Prince George's County has been fertile ground for black entrepreneurs. There are more than 20,000 black-owned businesses in the county, according to figures from the most recent economic census.
This week, two local groups are holding events to cater to that community and to the county's would-be business owners.
A workshop series called the "Small Business Boot Camp" will feature entrepreneur Michele Hoskins, who appeared on an Oprah Winfrey program this year with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D). The program was about living the American dream.
Hoskins was invited onto the talk show queen's stage because she turned a family recipe into an $8 million dollar food product, Honey Creme Syrup, which is sold at Wal-Mart, Target and Safeway.
Between 4 and 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, the Chicago native will bring her business know-how to the Oxon Hill Library for a seminar called "How to Develop a Product and Take It to Market."
Hoskins, a divorced mother of three, built her successful business on her great-great-grandmother's syrup recipe. To launch it, she sold her home, car and jewelry.
"When I first started, I would make syrup in the basement, and I would take it around to retail stores, and I would tell the merchant, 'If you [sell] it, I will come back and invoice you,' " Hoskins said on Winfrey's show. "Well, I would go back and buy it myself."
The seminar is part of a series of workshops sponsored by Writers Ink Media Services, a local public relations and communications company. Tomorrow's event also will feature local inventors, including Mitchellville resident Utokia Langley, whose cosmetics company, Behold Me, was recently featured in Black Enterprise magazine. Lorton resident Allison Mills, inventor of an organizational tool called the Fridgefile, which attaches to a refrigerator, will attend as well.
The seminar is intended to help aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs learn how to patent their ideas and register their trademarks while networking with suppliers and distributors.
Prince George's Community College also is hosting an event for those interested in starting a business. The Entrepreneur Forum, which will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. today in the college's Kent Hall, will include discussions on marketing, business plans, financing and other business formation issues. It will be hosted by Cathy Bernard, a business management professor at the college who was named the Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year by the Women Business Owners of Montgomery County.
Pepsi's Powerful Player
Derek R. Lewis, who grew up in Washington and worked in Prince George's County, has made it to the black business world's big time, according to Black Enterprise magazine. Lewis, 38, was named this month to the magazine's 2005 "Hot List: America's Most Powerful Players Under 40." Lewis was selected for his work as vice president of retail sales for the Pepsi Bottling Group's Great West Business Unit. Lewis' responsibility at the Fortune 500 company won him the honor because he is an "extraordinary professional" and "superstar" in his industry and his division generates more than $1 billion in annual sales, the magazine said.
Black Enterprise said its biennial list features professionals, entrepreneurs and celebrities who are "transforming industries." The magazine's editors scoured newspapers, magazines and Web sites and talked to national organizations to come up with the list. Along with Lewis, the list includes a few household names, such as newscaster Soledad O'Brien, actor Nick Cannon, music producer Pharrell Williams, hip-hop executive Kevin Liles and singer Beyonce Knowles.
Lewis began his career at Pepsi as an account representative in Baltimore in 1988. He rose through the company in various sales positions in Pepsi Bottling's Chesapeake market, which includes Prince George's County, according to a company spokeswoman.