Approximately 1,500 women and a few men from throughout much of Southern California —who already are or are interested in becoming small business owners—gathered at the 2013 Connecting Women to Power Business Conference held at California State University, Dominguez Hills on June 28.
The record crowd—with 800 people in the Loker Student Union and a spillover of more than 500 who viewed the keynote session via live video feed in the university theatre—was on hand to gain tips on topics ranging from developing a business plan to marketing and going green through the conference’s various workshops and breakout sessions.
The master of ceremonies, president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development Hyepin Im, introduced several university, community and business leaders, and conference keynote speaker Hilda Solis, the former United States Secretary of Labor for President Barack Obama, who in turn offered welcoming remarks.
“As women in leadership positions, we try to share what ever strength, ability or power that we do have. I think this comes through at conferences like this,” Solis said.
Alumnus Jerome E. Horton (Class of ’79, B.S., business administration), chairman of the California State Board of Equalization (BOE), and his wife, Yvonne Horton, city clerk of Inglewood and chair of the conference planning committee, whose offices organized the event in partnership with CSU Dominguez Hills, were also part of the welcoming lineup. He reminded the women, “Power is measured by one’s ability to empower others.”
“The Connecting Women to Power Conference provides our university an opportunity to inform the future entrepreneurs, and business leaders of tomorrow on how to start developing those skills today,” said David Gamboa, CSU Dominguez Hills director of government and community relations, of the university’s participation in the conference. “It is a great partnership between our university and the California Board of Equalization.”
Throughout the daylong event, which included a professional’s expo and executive luncheon, women were reminded of their strength and were encouraged to tap into it.
Alaina Howard (Class of ’13 B.A., interdisciplinary studies: American service) was moved by a question posed by Kaye Bragg, CSU Dominguez Hills acting assistant vice president of Faculty Development and Academic Affairs and moderator of the session “Strategies for Moving Your Career Forward.” Bragg asked attendees if they knew who they were and how they would present themselves when first meeting people.
“It was really a soul-searching question. How do we really identify ourselves and exactly what we want to do? When we begin a network, what exactly are we saying when we do meet that person and have that five-minute elevator speech,” Howard said. “Because of this, I’m going to redo my plan and ‘lean in’ and rewrite my elevator pitch.”
Former Long Beach Unified School District teacher Nicole Miles was also struck by Bragg’s question.
“She said you have to know who you are. What is your passion? What are your successes? What drives you? Those seemed like easy questions, but when I was in the workshop I couldn’t answer them. Who am I? I know I’m a mom, a teacher … I know I’m more than that, but it’s something that I never really think about. That got me to thinking,” said Miles, who had been laid off from her teaching position and is planning on forming a tutoring business with other laid-off colleagues. “I am coming away with information about how I’m going to define myself and ultimately that will parlay into the type of business person that I want to be, the type of tutoring service that I want to offer.”
To help women who are juggling more than one role, Mary Lou Cappel, professor and program coordinator of Recreation and Leisure Studies at CSU Dominguez Hills, was part of a panel that offered tips on how to manage work and life. In a separate session, Anissa Barton-Thompson, an adjunct faculty member teaching website design and development at the university, shared strategic marketing tactics she has honed and applied during her more than 20-year career of designing award-winning e-commerce, consumer, entertainment, community service and education websites.
CSU alumni were well represented as conference panelists. Offering insights as best practices for starting as well as growing a business were CSU Dominguez Hills alumnae Tonya Haynes (Class of ’05, B.S., business administration), chief efficiency officer for Phoenix Business Development Group, and Bree Nguyen (Class of ’12, B.S., business administration: finance), strategic partnership development officer for Facebook, who offered tips and the tools on how to write a business plan.
Sonya Woods, of Carson, has worked for more than 20 years as an employee of a public health organization that serves veterans and is looking to start her own business that will provide veterans with therapy counseling services and teach them how to navigate the system in order to utilize the resources they need. She attended the conference to connect with other women business owners.
“It’s a way to network with other entrepreneurial women in one room and one place. And it’s right in my back yard!” Woods said of the conference. “I see this is growing and expanding.”