A woman attending a business symposium at Bethlehem Baptist Church wanted to know how she and her husband could prosper their small family-owned business in the Hollywood community in North Memphis, although neither one has been paid a salary in five years.
Natasha Donerson, CEO of Success Unlimited, a coaching and consulting firm serving businesses throughout the world, took the question and asked the woman about location, number of employees, how long she and her husband had been in business, their product, and whether they'd consider moving.
"I like the community we're in," the woman replied. She also pointed out that the business wasn't profitable enough to pay the two a salary. "It's good that we have another source of income."
Donerson, one of six panelists offering business tips and strategies, also provided direction, consultation and technical support to more than 50 new and upcoming business owners attending (on Jan. 12) the first of three business symposiums called "Controlling How The Cookie Crumbles: Educating and Empowering Entrepreneurs."
A second symposium was held Wednesday night at Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and a third is set for Breath of Life Christian Center on Feb. 9.
Sponsored by The Carter Malone Group, other top-notch entrepreneurs and business owners on the panel included Nita Black, president/CEO of MAP Momentum; Alandas Dobbins, director of the Memphis Office of Resources and Enterprise (MORE); Cynthia Norwood, managing director of alt.Consulting; and Deidre Malone, president/CEO of The Carter Malone Group.
Gina Neely, the co-host of "Down Home with the Neely's," which debuted in 2008 on the Food Network channel, was the featured speaker. Just as perky as she is on TV with her husband Pat, Neely recalled how they rose from owning and operating a local barbeque restaurant to co-hosting a cooking show that ranks the highest in the history of the Food Network's "In the Kitchen."
"You never know who's looking at you, because the opportunity may not arise again," said Neely, noting that it was just by happenstance that the Food Network called and asked the Neelys if they'd consider hosting a cooking show.
Neely said they parlayed that initial opportunity into a career-booster that elevated their celebrity as well as spinoff opportunities, such as a three-book deal, the opening of Neely's Barbecue Parlor in New York, the release of a cookware line on QVC in March, and the first-ever celebrity face to be associated with the George Foreman Grill, "Look like a Knockout Challenge."
Neely packaged her message of transitioning from one level of business to reaching a plateau that has exceeded her wildest imagination. She added that it was her inquisitiveness, ability to negotiate, and the outside-the-box thinking that propelled her and her husband.
The panelists offered various ways to achieve business success.
"You have to have a healthy balance and be strategic," Donerson explained.
One must develop a business plan and work from a solid foundation, Black told the inspiring business owners and entrepreneurs. Networking is just as important too, she said.
"There are a plethora of resources," said Dobbins, giving participants a synopsis of MORE's mission. The playing field, however, has not always been level for women over the years, she said.
Launching a business without capital is very difficult to do, Norwood said, noting that alt.Consulting, which she manages in Memphis, is a non-traditional lender that provides cash-strapped businesses with small, affordable loans.
After a thoroughly executed business plan is implemented and the business is infused with capital, Malone said it is vitally important to market the business using earned media – news releases, Constant Contact, op-eds, etc. – and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogging, etc.
A website is also vital to business success, Malone said.
"If you don't have a website, you won't be taken seriously."