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Minority Business Expo brings entrepreneurs together with potential customers

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Sandra Moss is a fan of the Minority Business Expo.

Moss owns BeFine Designs of St. Albans, which makes and sells the Pocket Clip personalized pocket protectors for shirts and purses. She was one of several small businesspeople at the expo in the Charleston Civic Center Wednesday.

William “Tony” Lee, Tiffany Plear and Raynelle Rouse represented the Partnership of African American Churches of Charleston at the Minority Business Expo in the Charleston Civic Center Wednesday.
(State Journal photo by Jim Ross)

Her table had several displays of the Pocket Clip, and she was also letting potential customers see copies of a children’s book she wrote with her sister-in-law Tommy Moss. The book is titled “The Carpenter’s Son” and is about how the Bethlehem manger was built.

Moss said she has attended every Minority Business Expo since they began because of the sales and networking opportunities it offers.

“There are other things I’ll go to, but I’ll carve this out on my calendar,” she said.

The expo is sponsored by the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs in state government. It is designed to provide an opportunity for small businesses and woman-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs to work with local and regional partners to share best practices and collaborate with experts to gain helpful tips on how to own and operate a small business.

Classes and seminars provided guidance in topics such as doing business with state government.

Several hundred people attended, and dozens of companies had tables.

Among the social service exhibitors was Partnership of African American Churches, which serves the West Side of Charleston. The Partnership talks with people in recovery from addiction or who want to know what recovery services are available to them, said Raynelle Rouse, a VISTA worker at the Partnership who talked with people who stopped by the group’s table.

The Partnership also goes into middle schools and high schools to provide games and presentations about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, Rouse said. It also offers an after-school program, she said.

“Our goal is to empower the West Side and help mobilize people in the community,” Rouse said. “We came to the expo to help advertise what we do and what we have to offer.”

Several government agencies were on hand to offer their services and to recruit employees. Among them was the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

“It’s the goal of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety and the three correctional agencies to look more like West Virginia as a whole,” and that’s why the department was recruiting at the expo, said Michael V. Coleman, deputy director of correction operations.

The goal is to have 3.5 percent of department employees be minorities, Coleman said. He said he could not say how close the department is to that goal at present because employment numbers change almost daily.

The department needs people in the Division of Corrections, the Regional Jail Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services, Coleman said.

“On any given day we have a need for 500 correctional officers systemwide,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Moss said BeFine Designs does most of its sales over the internet. The expo gives small businesses the opportunity to support each other, she said.

“This is the perfect opportunity for it,” she said, adding she will keep coming back.

Staff Writer Jim Ross can be reached at 304-395-3483 or email at [email protected]

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