Women's Business Institute opens office in Taneytown

Program will assist in starting companies or expanding them

July 20, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A place where women can get help starting or expanding their businesses has opened a Taneytown office to serve most of Western Maryland.

The office is the latest effort by the private, nonprofit Women's Business Institute to branch out into more rural areas of the state. A satellite office could open in the fall in Cumberland, said Bea Checket, founder of the institute.

Classes will begin as early as Aug. 12, with an introduction to the Internet. Fasttrac 1, in which a woman can learn how to turn an idea into a business, starts Oct. 6. "Doing Business with the Federal Government," for established businesswomen, starts Oct. 19.

The center is in the Farmers and Mechanics Bank building at 222 E. Baltimore St. It was established with the aid of a five-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Yesterday, a grand opening reception drew local business people, bankers, federal bureaucrats and a few alumnae who have taken Women's Business Institute courses elsewhere.

"I took their Fasttrac 2 program, called `Growing Your Business' -- most appropriate for me," said Ellen C. Hendrickson, owner of Interior Plants in Frederick.

Hendrickson and her five-member staff design, install and maintain plants for commercial clients, including Farmers and Mechanics Bank.

She was among those who celebrated the center's opening, along with Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a 6th District Republican who has voiced support for the development of women-owned businesses, and Sherrye Henry, assistant administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Hendrickson, a former extension agent for horticulture, broke out on her own in 1984 when her daughter was young to have a more flexible schedule.

Two years ago, she took the institute course to expand her enterprise.

"It's a very nonintimidating setting in which to learn," Hendrickson said. "You have the other people in the class who are individuals like you. What you may be afraid to go to your bank financial planner to ask, you're not so embarrassed to discuss among your peers."

Tess Veloso of Baltimore started interMARQ Associates, an online guide to restaurants in Maryland. As a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, she heard about the opening and came to see the center. She said she might look into taking classes.

"I work out of my house," Veloso said. "It's just very important not to get isolated. I'm faced with making decisions by myself. When I was in my corporate job, I could divide up responsibility. It's important to meet with other people to get their perspective."

Hendrickson said Western Maryland had no chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the center in Taneytown could help promote the networking that new business owners need.

The Taneytown office is provided rent-free by Farmers and Mechanics Bank, whose president, Faye Cannon, also threw in several personal computers and furnishings.

The computer laboratory and a staff of counselors and instructors were provided to help women who have an idea they would like to turn into reality, or those whose businesses need a jump start.

Checket's counselors include fellow members of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a nationwide organization that uses retired business owners and corporate executives to counsel people in bringing their own goals to reality.

Checket is a board member of the group.

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