In The Press

Fayetteville Divas Workin’ It

Written by Jenny Bell

Photography by Belamour Photography

For someone who has no degree in business, the woman behind Fayetteville Divas sure has a good grasp on how the business world works.  Jamie Sossamon, a Charlotte native and Army spouse, officially launched Fayetteville Divas in May 2014 with just a Facebook page, one event, and a prayer.

The idea behind her networking organization? Invite female business owners to gather at a monthly social event, make connections, and create relationships. Her formula is simple: “Connect, Empower & Grow.” Attendance at the first meeting was 20 to 25 women. Since then, the average monthly attendance has grown to 40 to 50 ladies, with a following of over 1,000 on Facebook.

When asked what sets her organization apart from others like it (as there are a few around Fayetteville), Jamie gives a few reasons, none of which includes a silly bylaw or secret handshake. Top on the list, though, is her absolute rule: no membership fees. This is unusual, as most organizations need a little boost to off-set costs. Jamie makes do, though, and taps into the knowledge base and resources found within her group of ladies for skills.

Another tenant of Divas is that the organization be centered around a fun, social event. That’s why the group bounces from venue to venue, trying new restaurants around town and giving the women a night off from their other “jobs” as wives and mothers. This is key, according to Jamie, evident by the women who have joined the group just for the social benefits.

Along with ensuring a fun environment, Jamie also makes sure that three women in business are showcased every month. This is the group members’ chance to shine and show off their goods to one another. One woman’s makeup product might end up in the hands of an accountant, and just like that, these two women establish a working relationship.

Yet another way Divas sets itself apart is through its generosity. Every month the group features a different nonprofit organization, preferably local, and raises money for it through a 50/50 raffle. Their record is $400 for a local domestic violence organization, and Jamie seems more proud of this tradition than just about anything else she’s instituted. She says the benefit of this philanthropic mentality is “all boats rise.”

If the American Cancer Society ever needed a spokesperson, they’d certainly find Jamie to be qualified, for more reasons than one. The year 2014 proved to be a banner year for her with the launching of Divas. On a personal level, though, her world was being rocked by a cancer diagnosis. In February 2014, a doctor revealed the news she had papillary thyroid carcinoma, and by July she was having a major operation.

The multiple repercussions of losing her thyroid and possibly a parathyroid gland in surgery were real and deadly. Jamie’s body went into shock almost immediately from hypocalcemia (low calcium), and back to the hospital she went. Regular blood work and scans are now required for the rest of her life to make sure her thyroid and calcium levels are maintaining.

What Jamie found the most difficult about the whole experience was the subsequent radiation therapy, which meant five days of almost complete isolation in the hospital and over three weeks of an at-home quarantine from touching or spending too much time around her children. For such an outgoing person and the mother of five girls, this was an especially cruel side effect of the treatment. Jamie turned to two forms of therapy to get her through these days: prayer and music. “Overcomer,” by Mandisa, became her rallying cry.

Like so many other cancer survivors, Jamie has simply accepted the reality of her lifelong condition, and grazes over the toll it’s taken on her body. As a homeschooling mother and soldier’s wife, she stays too busy to focus on herself. In fact, the Divas name she chose for her organization seems such an inappropriate descriptor for herself, as she’s anything but a high-maintenance prima donna.

No, Jamie’s too concerned with meeting the unique needs of other women in this transitioning community of Fayetteville to fuss about herself. One of those needs, she believes, is an outlet where women can meet with other like-minded women and feel empowered. “I want every woman that comes to know that she’s loved…because they’re not going to get that everywhere else,” Jamie explains.

When asked about a five-year plan for the group, she doesn’t have one, but she does dream of a day when some of their practical wishes, like catered meals, would be granted, or even the day when she can easily write a large donation check to a worthy nonprofit. Divas is not about numbers or growth, just connections and relationships. From a businessman’s perspective, this outlook might sound foolish. From a cancer survivor’s perspective, though, this sounds like the key to living a full life.

“I told you I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda’ girl!” Jamie proclaims in her Charlotte accent. For just a moment, the southern diva side of her shows up, but then she’s extending an invitation to a church concert and flying out the door to meet up with girlfriends.

The Divas meet every third Thursday of the month, and they welcome newcomers.

The best way to learn more about Jamie Sossamon and her special brand of Divas is through their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FayettevilleDivas

Two page Cover Featured article was found in Array Magazine in October 2015.