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Anniversary and conference celebrate for black business.

In May, BLACK ENTERPRISE held its Third Annual National Entrepreneurial Conference in conjunction with the magazine's celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the BE 100s - the annual listing of the nation's largest black-owned businesses. The two events represented milestones in the magazine's efforts to give more African-American business owners knowledge that can give them a competitive edge. The events also underscored the tremendous advances black-owned businesses have made over the past 20 years, and the impact these businesses continue to have on the nation's economy.

The conference, held at the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel in Atlanta, was the most successful in the magazine's 22-year history. During the opening session, Earl G. Graves, BLACK ENTERPRISE publisher and editor, emphasized the significance of the event.

"We recognize the need not only to provide bottom-line, how-to information on business financing, marketing strategies and preparing business plans, but we also see the crucial need for black business owners to network with each other to establish contacts that can result in firm business deals."

More than 600 current and aspiring entrepreneurs attended the two-day conference - some coming from as far away as South Africa, Canada and the Bahamas. Participants attended workshops taught by experts in small business management, strategic planning, marketing and finance.

The conference also included a Small Business Services Expo that featured 28 companies and organizations that were actively looking to do business with black-owned businesses. Participating sponsors included Apple Computer Inc., Hallmark Cards Inc. the U.S. Department of Transportation and MCI Communications Corp.

Carolyn C. Harper, BE's business programs director, says the conference was expanded from one to two days this year to satisfy the increased interest African-Americans have expressed in either starting their own enterprises or finding strategies to help them expand their companies. "We recognize that for African-Americans, economic empowerment is the only way we will establish ourselves in the year 2000," she says. "It is only through this strong economic base that we can maintain the vitality of our communities."

Celebrating The BE 100s

Prior to the conference, BE celebrated the 20th anniversary of the BLACK ENTERPRISE 100s. The gala was attended by more than 600, including CEOs of the nation's largest black-owned companies, auto dealerships and financial institutions and representatives from such major corporations as Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrylser Corp. The dinner program was hosted by actor Ossie Davis and included an appearance by Spelman College President Johnnetta B. Cole and congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.). Actress Cicely Tyson presented the "20th Anniversary Achievement Awards" to companies that have been on the BE 100s since its inception in 1973. The honorees were Nathan Conyers, CEO of Conyers Riverside Ford Inc.; Edward Lewis and Clarence O. Smith, CEO and president, respectively, of Essence Communications Inc.; Earl G. Graves, CEO of Earl G. Graves Ltd.; Al Johnson, CEO of Albert Johnson Cadillac-Avanti-Saab Inc.; Joan B. Johnson, chairperson of Johnson Products Co. Inc.; John H. Johnson, CEO of Johnson Publishing Co. Inc.; and Herman J. Russell, CEO of H.J. Russell & Co.

These CEOs and their companies exemplified the capability of black-owned businesses to maintain excellence over the long haul. "One need look no farther than this year's BE 100s list to see our remarkable strides," Graves notes. "In 20 years, the universe of black-owned business has grown to the point that we now track not 100, but 200 industrial/ service companies and auto dealerships."

And what a difference 20 years of growth makes. Gross sales for the first BE 100 (a list that included industrial/ service companies and auto dealerships), published in 1973, totaled $473 million. Individual sales for the first 100 ranged between $1 million and $40 million.

Now compare those numbers with today's BE 100s: * Gross sales for the BE 100s totaled $7.9 billion in 1991, an increase of 10.4% from 1990 sales of $7.2 billion. * Gross sales for the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 totaled nearly $5 billion in 1991, up 10.6% from 1990. The companies' individual gross revenues ranged between $10.5 million and $1.5 billion. * Gross sales for the BE Auto 100 totaled $2.9 billion in 1991, an increase of 9.9% from the previous year. The dealerships' individual sales ranged between $10.5 million and $287 million. * The BE 100s posted average sales of $39.6 million in 1991. * BE 100s companies employed 38,273 people in 1991, compared with 37,778 the previous year. * 1991 revenues for the new companies total $991.2 million. Revenues for the new industrial/service companies totaled $672.8 million. New auto dealers sales totaled $318.4 million.

Awards For Gaston And Jackson

BLACK ENTERPRISE also paid tribute to Arthur G. Gaston Sr. for his legendary contributions to the development and growth of black business. Gaston, who celebrated his 100th birthday July 4, received the "Entrepreneur of the Century" award. "Dr. Gaston has been a tireless benefactor of black institutions, a patron saint of the Civil Rights Movement and a visionary businessman," says Graves. "He has inspired countless entrepreneurs throughout the 1900s."

From selling rides on his grandmother's swing, to hawking box lunches, popcorn and peanuts, Gaston used his savvy business skills to build a tradition of African-American entrepreneurship in Birmingham, Ala. - long known as a hotbed of racism and discrimination. He built a fortune from the 21-cent dues he collected from members of the benevolent society he founded in 1921.

His empire now includes the Booker T. Washington (BTW) Insurance Co., founded in 1932 and Citizens Federal Savings Bank, founded in 1957. He is also the creator and driving force behind the BTW Business College, A.G. Gaston Construction Co., A.G. Gaston Home for Senior Citizens, Citizens Drugstore, Smith & Gaston Funeral Directors Inc., New Grace Hill Cemeteries Inc., Zion Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum, Vulcan Reality & Investment and BTW Broadcasting Service Inc.

Another honoree was Atlanta Mayor Maynard H. Jackson. He was the recipient of the first BE "Distinguished Service Award" for his leadership as the nation's most progressive mayor in creating opportunities for black entrepreneurs. Jackson has set a stellar example for other municipalities in his vigorous promotion and support of African-American businesses.

For example, it was Mayor Jackson who launched such bold initiatives as the city's Minority Business Enterprise Program, which required that 25% of Atlanta's contracting dollars go to minorities. He also was instrumental in ensuring that black firms got in on such development projects as the Hartsfield International Airport, the Georgia Dome Stadium and Underground Atlanta mall.

Starting with his first term in 1974, Mayor Jackson created an environment in which the number of black-owned companies in Atlanta tripled from 3,961 in 1977 to 11,804 today. Pledging to "break the glass ceiling," Mayor Jackson implemented Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) legislation in late 1991, offering bonding, financial and technical assistance to small business owners to facilitate total participation in city contracts. The legislation is designed to mitigate the effects of discrimination against minority- and female-owned businesses.

Continuing A Tradition

The conference was filled with entrepreneurs eager to follow in the footsteps of the honorees. Conference seminars gave them an opportunity to get information on the latest trends, rub elbows with key industry players and remain in-the-know on current technological advances.

To serve the needs of both would-be and experienced business owners, BLACK ENTERPRISE broke up the conference into two tracks. Track I was for those thinking about starting a business, and Track II was for those interested in growing an already existing business. Some of the speakers included: * Greg Campbell, a principal with Baker Campbell Associates, a Dallas-based management consulting firm that addresses the needs of small to mid-sized businesses. The firm has also done extensive work with government agencies and nonprofit organizations. * Louis G. Hutt Jr., principal and co-founder of Bennett, Hutt & Co., a financial management advisory firm in Columbia, Md. * Suzanne Johnson, a Wall Street attorney and small business consultant. She has lectured extensively on small business management issues and regularly assists entrepreneurs in the development and writing of their business plans. * Denise Lamaute, a partner with Lamaute Tax & Financial Services Inc., with offices in Los Angeles and New York. She advises businesses, individuals and institutions mostly in the area of taxation. * Ron A. Garrett, vice president and community investment coordinator for Nations Bank in Atlanta. In his current position, Garrett is responsible for initiating small business lending initiatives, single and multi-family housing opportunities and internal corporate training in community investment goals in the metropolitan area. * Harriet R. Michel, president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, a private, nonprofit organization that helps expand business opportunities for minority-owned firms. * Will Terry Moore, chief of direct contracting/financial assistance division with the office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, U.S. Department of Transportation. * Iris Randall, president and founder of New Beginning, a consulting firm that has offices in New York and Danbury, Conn. * Gary Shepard Waler, director of Equal Economic Opportunity for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games Inc.

Velda Spaulding Fluellen, president and CEO of A&B Trading Co. Inc., says she attended the conference to find out how she could boost profits and secure additional funding. She says the recession has crippled her Tucson, Ariz.-based wholesale food service products and janitorial items distribution business.

"I live in Arizona where African-Americans only make up 3% of the population. You have a tendency to feel kind of isolated," says Fluellen, whose 4-year-old company grosed $200,000 in sales last year. "I wanted to find out if the kinds of problems that I was experiencing were regional or national. I found out that they were national."

Fluellen, who attended the Track II seminars for established business owners, says she "walked away with so many ideas." Originally, she says she thought she needed additional capital to hire two more salespeople. But after talking with conference participants, she decided that hiring more employees would have been a waste of money. "I was told that all I had to do was rearrange all of the things I was doing and go out and sell the company myself," says Fluellen. "Now I may get five additional clients because of that advice."

Unlike Fluellen, Sandra Williams doesn't own a business. However, the Toronto social worker says she came to Atlanta to learn how to go about starting one. Williams says that she's looking to launch an information networking business for black professionals in Toronto by October. "I needed to get a clearer vision as to how I should go about starting my business."

After attending the business plan and marketing seminars, Williams is enthusiastic about meeting her October goal. "That marketing seminar was very valuable, and I didn't realize the importance of a business plan until I came to this conference," says Williams. "Information is power - it's the key to any successful business. It's important to attend conferences like this one. With the right information, it can give you that edge to move in the right direction."

Conference Keeps Improving

BE Business Programs Director Harper says that the next entrepreneurial conference, which is scheduled to be in Memphis, will offer even more seminars. "The next conference is going to focus more on quality and customer service," says Harper. "We're also looking to include more opportunities to network. Memphis is what we view as an up-and-coming and burgeoning city."

At press time, the conference was scheduled to take place in October, although dates in hotel location were not finalized. For more information, call 800-543_6786 (New York residents, call 212-242-8000).
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:third annual National Entrepreneurial Conference held by Black Enterprise magazine
Author:Thompson, Kevin D.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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