Finding ways to help female entrepreneurs

Goal: The African American Women in Business Conference aims to teach what it takes to operate a business.

August 16, 2002|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

The fruitcake business that Minnedore Green of Silver Spring opened last year while recovering from breast cancer had made a little money - about $500 in the first two months.

But Green didn't know how to make more. She also didn't know anything about business plans, marketing budgets and trademarks. Until yesterday.

That's when the 56-year-old retired government worker, armed with a dream of one day opening a bakery, attended the African American Women in Business Conference at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

There, she learned that she didn't know a lot about business.

"I haven't been in business long enough to know some of these things," said the owner of Delicious Fruitcakes.

By mid-morning, she knew how important a business plan is in getting money to market her fruitcakes once she expands.

The conference, which runs through tomorrow, is aimed at teaching female entrepreneurs the ins and outs of running a business. Organizers hope that it helps shorten the learning curve for entrepreneurs.

"A lot of times when you're in business it's so much trial and error," said conference founder Betty Price, owner of Los Angeles-based Kola Nut Travel Inc. "It can take you years to learn everything."

The conference features workshops on writing a business plan, creating an Internet site and finding a reliable staff.

African-American businesswomen, such as Monique Greenwood, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and the owner of a restaurant and two bed-and-breakfasts, will share their experiences.

Price said she wants the women to learn from each another. "We want the women to share and interact," she said.

Price said she expects 400 people from around the country to attend the conference.

Kathryn A. Finney came from Philadelphia to find new markets for the coin-laundry business she owns with her mother and brother. The company owns two laundries in Minneapolis and is buying one in Philadelphia, she said.

Finney said she learned how to market her company and pay for expansion. After talking with Baltimore officials, she said, the company is thinking of expanding to the city.

"Baltimore definitely fits the profile of our market," she said.

Eight years ago. Leslie Tucker opened The Perfect Word, an office support company, in Baltimore after many years of secretarial jobs at law firms. Although she has expanded her clientele, Tucker said, it's hard to market her business.

"Small businesses don't have a lot of funds to advertise in newspapers and magazines," she said. "We can hit it one or two times a year, but that's not productive. I need to let people know who I am, where I am and what kind of services I have."

At a workshop on marketing yesterday, Tucker picked up techniques for marketing her business on a tight budget.

Green said she gained tips on expanding. Using what she learned at the conference, she hopes to write a business plan, trademark her product and one day open a store. "I want to get it out of my house and share a bakery with someone, or even get into the gift-basket business with someone else," she said.

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