Helping Underrepresented Businesses Grow and Thrive in Frederick County, MD

The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED) partnered with Platinum PR to develop a program so that all business owners, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religion to feel supported and empowered to succeed.

OED created a framework for inclusion five years earlier, but shifts in the socio-economic landscape compelled them to evaluate their approach. Going forward, OED wanted to expand its offerings, broadening achievement opportunities for everyone.

The EmPOWER program was developed providing underrepresented businesses with clear routes to economic advancement.  The program has three major initiatives with the purpose of providing underrepresented business owners with pathways to opportunity and economic advancement: outreach, education and support.  Focus groups were held throughout the year to help identify priority areas for inclusion initiatives.

As part of the education outreach strategy, a new Mentorship program was developed for underrepresented business owners to learn, grow, connect and take their business to the next level.  The program kicked off in October and will run until December, 2021.  The 8-week program is a facilitated mentoring model designed to help underrepresented businesses generate ideas, identify blind spots, troubleshoot problems, and grow their networks in Frederick County. Each session includes a moderated discussion on important topics in business such as marketing, legal matters, human resources, finance, real estate matters, goal-setting, strategic planning, networking and more.

According to Janece Lee, owner of H E I S I S “The program has allowed me to get out of my head and into more action.”

Shana Knight, OED’s Senior Business Development Manager for Diversity and Inclusion stated, “The program has been powerful. Each week, the room is filled with great energy and knowledge being shared.”

For more information on the EmPOWER program, please visit or Shana Knight at

Pictured Left to Right
Bottom Row: Janece Lee (H E I S I S), Shana Knight (Frederick County OED), Jay Mason (Platinum PR)
Top Row: Brian Beiglarbeigi (Frederick Daily Meals), Jose Bueo (Dynamic Automotive), Elizabeth Chung (Asian American Center of Frederick), Ashleigh Kiggans (MacRo Commercial Real Estate), Jackie Douge (What is Black), Sandy Dubay (Platinum PR), Taral Flippin (Clark First Consulting), Whitney Hanh (#Provokebetter) Sue Hough (Octavo Designs), Wendolyn Campbell (COAST Designs LLC)

Pictured Left to Right: Aje Hill, Elizabeth Chung, Brian Beilarbeigi, Jay Mason