First NotMom Summit aimed at women without children

TheNotMom, an organization that seeks to connect, inform and empower the growing population of women who are childless by choice or by chance, will hold its inaugural Not Mom Summit on Friday and Saturday, October 9-10 at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown.
Executive director and founding voice of TheNotMom is Karen Malone Wright, a marketing maven who has worked in broadcasting, philanthropy and healthcare in Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Cleveland. She has been self-employed managing strategic communications for businesses and nonprofits for the past four years as the owner of ODYSSEY Creative Communications in University Heights. But these days, only one part of Odyssey captures Karen’s full attention, and that’s TheNotMom.
Just days before the summit, Malone is jazzed that more than 100 people have registered. “I wanted 200 to attend – I’m always overly optimistic – but we have over 100 women coming from all over – San Francisco, Austin, Tucson – paying their own money to attend. I had an idea one day and over 100 women said ‘yes, I’ll come!’ It’s overwhelming me.”
Malone is working with unlimited passion, but limited funding. “I underestimated the challenge of finding sponsors, since it’s a rare advertiser who’s going to jump on board your first time, with no previous year data,” she says. Nevertheless, the roster of speakers is packed with twenty-plus women scholars, writers, counselors and entrepreneurs from throughout the U.S and London. Five programming tracks will address life, relationships and legacy.
Melanie Notkin 
Friday’s keynote speaker is Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie and author of “Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness.” Saturday’s keynote speaker is Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum. The 2015 Guggenheim fellow is the author of four books and editor of the new anthology “Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision to not have Children.”
TheNotMom had humble beginnings as a blog on Tumblr in 2011. “It started out as a diary for me,” Malone recalls. “I wondered if anyone else was out there feeling like I did. Part of it was frustration, part of it was social media training. I searched in chat rooms, blogs, websites, but I couldn’t find me in the entire social media universe.”
Malone continued searching for a group she identified with. “As the Internet grew, I found sites for women who were infertile but still trying, infertile and sad about it, women going through the adoption process, even funny and mean sites who said they ‘hate’ children,” she recalls. “None of them were me. Plus, these sites were for very young women, and I was over 50.”
Not finding herself online inspired Malone to launch her own site, as a resource for childless women, as well as a place for women to exchange and discuss news and perspectives on a childless life.
Malone believes TheNotMom would have stayed at that level, save for Bad Girl Ventures (BGV), and its annual Cleveland business loan competition in 2012. “To compete, to be a finalist, I had to conduct deep research and I had to approach my idea as a business, even though it’s not a product. It’s an intangible, and I’m not going to get rich from ads on my website.”
The prize for the annual competition is a $25,000 low interest loan, which Malone did not win. But that year, BGV had received an extra $15,000 from the anonymous group The Giving Back Gang, to award to other women entrepreneurs as they saw fit. BGV split the windfall into three $5,000 prizes, and Malone received one of them. “The judges told me here’s $5,000, you’ve identified a new niche, you’re sitting on a bubble,” Malone recalls. “They said ‘we don’t know how you’ll be successful, but don’t give up.’”
Malone calls her niche an overlooked demographic that’s growing across the developed world. Her site is American-focused, but worldwide in scope in that she has regular followers from Europe, India, Japan, and Australia. “If you’re a childless woman in Manhattan, no worries. In Salt Lake City, you’ve got a challenge,” she says. “The solution ‘just don’t live there’ isn’t that simple.”
Malone’s monthly readership includes 10,000 visits, 8,500 users, and 35,000 page views, in addition to followers on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
“The traditional rule is to build a big online community, then create a way for it to connect offline, but I didn’t want to wait,” Malone says. And again the stars aligned to give Malone her location. “I was thinking about Baltimore for the summit because of the accessibility and population density along the East Coast, but I was concerned about how often I’d have to fly there to make arrangements. “That’s when the L.A. Times, New York Times, Travel and Leisure and all these websites started talking about Cleveland as a destination, so that was it.”
How will Malone and TheNotMom measure their success? Like any stellar marketer, with feedback. “When these women go home, I’m inviting them to text me one of four words,” she says. “’Money,’ meaning I found my tribe and it was money well spent; ‘Connected' -- I connected with another non-mom and we’re staying in touch; ‘Strategy' -- I learned a new strategy and can’t wait to try it.; and ‘United' -- all women with zero children have more in common and are more united than I thought.”
Malone cites U.S. Census information, as well as statistics from other countries regarding the sheer volume of non-moms worldwide. Yet it’s important to her vision that non-moms do not divide themselves. “One in five American women have no children, and I don’t care how a woman becomes a non-mom,” she says. “The reality is there’s no division, we have more in common. Being a non-mom influences how you travel, how you spend your money – all the aspects of your life. We’ve found each other for the first time in history through new technology and new thinking.”
NotMom Summit tickets are still available and range from $145 to $300. Registration is required.
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