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Business success stories, advice on international trade to highlight March conference

Mississippi World Trade Center sets full agenda

Few things are more inspiring than a really good business success story — particularly if you are the entrepreneurial type with lofty ambitions.

Advice on how to achieve success in business, including international trade, is the focus of the upcoming conference “Lighting the Way: Women in Industry and International Trade” planned March 8-9 at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. The conference is being co-sponsored by the Mississippi World Trade Center (MSWTC) and Northrop Grumman Corporation Ship Systems sector.

“People like to hear success stories about how people did it, all the way from very large to very small companies,” said Barbara Travis, executive director of MSWTC. “We want to provide attendees with real life examples and testimonials from women who successfully engage in international business and can provide direction to others. The speakers primarily are private sector. We also will talk about international leadership skills.”

Beyond the border

Travis said the goal of the conference is to encourage women to expand their business efforts beyond U.S. borders and to take advantage of industrial procurement opportunities.

Two years ago the Trade Center hosted a similar event as a market test to see if women would be interested in hearing success stories and testimonials about international business. Approximately 100 people turned out, and many asked the MSWTC to do it again.

“We did find there were a good many women interested in international business,” Travis said. “Almost everyone who attended the first one said on their evaluation sheet that they loved it. From that entrepreneurial aspect, we had a lot of growth from that first conference. But we didn’t feel this type of conference needed to be held every year. We felt it would have more impact if held in alternative years.”

Creativity a hallmark

Travis said statistics from the Small Business Administration (SBA) show that women business growth is really phenomenal. It continues to improve over the years.

“Women are very creative in what they do,” Travis said.

Northrop Grumman officials found out about the conference and were interested in being involved to provide information to small businesses about how to get contracts with the defense giant.

“Northrop Grumman is proud to have the opportunity to co-sponsor this outreach event with the World Trade Center,” said Joan Branson, small business liaison officer with the socio-economic business program at Northrop Grumman Corporation Ship Systems. “We look forward to working with the center on the upcoming conference, ‘Lighting the Way.’ This outreach is bringing together a wealth of information and potential opportunity for Mississippi’s major companies.”

The title of Branson’s presentation will be “Big Opportunities for Small Businesses.” Branson said passing on knowledge of how to do business with Northrop Grumman so potential vendors know where to go and how to obtain information is a very important step.

“The World Trade Center and all the sponsors are providing an opportunity for women in business to network, providing that special connection to expand both their knowledge and business base,” she said.

An evening welcome reception March 8 will kick off the event that is expected to draw participants from four states. On March 9, there will be presentations by Leslie Schweitzer, senior trade advisor with the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., and Carolyn Walsh, regional vice president of UPS in Dallas.

Impressive lineup

First Lady Marsha Barbour is the official conference host, and the South’s only woman governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana, has been invited to give a presentation on “The Power of Partnerships.” A presentation on “De-Mystifying Myths & Mastering Methods of Business in China” is expected to be given by Joan McEntee, chair of the international group of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, Washington, D.C.

Also expected at the conference is Carol Daily, president of Viking Hospitality Group, Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood and owner of The Everyday Gourmet. Daily, who will speak on the topic “Cooking Across Continents: Cross-Cultural Marketing Challenges.”

A musical stage show featuring vocalist Vickie Watters and an import Fashion Show will close the event Wednesday afternoon.

The MSWTC is a non-political, non-profit 501(c)6 organization with a mission to promote international trade, investment and tourism through technology and a global network of business, governmental and educational partners. The center is one of 300 WTCs in more than 90 countries chartered and supported by the World Trade Center Association in New York City. It was established two years ago, becoming the first WTC established after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The SBA, the Mississippi Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Commerce are also involved in the conference, which is expected to attract 250 attendees.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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