Business Lead Story West Edition

Black businesswomen encouraged to ‘dream big’

TORRANCE — Black businesswomen were encouraged to “dream big” during the sixth annual Black Business Women Rock Conference at the Torrance Marriott Hotel Nov. 17 and 18.

“I got the idea for this conference while I was sitting in my back yard one day, and here I am — on stage,” said Natalyn Randle, the author of “Behind the Scenes to Greatness” and the operator of a home improvement business who felt there was an existing void for black business women and that there should be an event that would allow them to come together.

She encouraged women not to be afraid.

‘’I want you to tap into your power and your quiet time,” Randle said. “If you have an idea for a business, continue to move forward, even if you are afraid. If you go forward now, you’ll get the answer.”

Nearly a thousand women attended the two-day event to gain valuable career advice and learn how to run a successful business.

According to the latest U. S. Census, businesses owned and operated by black women are booming. African-American women have majority ownership in more than 1.5 million businesses nationwide and generate more than $42 billion in sales.

A panel entitled “Business Planning and Development” featured Dion Rambo, owner of Rambo House; Restee Collins, a minister and real estate professional; Gilbert Buchannan of Buchanan Associates; and Mike McGrew, author.

Asked how women can accelerate their businesses, Buchanan responded, “Make sure your business infrastructure is in order. Then you can go out and accelerate yourself. You also need to draw up a capability statement that will highlight the features and benefits of your business. It’s all about making your customers fall in love with you.”

Rambo said Los Angeles is poised to receive a tremendous amount of money that will transform the city with the construction of new rail lines and the influx of sports teams making the city their home.

“There’s about a trillion dollars that is about to come through L.A. in a year,” he said. “That’s why you need to have a capability statement, particularly if you are a vendor. They will look at that paper and make a judgment about your business.”

“Be confident and make sure you build a strong team of people behind you,” McGrew said. “And be sure to check your ego at the door if you’re running a business.”

Buchanan added that all business owners need to have an elevator pitch that will “open the door” to prospective buyers.

“People aren’t sure what goes into a pitch, but it should tell people who you are and how you can solve a problem. You have to demonstrate that you are the business of choice,” he said.

“You have to have a business plan from day one,” Collins added. “It’s critical to know your market and material.”

Many speakers centered on the mental, spiritual and psychological well-being of black women and urged the importance of self-care.

On a panel entitled “Temple Transformation: Women and Wellness,” moderator Sahsha Campbell Garbutt said, “African-American women are killing themselves. The suicide rate has tripled for black women because we don’t take care of ourselves. We must take better care of our bodies and our minds.”

“We put everyone else ahead of us before we take care of ourselves,” said Patrice Elizabeth Copper, a certified life coach, who also was on the panel.

Keynote speaker Tamika Smith Jones, director of intercollegiate athletics at UC Riverside, said it is important to stay authentic.

“We’re often perceived as the angry black female,” she said. “Don’t let them stereotype you. Be caring, be considerate and be kind — even when you want to cuss and fuss. Be in it to win it.”

“Keep pushing. Connect to the light and stay focused,” Copper said.

Keynote motivational speaker, author and business coach Cheryl Wood paced the stage and observed, “Some of you are moving through your businesses all alone. If you don’t have a tribe, find and create a tribe to help you.”

Pausing, she added, “Life is tough and will gut punch you over and over, but you’ve got to keep pushing, even when it’s hard. You have to have that spirit of persistence and perseverance.”

Wood, who flew in to speak at the conference, said she was working as a legal secretary several years ago making $80,000 a year.

“Something kept tapping me on the shoulder,” she said. “I felt there had to be something more in life.

“Then, in 2009, I heard motivational speaker Tony Robbins. I decided to interrupt my norm and start a T-shirt business called ‘Moms are the Best.’

“I used the money from my job as my solid investor,” she said. “If you want to start a business, create an exit strategy from your job.”

Wood said she was surprised when she received a phone call that would change her life forever.

“Eighteen months later after starting my side business, I got this call. Someone wanted me to teach moms how to start a business. I said ‘Yes.’”

Since then, Wood added, “God has taken me all across the globe to speak. I just returned from India to speak to an organization of business women.” She said she also has spoken at the United Nations and the FBI.

Pausing, she advised the audience, “You are enough. Stop waiting for permission and validation to start your business. Don’t leave your gifts on the table. Just keep showing up and investing in you.”