I walk up the steps to sign in to the event, greeted friendly faces.

Everything is ready: name tags, a table of giveaways, a speaker’s table, the podium and microphones.

By the time my daughter and I arrive, the room is almost full. Women are greeting each other, finding their seats, catching up. Many seem to know each other from networking groups around town. Several women have come together: mothers and daughters, c0-workers, aunts and nieces.

The room is filled with noisy chatter and excitement.

Several teenagers stake out a spot at a table in the back.

A videographer is setting up, and I strain my eyes to look for Alicia in the crowd.

There she is, saying hello to some women who just arrived. She towers over them; tall to begin with, she is sporting her signature (4 inch?) red heels.

I met Alicia several months ago for lunch and in that first conversation, she told me about her plans to bring a group of women together for an event. She asked me if I’d be willing to speak, and she followed up later with a formal invitation.

I didn’t know the whole, story, though, until she stood up to speak at yesterday’s event.

Some trusted friends and advisors questioned her ability to create an event for women in our area. They told her they’d seen people try it before and it didn’t work. Women here don’t participate in those types of events, they told her.

Undettered, Alicia persevered, assembling a dynamic team of presenters, an inspiring keynote speaker, and a group of participants eager to learn and relate to each other.

She called her event the 1st Annual HEELS Bootcamp. Heels are an important part of Alicia’s story, because to Alicia, heels represent her ability to be herself and express her uniqueness. She created the acronym HEELS (Helping Energize and Educate Ladies Sooner) to express her desire to make a difference for young women as she inspires and encourages them to achieve more.

The message of the day, condensed: Who you are matters. You have a unique difference to make in the world. You are the only one who can do what you were meant to do.

Alicia’s life demonstrates the message in a powerful and inspiring way.

As my daughter and I left the event, she bubbled with enthusiasm. Can we come next year? That was so awesome. I loved meeting and talking with all the women. Everyone was so nice! You did awesome with your talk, Mom. I wish I had brought more of my business cards. Alicia is so pretty. Wasn’t it cool how… The tiramasu was so delicious. Cami listened intently to the speakers, taking notes. She boldly introduced herself, talking with grown-ups with ease and grace.

Having experienced the event firsthand, I will highly recommend this event to my local friends next year, especially friends who could bring their daughters to share the experience together. The day included an amazing mix of friendly networking and inspiring content, organized and executed expertly by a passion-filled difference-maker.

Thank you, Alicia, for your persistence in bringing this group of 100 women together. I really can’t wait until next year!