Men bonding: " 'Sup?" " 'Sup?" "See the score?" "Yup."

Men bonding:

" 'Sup?"

" 'Sup?"

"See the score?"


Women bonding:

Well, let's just say it's a good deal more complicated than that, and a whole lot more deeply personal. The kind of special, lasting connections women can make with women, initially on a personal level and then in the realm of business, was just what Mary B. Relotto of Clintonville was contemplating back in 1996 when she first began talking about the idea with friends.

"It all started when I was looking for a networking community to be involved with," Relotto recalled last week. "I didn't find anything in Columbus that really fit me or where I fit in."

The ideas from those discussions percolated around inside Relotto's head for a time, but they finally came to fruition a decade later with the creation of Dames Bond.

"A dame just makes a great deal of sense," Relotto said. "It's a strong name for a woman. It identifies with a woman who has a great deal of experience and isn't afraid to go out there and get them. It just sort of came out of that: Dames bond. It became a statement.

"When Dames Bond, dames thrive."

The Columbus-based women's networking community was recently named to ForbesWoman's List of Top 100 websites for women in business and tapped as one of's 10 best career sites for women.

"We're proud and thrilled to be honored in this way," Relotto was quoted as saying in the announcement of the dual honors. "We designed the site to benefit our members by helping them foster relationships and build their businesses. To get this type of recognition from the Forbes organization is icing on the cake and offers additional marketing exposure to our nearly 2,000 members."

Dames Bond member Megan Gibson is a believer in the worth of being a part of the networking community. She and her husband Matt own Northland-based Backwood Odyssey, which offers guided backpacking and kayak tours.

"I actually found out through a friend of mine," Megan Gibson said. "She was going to the networking meetings and she said, 'Oh, Megan you should come.' "

Gibson liked what she experienced, and feels that she has helped build her business through involvement with Dames Bond.

"We're all trying to achieve the same goal, which is running a good business," she said.

"In 2006, we conducted a lengthy survey and asked women what they want in a networking community," says about the network's origins. "We learned that women are truly strengthened by the dynamics of other women and desire a casual and affordable atmosphere where they can connect and interact with other women. We also learned that women as consumers wanted to network with women doing business."

"More than anything, I think it was what I needed, and central Ohio woman needed," Relotto, a native of Steubenville, said last week.

"The premise behind it is more about the individual and the character of the individual," she added. "Later you'll find out what that person does ... and business will follow. Women have mimicked how men networked for many years. To them it's all about business. To women, that's the outcome. Initially, I think women really want to get to know one another and make a connection.

"We're turning the pages a little bit."

"I think it brings about a different level of understanding," Gibson said. "There's more of a friendship base that's built first, and then it's, like, 'This is what I do,' or, 'This is the type of business I'm running.'

"It's almost like a circle of friends who want to help one another out."

The very first networking event for Dames Bond was held in the back salon of the Surly Girl Saloon in the Short North. It drew 15 participants, according to Relotto. Almost 30 were on hand for the next one and now the monthly bonding events draw 85 to 100 women, according to the founder.

"And when they come, they don't leave," Relotto said. "It's amazing. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg to join. That's how we help boost this economy, as well. We actively market our members, and that's how we're different from other networking communities."

The website that drew the awards from Forbes, according to the announcement, provides business listings for existing members and profiles of new ones and the services they provide. It also features a calendar of events, advice columns written by members and an "opportunity board" allowing members to connect with one another.

There are even, Relotto said, "Dame to Dame Discounts" that encourage members to cut deals for one another.

"I think it's been a natural progression," the founder said of the growth of Dames Bond. "I had no doubt that it would become a household name after only a couple of years. The name is really so descriptive of what it's about. When you look at dames and bond, you get a sense of the woman and what the woman has to do well.

"You do bond deeper than connecting, deeper than just networking."

Although she was coy about releasing details, Relotto did say that licensing agreements are being worked on to expand the Dames Bond concept to other cities, perhaps by 2011. She said that she's in the process of trying to identify the right person to manage these additional chapters.

After that initial expansion, Relotto feels Dames Bond could possibly go nationwide.

"We're definitely going to keep the Midwestern feel, I can tell you that," she said.