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‘Ready to Lead’ conference provides vital information for entreprenuers


If ever the saying “it’s who you know that counts” rang true, it’s definitely in the world of the entrepreneur. At least from the standpoint of presenters at last week’s conference for women and minority entrepreneurs.

“People buy from those they like and trust and build reciprocal relationships with,” Jovita Jenkins told her workshop attendants. “You have to be willing to give a lot more than you get.”

Jenkins was just one of more than 20 presenters and speakers who participated in “Ready to Lead,” a conference recently hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurial Opportunities at Los Angeles Southwest College.

Author of “Get Out of Your Own Way,” Jenkins told budding entrepreneurs that they have to go beyond collecting business cards and “networking,” and instead be strategic about “relationship building,” because successful people have support groups that contribute to their success.

“It’s a myth that you can succeed on your own,” she said.

Lunch speaker and Our Weekly publisher Natalie Cole admitted that she had one regret throughout her 25 years at the L.A. Times—that she didn’t seek out a guide to help her, someone a few steps ahead in their career, but on the same path; someone who could relate to her journey and take time to share their experiences.

“Don’t make the mistake of not getting a mentor,” Cole said as she scanned the room. “And if you’re the smartest, savviest person in your group of friends, get a new group of friends.”

Our Weekly is just one of the 2.9 million U.S. businesses that are majority-owned by women of color. Cole began this venture because she felt it was something she just had to do.

“You’ve got to want it badly, so badly you can taste it,” she said. “That’s what today is all about.”

Event emcee and KJLH radio host Dominque DiPrima realized the value of entrepreneurship early on, as her mother published books of poetry out of the family living room. DiPrima felt more people of color should get involved in owning their own businesses.

“Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you can’t have a business,” she said, alluding to Black women who’ve taken in laundry, watched kids and prepared meals while doing business on the phone.

“Donald Trump doesn’t have to multi-task, but we have had no choice but to multitask. We need to tap into that skill.”

Relationship-building is vitally important when it comes to funding a business idea, according to speaker Kathleen Minogue. Today’s business owners have to reach beyond old-fashioned pleas to friends and family for startup capital. Many use crowdfunding campaigns on the internet.

“These platforms give your ask some credibility,” Minogue said, adding that this is where you can find out if people believe in your idea. “They give you a place to tell your story in words or a video.”

The money gained through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or FundRazer are donations, not loans or investments.

“But it’s not easy money,” Minogue stresses. “The key is to weigh the value of the assets your business will gain against the time and resources it will take to run a successful campaign.”

Seven-year-old Melissa Guy received early training in business when her father sat her at a desk in his real estate office.

“He told me I was the boss,” Guy said. “Now that I own my own business, I know that it’s not all about being the boss, it’s about serving other people.”

Guy and her husband run Asset Media Group Inc., a media production company. Relationship-building has helped their bottom line.

“Building a brand is about picking something from your heart, something you want to do as a service, what you enjoy doing most,” Guy said. “It’s connecting to the purpose you are called to do.”

The Guys work with like-minded businesses in Signal Hill. One is a small portrait studio and the other a large broadcast house. When prospective clients aren’t a good fit, they are referred to another company.

“We’re not in competition with them, they are our strategic partners,” Guy said. “You have to associate yourself with others who are where you want to be. Go to startup events and find strategic partners.”

Desiree Saddler’s topic was “The Human Connection: What Facebook and Twitter Can’t Teach You.”

“In an age of technology, soft skills are ten times more important to have,” Saddler said. “You have to be able to relate to all types of people. It gives you a competitive edge.”

One of the most important skills successful entrepreneurs must master is active listening.

“Listen to what the client is trying to tell you, not what you want to hear,” Saddler said. “Customers don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”