Jessica Herrera painstakingly made pumpkin bread from fresh pumpkins, took her goodies to a promising-looking boutique and hoped customers would clamor over her tasty product.


But there was one problem: Sales for Herrera and other vendors fell flat because the event host failed to adequately promote the holiday boutique.


"I was mad," said Herrera, 21. "It was a great, awesome space, but no one showed up."


So five months ago, Herrera, a graduate of Hesperia High School who discovered leadership and organizational skills in the school's JROTC program, decided to put her frustration into positive action. She formed The Vendor's Boutique Spot, which meets monthly at Holiday Inn Express in Hesperia and now is 175 members strong.


On Thursday, a portion of the group mostly women who collectively sell a wide variety of products from Tupperware to Mary Kay, Avon, Passion Parties and beyond gathered in a small meeting room to discuss marketing and promotion, future events, and group organizational planning.


Several speakers shared their expertise including Herrera, who coached attendees on using Facebook to promote their businesses. She showed how to create "events" and mentioned local organizations whose Facebook pages can be used for promoting local events.


"I post the event on every single one," she said.


Loretta Grapes, who runs her own women's network, shared her observations.


"Women network different than men," she said. "We're relationship oriented."


Eric Narvaiz, one of four board members, told members that a friendly approach is best when connecting with others.


"Persistence is everything," Narvaiz said. "Aggression is not."


Herrera's mother Evelyn Herrera, who sells Mary Kay products, suggested vendors find a mentor who can help them.


She also applauded her daughter, who several years ago discovered she had a serious, congenital kidney problem.


"I think my daughter is amazing," she said.


Besides learning discipline through JROTC, Jessica Hernandez has served as a Girl Scout troop leader, was 2008 Debutante of the Year for the National Council of Negro Women and in high school was chosen a Miss Cinco De Mayo pageant princess.


"I'm very proud of her. She wants to help people. She could use her condition as an excuse, but she doesn't."


Jessica Herrera admits she is surprised at how successful The Vendor's Boutique Spot has become in such a short amount of time. Tough economic times have helped fuel the need for such groups, she said.


"I created this group of out spite, but it's blossomed into something didn't expect."


And promoting the group and events has taken up much of her time because, she said, vendors like herself need all the help they can get.


"It's an every day thing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have vendors who sleep with their phones."


To learn more, go to The Vendor's Boutique Spot on Facebook.