Walking into PALMA Colectiva in Victoria Court on a cold fall night, I felt like I had entered a tranquil oasis. Lit up with candles; with fuzzy seats and pillows nestled on the floor; charcuterie, wine, and tea offered; and the scent of lavender in the air, this mindful studio and retail space seemed to usher me in with a peaceful kindness and reassuring spirit.
However, this night, which took place November 14, was not solely for relaxation. The event, titled “Gathering Inclusively,” was the brainchild of Pia Beck and Lauren Bragg of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Santa Barbara (NAWBO S.B.). NAWBO was started in the 1950s to help empower female business owners, and the Santa Barbara nonprofit’s chapter is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this March. Beck and Bragg wanted to create an evening where business leaders could join together in community to hold productive conversations on inclusivity and uplifting one another.
“The connection to NAWBO came from Pia Beck, founder of Considered [local mobile coffee company],” PALMA cofounder Meredith Markworth-Pollack, who opened the space with her husband, Daniel Pozas, in March 2023, said. “Pia and I connected originally over both being on the hunt for retail and business spaces in Santa Barbara and then soon began collaborating on events. I admire her business mind and work ethic and am thrilled to be connected to this incredible group of women through her.”
As I was welcomed into the space with a warm hug from NAWBO President Lauren Bragg, the soft lighting and sweet presence of the women around me, more of them in bare feet than heels, made networking feel more natural than ever, much of it due to the calming environment of PALMA.
“In a time of grief and uncertainty, PALMA provides a safe space and intentionally curated offerings to nourish, connect, and heal,” Markworth-Pollack said.
The night began with bites and mingling, featuring beverages from women-owned La Lieff Winery and San Ysidro Spritz, and soon progressed into something much deeper.
Markworth-Pollack led the group in a sound bath, and the collective sigh of relief and renewed presence was palpable. This centering paved the way for the keynote speaker of the evening, Achok Majak, global fashion model, wellness facilitator, and real estate agent. Majak shared about her childhood growing up Sudanese in Santa Barbara, her experiences with racism (globally in the fashion industry, and locally in S.B.), and her hopes for productive shifts toward a more inclusive world, starting with the group of women right in front of her.
“Stand up; hold people accountable. This is your work as a collective. Start committing to change,” Majak said.
The circle of women shared ideas on how to best create a business culture that supports individuals of all identities.
“Use your business to be an asset to your community,” Majak said. “I believe that each of your businesses are going to be inclusive because we’re having this conversation.”
As the night came to a close, with women exchanging contact information as they snacked, pondered, and packed up, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hope that the conversations started in that glowing room might spark into a much larger flame.