I CUT IN LINE. No one cared.
Nearly a hundred women queued up along the sidewalk on Western Ave, a high-heeled throng anxious to enter the furniture boutique–turned–party pad. Only the first 50 inside would get a swag bag brimming with cosmetological pirate’s booty: makeup, lotion, teeth whiteners, and secret items from the Babeland sex shop.
I scissored past unheeded until, near the entrance, a pair of women with identical blonde curls spilling over their shoulders leveled their eyes at me. I stared back. “It’s okay,” said one, “you can just go in. We all know you don’t want a bag.” They smiled. “You’re a guy.”
Inside, black-clad servers fussed over a sushi table in the dim light. The sound system thumped spine-quaking techno beats. Cliques of four or five gabbed and tipped back clear plastic cups of chardonnay.
Next to a king-size bed stood Darnell Sue, the host. Earrings the size of business cards peeked out from her waves of platinum-blonde hair. A black sleeveless cocktail dress sheathed her five-foot, four-inch frame. A handful of women giggled at something she said.
Girl Power Hour is Sue’s baby. Almost every month in a different Seattle location—bars, hotel lobbies, spas, swanky furniture stores—she puts on a bash for 100 to 250 women. They come to network, consult, party. Most are entrepreneurs in their 20s or 30s who run burgeoning businesses—cosmetics sales, jewelry stores, PR. One woman helps people organize their messy homes. For $20 guests get all the booze and food they can handle, enter a raffle for even more swag, and listen to a motivational speaker. On this particular night, an interior designer held forth on the theme, “Creating a Space that Reflects Your Style.”
Sue started Girl Power Hour with a friend in 2007 after they met at a dismal networking event involving little more than the exchange of contact information and awkward silences. They could do better. As a kid growing up near Aberdeen, Sue had followed her father, a rock and roll photographer, as he bounced around the Northwest—by age 10 she was hanging backstage with the likes of the Go-Go’s and Ozzy Osborne. After college she DJ’d, spinning techno and trance records at Seattle nightspots.
She wanted to infuse networking with the same energy and style she had always enjoyed at concerts and clubs. So Sue and her friend booked a few bars, spread the word online, and lured vodka makers, car dealers, and massage spas to sign on as sponsors. The friend moved away after the first year, leaving her the reins. By the time Girl Power Hour marked its two-year anniversary last September, 500 of Sue’s acolytes flooded a downtown sports bar to celebrate her creation.
At every event, women stand rapt as Sue purrs through the microphone about, well, anything she chooses—upcoming events, career goals, makeup.
But she doesn’t work alone. The seven-person Power Team—which includes her sister—helps Sue with marketing, sponsorships, and, most importantly, keeping the party going. In the furniture store the team divided, then conquered the crowd, introducing themselves, striking up conversations, making sure no one felt left out.
Not even the only guy in the room.