Growing up in the town of Shenandoah, Sheena Armentrout watched as her mother, Donna Cave, and her grandmother, Ruby Nicholson, ran a salon.
“They started their own business. It was a successful business, and my mom stepped into the corporate world," Armentrout said. "She did that as a single mom with a lot on her plate."
As Armentrout grew up and entered the business world herself, her mother and now late grandmother were her "biggest cheerleaders."
Now, Armentrout welcomes and coordinates with members, both new and old, of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re very welcoming and we want to have a diverse membership,” said Armentrout, the chamber's director of membership and investments. “We don’t just want to have one type of chamber member.”
Armentrout and other businesswomen had restarted the chamber’s Shenandoah Women’s Alliance earlier this year before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can’t meet together anymore, but when we were doing that, we were getting between 25 and 50 ladies together per quarter,” Armentrout said.
The ladies-only group is for professional development, networking and team-building.
Another group Armentrout has been involved in is called Success in High Heels, which held similar events with educational speakers, networking opportunities and team-building exercises.
Members of the group include women of all ages and from different types of work.
And it’s this same sort of welcoming approach Armentrout brings to all members and events related to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, according to two local business owners.
Jill McGlaughlin owns Classic Kitchen and Bath on Deyerle Avenue and the city and got to know Armentrout in 2014 when McGlaughlin was serving as the chair of the chamber board.
“She’s dedicated to what she does, and she’s just a great person and a great personality,” said McGlaughlin. “As a woman in the chamber, she really does bring a warm presence to the organization that represents our city and county.”
Monica Pangle owns Another Chance Events in Mount Crawford and said that she and Armentrout share many things, such as both having children. She said there's shared experiences between female members of the chamber and leaders like Armentrout through womanhood, as well.
“Trying to do that balance of owning a business, running your own business and trying to be a mom, too,” Pangle said. There are "lots of things only another woman can help you with in giving you advice.”
At the state business level, there are also many leaders within the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Women hold three of the four director positions, five out of six vice president position and two of the three most recent chair positions for the statewide business organization's Board of Directors, such as Paige Clay, a managing partner of Mercer.
“The Virginia Chamber is fortunate for the opportunity to work with the many great female leaders of chambers of commerce throughout the Commonwealth,” said Clay, chairwoman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in an emailed statement Thursday. “As a business community, we must continue to work collaboratively to increase access to economic opportunities for women, especially women of color, and inspire the female students who represent the future of the labor force, to strive for greatness.”
Armentrout said she and a team of ambassadors always attend chamber events to seek out new guests and welcome them, not matter what, into the business community.
“I never want somebody to walk away from one of our events not feeling accepted," she said.