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Working the crowd.

Events can lead to big deals if you know how to connect

African American business owners in search of prime networking opportunities are finding them at Black Enterprise events. Every year, thousands of black entrepreneurs convene at these venues to explore, learn, relax and, most of all, make connections.

The payoffs are real. Just ask Bill Hammond, president of Los Angeles-based Hammond Entertainment Inc., who tapped into a deals pipeline at the 1997 Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge. "This was the best forum for an African American professional that I have ever been to. You have decision makers who can make six- to seven-figure deals."

As the entertainment consultant for the theme evening events, Hammond was introduced to John Utendahl, president and CEO of Utendahl Capital Partners, during the opening reception. A subsequent meeting in New York City led Hammond to a contract to work on the sixth annual Booker Open, a golf event sponsored by Utendahl.

If you're still not convinced about the merits of these types of business events, just talk to Brett Savage, manager of specialty markets for the U. S. Postal Service, a sponsor of the Black Enterprise/NationsBank Entrepreneurs Conference. At that event in 1997, Porter Ragsdale, president of Atlanta-based Public Broadcasting Consultants Inc., was introduced to Savage after speaking to a representative at the U.S. Postal Service booth.

The Postal Service was searching out radio and TV programming targeting the African American community in order to better target black colleges. At the same time, Ragsdale needed sponsors for a program being put together to support black college stations.

Whether by sheer luck or being in the right place at the right time, Ragsdale was prepared for such an encounter. He brought a full proposal with him to the Entrepreneurs Conference. That helped. "He would not have gotten the same level of attention if he had gone the route of forwarding a proposal directly to the agency," says Savage, who is bombarded with proposals every day. Proposals that come in that way are routed through the agency for review.

Business networking events are important to entrepreneurs because as Savage puts it, "Those types of opportunities allow a face-to-face discussion of our objectives to identify possible partners and make an assessment about whether their business can meet our objectives. We don't get that opportunity frequently with African Americans."

"I go to attract quality vendors," says Savage, "That's why the B.E. Entrepreneurs Conference is the only business conference for African Americans we sponsor."

Meanwhile, deals are still flowing Hammond's way. He met Ken Chenault, president of American Express, who participated in Utendahl's golf event. Chenault hired him to plan a May 1998 meeting of "130 of American Express' top executives from around the world." As a result of that project, another opportunity is being hammered out.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Networking; how to connect to events, products and services of B.E. Unlimited
Author:Smith, Dorett
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 1, 1998
Words:472
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