Thousands Converge for Nation's
Largest Black Entrepreneurs Conference
By Gordon Jackson, Tuesday, _
May 31, 2005 Edited for Spacing The
conference marked two milestones. It was
the 10th straight year for
theevent and the 35th year of existence for Black America's
How do African Americans make full use of its $723 billion
spending power (according
to the Census Bureau of Labor and Statistics)? How does
the community, as well as
Black individuals, _ acquire
the wealth needed to move its people forward? Is there
responsibility to go along with prosperity? _
Critical financially based questions and
issues were addressed at _
the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, held
last week at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel
Dallas for the second consecutive year. The conference
marked two milestones. It was the 10th straight year
for the event and the 35th year of existence for Black
America's leading business publication. Some of the
country's top Black entrepreneurs were honored and showcased,
while thousands of emerging business owners benefited
from more valuable knowledge they can use to grow their
respective enterprises. Under the theme: Seasons of
Change: Taking Risks, Embracing Opportunities, the seminars
held throughout the conference were geared toward helping
business owners reduce their risks while enhancing their
business skills. A secondary objective of the conference
was to help a strong core of the African American community
change their mindset on how they look money,
so that they change their spending habits for the better.
We've just flat run out of excuses for not doing it
on our own, said Earl Graves Sr., Publisher and CEO
of Black Enterprise magazine, during his State of Black
Business speech that opened the conference. Black Enterprise
annually chronicles and lists the top Black-owned businesses
in the country. In spite of those businesses growing
every year in revenue, Graves said it's not reflective
of the African American community as a whole. The greater
economic outlook is as bad as it has been the past two
decades, said Graves. The odds do not stack in our favor.
There still remains a wide disparity between the rich
and the poor.
Graves said that 42 percent of African Americans born
in the lower economic rung are not expected to rise
above that level for the rest of their lives. A key
to curbing that trend is for successful middle-class
Blacks to be mainstream with integrity and to give back
to the community. If we are to make a difference in
people's lives, if African Americans are going to weather
the seasons of change and come out winners, then our
personal involvement isn't an option, it's a requirement,
said Graves. It was a strong and independent African
American business community that financed Dr. King and
the civil rights movement and elected the first wave
of African American mayors, congressional representatives
and that made it possible for Jesse Jackson to run for
Graves touched on other issues, calling the comments
from Mexico president Vicente Fox racist when he said
that Mexicans are willing to take jobs Blacks are not.
He encouraged those planning to vacation in Mexico to
switch to a Caribbean country. Such values and other
recommendations were also stated during the town hall
meeting, titled The Black Wealth Crisis: An Agenda for
Closing the Wealth Gap. Lloyd Ward, chairman of Body
Block Nutrition Systems, said Blacks must change the
conversation from how much money one makes to how much
net worth one has. We need to assure that our income
is greater than our expenses, and we need to work toward
owning assets, said Ward. It isn't about the money you
make, it's about what you accumulate.
Former Democratic New York congressman Floyd Flake,
pastor of Allen AME Church in New York, heavily emphasized
setting goals for homeownership as a person's first
valuable asset, but gave an example to how some people
do not have their priorities straight. If I got a car
with those expensive spinning (hubcap) wheels and I'm
paying rent, that makes no sense, Flake pointed out.
Both Flake and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume,
now running for a Senate seat in Maryland, highly recommended
forming investment clubs and investing in real estate
as a couple of measure to take. We're in such a consumer-driven
society, said Mfume. We're not taught to save, we're
taught to spend.
Weve got to find a way to become foot soldiers
and carry this message to the entire community.
Not to be outdone by the adult peers, the Kidpreneurs
and Teenpreneurs phase of the conference showcased the
business savvy of youth 17 and under. Other seminars
focused on health and wellness, securing multi-million
dollar contracts, financial and legal strategies, surviving
business adversity and technology solutions. It (conference)
was really good, it impacted me in so many ways, said
Gloria Alexander, executive director and founder of
Dallas-based Gotcha! Second Chance, Inc., a job placement
firm for ex-offenders. It got me to get up and do other
things. I really needed a pull.
Syreeta was a vendor at the Business-to-Business Expo
to promote her company, McDaniel Consulting of Dallas,
which provides business-planning solutions for entrepreneurs.
As an entrepreneur since 2001, I considered this my
coming out party on a national level, said Houston.
I met several people with whom I have an opportunity
to help them plan their business.
Dallas is scheduled to hold the conference at least
one more year. Once again, Dallas obviously sets well
for the Black Enterprise team, said Reginald Gates,
President of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce. We
saw more involvement from our local people this year
than last year. Gates didn't have exact numbers readily
available, but speculated that several millions dollars
were pumped into the Dallas economy. One of the conference
events, the Spot Bid Fair, issued up to $5 million in
contracts to minority-owned businesses based in Texas.
Were looking for new ways to even more increase
local involvement next year, said Gates.
The conference ended with a plush black-tie gala, where
both small and major Black business owners were honored.
These are the Academy Awards and this is my Oscar, said
Gregory Jackson of Prestige Automotive in Detroit, Michigan.
He was awarded Black Enterprise's Auto Dealer of the
Year. His operation was the first African American auto
dealership chain to surpass $1 billion in revenue. JoAnn
Price and Laurence Morse of Fairview Capital in Farmington
Massachusetts were named Financial Company of the Year,
Russell Wright of Dimensions International in Washington
D.C. earned Company of the Year and Eugene Morris of
E. Morris Communications, Inc. in Chicago was named
Advertising Agency of the Year.
Small businesses were also recognized. Lisa Price of
Carol's Daughter, Inc. was named Emerging Company of
the Year. Dana Powell and Shannon Bonner of BridesNoir
magazine received the Rising Star Award. Dr. John Crews
and Dr. Derron Simon of Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates,
Inc. were named Business Innovator of the Year and Najee
Green of Techmaster Computer Works given the Teenpreneur
Award. Black Enterprise's most prestigious award, the
A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Alden
J. McDonald, Jr., President and CEO of Liberty Bank
& Trust in New Orleans. The Champion Award went
posthumously to former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson.