Karen Orange and her daughter Mia poured over their notes at an open table inside a large auxiliary room in Coppin State University’s Physical Education Complex. They were two of more than 100 entrepreneurs to attend the “Mind Your Business” event hosted by PNC Bank, Times Community Services, Inc, foundation of The Baltimore Times, on October 5, 2019. The unified energy in the room signified everyone’s clear goal: uncover resources to take their businesses to the next level.
Joy Bramble at MYB2019
Orange has been planning events for churches, nonprofits, and schools—at little charge—for 20 years, but now she is ready to monetize her zeal for affairs.
“It’s all about the fun of seeing an empty space transformed into something beautiful,” Orange said with a smile. “And to see how the customer is just in awe of how it all turned out—that’s why we do it… But it is a cost to us, and it’s time to turn it into a full-profit business that brings in income.”
Jane From BreadLife at Mind Your Business 2019
Last year, her daughter Mia helped her create the business name, Orange Dream Events, and she has been on the hunt for resources to scale the business.
“We learned a lot to today, so we are going to go home and digest it,” Mia Orange said. “It’s good to hear about new opportunities. For instance, I didn’t know about the Opportunity Zones or websites that were mentioned in the panel today.”
She is referring to websites, such as Baltimore SourceLink, a free database that itemizes the resources required to launch and maintain a business in Baltimore. The site includes everything from what permit you need by profession to tips on how to hire employees.
In addition to a panel discussion featuring leaders from various business groups, including the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development and the Small Business Administration, the “Mind Your Business” event also included six breakout sessions that dove deeper into topics that typically impede business owners, such as financing, social media marketing, accounting, and legal issues.
Michelle Walker, a baker, attended the CPA and social media breakout sessions. “They touched on every question I had, from what I can write off to building websites and seeking assistance from an accountant,” she said.
Walker, along with her mother and sister drove an hour and a half from Delaware to attend the “Mind Your Business” event. “It was well worth it. This was a good place to start learning things I didn’t know, and it turns out, there’s a lot I don’t know,” she said with a laugh. Walker is looking to grow her word-of-mouth cookie side hustle into a brand that ships baked goods nationwide.
Some presenters, such as Everett Sands from Lendistry, were brutally honest about the demands of starting a business. As an underwriter, Sands said he throws out hundreds of business plans a year except the ones that prove the entrepreneurs know how to handle debt, like student loans, and if they have the capacity to repay.
“Give me a scenario when you have executed,” he said during his breakout session on business financing. “That’s why they say it’s ideal to start a business after you have paid off your debts….Most lenders want to see two years of business experience and that means two years of filed taxes and they want to know when you became official with the state.”
Other exhibitors made it clear that entrepreneurship is also attainable through alternative lenders. Baltimore Business Lending, which provides micro-loans ranging from $10,000-$50,000 to start-up businesses and Kiva, a crowdfunding platform that allows business owners to raise up to $10,000 in interest-free loans, both had representatives at the seminar.
The “Mind Your Business” event also proved motivational during a breakout session on side hustling. Attendees were encouraged to combat procrastination by constantly reminding themselves why they wanted to start their businesses.
“Having a support system is great, but no one is going to be sitting up at 2 a.m. sending out invoices for you,” said presenter Karissa Carson, a women empowerment brunch organizer.
“You have to be self-motivated.”
For the mother and daughter team of Orange Dream Events, these types of messages are their driving force.
“We don’t want to just jump out there as a business,” said Mia Orange. “We want to attend conferences like this, actually get the market research, and push ourselves, so we can scale up.”
The younger Orange says events like “Mind Your Business” are crucial for communities in Baltimore.
“If somebody is not really searching hard for all these resources, they may never find them,” she said. “And it’s something special about having all of these people here in one place to get the answers you need to grow your business.”