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Next Stop: Onederland

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Who stole my days?   With February simply too short a month in my book, please indulge me as I continue into March observing Black History Month with a few short profiles. First up is Michelle Newson,  2nd place winner in the 2009 Harlem Business Alliance Competition and a recent alumna of the Workshop in Business Opportunities.

Michelle, tell me more about your firm Onederland Events.

Onederland Events is a special events company that creates memorable social events for private and corporate clients. These range from weddings, both local and destination, and other private occasions like birthday parties, showers and anniversary observances to business events such as product promotions, and holiday parties or staff recognition occasions.

Your signature logo is a standout and not just because of its bright pink color. The name Onederland is unique! Makes you want to know more about the firm.  But couldn’t folks hear “Wonderland” and maybe get confused?

A few people get confused but it actually works because once they get it they love the name! The name is definitely a conversation starter and it forces people to actually think about the name, ask questions, and then it becomes memorable for them. The name also captures what is special about my service. Clients learn quickly the terrific value of working with just ONE company to execute the myriad details of an event. Onederland Events handles everything from budgeting and planning to communicating with venues and other vendors for floral design, invitations, photography, music—you name it. 

How did you end up taking the How to Build a Growing, Profitable Business course at WIBO?

The past five years have been an incredible ride for me. I’ve had extensive guest service experience at Walt Disney World working in theme parks, hotels, the wedding department, and in the in-house advertising agency. I managed the Brides Noir magazine wedding expo in Chicago, and worked in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi and JWT in New York, but entrepreneurship is in my blood. My octogenarian grandmother still services her beauty parlor clients and my brother runs a computer programming business. After a few years in business in Chicago, I returned to NYC and became more involved in the local business community. I won 2nd place in the 2009 Harlem Business Alliance business plan competition and joined the organization. I met fellow Harlem business owner, Londel Davis from American Fire Control who introduced me to Lisa Skinner, of A Better Chance for Development, Inc., who is a WIBO Team Leader. Within minutes, she strongly urged me to enroll in the 16-week workshop. A chance meeting led to an excellent decision for my company’s growth. 

Why was it an excellent decision?

First, it was rigorous. In addition to the 3 hours of class weekly, I spent another 5-8 hours on the homework.  Second, I received rich input from others—students, the team leaders, and the expert presenters. The generous, frank critiques of every phase of my business from smart people with different perspectives really enhanced my plans for growing the business. The WIBO case study approach also encourages group problem-solving.  And then there are the others’ creative ideas. We often found that an idea or suggestion meant for another student's business could sometimes be tailored to fit your own enterprise.

What was the most important take-away from the WIBO  course?

The three classes on break-even analysis forced me to set realistic selling targets and to accurately cost out the value of time expended on a single event from strategy through execution.  This helped me to formulate a compelling justification for my pricing structure. I now know when to charge a flat fee for full or partial service offerings and when charging an hourly fee makes the most sense for both the client and for me.

Can’t resist asking why you make SIBL your “home away from home.” 

Since I work from home, I come to the library first and foremost to just be around other people in a productive environment. I  get energized when I look around and see so many busy people industriously plugging away on their laptops.  I also use the group meeting rooms to interview prospective interns. Next on my agenda is to learn how to exploit SIBL's high-end databases to create B2B and B2C mailing lists. There is so much information right at your fingertips at SIBL. Every small business should take advantage of what is offered here. Start by booking a librarian.

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