Black women to share their success stories

400 expected to hear tips, tactics of entrepreneurs

Meeting opens Thursday at harbor

August 12, 2002|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Betty Price doesn't want other African-American female entrepreneurs to face the hurdles she did when opening a small travel agency 16 years ago.

So this week, she'll gather more than 400 business women from around the country for a conference in Baltimore where they can hear about business tips and strategies she had to master on the job.

"I learned by trial and error," Price said. "There were no mentors that I could turn to."

The three-day African-American Women in Business Conference starts Thursday at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

It will include workshops and seminars on topics such as marketing a business, choosing the best location for a company and finding a reliable staff.

Most important, Price and others said, those attending will hear firsthand about the experiences of successful black entrepreneurs.

"That is key, to meet other women in the business," Price said. "Finding out what they've been through is worth more sometimes than going to workshops for a year to learn how to start a business."

Monique Greenwood, former editor in chief of Essence magazine, will talk about her life as a restaurateur and the owner of two bed-and-breakfast inns.

Kamili Anderson, director of Howard University Press, will discuss new opportunities in the publishing industry as more black women write books.

And Glinda Bridgforth, the author of Girl, Get Your Money Straight, will share her experiences after she left banking to start a financial-services company.

Shelia Johnson, training-services manager for Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore Inc., said hearing such speakers can be a morale booster for women. Johnson will conduct a workshop on business plans.

"I think when you're able to have that exposure to people that are trying to accomplish the same thing that you are, it makes it seem so much more real and so much more attainable," Johnson said.

This is the second year that Price, owner of Los Angeles-based Kola Nut Travel Inc., has held the conference. Both times she has tried to choose cities with high concentrations of businesses owned by African-American women. Last year's conference was in Tulsa, Okla.

Price was a single mother raising two daughters on a teacher's salary when she started her company in 1986. The banks wouldn't give her a loan unless she put her house up for collateral, so she rented a small office with no windows and ran the business by herself while working full time.

As the business became more established, she learned it was hard to find good employees, and her clientele was limited by the neighborhood. Then, Price said, six years into the business, she found she could increase sales significantly by contracting with the government.

Today, she has three locations, eight employees and annual gross sales of $8 million.

She wants to make other people's road to success a little simpler and is hoping that the conference is a start.

"When you first start a business, you don't always know what direction to go," Price said. "You really need to be able to talk to other people."

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