Getting down to business

It’s not every day that a mayor proclaims a day in one’s honor.

But Marjorie Rosen Weber ’57 experienced that recognition due to her innumerable contributions to her home city of Miami—including helping entrepreneurs build up their fledging businesses.

Also, her decades of work in the financial industry prompted SCORE Miami Dade—a nonprofit dedicated to helping launch small businesses—to honor her at their annual business and leadership awards dinner last fall.

But the awards and accolades do not mean she is reaching her endgame, said Weber, who is 81. “It’s not over. I keep doing what I can. The demand for this type of consulting far exceeds what would be considered a normal 40-hour workweek,” she said.

After graduating from Wheaton with a degree in psychology (and a minor in English), Weber began her career at New York, N.Y.-based Sonnenblick Goldman Corp. as a secretary. She worked her way up to the position of administrative vice president.

“I was a ‘glass ceiling’ woman. I have a photo of me sitting in a conference room in New York in 1970 with 29 men. At that time, there were zero women in that industry,” she said.

Naturally curious, Weber took graduate courses in accounting. Soon she became an indispensable part of Sonnenblick.

Weber drew from her psychology degree the ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds. “Many times the barriers to entry are personalities,” she said. “I vet people carefully to understand their motivation. I think most people have good intentions. And then I try to bring out the best in them.”

Weber went on to launch her own real estate investment-banking firm in Miami, which she successfully ran from 1977 to 2000. Since then, she has consulted for several organizations—most recently a partnership of Florida Small Business Development Center and Florida International University. She served as executive director of SCORE Miami Dade from 2000 to 2014.

In her work helping would-be entrepreneurs, she has led workshops and mentored people with compelling business ideas. “Everyone has a dream, but not everyone understands business principles,” she said. “Many know how to make a pizza, but don’t know how to manage a business, plan marketing campaigns or handle financial matters.”

Weber said she has an intuitive sense of when a person is ripe for entrepreneurial success. She recalls first meeting new Miami residents, a husband and wife, who had experience working as coffee baristas on the West Coast.

“They told me, ‘We have aspirations to serve the best coffee and be competitive with Starbucks.’ Now, in Miami, Panther Coffee is a more recognized name than Starbucks. I was excited to take them from an idea to a business with five locations in Miami Dade and distribution nationally,” she said.

Weber said she ultimately wants to help people develop businesses that benefit the region for the long term.

“My objective always has been creating more jobs and supporting the community. If you provide the knowledge and subsequently the funding for business owners, they can hire people, ” she said.

Her efforts continue to pay off. She is currently rallying together small business owners, government agencies and local residents from an economically struggling neighborhood to develop a food-based industry that will include incubator space for training and education, along with financial support, to improve the quality of life in the community by creating employment opportunities.

“We received approval to use a 5,000-sq.-ft. mixed-use building for five years, rent-free,” she said, noting that she is serving as an advisor to the sponsors who are driving the project. A second landlord has provided office space, space for a future commercial kitchen, and land for nurseries and vegetable gardens.

“Sensitivity to other people’s needs and aspiration is the starting point. I follow up by providing guidelines and ground rules. Those people who can listen and make the adjustments are the ones who succeed,” she said.