By SHALWAH EVANS
Dressed in an outfit channeling menswear chic and sporting a no-nonsense buzz cut, class speaker Maricar Lagura addressed Thursday’s graduates of the Women’s Initiative with the same edginess of her clothes.
“I come out of this class like I can do this,” said the 42-year-old graduate of the twelve-week program to help low-income women get the skills to start their own businesses. “If you would have asked me six months ago, I’d have said ‘what’s a cash flow break even analysis, what the f*** is that?’”
Lagura was one of 24 women who received a graduate certificate Thursday at the ceremony held at the Women’s Building. The classes were held at the Women’s Initiative San Francisco office on Valencia Street and although a new one will start next Tuesday, classes are booked until January 2009.
Lagura described her proposed business–Pixie Content Media–as a multimedia company that will create entertainment and cross promotional opportunities for web entertainers. In practice that means it brings sponsors like Whole Foods to entertainers like Tila Tequila, whose fame was jump-started by the buzz from her myspace.com page.
The Women’s Initiative, funded primarily by sponsors, donors and the surrounding communities, started in 1988 and has since expanded, creating a program called SuccessLink that helps support the women once they’ve graduated.
Fifty-three-year-old Melba Radovan said she practiced her ceremony soundbite—each graduate got about 30 seconds to a minute to present a brief commercial—for six months. Radovan, who migrated from the Philippines in 2000 and has no family in the Bay Area, recalled a time when she had no money or tools to start a business. After losing several jobs and facing racial discrimination in the workplace, she was ready for a change.
Radovan joined the class in March and admits disbelief that she is graduating and ready to go into business for herself. She plans to start The Lumpia Connection, a service that sells lumpia—a traditional Philippino delicacy–with the slogan, “Always fresh, healthy and exotic.”
The other graduates planned various businesses and services, including a day spa called Your Happy Place, and a cleaning company that “cleans places no one else wants to,” such as crime scenes. Tonya Tucker, business trainer and consultant who teaches the classes, said that a countless number of the businesses are successful, including The Candy Shop, a lingerie store recently opened in Berkeley by a Women’s Initiative graduate.