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Third Annual Small Business Award finalists: in the running.

In keeping with the tradition of honoring African American entrepreneurs who have made tremendous gains in their industries, the third annual Black Enterprise/NationsBank Entrepreneurs Conference will present the B.E. Small Business Awards.

The awards ceremony is a major highlight of the three-day event, which will be held May 6-10 at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

After a meticulous, six-month nomination process, candidates were selected in four categories. Meet this year's potential winners:

BUSINESS INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR

This award honors companies that have successfully set trends and broken new grounds in their industries.

* GUICO Machine Works

David Guidry has come a long way since his boyhood days on a small farm. The 40-year-old president of Guico Machine Works Inc. has grown his $2 million enterprise from , a machine shop into a specialized manufacturer of precision machine parts.

The 35-employee company, based in Harvey, Louisiana, is engaged in business with the defense, petrochemical and original equipment manufacturing industries. In addition to supplying parts to such companies as Bell Aerospace, Guico provides replacement parts for equipment no longer manufactured for Boeing B-52 bombers.

* The 101 Group

Imagine a desk that seats four people and that has reversible panels with a grid for building blocks on one side and a map of the United States on the other. This is just one of the functional creations by The 101 Group, a Houston-based firm that designs, manufactures and distributes instructional furniture.

The 101 Group is the brainchild of 46-year-old Burnett Nelson, a former chemist with Dow Chemical and a licensed registered representative with the New York Stock Exchange. Clients include Head Start, the federal preschool program, and public school systems in Texas, Florida and Illinois. Now seven years old, the firm grossed $275,000 in revenues in 1997.

* T/J Technologies

T/J Technologies of Ann Arbor, Michigan is a cutting-edge developer of lithium-Ion batteries, fuel cells and ultracapacitors, a product likened to a rechargeable battery that has potential for use in power tools, cellular phones, automobiles and other items. T/J has more than $4.5 million in contracts from commercial and government agencies, including the Armed Forces, Department of Energy and NASA.

The company was founded in 1991 by husband-and-wife Levi and Maria Thompson. Maria, the president, is a former IBM marketing representative. She has an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan, where Levi, the CEO, is a tenured professor of chemical engineering. The 17-employee firm grossed $1.5 million in revenues in 1997. It holds a patent and has several pending for proprietary electronic materials.

EMERGING CO. OF THE YEAR

This award honors businesses that are poised for future growth by carving out a well-hidden niche, adopting creative marketing techniques, or strategically capitalizing on general market opportunities.

* Acorn Services

Eight years ago, Deborah Proctor launched Acorn Services, a food service business. The Florham Park, New Jersey-based company had revenues of $10 million in 1997. Proctor, who holds a degree in dietetics, has roughly 250 employees and some 13 active accounts, including AT&T and Lucent Technologies. Acorn provides these companies with catering, cafeteria and employee dining services.

* Environmental Design Intl.

Deborah Sawyer has built a $2.7 million business, with 40 employees and four offices in the Midwest. EDI is an environmental consulting firm to such corporate clients as Kmart, William Wrigley Jr. Co. and O'Hare Airport.

Sawyer, who holds a master's degree in petroleum microbiology from Eastern New Mexico University, worked for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency prior to going solo in 1991. Today, her Hillside, Illinois-based firm performs such services as environmental assessments and construction site inspections.

* The Luster Group

Robert Luster is the CEO of San Francisco-based Luster Group, which comprises three subsidiaries. Luster CM is a full-service construction management firm that oversees architects and contractors and manages budgets and schedules for major building projects. Acquired in 1996, Schoenberg Design Associates provides landscape architecture. To expand his federal pursuits, Luster formed Luster National Inc., based in Washington, D.C. The Luster Group generated $7.6 million in revenues in 1997.

RISING STAR AWARD

This award honors individuals between the ages of 21 and 35 who exemplify outstanding skills and perseverance and have established themselves as future business leaders.

* bA Design/Build Inc.

Armed with over 11 years of experience in architectural design and project management, Boye Akinola launched bA Design/Build in 1990. The 35-year-old architect has built a reputation on designing custom single-family homes for medium- and high-income African American families in Atlanta.

The six-employee firm had gross revenues of $260,000 in 1997. Another niche is the church market. Akinola's company has designed over 80 homes and 25 churches with daycare facilities.

* Designskilz Advertising

Daven Lamar Baptiste was 23 years old and fresh out of college with a degree in film and graphic design when he founded Designskilz Advertising in 1992. Today, the Westwood, California-based firm has six employees and about $870,000 in revenues, and boasts a client list that includes Nike, Universal Pictures and MTV. Baptiste's work can be seen on CD jacket covers, movie posters and sports apparel (logo designs).

* Omega 7 Inc.

By age 10, Alonzo Washington was making his own comic books with black heroes and his own toys (using clay and paint from hobby shops). Some 20 years later, Washington's is the first African American-owned comic book company to manufacture an action figure. Omega Man ascended upon select Toys `R' Us stores nationwide and is expected to boost Washington's firm to $1.5 million in sales in 1998. Washington started Kansas City, Kansas-based Omega 7 Inc. in 1992. Today, he has six comic book titles: Original Man, Omega Man, Original Boy, Dark Force, The Mighty Ace and The Omega 7.

KIDPRENEUR AWARD

This award honors young entrepreneurs under the age of 21 who are committed to advancing the rich tradition of black business achievement.

* New York Colors

The Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship in New York offers entrepreneurial programs to youth ages 12-18. Over the last year, IYE has brought five student-operated businesses under the umbrella of New York Colors. Three of the students responsible for restructuring the program and working with their peers were Brandi Green, 14, Keisha Smith, 17, and Tylena Washington, 15.

Initially, New York Colors produced greeting cards. The 30-member group recently added logo designs for T-shirts, caps, mugs, key chains and other specialty marketing items. New York Colors grew from $11,000 in revenues in 1996 to $45,000 in 1997.

* Camilla's Crafts/Jam-N-Yams

Camilla White is the 10-year-old sole proprietor of two businesses in Flossmoor, Illinois. The first is Camilla's Crafts, which White started at the age of eight. It produces greeting cards and Beanie Baby accessories. Her second business is Jam-N-Yams, which makes and sells sweet potato, pumpkin, lemon meringue and egg custard pies. White solicits weekly orders for her goodies. Last year, her revenues were $3,000. White invests her profits by buying shares of stock.

* "Tools For Living" Magazine

Two years ago, Jasmine A. Jordan got the idea to start a magazine for Christian youth. With her mother's blessings, she launched Tools For Living, which features poems and articles on a host of issues from domestic violence to health.

"Most magazines that target young people are run by people in their 40s. I decided to create a magazine for teens by teens," says the 14-year-old entrepreneur, who has 12 writers between the ages of 13 and 25. Jordan, who attended New York's School of Writing and Publishing for two years, oversees the design and production of the 30-page magazine, which had revenues of over $11,000 in 1997. Marketing to schools and churches, she has attracted 4,500 subscribers.
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Title Annotation:Enterprise; nominees are making tremendous gains in their industries
Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:May 1, 1998
Words:1284
Previous Article:Washington Report: the art of the lobby.
Next Article:Making it: playing it safe.
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