A recession, rising unemployment and tightening credit. A group of local women look at those conditions and see one thing: A perfect environment in which to launch a business.
The Rho Psi Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority next month will sponsor a business expo aimed at women and minorities who want to run their own companies.
“When people are faced with the fear of losing their career on a traditional path, this is what I believe forces (them) to look at alternatives,” said Nikki Benton, marketing co-chairwoman for the Feb. 7 event. “We’ve been planning this for eight or nine months before the economy started to go south. (But) I think it’s really timely now that people come out and discover new ways to support themselves and their families.”
The RPO Minority Business Expo will feature vendors to small businesses, a panel discussion about entrepreneurial issues and guest speaker Lisa Wu Hartwell, a star on the Bravo reality series “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and owner of jewelry, clothing and real estate businesses.
The sorority – which just celebrated its 100th anniversary – has a long history in promoting advancement among women. Founded at Howard University, the group’s founders, just one generation removed from slavery, aimed to extend a life of service beyond the college campus.
This year, the need to encourage nontraditional entrepreneurs is a particular focus, Benton said.
“Maybe that second job is a stay-at-home job,” she said. “It seems like there are more women who are dabbling on the side (and) we have our corporate day job.”
Benton herself followed that path: At her day job, she’s an interactive content editor, but on the side she runs a digital scrap booking business.
“I know a lot of my sorority sisters who have a higher-level education and they, including me, did it online or did it in the evenings, and now they can get back into the market teaching courses,” Benton noted.
The expo aims to give people courage to step out, even in tough economic times, said Benton. “I see these next few years with the economy being a time when people create new innovations,” she said. “We want to encourage people to start their own businesses.”
IF YOU WANT TO GO?
Where: Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St.
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7
Cost: Admission is free
To learn more, go to: www.businessexporpo.com.