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Women in business connect at conference

Natalie Stallworth provides manicure for visitor Women Business conference Gary Monday Oct. 22 2012. The conference was sponsored by IndianMinortiy

Natalie Stallworth provides a manicure for a visitor to the Women in Business conference in Gary Monday Oct. 22, 2012. The conference was sponsored by the Indiana Minortiy Enterprise Center. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 6, 2012 6:06AM



When Sondra Ford started the Women in Business’ Women Building Wealth Conference four years ago, she was challenged by the September 2008 flood.

“I remember praying that if at least one person showed up I would be happy. Sixty people attended the conference,” Ford said.

At the fourth annual Women in Business’ Women Building Wealth Conference, held Oct. 22 at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, Ford said they’ve surpassed capacity on the second floor.

“We have 32 vendors of women entrepreneurs and other organizations this year,” she said. “It gets bigger and bigger so it is a tremendous blessing to have all of these professional women come together and network.”

Women in Business is a nonprofit organization created by Ford through the Gary-based Indiana Minority Enterprise Center, of which she is CEO and president. The conference allows business women and entrepreneurs to help women through encouragement, networking and empowerment.

The conference also allows Ford to connect with area women’s shelters, churches and other nonprofits. This year, 10 women from Sojourner Truth House received extreme makeovers from head to toe.

“We had area beauticians give the clients makeovers, manicures. And Ms. Elle’s Especially for You from Highland provided the clients with outfits they selected to keep,” Ford said. “This is a day when we have the women take care of each other.”

Lorna Moore, owner of Ms. Elle’s, said the Sojourner Truth House clients picked out their outfits and accessories. During the afternoon segment of the conference, the clients were featured in a fashion show.

“The looks on the women’s faces are priceless,” Moore said. “It is so emotional, the women get so excited and I am more than happy to be a part of the conference.”

Moore added that the Women Building Wealth conference is a great way for women who operate small businesses as it gives them exposure.

“Sondra was there for me when I started Ms. Elle’s Especially for You four years ago so I am always going to support Sondra’s annual conference,” she continued.

Fellow entrepreneur Queen Toppin of Gary said this was her first time attending the conference as a vendor. She finds the conference a great inspiration for area women entrepreneurs.

“We are here to motivate each other. I love supporting other women. How else are we going to get ahead in business than support and motivation?” Toppin said.

There was also a luncheon with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson speaking and an awards ceremony.

Ford said Freeman-Wilson and Moore were recipients of the Eloise Gentry Phenomenal Woman Award for their community service and dedication in empowering women.



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