3 small-business owners share their stories…and advice for others

At the Queen City Entrepreneurs’ Conference, three small-business owners shared how they overcame fear, financial challenges and even self-doubt.

L-R: Rhonda Caldwell, president of The Main Event Corporate and Social Events; Kia Lyon, owner of Popbar franchise in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood; and Joyce Palmer, CEO and managing partner of JP Financial Group LLC, at the Queen City Entrepreneurs' Conference, Aug. 19, 2017. (Photo:

There is nothing easy about starting and building a business. But when the entrepreneur is African American or even a woman, the challenges are sometimes multiplied.

On Saturday, the Rho Psi Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., hosted its Queen City Entrepreneurs’ conference, an event held to help women build their business skills. The conference was sponsored by Bank of America and Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology.

At a morning session, three women shared their entrepreneurial journeys and how they overcame fear, financial challenges and even self-doubt.

Qcitymetro later asked them to share their best piece of advice for someone looking to launch a business. Here is what they said:

Rhonda Caldwell, president of The Main Event Corporate and Social Events, which launched in 1996. Rhonda shared how, with limited experience, she landed her first contract, with Bank of America, to plan the event surrounding the opening of Hearst Tower in uptown Charlotte.

Rhonda’s Advice: No matter what size your business is, think about your business as the best business there is, because if you don’t believe in your business, it will fail. That’s the biggest thing. I see people who get out the gate and then they kind of get off track, because they didn’t believe in what they were doing. I think that’s a big part. Some people say, ‘Oh, my business is too small.” Well, that’s how I got started, as a small business in comparison to others. A lot of times you look at someone who’s doing great, and you’re thinking, ‘I’m not on that level,’ so you kind of hesitate. But if you believe and think you have one of the best businesses — I am an event planner, and I have one of the best businesses in comparison to the other event planners – they you’re going to compete in that realm and in that circle.


Kia Lyons, who owns a Popbar franchise in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. She operates the business with her husband. Kia said she chose that franchise, rather than others that were more established, because she like to be on the leading edge of what’s hot. Speaking of hot, she launched her business in December 2016, a month that might seem counter-intuitive for a popsicle business. But launching in December, she said, allowed her to ramp up more slowly, and she quickly found herself hiring extra staff.

Kia’s Advice: Even if you are afraid during your process, push through your fear; don’t let it hold you back. For me, because I didn’t have any experience with franchising, hadn’t started a business before, there was a lot of fear of the unknown. But because I felt so strongly about what God wanted me to do, that pushed me to move forward through my fear. Even now, there are still things that I am learning that I don’t know that can give me anxiety, but I push though it anyway.


Joyce Palmer, CEO and managing partner of JP Financial Group LLC, which offers financial planning services for women. The business is now 10 years old. Joyce said she doesn’t see many woman, and even fewer African American, when she attends industry conferences.

Joyce’s advice: Have a business plan, a comprehensive one that not only includes your target market, what makes you unique and what’s going to make you stand out from your competitors, but it also has to obviously talk about money, cash flow, how you are going to get money, how much money do you need. So the first thing is a business plan. It’s the foundation. Once you get out there in the real world, you start getting the experiences, but if you don’t start with the end in mind — what I want it to look like at the end of the picture — then when you get hit with those bumps or those storms, you get off tract because you don’t know what you were actually looking to get at the end. I look at the end result — what do I want it to be at the end? What do I want this business to do for me? What’s my exit plan? One day I’ll sell my business and it will be worth something, but how I get it from A to Z is all the things that are in your plan.

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