We all know the importance of friendship, but in keeping up with all that life demands, it can be difficult to maintain and make time for these connections. When feeling overexerted and drained, we're quick to take rain checks and pass on invites. However, as twin sisters Lizzie and Kathryn Fortunato—the masterminds behinds the jewelry and accessories line Lizzie Fortunato—remind us, it's often in the company of the strong women in our lives that we find our own strength and recharge.
Lizzie and Kathryn make it a point to carve out time in their busy schedules to sit down with their female friends and peers for some healthful, rejuvenating quality time over dinner and drinks. In fact, they're so committed to the women-breaking-bread approach that they host a Creative Women's Dinners series, inviting like-minded women to share in the therapeutic sessions and open up while eating up. The Fortunato sisters, along with two other successful entrepreneurs, Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo—who both founded Of a Kind, an online curation of emerging designers—recently spilled why a dinner date with your girlfriends is the best therapy.
You're familiar with each other's day-to-day. "Unlike a therapist, our girlfriends and fellow female entrepreneurs know exactly what we are going through in a small business on a daily basis because they're going through the exact same stuff," explains Kathryn Fortunato. "A dinner date allows for real talk between all of us to celebrate the small wins and definitely coach each other through the tough work days." The relaxed atmosphere and communal exchange, rather than one-sided sharing, help women to feel more comfortable opening up.
"And also, you're not allowed to drink wine in therapy," she jokes.
You can swap battle stories. "When you're struggling with something tough—firing someone, dealing with money tightness, or about a million other things that could come up—it's wildly comforting to hear someone else say, 'Oh, yeah, I dealt with that once too,'" notes Cerulo. "Heck, sometimes that person even has guidance or a solution, but even just sympathizing makes tackling whatever it is in front of you feel less daunting."
It's a healthy reminder that nobody has it all. "If the only lens you have into how others around you are faring is via conferences, headlines, or Instagram, there's a high likelihood the story you're going to end up telling yourself is that everyone is killing it, crushing it, and just generally doing and having it all," warns Mazur. "Which isn't healthy for anyone, especially if it feels like the only things you're killing are house plants." But catching up in real time with women you admire helps put this into perspective.
"Something about sitting down together and sharing a meal—and, um, a bottle of Pinot—really brings out the realness in people," she observes. "It is so useful to remember that everybody at every stage is dealing with tough stuff, and a lot of it is probably similar to what you're going through." It's a healthy exercise to regroup and get a periodic reality check. "Freeing up the part of your brain that's busy wondering why you're the only one with challenges is a wildly productive thing," she says.
All topics are on the table. "At dinner dates with my girlfriends—especially other entrepreneurs—there is a no-holds-barred approach to the discussion," says Lizzie Fortunato. "We volley between work (the good and the bad) and personal and even the superficial. I don't think many people pay a therapist to talk about fashion trends and hair color in one breath and hiring and firing the next, but with girlfriends, you get the benefit of the high-low," she explains. "You also get food and drink!"