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MANKATO — For the past 26 years, a group of businesswomen have found ways to encourage each other’s professional goals. The Women Executives in Business plan to continue that mission with more members heading into next year.

The nonprofit group started in 1993 as a morning breakfast among professionals in the community looking for a way to bounce ideas off one another to improve their workplaces. The group, initially geared toward entrepreneurs and business owners, evolved to included managers, supervisors and executives to offer guidance and support for women who faced common issues and struggles at work.

“We realized there were key positions in businesses that women were occupying that they did not have a group where they could just let down their hair and share what they needed to share,” said Linda Hachfeld, CEO of Appletree Press and one of the group’s founders. “Whether it was situations or concerns or problems that came up. Yet, if they work in those key positions, that business would be severely affected with their absence.”

Women Executives in Business has come a long way since about six to 20 women met monthly at 7 a.m. on the second floor of Meray’s. It has become a nonprofit, in part to encourage monthly programs and small group sessions and in part to offer scholarships for continuing education opportunities.

“Women supporting women is a really big thing,” said Joleen Koenigs, regional vice president with Primerica, an insurance and finance company. “Everybody has their goals, everybody has their dreams and what they aspire to. This is a great way to bring that together.”

The group boosts about 35 active members, though members drift in and out throughout the year depending on their business’s busy seasons.

Koenigs, the group’s communications director this year, said Women Executive in Business is always looking for more members to participate in scholarship fundraisers or to get advice and mentorship from other professionals in the area.

Women Executives in Business host public meetings on the first Thursday of the month, where they organize speakers and programs as well as small group sessions to “troubleshoot” various professional issues. In February, the group will welcome longtime entrepreneur and Mankato Mayor Najwa Massad for a speech.

“That’s really the value of WEB,” Hachfeld said. “We learn from each other.”

For more information on Women Executives in Business, visit the group’s website at webmn.org.

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