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Business incubator to open in Santa Clarita

Posted: December 1, 2009 7:40 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2009 7:14 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA -- The founder of California-based advertising agency Power Media Group has found a way to give back to the community and help businesses weather the economic recession, which has her beaming with enthusiasm.

"Sometimes all people need is a little direction," Patricia Gracia said, walking through dim empty rooms behind her advertising agency Power Media Group's offices in Santa Clarita.

This space, left vacant by a church not long ago, is in the red and white, Spanish style, multiple-story house which the company owns on Sierra Highway. It will soon house Power Woman Business Center, a business incubator where ideas will be developed and nurtured, she said.

"The recession is in the minds of people as much as it is in their pockets. The way you feel and the way you think is going to affect how you produce in your business, so we want to help women feel good about what they're doing," she said.

Gracia, who started the advertising agency in her San Fernando Valley apartment with nothing more than a computer, a fax and a telephone seven years ago, has grown her agency's annual billing to upwards of $2.4 million, creating Spanish language campaigns for high-profile clients targeting a booming Hispanic market.

Through the new center, she hopes to offer women entrepreneurs the tools and support to reach similar levels of success.

"During a recession is the time to seize opportunities to create new business ventures, and the facts affirm a potential market - through small business orders, and these entrepreneurs need help to start their business during this difficult times." Facts that move Gracia to invest in founding Power Woman Business Center are:

  • According to a study from the American Immigration Law Foundation, using data from the 2000 Decennial Census and other sources, immigrant women entrepreneurs are one of the fastest growing groups of business owners in the United States. The group has increased nearly 190 percent since 1990. The largest group of immigrant women entrepreneurs comes from the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Mexico, El Salvador, and Cuba are among the top ten countries originating women entrepreneurs in the United States.

  • In 2007, U.S. Hispanic women signed paychecks for more than 418,000 workers and generated sales of nearly $67 billion nationwide. Of the 1.4 million companies owned by women in the United States, Latinas control 39 percent of these businesses, according to statistics from the Center for Women's Business Research.

  • As reported by the 2002 U.S. Census Survey of Business Owners, in Los Angeles County there were 265,916 Hispanic female-owned businesses that generated more than $41.7 billion in sales; Orange County, Calif., reported 76,634 female-owned businesses with almost $18 billion in sales receipts; and San Diego County had 73,475 firms and $10.6 billion in sales.

"Power Woman Business Center will serve as an office for those working from home," explained Gracia. "It will be a place to meet with clients in an appropriate office or conference room setting. It will function as a work address, rather than a post office box, for those who need to receive mail."

Some 24 cubicles with computers and phones will serve as workstations, and at least four private offices will be available at the new Center.

"We painted the walls to enhance the professional ambiance," she said waving her hand across a wall freshly painted in orange. "This will be the lobby. We'll put a nice flat screen TV and maybe a beautiful fish tank," she said, walking into another room.

A showroom at the center will also allow women to display samples of table settings or flower arrangements for clients without the distractions of crying children and cluttered kitchens, for example.

More importantly, the center will leverage the resources and know-how of Power Media Group on behalf of the small businesses that come to the center. It will provide training, assist with the developing of business plans, and develop new strategies to boost existing businesses.

"We want to be their human GPS - help them gain a strong sense of direction," said Tony Gracia, CEO and CFO of Power Media Group who will lead training sessions on different topics at the center, mostly focusing on improving sales.

"Sales and customer service - these are the keys to success," he added.

Among the myriad of other ideas that Patricia has up her sleeve for the center is the notion of pooling advertising resources.

"It's almost impossible for a small business to be able to pay for advertising on television or radio, or even space in a large magazine," she said. "If all Center members come together and pitch in, I can then use my advertising knowledge and negotiation skills to buy ad space 'in bulk' and then divide it up among the small businesses."

The goal is also to help small businesses, which might be standing on the brink of collapsing, to re-think strategies and revive business through strategic marketing and advertising campaigns. Patricia also plans to fully promote businesses online through the Center's Web site, and to support the operations through Power Woman Business Center memberships of $250, $500 and $750 per month, which will grant women entrepreneurs access to the Center's facilities and business consulting services.

"The membership fee will be a nominal price to pay in exchange for the support and benefits, and strategic Center location," said Patricia.

"Since the center will be located in the city's Enterprise Zone, many of the small businesses hosted there may potentially qualify for enterprise zone credits, which constitutes a state income tax savings opportunity," said Laura Biery, administrative analyst with the City of Santa Clarita's Economic Development Division. Biery welcomed Patricia's initiative. "The women's business center will complement our other programs we have in the city very well."

"The center will require an initial investment of about $200,000 from Power Media," stated Patricia, adding that the goal is to have between 200 and 300 members coming in and out of the Center each month. At the present time, PMG is financing all this project.

Patricia is a firm believer that there is opportunity in economic recession. Born in Peru, she crossed the border into the United States from Mexico in 1987, when she was 18 years old, with little more than "big dreams." She became a U.S. citizen 15 years ago. "I remember looking north and seeing the lights of California and saying, 'I'm going to get there. I'm going to do big things.' I owe this country so much; this is my way of giving back."

The Power Woman Business Center is open and ready to work with the community.

This story is posted in The Signal's SCV Raw section. Click here for more information about SCV Raw.


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