Entrepreneurial families form panel for BAW
Friday, May 6, 2011
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Staff photo by MEGHAN RUSSELL
Generations of family business leaders spoke at Tuesday night's Executive Entrepreneurship Speakers Series: Building a Legacy of Business Owners, hosted in part by the Calvert County Minority Business Alliance as part of Calvert County Business Appreciation Week. From left, Nicole Moore Wardell, Taylor Bowman and Michele Bowman listen to first-generation entrepreneur Michael J. Moore talk about his experiences in business. Beside him, Nicole Holland and her mother, Natalie, listen and wait to speak as well.
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Children, parents and, in some cases, grandparents made up Tuesday night's Executive Entrepreneurship Speakers Series: Building a Legacy of Business Owners, sharing their stories and advice in business.
The Calvert County Minority Business Alliance co-hosted the event, along with Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and the College of Southern Maryland, where it was held, as part of Calvert County Business Appreciation Week. The panel of six consisted of Michael J. Moore, former county commissioner and owner of Mike's House of Style in Prince Frederick; his daughters, Michele Bowman, owner of The Atmosphere Salon and Spa in Baltimore, and Nicole Wardell, president and CEO of Virtual Link, a government contracting business in Baltimore; his 16-year-old granddaughter, Taylor Bowman, owner of online jewelry store Taylor's Touch and a pioneer in the fashion industry; Natalie Holland, owner of Holland's Family Day Care and Cutty's Rock N' Ribs; and her daughter, Nicole, 24, who has taken charge of various family businesses and launched her own, D&N Graphics, in 2007.
"We have first, second and third generation entrepreneurs, which is a very exciting thing," CCMBA President Dawn Tucker said. "They all started their own businesses."
Tucker, and various audience members who turned out for the event, asked the panelists a series of questions to get them talking about their stories, how they got started and their advice for others who wish to start a business. The first question asked them to think about why their high school senior classmates might have chosen, or choose in Taylor's case, each of them as "most likely to be an entrepreneur."
"To be honest, I didn't have any entrepreneur aspirations during my school years," Moore said, adding that he always was told, even by his own family members, to finish school and go work for someone else. "Every time I said I wanted to go into business, I've had naysayers who said, You'll never do that' because they had never done that."
The first time he applied for a loan to open a business, the bank turned him down due to lack of experience, but he found a loophole.
"I had to be creative," he said. "I went back and told them I was going on vacation. They lent me $5,000 to go on vacation, and I opened my business in 1978."
It began as a barber shop, and he later incorporated a beauty salon for women. From observing white families, he said he also learned the concept of talking business at the dinner table and getting children interested in entrepreneurship at a young age. He tried to do the same and offered that as advice for others.
"Have a dream. Try it. Share it with your family, sit at the table and talk about it," Moore said.
Moore's daughter had a similar answer to the question.
"I probably wouldn't have been chosen to be an entrepreneur in high school," Bowman said, because she was more interested at that time in music and theater. However, she learned from hearing her parents talk about business that she could work hard and open her own day spa.
"You are what you learn. It was like learned behavior," she said. "I think what has been passed down from generation to generation is a desire for excellence."
Bowman urges individuals of any age who have a dream of starting a business to stay positive.
"I don't care if you get 10 no's. The 11th might be a yes," she said.
Taylor, a rising businesswoman in the fashion industry at the age of 16, considers herself the product of those two generations of optimism and preaching success.
"I just have a lot of ideas of my own that I would like to get everybody to be a part of," she said. "In the fashion industry, everybody has a certain view of how models should look, and I want to make a difference, internationally."
Wardell jumped on Tucker's question, "Go to school, get a good education and then do what?" She said it can be easy for young people to want to jump right into a job as a business owner, "but I'm truly a believer that you need to get some experience if you want your business to be successful.
"Say you want to open a restaurant," she continued. "Well go work in someone else's restaurant before you invest your money and somebody else's money into your own. You might see ways of improvement. ... Get mentors, someone you can get some knowledge from."
The Hollands stressed the importance of getting an education not just in the line of work one wishes to pursue but also in business practices. Natalie said she had to take financial classes for good record-keeping and spent a lot of time sitting at the bank.
"We've been blessed that we've been able to pull this off," she said. "Being in business for yourself is 24/7."
Her daughter, Nicole, said if money is an issue, aspiring entrepreneurs can find a company that will pay for them to earn college credits. "Don't let money be a hindrance," she said.
Lynne Gillis, Huntingtown High School business teacher, asked the panel for its thoughts on business courses at the high school level and if they should be given the same weight as other courses that can be transferred for college credit. Moore said he felt they should and also felt the community and families should start emphasizing blue-collar business.
"Now everything is IT, but you still need plumbers, you still need carpenters," he said. "There's no entrepreneurship aggressively being advocated in those programs."
Bowman suggested any local teenagers interested in pursuing their own business consider attending the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 26 at Morgan State University.