Tracey Sofra enjoys taking a break at her favourite place, Fryers Street Food Store

By Madeleine Caccianiga

Surrounded by the warm and earthy tones of Fryers Street Food Store is where a busy Tracey Sofra can be found, sipping on a skinny latte while she connects with local businesspeople to plan the next appointment scheduled for the day.

This is her go-to place for monthly meetings, masterminding her social calendar and planning for future events or lifestyle changes.

Mrs Sofra finds comfort in the cafe-restaurant’s familiar faces and home-like brick walls, allowing her to take time out during her busy schedule.

Mrs Sofra said the cafe was the first place which came to mind when she wanted to organise catch-ups for her WOW Women networking group.

She has always enjoyed meetings with other businesswomen who inspire and motivate her.

But she had previously had to travel to Melbourne for inspiration.

So, in 1999, she created her own event, Women In Focus — which aimed to bring women together to share knowledge and offer support in business.

But when it came time to re-launch the event in 2013, she found the name had been used by a Commonwealth Bank of Australia campaign.

‘‘I came back having to compete with other groups and I had to start again and that’s what launched WOW Women,’’ she said.

Mrs Sofra said the women she now meets all share the same values in life.

‘‘We are also like-minded in where we are going and how we want to get there — there’s a lot of diversity in the group and that builds strength in all areas,’’ she said.

‘‘You can’t know everything and it’s nice to get a different perspectives on things — whether that is life experiences or their knowledge.’’

She said the upstairs function room at next door’s Teller Collective provided a private formal experience for the more structured gatherings.

Mrs Sofra said a big part of all event planning was not the event itself, but the surroundings.

‘‘It’s about the feel and the atmosphere of the place, the ambiance, how you feel, lighting, privacy, its warmth — everything is kind of earthy and it just feels good, it’s grounding,’’ she said.

Always ‘‘five minutes short of an hour’’ Mrs Sofra said it was important to focus on personal health, wealth and happiness.

‘‘It’s so important now, more than ever, for women — and you might say ‘why?’; but coming from an older generation myself, the world has changed and I can’t keep up with my life,’’ she said.

‘‘If you’re career-minded like me, then you’ve got a home, you’re married, you’ve got the kids and then you’ve got the career and you just can’t keep up with this speed that the world and your life is going — I haven’t found the answer to slow down.’’

Leading a busy lifestyle, Mrs Sofra said her two children April, 14, and Lucas, 11, were the loves of her life.

‘‘I am actively in their lives and I always make sure I’m in the moment with them,’’ she said.

‘‘When I get home the phones and the computers go away, the trackies come on and I get in the kitchen and I live in that moment with my kids.’’

Having a 10-year break from her leadership role to become a mother and role model to her children in 2003, Mrs Sofra said she was faced with transitional challenges before she launched WOW Women.

‘‘It took me until 2013 to come out of what I call ‘coming out of the fog’ — I was working three days a week because that’s when I could get day care, which was a good balance between working and having the kids, but I was just surviving,’’ she said.

Feeling caught up in a bubble of balancing family and work, Mrs Sofra said WOW Women created a way out for herself, which she hoped would benefit other women.

‘‘With the hours that you do and the type of work that you do, you don’t get out and the only other way I could get out was all these women’s groups in Melbourne,’’ she said.

Forming many friendships and meeting ‘‘beautiful and amazing’’ women through the organisation, Mrs Sofra takes away one piece of advice from each person she meets.

‘‘The more people you meet, the more impact you can have on different people’s lives, the more you can collaborate and do great things together if the opportunity arrises and it’s about encouraging our own local women to believe in themselves,’’ she said.