When we have a life-changing positive experience, we wish everyone could have that opportunity. Devin Ford didn’t just wish for it. She created it.
While working as a photographer in L.A., Ford attended the West Hollywood Women’s Leadership Conference. She was instantly captivated by a world of coaching, mentorship and community engagement aimed at women who wanted deeper personal and professional relationships. She had found a spark and was committed to continuing her journey of relationship-building and community involvement after the conference ended. Ford was inspired to join the board of directors for the West Hollywood Chamber, making her the youngest board member in its then-90-year history.
After moving back to the Mobile Bay area in 2012, Ford was intent on finding that same spark of female-focused fellowship. Specifically, she was looking for a women’s conference similar to the one that had impacted her in L.A. She tried searching but was left craving something different than what the area had to offer. Instead of giving up, she dove headfirst into creating her own path.
Though she had grown up in Grand Bay, spending 15 years in California meant Ford needed to establish strong bonds locally. So she got involved, joining the Mobile Arts Council. There, she overhauled its annual awards, giving them a fresh rebrand as the Artys, and became the vice president of the board. She also joined Keep Mobile Beautiful and Leadership Mobile, expanding her circle and, at the same time, investing in the life of her community.
Several years later, when it came time to plan the conference, Ford had no trouble scheduling a powerful lineup of women. Because of her involvement in organizations across Mobile and the ties she formed in the city, she easily attracted attendees, speakers and panelists. In 2017, the first annual Focus Women’s Conference launched in Mobile. From there, it experienced rapid growth, with over 540 people attending the 2019 conference.
An Emphasis on Local Connection
Ford’s design for the conference allows attendees to take one day to recharge and strengthen their network and partnerships, just as she did in L.A. and again in Mobile over the years.
“Our goal for the 2022 Women’s Conference is to provide a day of speakers, coaching and connecting that brings you hope and joy,” Ford says. “You will spend a day loving on yourself and choosing from sessions designed to encourage and empower you personally and professionally. And you will spend time connecting with people and building your network.”
A unique quality that Ford implemented into the design of the conference is the chance for attendees to hear the expertise, advice and encouragement from people based all over the Mobile Bay area. The conference’s emphasis on the resources, relationships, tools and training that are available in South Alabama sends an important message: Women can find and nurture meaningful connections without ever leaving Mobile, whether they are looking for career-related guidance or personal fulfillment.
In addition to local speakers, each year, Focus Women’s Conference features a nationally recognized keynote speaker who shares their knowledge, experience and message. Keynote speakers from past Focus conferences have included safety activist and author Elizabeth Smart, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Macy Stafford and Paralympic medalist Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt. This year’s keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author Nadia Bolz-Weber.
The Lasting Impact
Ford made sure the impact of Focus didn’t stop with its annual conference. Focus Online publishes articles and interviews year-round on a plethora of topics relevant to local women, including health and wellness, community and development. With this online platform, women advise readers on how they balance work, family, health and self-care. True to Focus form, the articles are aimed at every woman, whether she is a business owner, a stay-at-home mom or is just setting out on her career path.
“Focus is unique because we understand that you are a person before you are a professional,” Ford says. “We strive to help create a network of women and their allies to support one another: to give you the tools and knowledge necessary to be financially independent, to inspire you to live your best life and impact your community in positive ways.”
Focus’ motto is “Encourage. Educate. Empower.” That goes for all women. No matter your age, background, job or beliefs, you are welcome. With Focus, Ford has created an environment where everyone can find a sense of belonging, encouragement and fellowship and potentially develop relationships that will change their life.
The 2022 Focus Women’s Conference will take place on March 28 at 7:30 a.m. at the Mobile Convention Center. For tickets and more information, visit focuswc.com.