DEARBORN, Mich. — It is possible to be profitable if you’re a female business owner during our nation’s struggling economy. Three successful business owners addressed the annual Women and Leadership in the Workplace conference, hosted by the Michigan Business and Professional Association. It took place last Thursday at the Fairlane Club in Dearborn. Distinguished Service Awards were also presented during the conference to a group of women who encourage education, leadership, high professional standards and equal opportunities.
The theme of this year’s conference was “A New You for a New Time.” WDIV-TV Local 4 Vice President and General Manager Marla Drutz gave the welcome and kickoff to the event.
Panelists included Christina Lovio-George, President & CEO of Lovio George Inc., Philanthropist Sue Nine, and MGM Grand Detroit Senior V.P. of Public Affairs Juliette Thorpe Okotie-Eboh. Dr. Glenda Price, President of Marygrove College, served as the moderator of the discussion.
“I think there is an enormous amount of energy in gatherings like this and we have Ed Deeb to thank for convening us,” Lovio-George said. “When I started the agency in 1982, there weren’t a lot of women-owned businesses in business. I didn’t have a lot to draw on. Even though I had a very strong grandmother and a very strong mother, I think most of my early mentors were men. When I opened the business on Forest and Third, everyone thought the brains flew out of my head. There wasn’t a lot of support, I guess, in those early years.”
A Styleline Magazine Fashion Show that highlighted business casual attire took place during the conference. Karen Buscemi, editor of StylelineMagazine, described the models as they walked on stage. Models came out in business casual attire and got transformed for a night on the town. Just add jewelry to your work outfit and you’ll be good to go.
“I have not technically ever run a business, but I have been involved in, three dozen 501(c)3 operations,” Nine said. “When I think about the defining moment that changed my career, I would say that my parents were my best mentor. My mother, more interestingly then my father, she always believed that her daughter could do anything, didn’t matter what it was, that I would do it well. My father, I think, was a bit more of a skeptic, but he gave me the greatest gift of my life. I began college as a full scholarship student in the college of nursing. My mother was a nurse, my aunt was a nice. I never really anticipated that I would do anything but be a nurse.”
Distinguished Service Awards were presented at the end of the conference. Categories include lifetime achievement, media, professional, business, human services, small business and civic and community involvement. Honorees include Terry Barclay, President and CEO of Inforum Michigan; Dr. Cheryl Gibson Fountain, President of the Wayne County Medical Society; Kathy Wilbur, Interim President of Central Michigan University; Susie Ellwood, CEO of the Detroit Media Partnership; Faye Alexander Nelson, CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy; and Mariam C. Nolan, President of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.
“I think the defining moment for me came from learning to be accountable and responsible for my life, ” Okotie-Eboh said. “At the end of the day, I would encourage all of us to not necessarily look for one person that is going to be the beam of life to guide you through whatever. It’s the small gifts that you get everyday from people, from women in particular that can move you forward. I went to a traditionally black college at Hampton University in Virginia and I did what most young women did in the ’60s. That was primarily party. I studied in my spare time. It was just a wonderful experience meeting people from all over the country.”
There were various non-profit booths located throughout the conference. Free blood pressure screenings were also offered to all attendees.