Budding business owners hear tips, make pitches at Hagerstown college

Some budding business owners heard a morning full of advice and practiced their sales pitches Thursday at Hagerstown Community College.

About two dozen people attended the Spring Entrepreneur Extravaganza, sponsored by HCC’s Technical Innovation Center.

The morning was punctuated by a pep talk from motivational speaker Rick Rando, owner of a land development company, as well as Kick Masters Karate, one of the nation’s largest open-space martial arts schools located in Allegany County.

“Let’s face it, you only have so many years,” Rando told the group. “You only have so many years with your kids. You only have so many years to make a difference.”

Rando shared some of his own experiences and what he learned by attending the Disney’s Approach to Business Excellence program at the Disney Institute.

One of those lessons is to tell a consistent story in all aspects of your business, he said.

“At Disney, they said that everything speaks. From your wallpaper to the size of your parking spaces, everything speaks. … Just think, what story are you telling?” he said.

He also urged people to find and be true to their most basic values.

“It’s not about a title,” he said. “It’s about a passion or a mission.”

Other speakers included Robert Moreno of the Baltimore Business Center/Minority Business Development Agency and Herbert Jordan of the Maryland Office of Small, Minority and Women Business Affairs.

Moreno said small businesses shouldn’t overlook any markets, including those in other countries.

“Services are a huge export from the United States,” he said.

Jordan urged budding business owners to take advantage of Maryland’s diverse economy and population.

“Talk to people who don’t look like you, don’t talk like you, don’t eat like you,” he said.

Jordan also said the state is changing its procurement process to make it easier for small firms to do business with state agencies.

Janice Riley, manager of the Technical Innovation Center, said government work doesn’t always involve consultants and complicated issues.

For example, she cited the state contracts with stylists to cut hair for prison inmates.

“Open your mind to other opportunities,” Riley said.

Larry Van Sant of Sandler Training in Frederick presented an outline of the company’s systematic approach to sales.

“We don’t sell,” he said. “Buyers buy. Buyers like to buy. They don’t like to be sold.”

To close the morning, four entrepreneurs made brief pitches for their businesses and received some feedback about their approaches.

“As a startup entrepreneur, there’s a lot to learn,” said Michelle Umlauf, who made a pitch for her business, Sewing Machine Artistry. “If you just listen to people, you can really learn a lot of information.”

She dealt with one of her biggest challenges during her time in front of the group.

“As a creative type, I’m kind of to myself. So getting out and meeting people and sharing what I do with other people can be a challenge, especially when they don’t sew.”