Still, the bad news swirled in her subconscious, and he found out anyway. "I'm tossing and turning and having nightmares and finally I kick him in my sleep. He turns on the light and says, 'What is going on with you?'"
Patterson admitted she had to raise
She thought, is he not listening to me? He's the Senior Finance Manager of
Earlier that day, she had met with
She told Goodling she needed to raise
"Michelle, what's your favorite ice cream?" Goodling asked.
Strawberry ice cream was scooped and the scene became surreal. "So we're all sitting there like little kids, and it was almost like we're playing Monopoly. We looked at each of the invoices."
By the end of the meeting, they'd figure out to reduce the total by
She remembers thinking, "'What is the deal with the men in my life? Strawberry ice cream? 'You're going to be fine'? It was hilarious."
But Patterson, who lives in
But Patterson wasn't sure.
Paterson had already revived the conference once, and now the pressure was really on. She had to come up with the cash because she didn't want to be the person who ended its nearly three-decade legacy.
I will survive
In 1985, then-Gov.
Deukmejian was one of Patterson's idols. She had met him in
"He inspired me," she said. "He was the first person outside my home who made me feel like I mattered." Deukmejian so impressed her that she majored in political science at
In 2012, when Gov.
Patterson had owned a multimillion-dollar recruiting business and produced events such as Taste of Ladera, Uncorked!, a wine festival, and Muscle Car 1000. She believed she was a perfect fit to save the annual conference.
With encouragement from
She bought the URL, californiawomensconference.com, and got to work.
Girl on fire
Patterson envisioned the entire conference, hired a highly recommended team to fundraise and find sponsors, booked 350 speakers, reserved hotel rooms and arranged for
Patterson felt her whole life had been leading to this moment -- until she asked her fundraising team to pay the first bills.
Awe and shock.
The team that promised it could raise
"They were afraid to tell me," she said during an interview in her office at her 5,000-square-foot
Her mind raced. Still, she refused to cancel anything. She kept her scheduled television appearance on
She kept shouting to the world that the conference was "absolutely happening" but inside she was shaking. At the time she thought, "I'm an expert at this. I've put on events with 20,000 to 25,000 people. I should not be in this situation."
She decided to woman up and not make the mistake the sponsorship team had made: "I had to check my ego and ask for help."
The day after her nightmares, Patterson steeled herself, looked in the mirror and said, "Good morning, fundraiser! You can do this!" She started calling everyone she had ever met, dialing for dollars. "It was the most exhilarating, embarrassing, overwhelming, thrilling experience."
She took it one day at a time. The
And she raised funds like crazy: "Nobody said, 'No.'"
Hear me roar
As she endured possibly the toughest two weeks of her life, Patterson somehow squeezed out the cash.
In retrospect, she wouldn't have missed the challenge.
Most women aren't accustomed to playing in the million-dollar range, but they shouldn't be afraid to, especially when they firmly believe in what they're doing, she explains. "The ask became very, very easy."
Patterson scaled back last year, presenting a series of smaller events in
Patterson's six-person core team works full time, year round, at offices in her home. Come conference time, her list of helpers expands to an army of 1,000, including contractors, volunteers and representatives of women's groups and charities from all over the world.
When doors open today, participants will shop, sip cocktails at mixers, be serenaded at concerts and browse 300 exhibit booths.
Fifty charitable organizations will participate during two days of breakout sessions, panel discussions and speakers. And it's oh-so digital.
Many sessions will be presented as TED talks in 18 minutes or less and will be streamed on the website, which also hosts Women Network, the producer of the conference and forum for women entrepreneurs.
She calls it the world's biggest business party and invites everyone -- even men. It's a typical Patterson pitch, nearly impossible to refuse.
"We have jumped up to 17 percent men this year. I think men are figuring out that they want to understand and support brands communicating to women," she said. "Women are 78 percent of consumers and they make 85 percent of the decisions in the household.
"Why would you not be there?"
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
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