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La Liga de Las Americas

Mujeres, Peggy Zone Fisher and Elizabeth Kucinich highlight Latina business conference

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Cleveland Correspondent


The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Ohio/Hispanic Business Association held its second annual Ohio Business Women’s Conference & Expo on May 25, 2007, attracting approximately 400 people to the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland.  




Icana Montoc from National City Bank, Carolyn Lee, and Mily Rodríguez-Weiss, at the HBA Latina Expo in Cleveland.


“This year the event is about keeping women informed of the options and tools they have available to keep their businesses competitive and help them form lasting relationships with others, to improve their chances for success,” said Mily Rodríguez-Weiss, board member of the Hispanic Business Association.


The event is a powerhouse of information, resources, and a one-stop remedy for any woman entrepreneur struggling to sustain a business in Ohio. Fifty-one successful women business owners facilitated panels and workshops on financial growth, marketing, sales, and leadership.


The highlight of the conference was the Matchmaker Procurement Event, where more than 25 companies and corporations met privately with women business owners in an effort to increase their diversity supplier base.


Rodríguez-Weiss said it is paramount that women support each other’s business by mentoring and sharing resources. “We can learn from each other’s mistakes and don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.


Rodríguez-Weiss said the most important workshop deals with the role of intuition and emotions for a woman in business. “Don’t deny the most precious gift of femininity, take advantage of it, celebrate the fact you are a woman,” she said.


Keynote speaker Peggy Zone Fisher said women stretch themselves thin in attempts to be successful in the multiple dimension of their lives. “Women attempting to become superwomen, trying to achieve, all feel frazzled and stressed.” She advises striving for harmony and balance rather than perfection; también, adding exercise is the best stress reliever.

Fisher is President/CEO of the Diversity Center, 30-year successful business owner and wife of Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher. She
offered her model of leading a successful business. Fisher advised investment in talented employees, human resources, new technologies, and treating people with respect.


“Make diversity a central guiding value,” she says. Fisher said diversification is not only the moral thing to do but also a smart business strategy.


Fisher said money is often the biggest hurdle most entrepreneurs face while starting a new business.


Rita N. Singh, CPA, said women often overlook proper management of money in their business. “Pay high degree of attention to your balance, do it on a daily basis,” she said.


Mily Rodríguez-Weiss, Peggy Zone Fisher, Elizabeth Kucinich, and Jenice Contreras at the HBA’s Business Women’s Expo.


Sandra Heath, President of Sandra Heath & Associates Inc. agreed and added it is essential to build a relationship with your bank and keep updated financial records. “Banks have a quota to meet, they are looking for small business owners to invest in,” she said.


National City Bank applies its mission by supporting such events and conferences. “National City is committed to expanding the economic development and minority business growth in the region,” said Carolyn Lee, Vice President of Managing Diversity Supplier Development.


Elizabeth Kucinich, Event Co-chair, said the so called “brain drain” in Cleveland is a myth and northeast Ohio has the key ingredients to propel the economic development and transform it into a successful region. She said the region needs to overcome its self criticism and negativity and focus on the strengths.


“When we align our strengths, our weaknesses fall away,” Kucinich said.


The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Ohio (HCCO) is a non-profit organization which grew out of a task force of Latino business owners in 1981, who were alarmed over the low participation in the private and public sector. The association was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1983.


And its mission is to promote Latino business interest and its economic development and expansion through strategic partnerships, technical assistance, and advocacy. For more information visit: http://www.hbahcco.org.


The Hispanic Business Association of Cleveland co-hosted the event. According to HBA President Dan Porras, “Overall the conference was a tremendous success. It attracted small businesses and a lot of corporations. This year’s conference crossed racial lines—in attendance we had a significant number of African-Americans and Hispanics. The diversity of the conference was well balanced. It was also incredible that we had 51 panelists that expressed diverse views on all aspects of business practices.”


Richard Romero, of Latino Media Network based in Lorain, Ohio, informed La Prensa, “It was great to see the interest and energy supporting woman-owned businesses.  The diversity of the exhibitors underlines the value and the power of networking. This conference was all about doing business, learning, and achieving business goals.”


Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.


Nelida I. López examines the displays/booths at the HBA’s annual Ohio Business Women’s Conference and Expo, held on May 25, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.


Daniel Porras, Doug Bennett, and Luis A. Gómez




Rita N. Singh, Sally Heath, and Sandra Kelly.  






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