By Ed Meyer
The Akron Beacon Journal.
Her mother made her go, but in the end 12-year-old Hali Bridges had to be thankful for her ringside seat Saturday at a business workshop for black youths hoping to become entrepreneurs.
The session, part of the Code Akron Youth Workshop program sponsored by social-media marketer Kevin Lockett of Lockett Media, was held on the fifth-floor Bit Factory complex in the former B.F. Goodrich buildings in the 500 block of South Main Street in Akron.
Lockett was hoping for a turnout similar to the one in June, when about 15 young people attended a session on computer coding for websites, software and mobile apps.
On a chilly, overcast Saturday, however, Hali was lucky to be one of only three in attendance at a two-hour workshop for students interested in the basics of putting together a business and marketing plan.
Hali, who attends St. Paul Catholic School, had a one-on-one training session from SCORE counselor DeWayne Lockhart, a retired vice president and general manager of the Northeast division of the Dr. Pepper/Seven Up soft-drink manufacturing company.
Hali said that she wants to become a NASA astronomer, but for now she’s hoping to start her own baby-sitting business.
Lockhart had her undivided attention as he discussed some of the preliminary steps.
“I know what it is to work in corporate America,” Lockhart said, “but you should always have a dream of your own.”
Marketing 101, he said, is to know who your customers are so that you can wisely spend your time, energy and resources.
The first thing that he told Hali to decide is the age group of the children she’ll be caring for, with the advice that toddlers from 2 to 4 might be best.
“If I trust you with my toddlers,” Lockhart said, “you have to prove to me that you’re a very responsible person who’s going to watch them when I’m not there. And that’s part of your plan — how do you convince me that you’ll be a good baby sitter, versus a friend, a cousin or a person down the street who might be a better baby sitter than you.
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To set herself apart, Lockhart told Hali to plan a series of activities for baby-sitting sessions of two hours, four hours, six hours or a weekend.
“Make that part of your business plan when you try to sell it — the activities,” he said.
Two University of Akron students, Peter Okwuosah, 25, a junior electrical engineering major from Columbus, and Ebanee Bond, 25, a junior mechanical engineering major from Mansfield, also attended the workshop.
Okwuosah, who is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), said he attended the session to be able “to positively impact the community.” He said it’s part of the society’s mission statement.
Attending the computer coding workshop in June, Okwuosah said, “made learning about engineering fun.”
“When you learn the coding, you can create anything you want. This one,” he said, “is like the next step.”