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Women glean business tips at workshop

September 25, 2005|By MARIE GILBERT

marieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN

Donna Smith doesn't believe in taking the easy path.

As a young high school graduate, working as a secretary with Allegheny Power, she decided to create her own personal development plan - a plan that included going to college, improving her self-confidence and working her way up the company ladder.

Over 38 years, she did just that, retiring in 1997 as a construction analyst.

Not content to sit still, Smith now has her own part-time, in-home fashion business called Weekenders.

"I love being my own boss," the Hagerstown resident said. "I love the flexibility, I love the opportunities and I love meeting a lot of interesting people."

Smith was among the individuals who attended a women's business roundtable Saturday morning at the Plaza Hotel.

The event was sponsored by the Maryland Federation of Business and Professional Women and the Small Business Development Center, and attracted women from across the state.

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The workshop was held in conjunction with the federation's fall board of directors meeting.

As a federation member, Smith said she has attended similar programs across Maryland.

"It's a great opportunity for women who are small business owners or women interested in getting started in their own business to receive valuable information at an affordable cost," she said.

Smith said the workshop not only offers advice, but supports women in their endeavors.

"So often, women sabotage themselves, saying 'I can't do that.' They're afraid to believe in themselves," she said. "These workshops can help women overcome that negative thinking and identify some of the barriers that are holding them back."

Over the past five years, while attending the workshops, Smith said she has seen an increasing number of women who have gone into business for themselves.

"Some women start up a small business for the extra income," she said. "Many want to balance a career and family, and owning their own business offers flexibility. Today, there are a lot more opportunities to be your own boss."

Brenda McQuait of Greencastle, Pa., is one of those who decided to work for herself in a home-based business.

As an independent representative for Silpada Designs, a sterling silver jewelry company, McQuait said she has found her niche.

"I was introduced to the company by a friend from Philadelphia," she said. "She mailed me a catalog, I took one look at the jewelry and fell in love with it. I knew this was something I would love to do."

McQuait noted that prior to her current job, she was and continues to work part time as a consultant with a national basket company.

"Being your own boss is a woman's dream," she said. "When my children were small, I didn't have to miss their soccer or volleyball games. Now, I have a grandchild and the job offers me the flexibility to spend time with her."

"The number of women interested in starting their own small business is astronomical," said Patricia Crew, a career counselor from Potomac, Md., who was the workshop facilitator.

"Thirty years ago, I saw the influx of women into the work force," she said. "They wanted careers; they wanted to pursue their interests. And they did it.

"Today, women are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of demanding full-time jobs and the demands of their families. Being their own boss allows them to continue to make huge contributions to society while offering them flexibility. I think it's a great way to go."

Many women who come to her know they want to change gears, but are unsure how to go about it, Crew said.

"I help them clarify their values, aptitudes, interests and goals," she said. "Then we mesh them together to find their career direction."

Crew said she counsels a mix of both young and not-so-young females, as well as men.

"Almost everyone is looking for a balance in work and life," she said. "Somewhere, hidden inside, most people know what changes they need to make to achieve that balance. Once they do, it's smooth sailing."

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