Grab your umbrellas, Gentlemen: Morristown businesswomen aim to make some rain

Stroll through Morristown, and you will find beaucoup businesses powered by women.

The Morristown Women in Business committee: Back row from left: Melody McGinley Whitelaw, Mary Dougherty, Maria Rivera-Jones. Front row, from left: Michele Reinhart, Marisa Sweeney, undisclosed. Photo courtesy of Morristown WIB.

The Morristown Women in Business committee: Back, from left: Melody McGinley Whitelaw, Mary Dougherty, Maria Rivera-Jones. Front, from left: Michele Reinhart, Marisa Sweeney, Lori Rabinowitz. Photo courtesy of Morristown WIB.

Glassworks. ArtSpace. Cherish the Moment. Top This. Strawberry Fields. i do i do. Ginty’s Irish Gifts. 23 South. Shear Bliss. The list goes on.

There is power in numbers, of course. Some local ladies figure it’s time to tap into it.

And so, on Jan. 9, 2014, a networking group calling itself Morristown Women in Business will hold its kickoff meeting, at 8 am in the Hyatt Morristown.

“We’re a good model for other cities. We’re also a model for young women, to see what they can do,” said Melody McGinley Whitelaw, better known as Chef Melody, “Caterer to the Stars” at her Main Event by Melody business on Washington Street.

When she approached Jennifer Wehring of the Morristown Partnership, the organization that promotes downtown commerce, Melody discovered that another prominent Morristown woman shared similar ideas: Mary Dougherty.

chef melody

Melody McGinley Whitelaw, Morristown’s caterer to the stars.

Mary’s many hats include vice president of Knecht Properties and Relocation; chairwoman of the Morristown Democratic organization; and First Lady of Morristown, as the wife of Mayor Tim Dougherty.

She was inspired by the women’s business committee of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, she said, and by another women’s group in Hoboken.

“I thought, why are we not doing this in Morristown?” Mary said.

She agreed to serve as chairwoman. Melody, who appears frequently on WOR radio and at Macy’s Herald Square as a celebrity chef, was a natural choice for publicity chair.

mary dougherty

Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty is leading the new Morristown Women in Business group.

Rounding out this group of rainmakers: Marisa Sweeney of Be Well Morristown, is vice chair.  Maria Rivera-Jones of JP Morgan Private Bank is the secretary and Michele Reinhart of Staples will oversee membership.

“Empowering Women” is the motto on the Morristown Women in Business website. It quotes Eleanor Roosevelt (“Do one thing every day that scares you”) and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow”).

Membership is $100 for individuals and $250 for corporations (up to three members).

Admission to the inaugural breakfast meeting–featuring a briefing on the local business scene by the Mayor–will cost $25 for members and $35 for non-members.

Maria Rivera-Jones. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Maria Rivera-Jones. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Monthly events will include luncheons and cocktail hours, Mary said.

The goal is “to drive visibility and relationships, so we can support each other’s businesses and enhance revenues.”

Yet men are welcome, too, she hastened to add.

“It’s meant to be inclusive,” Mary said.

Marisa Sweeney, center, at the Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Marisa Sweeney, center, at wellness event on the Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Melody, a former UCLA cheerleader who grew up in Hollywood with stars such as Liberace and June Allyson as neighbors, is scheduled to cater V.I.P. events for the Big Game in February. (You know the one.)

Over the years she also has volunteered her services at countless charitable and community activities–including the Film Festival.

As the Women in Business group grows, she hopes it will adopt a charity to support.

Melody also is hoping she can attend the kickoff meeting; she is recuperating from an auto mishap.

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