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Enterprising Firm Gives Women Online Tools to Succeed in Business

Bobbye Brooks

MEDIA 4 WOMEN ENTERPRISES INC.

CEO: Bobbye Brooks.

Revenue: About $300,000 in 2010.

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Net income: $100,000 in 2010.

No. of local employees: Five.

Investors: Co-owners Bobbye Brooks and Tonilee Adamson.

Headquarters: Carlsbad.

Year founded: 2009.

What makes the company innovative: Targets women who have little to no experience in technology to develop online branding for their businesses.

Women who have not grown up glued to a laptop are the focus of a Carlsbad company that teaches small-business owners how to navigate Facebook, Twitter, blogging and other tools of the online world.

Media 4 Women Enterprises Inc. targets stay-at-home-moms, retirees and other women who would like to launch their own business. Bobbye Brooks and Tonilee Adamson founded the company in 2009 with the aim of helping women learn how to develop an online identity.

“Our goal is to really brand them,” said Adamson, adding that she emphasizes the importance of communicating the business owner’s vision with consistency and simplicity on the Web.

About 28 percent of small businesses are owned by women, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Web site.

The economic downturn has prompted many women to forge new careers, and they often decide to begin anew as entrepreneurs, Brooks and Adamson said. The challenges women face as primary caregivers for aging parents and children can mean they are sometimes not as current on the tools of the online revolution, Brooks said.

“Even if they get their business launched, they don’t have the confidence,” Brooks said. “They’re not sure if they have everything they need in that toolbox.”

Making a Fresh Start

Pamela Hayes, 55, of Oceanside decided she needed to learn more about creating a Web identity for her business, Pamela’s Pillow Protectors, when she approached Adamson and Brooks last fall. Hayes, a vacation rental agent, started the business after her real estate properties, which she had intended to sell toward retirement, dropped in value and she needed a new plan. She knew about sales and accounting, but building a retail brand online was new terrain. Hayes hired Media 4 Women to develop an online identity with a Google ranking, including a Web site.

“What they’ve taught me is search engine, search engine, search engine,” Hayes said. “It was an eye-opener for me.”

Hayes said her sales are increasing a little each week and she has learned that building the business will take time. Her business dream is to go national and land on QVC.

“My goal is to be big because I want to retire,” Hayes said.

Small-business owners in general are struggling with learning how to use social media, which has led to a highly competitive marketplace among businesses seeking to help them navigate the online world, said Kathleen Allen, professor of entrepreneurship at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

“People have to think about it,” Allen said. “Just getting a Web site up doesn’t mean you’re going to make money.”

Having an organized business plan is vital, she said.

Brooks said she and Adamson begin by asking aspiring women entrepreneurs five questions rooted in learning about their goals, time frame, expectations, resources/budget and whether they have support from family and friends.

Ministry Group’s Transformation

Media 4 Women grew out of a Women’s ministry group begun by Brooks and Adamson about a decade ago. The group, which focused on the power of friendship and networking among women, evolved into a nonprofit, motivational speaking, a radio program, and now a business.

Since launching, Media 4 Women has gone from five clients to between 35 and 45, Brooks said. The ventures they have worked on range from the pillow covers sold by Hayes to a line of Italian clothing for babies and cushion covers designed for wheelchairs, walkers and crutches. The company also holds monthly classes on topics such as Facebook, blogging and building a business online.

Brooks, who holds a master’s degree in business administration from San Diego State University, and Adamson, a former intensive care unit nurse, say they have found a special marketplace niche of women who want to develop their ideas to support their families in a bad economy.

The bottom line in entrepreneurship is gender-blind, Allen said.

“When it comes to being an entrepreneur, there’s no difference in what is required of women and what is required of men,” she said.

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