Ginna Barilone’s friends know all about her Mzz B Productions, a business she started after a sudden and painful divorce two years ago. However, what most probably know little about is just how this Haitian immigrant started an entertainment company with less than $500 that is now taking Baltimore by storm.
“I created a website and designed business cards,” Barilone said. “I knew I needed the educational piece so I quit a dead-end job and I went back to school to earn a second degree in business management and a certification in entrepreneurship.”
Mzz B Productions, which has selective band combos, is a fee-based entertainment company that offers dance and other styles of bands and solo performers, including Barilone who has performed at weddings, casinos, and various other locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington.
The company’s “MELo” band consists of an electric variety of local musicians who perform jazz, Latin fusion and a blend of songs from artists like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and others. They perform at parties, weddings, private events and a host of other functions.
However, the business hasn’t been all glitz and glamour for Barilone, particularly as a black woman business owner.
“It’s challenging as a black woman living in Baltimore and being a full-time student. I don’t qualify for any loans or funding,” she said.
Then, there is also the lack of financial backing and expertise that other established entertainment companies possess, said Barilone, who has also had to contend with stereotypes.
While growing up, she was told that Haiti was the poorest country in the world and that many who hailed from that nation rarely accomplished anything useful.
“Some days, my sisters and I fought with [both] black and white kids our age going to and coming from school,” said Barilone, who grew up in Queens, N.Y. “At some point, I stopped telling people where I was born, [but] I had to carry my green card everywhere until I eventually became a U.S. citizen,” said Barilone, who immediately noted that she’s proud of her Haitian heritage.
She pointed out that her father spoke six languages, as a school principal in Haiti and her mother is a second-generation niece of the former Haitian President Florvil Hyppolite, who served in that capacity from 1889 to 1896.
While it didn’t begin as she initially envisioned it would, Barilone’s entertainment business has started to flourish. This year, she finished second in the Business Innovative Competition at The Community College of Baltimore County after previously winning the Dundalk Idol and Baltimore Idol contests, which is now called “The Voice of Baltimore” competition.
“In one year, I went from booking 15 gigs, to having a total of 37,” Barilone said. “My business began with a passion, concept and a mission.”
Barilone has also displayed a philanthropic side, introducing a $500 scholarship program named “Mzz B’s Music and Dreams Scholarship,” which she awards to four students majoring in business, music and audio productions. Ultimately, she hopes her business’ success will allow her to give out 25 scholarships per year.
“Philanthropists inspire me. I believe that we are all philanthropists if we tap into our humanity and forget about self-interest for a change,” Barilone said. “I’ve had to reflect on the countless challenges of being a single mother raising children. My daughter Jade now 26 and my son Jordan, 22, motivate me.”
For more information about Mzz B Productions or to make a booking for weddings, parties and other gatherings, visit: www.mzzbncompany.com