Lessons in investing and space to do it

Finances: Blacks are the focus of a new firm that will give investment advice and help small businesses get off the ground.

May 04, 2002|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Financial prudence comes naturally to William Poinsette, who as a child hoarded half of his allowance in a Mason jar buried in his family's back yard.

But Poinsette, who today is a much more knowledgeable investor, says too many other blacks are spending too much and not saving and investing enough.

Poinsette hopes to change that through the financial-services company and small-business consulting firm that he opened yesterday. Housed in a 3,025-square-foot building on East Baltimore Street, both companies will target blacks.

"We need a base for economic education in the African-American community," said Poinsette. "I want to help people to realize their financial restraints and also show them a way to maximize the assets they do have."

The financial-services firm, which will operate as an American Express franchise, will help clients set up retirement plans, invest in the stock market and establish financial goals.

The small-business consulting firm, My Plan Group LLC, will offer business advice and rent out office space with computer services to beginning entrepreneurs. Office rents will range from $850 a month for an individual office to $325 for a cubicle. Tenants will also have access to a conference room, a seminar area and reception services.

Business experts say a need exists for such kinds of services because small businesses can't always afford space in traditional office buildings, which can rent for a couple of thousand dollars a month.

Studies have found that blacks invest less than people of other races with similar incomes. They also tend to be first-generation entrepreneurs and have a longer learning period when starting a business, said Stanley Tucker, president of Meridian Management Group Inc., a professional asset manager.

"We haven't had the experience of sitting around the table with mom and pop or an aunt and uncle who have been running a business," said Tucker. "We need that support early on so we can minimize the mistakes we make."

Poinsette decided to help small businesses after facing obstacles in opening his firm. Conventional banks turned him down because he didn't have enough assets to back a loan. He eventually financed the $275,000 project with state help, a private loan and personal savings.

"I want to take my experiences and teach other people what I have learned," Poinsette said.

One small business has moved into Poinsette's Jonestown building. Haircraft by Masani, a black salon specializing in natural hair care, operates from a second-floor office.

Masani, who uses one name, used to rent space on Eutaw Street and had to use her home computer for business and rented space when she held seminars. Now Masani has a computer on site and expects to save $2,000 a year using the in-house lecture room.

"There are many services here that allow me to cut costs," she said.

Poinsette hopes to attract about a dozen more businesses to his building. He also wants to help people he says have been largely ignored by most investment companies.

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