Women from across metro Washington descended on Tysons Corner Mall early last Friday for this year’s "big, really big" event. Success in the City, the high-profile local female executive networking organization, hosted the first commercial screening of "Sex And The City" at the AMC Theatres in Tysons Corner Center.
Cynthia de Lorenzi, who lives in Fairfax, founded Success In the City (SITC) as a networking alternative for senior executive businesswomen who want an opportunity to connect at a more personal level, in an environment that focuses on relationships first, with business in due course. "Hosting the premiere of ‘Sex And The City’ is a natural for SITC. The show and the movie both celebrate friendships, fun, and the kind of enduring relationships that women have. That’s what this organization is about," said de Lorenzi.
Lana Bian, Vienna resident and an executive at China Telecom in Herndon, started the organization with de Lorenzi as a way to expand on the emerging trend of social networking. Bian said, "It is all about getting to know each other first, in a non-threatening way. There is no solicitation permitted at meetings, because if we focus on personal relationships first, then business will follow."
An executive who talks in headlines and goes by the nickname "Diva Extraordinaire", de Lorenzi expects SITC to eventually become an international network. Kelly Harmon, president of Zephyr Strategy in Manassas, is board chair for SITC. "We did an offsite strategy session about six months ago and created a roadmap," Harmon said. "You will see expanded membership, developmental programs, books, and Internet TV programming, just to name a few of the things that we are working on."
The group’s meetings take place at locations around Northern Virginia like the Tower Club, and starting this month, at J. Gilbert’s in McLean. "Our monthly luncheons attract about 35 members and are always sold out," said de Lorenzi. "CEO Chick Chat, where we bring in female CEOs to talk about their path to success, is a big favorite. These are held at offices around Tysons Corner, but members in Washington D.C. can participate by video."
THREE DAYS BEFORE the event, SITC’s board met at The Business Bank in Vienna, to stuff gift bags and cover last minute logistics for the premiere. Donna Wilson, AVP and client manager, said she was pleased to offer her large conference room for the assembly line. "I just love being part of this organization," said Wilson. "Cynthia and I met in 2006 and we immediately bonded because we are both from Texas. I started attending the SITC ‘Grits and Greens’ luncheons at the Tower Club early last year and from then on I was hooked."
Barbara Rorer from Leesburg was the event planning chair. She thanked those who had pitched in and took the opportunity to hand out some final assignments. "The entire event was planned in the past two months, as soon as we learned about the movie release. It was a real group effort," said Rorer.
Jennifer Abernethy from Ashburn and CEO of Sales Lounge, described marketing strategy. "The event was billed as ‘big, really big’ so it would leave an imprint on our members. We wanted them to remember exactly who they were with when they first saw ‘Sex And The City.’" Abernethy employed blogging campaigns and Facebook event promotion, and also planned to transmit on-the-spot interviews during the event to Facebook via internet video.
SITC has grown rapidly, recently topping 200 members, under Membership Chair Darcie Davis. "We have been getting many new membership inquiries in advance of the movie screening," said Davis. "I expect I’ll be very busy afterwards too, because there will be lots of media coverage at the event."
THE NIGHT BEFORE, sponsors, organizers and members gathered at Shula’s Steak House in Tysons Corner to build excitement for the next morning’s extravaganza. Shula’s sponsored a contest among its bartenders to come up with a new Cosmopolitan recipe, which was unveiled at the pre-party. The winning "Diva-tini" is a concoction of muddled strawberries, vodka, and sweet basil. "It was quite sweet and delicious, almost like a slushy," said Suzanne Fulton, who lives in Reston and handles public relations for SITC.
The raffle grand prize, a Timmy Woods of Beverly Hills-designed Eiffel Tower purse, was on display at the pre-party and the premiere. It is a replica of the one carried by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film. The purse was provided to SITC courtesy of Laura Lee, who lives in Vienna (as well as Hong Kong, New York, and London) and designs one-of-a-kind beaded handbags sold in luxury stores worldwide. "Timmy Woods is a good friend of mine, and she was excited to offer this unique purse as the centerpiece of our raffle," said Lee.
THE MORNING OF THE PREMIERE, elegantly clad women and men (one sporting a black shirt and pink tie), strolled down the pink carpet and into the lobby. They nibbled on breakfast and admired the prizes and gift bags set out in front of the screening room. Guests sipped Vitamin Water and buzzed about the post-movie "Saks In The City" event at Tysons Galleria, featuring lunch, spa and makeup sessions, and special shopping discounts.
Vernice Armour, the first African American female combat pilot, drove all the way from Stafford to take part. Marissa Levin, CEO of Information Experts in Reston, wore a pink and black dress befitting the event’s high style. Mary Lauttamus of McLean snagged one of the last tickets after completing her application to become an SITC member just this week. "I met Cynthia through the Capital Speaker’s Club," said Lauttamus. "I just love the feel of this group and I’m so glad I got the chance to be here for the movie."
Every seat in the house was taken when the lights went down. Cynthia de Lorenzi thanked the audience for coming, with a special nod to the men. "When someone asks you, how was your day, you can honestly say that you spent the morning with 150 of the most diva-licious women in Washington, D.C.," said de Lorenzi to resounding applause.