s important to develop a culture of thinking and invent new ways to serve your customers,” said Calla Gold, owner of Calla Gold Jewelry and an honorary NAWBO-SB member. “Because in these uncertain times, women business owners must constantly reinvent their business to respond to the market changes.”

The evening’s emcee, DeDominic, welcomed the attendees who gathered in the ballroom and paid tribute to a dozen corporate partners who were “instrumental to the success of the chapter.”

DeDominic also thanked member sponsors Anthony Perez, CEO of Return on Learning Coaching, and Joanne Funari, Business First Bank market president for Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, for commissioning the event.

“Because of Joanne, we are here tonight at the Montecito Country Club and we will be having our monthly meeting here,” DeDominic said.

Local business owners Mindy Bingham of Academic Innovations, Carol Ashley of Demo 2 Design, Karen Mora of Accountability Plus, Kathy Gruver of Healing Circle Massage, Rachael Stedil of ParentClick.com, Kelly Jensen of Jensen Audio Visual, Dara Bronston of Annovium Products LLC and Merryl Brown of Merryl Brown Events were also honored for outstanding accomplishment and contributions to the community.

An inspiring speech from keynote speaker Lynda Weinman, founder of Lynda.com, followed. Weinman shared how she discovered computers on a dare 18 years ago when her boyfriend at the time brought home an Apple II computer, and how he was really disappointed that she had no interest in it. To appease him, she acquired some computer skills by reading the manual.

“I was absolutely mortified about how the manual was written, but I kept at it and I figured things out,” Weinman said. “I was so excited by what I was teaching myself that I wanted to share with my co-workers and friends. I never really thought that I would grow up to be a computer teacher, because when computers were first introduced into my life there were only a few computer books and a few people who became consultants.”

Weinman’s interest in computers morphed into a career as a consultant and computer graphics design instructor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where she taught for seven years.

With the emergence of the Internet, Weinman thought her students would want to publish their art portfolios to the web, but at the time there was no how-to book in print that she could recommend. So she decided to write a book, Designing Web Graphics, published by New Riders in 1995, the first resource manual for web designers that taught web authoring technologies from a visual design perspective, which became an international bestseller.

The success of the book coupled with the dot-com boom prompted Weinman, with her husband and co-founder Bruce Heavin, to rent a local high school in Ojai to teach web design, and the Ojai Digital Arts Center grossed $1.7 million in revenue during the first year.

Weinman and Heavin went on to launch Lynda.com that same year, and the online computer training library now provides a wide range of software and technology courses in a video format with more than 100,000 individual video tutorials for members using monthly and annual subscriptions.

“We designed our site so that all of our contributors get royalties, and I’m really proud to say that we have hundreds of teachers who teach on Lynda.com and many of them earn their entire living from royalties off of our website,” Weinman said. “I think we are in an educational crisis in our country today. We are spending more than any other country in the world on education, and yet we have the record dropout rate. And students have more student loan debt than credit card debt, and we are not even academically competitive with other countries. Where we used to be No. 1 we are now in the 20s and 30s.”

She went on to stress concerns about the United States educational crisis as a factor of the high dropout rate, increasing student loan debt and a decline of academic performance.

“It’s a very unfortunate time in our history of valuing education, of valuing teachers,” said Weinman, who also faulted today’s model of education in a technology-based society. “Individual teachers versus 30 students in a classroom is expensive and not scalable or customizable to serve the different kinds of learners that we have in the world today.

“Technology has changed everything. It’s changed the way we think, meet each other, advertise and shop. But it has not changed the way we are delivering education or will. Lynda.com is a little tiny part of a movement that’s happening to reimaging the way that education can be distributed.”

Weinman explained how online learning allows users to jump in at their own level on a path to success.

“There are certain things that you cannot teach online such as your social skills, critical thinking, creativity and communication, but I think the platform we have created is part of what can be come a national and international solution to democratizing education,” Weinman said.

Also, in regard to education, Weinman added the importance of challenging fears.

“Fear can actually be very motivating and it can ultimately make you do better. We are all responsible for creating a positive future for ourselves, for our community and our world. You have to believe not only in yourself but a positive future for our community,” Weinman said. “I started Lynda.com when I was 40 years old and I turned 58 this month, so for people who think that our business was an overnight success it was not. And for people who think they are too old to realize their dream they are not.”

Weinman then led an oath to swear in the NAWBO-SB officers and board of directors for the 2013 term, including president Judy Pirkowitsch of Ameriprise Financial, president-elect and treasurer Karen Mora of Accountability Plus, vice president and legal counsel Joy Margolis of Buynak Fauver Archbald Spray and secretary Teri Coffee McDuffee of Santa Barbara Women’s Self-Defense.

As the evening came to a close, Sharon Seigel of Rep. Lois Capps’ office, presented past president Diana Bull and incoming president Judy Pirkowitsch with certificates of recognition. Pirkowitsch received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition signed by Capps for outstanding and invaluable service to the community and shared what NAWBO meant to her.

“What’s made the biggest difference for my life have been the incredible mentors along the way. NAWBO-SB is a place for us to find the mentors and supportive like-minded friends to move through the challenges and choices of being a woman business owner,” Pirkowitsch said. “Sometimes if we’re lucky we have the privilege to be a mentor or lead a team forward in a synergistic process. That’s what NAWBO-SB is for me, and I think I can speak for our board members that share this vision.”

Coming in early 2013 are two more exciting events hosted at the Montecito Country Club to open up to new possibilities, including “The Work for Business: Clearing the Way for Innovation” with Byron Katie on Jan. 23 and “Realize the Dream of Business Ownership” with Gypsy Tea founder Zhena Muzyka on Feb. 27. Click here for membership and event details.

NAWBO-SB graciously thanks the following corporate partners for the success of the chapter: Lynda.com, Buynak Fauver Archbald Spray, Bank of America, the Pacific Coast Business Times, Noozhawk, Marmalade Café, Palius & O’Kelley, Accountability Plus, ParentClick, Citrix Online, Cox Media and Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.