The proposed merger between Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions, Inc. has led to concerns that the deal will cause an increase in drug prices and decrease competition.
Express Scripts and Medco are two of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). As PBMs, the companies broker prescription drug contracts for employers, unions and health plans.
Last July, Missouri-based Express Scripts announced that it would purchase Medco for $29 billion. If the merger is approved, the combined company would administer 1.14 billion prescriptions annually and handle 40 percent of all drugs administered by PBMs. The merged company would control the majority of the market place in several key areas, including mail order and specialty pharmacy drugs.
“We will lower drug costs that are far too high and improve health outcomes for consumers. As the big drug companies merge, as large chain drug stores buy up their competition and demand higher prices, we must become more effective representing the interests of plan sponsors and consumers. Patients — not profits — must come first,” said George Paz, chairman, president and CEO, Express Scripts.
While Express Scripts and Medco say the combined company’s scale would give it substantial buying power to drive down drug prices and lead to lower costs for consumers, some consumer advocates are questioning whether the projected savings will be passed on to consumers.
The merger is being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission, which will determine whether it will approve the deal.
Various politicians, supermarket associations, consumer groups, chain drug stores and community pharmacists have lobbied against the merger.
“I’m opposed to this merger for these reasons — it would increase costs. It would reduce access to quality health care and it would impact independent pharmacists and community pharmacists by reducing their business opportunities and their employment,” said Eva Clayton, a former member of Congress and chair of the Preserve Community Pharmacy Access Now, a national coalition of consumers, businesses and community-based pharmacists who oppose the merger.
Clayton noted that the proposed deal could cause increased costs for community pharmacies which would adversely impact minorities and poor people in urban areas who rely on them for access to medications, health screenings and prescription counseling.
“Access to that health care is threatened if these community pharmacists aren’t able to make enough profit to stay in business,” Clayton said during a Tribune editorial board meeting.
FTC Spokesperson Mark Block would not comment about when the commission is expected to vote on the deal.
In an opinion column opposing the merger, Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said the stakes are higher for African Americans than the average American consumer.
“If prices go up, as expected under this merger, and community pharmacies are no longer able to compete in the hostile climate created by the PBMs, African Americans throughout the country will lose access to needed medications and other pharmacy services,” Alford wrote.
“This is disturbing in light of existing health disparities. African Americans are more likely to be afflicted with life-threatening diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer than whites. Infant mortality is higher. We are less likely to be immunized against common, easily-preventable illnesses. So the convenient, localized services provided by community pharmacies in our neighborhoods are especially important.”
Express Scripts and Medco have delayed closing the merger, which gives the FTC more time to finish assessing the deal. In previous statements, Express Scripts said it expected the merger to close by the end of the first half of the year. Express Scripts provided the new timeframe in a regulatory filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Medco and Express Scripts continue to work with the FTC and expect that the mergers will be completed by the earlier part of the second quarter of 2012,” said the Express Scripts filing.
As the owner and principal engineer of NWAN Consulting, Oke Nwaneshiudu heads a local professional services consulting firm that specializes in construction management of vehicle fuel storage and dispensing systems, vehicle maintenance facilities and sites.
December marked the grand opening of NWAN’s new offices, located at 53rd Street and Cedar Avenue in West Philadelphia.
“This is dream that I’ve always had. I’m just happy to see it come to fruition,” Nwaneshiudu, 34, said in regard to launching his business.
“There were a lot of challenges in starting the firm, and there still are. I feel like it’s a worthwhile venture.”
He’s had to face the challenge of being an African American in an industry that has few minorities.
While his business is located in an area not typical for professional services firms, Nwaneshiudu views the West Philadelphia community as an ideal fit.
Nwaneshiudu says NWAN is poised for significant growth. He’s gone from being a one-man operation to planning for the addition of 10 employees in the next six months.
Prior to officially incorporating NWAN in May, Nwaneshiudu worked at a local consulting firm for six years where he served as a project manager.
The firm assists municipalities and private companies that own a fleet of vehicles such as buses, planes and corporate vehicles.
NWAN’s services are geared toward clients such as state agencies, state fire marshals, major cities, major regional, international airport authorities, municipalities and townships.
Nwaneshiudu says that being a niche-based business and having repeat clients has been a critical aspect of his success during this down economy.
“For a small business it’s very important to have a niche area of service,” he said.
“A lot of the work we do is ongoing work. If you build a system for a client, they have to come back. You want them to come back to you.”
For instance, Nwaneshiudu gave an example of how his firm provides services for entities that have fueling stations.
“If you have a fueling dispenser, underneath that dispenser, you have a containment that prevents any spills from going into the earth and contaminating the environment,” he said.
“That containment by state law has to be kept clean at all times. Over time they get dirty, so (the client) comes to me and I will arrange the coordination of the cleaning, so it doesn’t matter if the economy is rough or the economy is great, they have to be cleaned.”
Nwaneshiudu credits organizations such as Widener University Small Business Development and the Partnership CDC with helping him to succeed.
In addition to running his firm, Nwaneshiudu is a praise and worship leader at his church, 2nd Baptist Church in Media, and co-founder of a local Christian contemporary band called the “One Sound Mission” Band.
Nwaneshiudu is a native of Nigeria, West Africa. He relocated to the United States at an early age and grew up in North Philadelphia.
Nwaneshiudu has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Temple University, and a master’s in civil engineering and doctorate in interdisciplinary civil engineering, water management and hydrology from Texas A&M University.
The year 2012 may be prime time for a Northwest Philadelphian with an enterprising and philanthropic mind to start a non-profit.
With the upcoming welfare reforms, more and more of those recipients may have to volunteer for a non-profit to receive benefits if they cannot secure a paying job.
Or, one may have an idea for a community or church project to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods such as Mount Airy, West Oak Lane, Germantown and East Falls.
Help is on the way.
The Mount Airy Learning Tree, or MALT, is introducing a new course called, “How to Obtain 501(c)(3) Tax-Exemption and Keep It.” The course will be held at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia’s Hagan Hall Amphitheater, 7301 Germantown Ave. beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Registration is now open for the four-session course that will be held every Wednesday until Feb. 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“This course is for representatives of community and faith-based organizations, incorporated or unincorporated,” said Jonna Naylor, executive director of MALT. “Ari Merretazon has over 30 years in organizational development, program development, resource development, project management and acquisition of tax-exempt status for faith-based and community organizations.
“He is a community economic development practitioner offering specialized services and technical assistance in fundraising, proposal writing, project management and faith-based community economic development,” she added.
The course will address many questions. Among them are: what does it mean to be a tax-exempt organization? How does one complete the IRS Form 1023? What supporting documents and attachments does one need to comply with federal non-profit regulations?
Those who register for the course are expected to engage in hands-on projects. This means that each participant is expected to work on an actual application for non-profit tax-exemption for an organization during the class.
MALT is a community service organization founded in 1980. It boasts of celebrating the diversity of Northwest Philadelphia by bringing together neighbors to share a variety of ideas, information and skills in informal learning environments throughout the Mount Airy area. The non-profit group offers more than 250 courses three times a year in the fall, winter and spring.
Classes are held in local churches, schools, businesses, homes or even outdoors in the Wissahickon park area. The group operates with a small, part-time staff and volunteer board. For registration information for the non-profit class, visit http:www.mtairylearningtree.org/RegistrationForm.pdf. For more information about MALT drop by 6601 Greene St., call (215) 843-6333 or visit www.mtairylearningtree.org.
Business community says education critical to prosperity, growth
As he addressed the region’s business leaders, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Chairman William P. Hankowsky said public education must be a top priority for the organization.
“There are few issues more important to the success of society than the state of its education system and how it prepares its kids for the future,” Hankowsky said speaking to more than 1,500 business leaders who gathered at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Friday morning.
“As a chamber our mission is clear. We’re to attract, retain and grow jobs in the Greater Philadelphia area. It may not be as clear why the chamber would want to be involved directly in education, but as a business person you know how important it is to have a talented and prepared workforce for the future of your organization.”
He noted that only 34 percent of Philadelphia public high school graduates go on to obtain a higher education.
“For the Greater Philadelphia region to grow, we must do a better job at educating our children and preparing them for the jobs of the 21st century,” Hankowsky said.
With that in mind, Hankowsky said over the next several months, a group of chamber members will develop a strategy on how the business community can help improve public education in Philadelphia. The strategy would offer practical solutions in the areas of leadership and help the school district operate more efficiently.
“This is a multi-year strategy that will require a significant investment of your time and your resources on the part of our overall business community,” he said.
“Simply put, Philadelphia must produce more high school graduates who are positioned in numerous disciplines for the workforce. If businesses cannot find workers they need close to home, a lot of them are forced to expand elsewhere and we cannot prosper without those schools.”
The organization will also focus on membership, advocacy, public policy and economic growth over the next four years.
Chamber president and CEO Rob Wonderling gave an overview of the organization’s strides throughout the year.
“During this past year, we now set a high standard for diversity and inclusion. We’ve grown our CEO Access Network, our Suppliers Network and our Diversity and Inclusion Officers Council because we firmly believe that a diverse and inclusive business community, and a diverse and inclusive civic community, is absolutely the foundation to economic prosperity,” Wonderling said.
During the event, ABC “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer discussed the economy and world affairs in an interview with Jim Gardner of 6ABC Action News.
Independence Blue Cross is introducing lower prices for new small business customers.
Effective December 1, IBC would begin offering new medically underwritten PPO, HMO and direct point of service Blue Solutions to small businesses that are new customers.
“The men and women who own and operate the tens of thousands of small businesses in our region face unique challenges when choosing health coverage — challenges that we understand — and we are committed to offering small businesses health plans that fit,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, IBC’s president and CEO.
“We are expanding the number of choices small businesses have for health coverage and offering highly competitive rates for new small business customers — as much as 30 percent lower than rates we previously offered.”
With the introduction of the new plans, IBC becomes the only health insurer in the region offering a medically underwritten HMO to small businesses.
In January, IBC introduced Blue Solutions, a streamlined suite of health plans that offer ways to help businesses with fewer than 50 employees control expenses.
“As a result, about half of our customers with 10 to 50 employees got premium rate reductions when they renewed their health coverage with us for 2011,” said Brett Mayfield, vice president of sales.
“When we begin to offer medically underwritten plans in December to small businesses that are new or former IBC customers, we will also be able to provide lower, more affordable rates than in the past to many more small employers.”
The new HMO health plan with medically underwritten pricing will help small businesses that want to lower costs while still satisfying their employees’ preference for Blue health plans.
Starting October 3, IBC will begin providing initial rate quotes for these new medically underwritten health plans to potential new small employer customers with two to 50 employees. Generally, businesses whose employees need fewer health care services qualify for lower rates.
“IBC’s move to medical underwriting for small group customers is a boost for many small business owners in the region,” said Jerry McGlone, president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Health Underwriters (GPAHU), the region’s broker association.
“With the new rating methodology in place, I would expect IBC to be more aggressive in its pricing, which will result in increased competition among the major carriers and more options for small employers.”
IBC is the only insurer in the Philadelphia market that has not been medically underwriting health plans for small employers. Since competitors began offering exclusively medically underwritten coverage to small businesses in 2003, IBC has lost a significant number of customers as small employers with more healthy employees left IBC for the lower, medically underwritten rates available through other health insurers. For many small group customers who wanted a Blue health plan, there was no affordable Blue option.
“This change for small businesses can provide lower costs for many customers because it levels the playing field among all carriers, and allows the risk to be more evenly distributed across insurers, while also creating an easier transition into 2014, when health care reform takes effect,” said George Rosiak, general agent for Emerson Reid & Co. in Plymouth Meeting.
“This also creates greater opportunity for clients to benefit from their brokers’ expertise in a more competitive marketplace.”
Rosiak, who serves a large number of small business customers, added that in working with new customers, he recommends they shop the market to find the best possible fit for their businesses. With all carriers offering similar rating criteria, he would recommend customers base their buying decisions on network, carrier stability, personal demographics, and selecting a brand they trust.
Mayfield expressed how the pricing for IBC’s new small business will work.
When a small business expresses interest to its broker in a health plan from IBC, he said, the broker will provide IBC basic demographic information about the company’s employees and will request a rate quote. IBC will then provide an initial quote, based on the employees’ age and gender information and the assumption that the employees are healthy, Mayfield said.
Then the broker will ask the business’s employees to complete questionnaires about their medical histories over the past five years, he said. IBC underwriters then review the questionnaires to provide a final premium rate quote, on average, within three business days, Mayfield concluded.
“We care about all of our customers and our current small business customers will continue to get competitive rates when they renew their contracts,” Mayfield said.
He explained that beginning in January 2011, IBC changed how it set rates for its renewing small businesses and began basing rates on five factors: age, gender, location, size and claims experience.
IBC continues to use this pricing methodology for current customers, and this year, 47 percent of customers with 10 to 50 employees got rate reductions with their plan renewals, while 70 percent got new rates that were below medical cost trend, which is a measure of the increase in the costs of medical services.
Before January 2011, IBC provided pricing for new and existing small business customers based primarily on three demographic factors — the age, gender, and family status of those enrolled.
As the founder of Black MBA Women, Daria Burke is striving to build a strong network of professional women.
Burke, who is a graduate of the New York University Stern School of Business, left her position as director of makeup marketing for Estée Lauder to launch an organization that focused on connecting women who hailed from the nation’s top tier business schools.
While enrolled at NYU, Burke was one of nine Black women in a class of 411 students. Post-MBA, Burke built a marketing career in the beauty industry. Over the years, the Detroit native spent a significant amount of time interacting with young women and talking to them about the value of obtaining an MBA.
When Burke first formed Black MBA Women in April 2012, she tapped into her personal network of about 60 women and reached out MBA student organizations. Since its inception, Black MBA Women has grown to a network of 500 women from across the country, primarily through grassroots efforts and social media.
“Most of these women are coming to this organization because they want to connect with each other, and they want to swap stories about what their career experiences have been like,” said Burke who is based in New York.
Burke says about 65 percent of the women who are in the network are post-MBA, while the remaining 35 are currently enrolled in business school.
Burke says those who are pursuing their MBAs can tap into networking opportunities as they search for internships and jobs, while those who are post-MBA can use the network to help build their clientele base and business contacts.
Women have also turned to the network as a place where they can make new friends.
“For me it’s been really rewarding, because I initially launched into this thinking that it was going to be all career and professional development and I think the women in the network look for personal development and personal connections just as much as they want that career piece of it,” Burke said.
For spring 2013, Burke is launching a Web series titled “Conversations in the C-Suite” where women will share their stories about how they built a successful career.
“There are a lot of Black women out there who have incredible careers and they go unrecognized. No one is telling their stories. No one is putting the spotlight on them,” Burke said.
She wants to inspire the next generation of Black women business leaders.
“It’s so important for young girls to see the bigger range of our stories. When you look at us in the portrayal of the media our stories are so underrepresented,” she says.
To that end, the network’s website blackmbawomen.com highlights women executives such as Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO, Xerox; Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam’s Club and Pamela Edwards, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Victoria’s Secret.
The women who are a part of the network must be alumni of/or enrolled in one the nation’s top 25 business schools.
One question that Burke often hears is why membership in Black MBA Women is currently open to only those who were educated in top-tier schools.
“I want to challenge our definition and our idea of excellence. I think that we need to be willing to challenge ourselves and think about what it means to be excellent,” Burke said.
“So when I’m looking to inspire the next generation of Black women who are going to business school, I want them to go to the best school they can,” she said noting that Fortune 100 and 500 companies often recruit from top-tier institutions.
“I want them to have access to the best career opportunities, the best network and the most influential network and be poised to have the highest salaries. Whether people like it or not, you have to go to a top school to be able to achieve that. I’m not excluding or eliminating people but I want to challenge our definition of what it means to be excellent and strive for that.
Burke has worked in brand management at L’Oreal USA on the Lancome and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté brands, developing and implementing strategic brand positioning of the beauty and fragrance categories. She sits on the Stern Alumni Council and serves as chair of the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS) Alumni Group. She is a member of Cosmetic Executive Women and the Step Up Women’s Network in New York.
The Business Center for Entrepreneurs and Social Enterprise, at 7500 Germantown Ave., held its annual awards celebration and fundraising reception titled "Best Practices in Action" last Friday.
This event was held to honor clients’ collaborative and corporate partners who have demonstrated the best practices in leveraging technology, building stronger business relationships and using environmental-friendly services and products.
The Business Center gives those in the area a chance to build on their own businesses, learn new ways to improve their services, and even provides classes for those who are curious on how to start. Pamela Rich-Wheeler, executive director and co-founder of The Business Center, tries to emphasize to members that starting a local business begins with a plan, because that provides the "foundation of success."
"[The Business Center] was created in December of 1999," Rich-Wheeler said. "Our mission is to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to start expanding their enterprises."
To help toward building a person's knowledge base for a business, The Business Center provides a variety of programs and workshops.
There is a 13-week course workshop, specifically designed to help the growing entrepreneur to write up a business plan. Additionally, there are also workshops on business management and planning, business systems, marketing public relations, business law, and a Young Urban Entrepreneurs program.
"We work with adults and youth," Rich-Wheeler said. "Our primary age for adults would normally start at age 30. We serve all ages; for youths, we usually start from seven to 17."
A membership costs $50. This fee covers special savings on classes, networking events and seminars and a subscription to "Inc" or "Black Enterprise" magazine.To sign up for the membership, you can either apply via website, at www.TheBizCtr.com, or manually at The Business Center's physical address.
"The membership is designed for people that are either aspiring entrepreneurs or [for those] that are connected to the resources that we have available," Rich-Wheeler said. "There's no other requirement other than your interest in being an entrepreneur. Or, if you're an existing entrepreneur and you just want to stay connected to the resources. This is a way to do it at a discount."
For those who have an niche in accounting, finance, human resource, legal or the marketing business, The Business Center also provides resources to help increase your knowledge. The group has an opportunity for those who would like to apply for an unpaid internship for the Youth Entrepreneurship Coordinator position, which will give the intern a chance the opportunity to work with the director of educational programs, to help enlarge their thinking and life experiences, develop their transferable skills, as well as help build their self- esteem and confidence, according to the website.
"The individuals that take our workshops on creating their own business, from what I seen, I've seen them start within six months," Rich-Wheeler said. "It can range from six months to 24 months, depending on the licensing and the barriers, as well as the industry that they're exploring."
The Business Center plan to create more awareness by collaborating with other partner organizations, as well as starting a social enterprise. Rich-Wheeler states that they want to start looking for other strategies for businesses to have traditional and non-traditional forms of financing.
"We plan to invest our time in looking at some of this models, to find resources, to our small businesses," she said.
For those who are interested in joining the basic-level winter course business classes, they start up Jan. 22, and will be every Tuesday until Apr. 9. For the more advance courses, they begin Jan. 24, and will be every Thursday until Apr. 11. For more information about The Business Center, visit the website or set up an interview on Friday by calling (215) 247-2473.
Wil Reynolds has carved out a niche when it comes to driving traffic to sites from search engines.
Reynolds is the founder of SEER Interactive, a search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) agency based in the city’s Northern Liberties section.
He founded SEER Interactive in 2002, as a home-based operation. Today the firm, which now has 60 employees, is considered one of the city’s fastest growing companies. SEER Interactive has netted the award for Philly’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies four years in a row, 2008 through 2012.
Reynolds said the company’s growth has been driven by clients who spread the word about its ability to deliver measurable results.
“We always felt that if we were leaders in our industry and we did great job for our clients, that we would have more than enough opportunity coming our way, and for the first 10 years of our existence that’s been true,” said Reynolds, who is 36.
The firm offers SEO, paid search marketing, conversion maximization and analytics services to clients ranging from education to healthcare, e-commerce and pharmaceutical and technology companies.
Despite the down economy, SEER Interactive continues to grow.
“The work that we do is measurable, so there is no ambiguity as to whether or not we’re having an impact for our clients. Either we are or we aren’t. I think that attracts marketing dollars in a down economy,” said Reynolds
Now the company seeks to expand its international footprint.
“We decided to throw our hat in the ring, primarily by helping existing clients that are expanding internationally - and after we get that moving, the goal would be to build a team in Europe,” says Reynolds.
Reynolds was honored on November 15 with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year award. He was one of 10 recipients of the Chamber’s 2013 Excellence Awards which acknowledge the accomplishments of small businesses, and the contributions that they make to the regional economy. The awardees were nominated by their peers throughout the 11-county region.
Reynolds regards the award from the chamber as a testament to his team’s hard work.
“I do truly believe that we work with a really good and amazing group of people and I think that when you are awarded something like this it allows that to be highlighted,” Reynolds said in reference to the honor from the chamber.
He noted that the award could also help SEER Interactive with its efforts in company recruitment.
“We’re trying to attract people from all over the country to relocate to Philly to work with us, and I think some of these things help make SEER more of a solid company in some people’s eyes,” he said.
Reynolds joins the following awardees: Avi Golen, Revolutionary Recovery, Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Nigro’s Auto Body, Customer Service Excellence of the Year; Perryman Building and Construction Services, Family Business of the Year; Spike’s Trophies, Manufacturer of the Year; Pathways PA, Nonprofit of the Year; Brownfield Science and Technology, Professional Services Excellence of the Year; Philadelphia Runner, Retailer of the Year; Jade Yoga, Sustainable Business of the Year and Pace Controls, Technological Excellence of the Year.
“The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is honored to recognize the small businesses that are moving our region forward,” Chamber President and CEO Rob Wonderling said in a release.
“These winners’ inspirational stories and successes reflect the entrepreneurial culture that is Greater Philadelphia and highlight the impact that small businesses have on our regional economy.”
Reynolds is focused on building a team that can work with the right type of clients.
“We’re fortunate to be in the kind of industry that I believe that if we put together the right team of people who can create success for our clients, then there is really no limit to what we can do,” he added.
Reynolds began his career at a web marketing agency named Netmarketing in 1999, where he spearheaded the SEO strategies for companies including Barnes and Noble, Disney, Doubleclick, Hotjobs and Mercedes Benz.
Valerie Erwin has taken a step towards propelling her business in a new direction.
As the owner of Geechee Girl Rice Café, Erwin is one of 44 women entrepreneurs who won the Make Mine a Million $ (M3 1000) business event’s pitch competition.
Held by nonprofit Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, the initiative is geared towards inspiring 1,000 women entrepreneurs to meet the $1 million revenue mark in 18 to 36 months.
More than 200 participants turned out for a business growth event held at Philadelphia’s Doubletree Hotel. During the program, 79 women delivered a two-minute pitch before an audience of judges where they explained why their company could grow into a $1 million enterprise. Participants hailed from as far away as California and Texas.
Erwin joins 25 business owners from Pennsylvania in winning the pitch competition including Nicole Newman, Newman Networks LLC of Lansdowne and Kimberly Cuthbert, Sweet Jazmines Pastry Shop of Berwyn.
“It was really uplifting, really helpful. I went to some of the practice pitches and everybody who makes comments always starts off whenever they are critiquing anybody with the most positive words they have,” Erwin says in regards to participating in the pitch competition.
The pitch competition was open to women business owners who have been in business for at least a year and have annual revenues of $85,000 to $700,000. The winners received a prize package that includes professional coaching and a $1,000 AmEx gift card.
Erwin turned out for the M3 program because she no longer wants to be tied to her café’s kitchen. Instead she wants to focus building other aspects of her business.
“I work in a really hands on, manual labor-intensive business. I love cooking. I love making the meals. I love talking to the customers, but realistically speaking I can’t do that forever. So I have to think about how the business can go on, while I can do something that isn’t as physically taxing,” says Erwin, who serves as her restaurant’s main chef.
She’s considering expanding her business concept to include food trucks, one of the recent trends in the food business.
The event featured keynote addresses from Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price and top media mogul and business expert Jen Groover, educational business workshops and networking opportunities.
During her address, Price spoke on the challenges of growing Carol’s Daughter to a multimillion bath and beauty product entity.
“What I found through 18 years of doing this is that the biggest hurdle, the biggest obstacle has always been myself, and it’s better for me to work on making myself a more well-rounded person, a more balanced person, a more confident person and that in turn speaks to business,” said Price.
In 2005, Count Me In and founding sponsor American Express OPEN introduced the M3 program in response to Census statistics showing that while women-owned businesses represented nearly 50 percent of privately held companies, only 2.6 percent of their businesses reported more than $1 million.
“We really saw that as a rallying cry to help provide tools and services to help women business owners grow,” said Karen-Michelle Mirko, director of Customer Advocacy Marketing at American Express OPEN.
“Unfortunately we just did a report on the state of women owned businesses and they’re still at the two percent mark — 1.8 percent, so we know more work has to be done to help women-owned businesses grow.”
“This event is the first step for these women business owners,” Mirko says of the M3 program.
“This is where they break out of their shell, they raise their hands and they say ‘I want to commit myself to making a $1 million in revenue.’ A large percentage of women entrepreneurs are sole proprietors so this is great way to get other people talking about their business.”
“We are thrilled by the eagerness of women across the country to grow their businesses, create jobs in their communities and create stability for their families and the national economy,” said Count Me In founder Nell Merlino.
According Merlino, 30 percent of M3 participants have reached the goal of $1 million in annual revenues.
For 2010 M3 Awardee, Princess Jenkins, participating in the program enabled her to develop a strategic plan for her business.
“It basically forced me to sit down and look at my business long-term and identify my business as business that could meet the $1 million mark. It became an obtainable goal,” said Jenkins, who is the owner of The Brownstone, a Harlem-N.Y.-based women’s clothing boutique.
To attain her goal, Jenkins opened a second store in Harlem, redefined the company’s branding message, revamped Brownstone’s website and launched a new catalog. This year, she returned to M3 1000 as a vendor where she was able to display Brownstone’s clothing collection.
As an M3 awardee, Jenkins was able to tap into national public relations that nettled media coverage for her business.
“The public relations was exceptional,” said Jenkins, who had the opportunity to help raise awareness of the power of women in business by joining Merlino and other M3 awardees in ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange.
The new pitch winners will move to the next step of becoming M3 awardees. Each pitch winner will undergo extensive financial, business plan and professional reference reviews in order to determine their businesses potential to grow into million dollar enterprises quickly. M3 Awardees will be announced in late October.
Latoya Scott wants to help aspiring models put their best feet forward.
Scott is the CEO of Final Touch Models, a model management agency that offers instruction in runway technique, makeup application, styling and camera etiquette.
“My vision was to inspire confidence and self-esteem while developing individual creative skills within the fashion industry,” says Scott, a native of Philadelphia.
Scott is a former Miss Philadelphia contestant who began honing her skills during her childhood years at the John Casablanca Agency in Langhorne. She has appeared in feature films including “Annapolis” directed by Justin Lin, as well as a various music videos and commercial shoots for major department stores.
Scott and her team of professionals help prepare models for the high-paced, competitive industry.
“We try to give them all the fundamentals that they will need — and the main one is marketing. What we do is get them in front of the people that they need to market to,” says Scott, who just opened a new office in the city’s Fishtown section.
While learning the fundamentals of runway techniques is important for models, Scott says marketing is an important aspect of being successful.
“In this industry it’s all about marketing. The bottom line is marketing, and that’s what you really need to learn how to do.”
Scott says that tapping into a modeling career is not all about having the right look, shape, size and height. A big key is having the dedication and patience to tap into the industry.
“It’s really all about dedication. How much effort and how much dedication are you going to put into your career? A lot of people misjudge that. A lot of people think that modeling or getting into acting is easy. It’s dedication. It’s a process — and if you’re not ready for that, then you’re not going to make it far in this industry,” says Scott, who is a former instructor at the Barbizon School of Modeling.
Scott often finds that she has to debunk various myths that people have about becoming a model.
“Everything about modeling is about marketing and a lot of models don’t know that. That’s one of the things that models misinterpret. They think it’s all about them. That’s a big misconception that a lot of people have — and the fact that it’s harder than it looks,” says Scott.
It’s not about the model says Scott, it’s about how they market the clothing or item they are wearing or carrying.
Final Touch is currently managing about 10 models. The agency hosts open model calls on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at its office at 2424 Studios at York and Gaul streets. During the model calls, prospective models have the opportunity to interact with Final Touch staff and share their aspirations for entering the industry.
Even though Final Touch is geared toward grooming new talent, the agency offers workshops for the everyday person who wants to learn runway or fashion techniques.
In addition to classes for adults, Final Touch features workshop packages for children. Scott says the classes are offered with the dual purpose of building children’s confidence and self-esteem and giving them extracurricular activities.
Through the financial support of some non-profit agencies and the Philadelphia Police Department’s 25th District, Final Touch Models is able to offer classes to some students who otherwise would not be able to afford them.