Owners Discuss Struggles And Triumphs

By Andrew Brown
The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.

Belle Manjong has lost countless hours of sleep as a result of her work schedule, and refers to her event planning business as her baby.

As the owner of B. Belle Events Custom Planning and Design in Charleston, Manjong has transitioned from practicing law to managing accounts and marketing efforts, and the mental and emotional weight of operating her own business has taken a toll on her at times.

“There were days when I said, ‘I can’t handle another ounce of stress,'” she said.

But the small-business owner told a large crowd of current and prospective business owners at the Charleston Civic Center that her experience with entrepreneurship has also been rewarding, even if it has pushed her limits.

“It will consume you,” she said. “It will take over every aspect of your life.”

On Wednesday, Manjong was among a handful of speakers at the West Virginia Office of Minority Affairs’ second Minority Business Expo.

At the event, more than 300 registered attendees at the expo were able to network with local, state and federal business development officials and pick up the skills necessary to operate a business.

“If you are failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” Manjong said.

Carolyn Stuart, the Office of Minority Affairs executive director, said the event gave small and minority business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn about aspects of operating a business, like financial lending, business accounting and targeted marketing.

“We know there is a small minority population across the state, but we don’t need to be small minded,” Stuart said.

The expo was designed to take new and prospective business owners from start to finish, teaching them the ins and outs of operating a company day-to-day, Stuart said. She said people should leave the event saying, “I didn’t know that existed.”

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