Board of Trade Partnerships Provide Big Brothers, Business to Small Firms

Article excerpt

A new program sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade has helped increase sales at James Powell's Washington mop business by at least 15 percent this year.

For Capel Green, owner of a Chesapeake Bagel Bakery store in the District's Ward 7, the Community Business Partnership means fat contracts for his no-fat bagels with Bell Atlantic, Potomac Electric Power Co. and Ridgewell's caterers.

Gail Oliver, owner of Fantasy Flowers & Gifts, says the program's helped her navigate the District's complex business regulations.

"Where you see these people from the Fortune 500 companies reach back and spend a minute with you, it keeps you from making another mistake," Ms. Oliver said.

The $320,000 project, begun in October but unveiled publicly just last week, does what its title suggests. But it isn't just another small-business mentoring program, according to Board of Trade officials, who say it involves more than training.

"They may not need mentoring, but they may need business," said James Eichberg of Smithy Braedon Oncor International, one of the mentoring companies.

The partnership is a privately funded program that gets some of the Fortune 500 companies downtown to cross the Anacostia River and patronize businesses in Ward 7 and to take business to other economically depressed areas of the city.

"We recently took on Bell Atlantic, MCI and USAir Arena [as customers] as a result of this program," Mr. …