Conference on minority, women-owned business mixes advice, encouragement

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Words of advice mingled with messages of encouragement during the recent Minority and Women-owned Business Conference in Hagerstown.

Chelsea Becton, owner of Beauty Place is shown a credit card terminal by Tonya Maeser-Jones who is a business consultant with First Data. The two were attending the Minority & Women-Owned Business Conference Thursday at Hager Hall.

Keynote speaker Toni Bowie, founder of MaxLife LLC based in Frederick, Md., stressed relationships, giving and gratitude in the success of her business.

Relationships, she said, lead to resources as well as customers.

“Ask open-ended questions,” she said. “See how you can help other people succeed.”

Giving, she said, can mean volunteering time, services or products.

“When you volunteer, you’re in it for the long haul,” she said. And it provides “another way people can see what you have to offer.”

Gratitude “keeps out egos in check. It keeps us grounded. … We are so very humble and grateful for where we are today.”

Advice of panelists

The day also featured two three-person panels. One was devoted to resources business people can use to successfully launch their ventures. A second featured veteran business people addressing lessons that they learned and can pass on to the next generation of business owners.

A few highlights from the panelists’ remarks:

• Margie Yeager, owner of Pura Vida Coffee in Hagerstown, how she overcame the fear of starting: “At the moment I realized I couldn’t turn around and go back.”

• Kelsi Palmer, digital and social media manager at HighRock, on balancing personal and professional time: “You can’t do everything yourself. … It’s using the resources that are out there.”

• Tina Snyder, owner of the Pediatric Movement Center, on decisions: “You try to cut costs, but at what cost?” She said outsourcing human resources and accounting functions were “probably two of the best decisions that we’ve made.”

• Whitney Carpenter, co-owner of Billwood Properties in Hagerstown, on what she might do differently: “I would perfect the art of self-evaluation. … I didn’t know myself well enough.”

• Jocelyn Melton, chief executive officer and president of the Baxter Group Inc. of Chambersburg, on advice for novice business owners: “Trust and verify. … If you have a sick feeling in your gut that something’s not right, verify.”

• Steve Swayne, a State Farm Insurance agent in Hagerstown, on his approach: “I never think about money. I always think about providing great service to people.”

‘Failure’s not permanent’

Paul Frey, chief executive officer and president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, opened the conference with a pep talk of sorts. He related the stories of several business people who failed before succeeding.

Milton Hershey, for example, launched candy companies that failed before he succeeded with the Hershey Co.

“You not going to be successful 100 percent (of the time). … There will be some pitfalls along the way. … Failure’s not permanent. It won’t kill you,” Frey said.

About 80 people attended the conference, which also featured displays by about a dozen vendors.