Help for Sweetie Pie

Network: Assistance with networking, finances and dealing with government were offered yesterday at the Baltimore African-American Business Forum.

March 01, 2000|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

After working with drug abusers and the homeless for nearly two decades, Tammy D. Brayboy needed a change.

I was burned out, she said. Then I started to follow my heart, I started to follow what made me happy.

Cheesecake makes her happy. Her cheesecake makes her friends and family happy. She wants it to make you happy. Brayboy attended yesterdays first Baltimore African-American Business Forum in hopes of finding out how she can get her 3-year-old home-based business, Sweetie Pie, off the ground and her cakes and pastries onto Baltimoreans tables.

So far, shes used word of mouth, doing birthday parties and wedding receptions. She wants to have her own catering and event-planning company. Yesterdays forum at the Hyatt Regency was aimed at people like her -- those who want to network, who want to know what types of loans are available and those who need help navigating bureaucracies in search of funding or a chance to bid on government contracts.

I want to find out who can help me, who can mentor me through this process, said Brayboy, 39, who has a masters in public administration from the University of Baltimore and a Baltimore International College culinary degree.

The forum was sponsored by American Express, Empower Baltimore Management Corp., the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. Speakers included state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV; Tina Jolivet, director of the governors Office of Minority Affairs; and Kenneth Oliver, senior vice president of the Development Credit Fund.

Phillip L. Gilliam, president of 3-year-old Antibody Inc. in Abingdon, said the forum was exactly what he was looking for. The Bell Atlantic engineer is the inventor of antibody situational support devices that help protect athletes and manual laborers from injuries. His custom-made compression shorts, for example, look like biking shorts, but are made of a thick rubber-like material that protects muscles. Hes already sold a few to Ravens team members, and he hopes to get the entire National Football League on board -- and, in turn, laborers and amateur athletes coast to coast.

He came to the forum to network. I wanted to know more about government contracts and how to access them and to find out about financing, he said. Im talking to venture capitalists because I need patient money.

The event, which was free to the public, was coordinated by LaRian L. Finney, president and chief executive officer of Visionary Marketing Group Inc. Planners had hoped for at least 200 people; 242 attended. My company was contacted by the Downtown Partnership, which has been under some heat for lack of outreach to the African-American community, Finney said. But were not going to worry about 1999 and the past, but look at 2000 and push forward.

Ive already booked the Hyatt for 2001, he said. It will be in the big ballroom with thousands of people.

Laurie B. Schwartz, who is on a six-month leave from her position as president of the Downtown Partnership to be temporary deputy mayor for economic development, agreed that her group could do more to reach out to members of minority groups. Last spring, we did take a look at our role in minority business development in the previous five years and found that, in fact, in the past year we were not as active as we had been previously, she said. We started looking at what an appropriate role would be, realizing there are a lot of organizations who have exclusive missions of supporting minority business development.

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