For most who attended the Million Man March in 1995, the event was inspiring and emotionally charged. For Curtis Collins, it was the catalyst for a multimillion-dollar business. When the event drew to a close, Collins was so energized that he made two promises: (1) to establish a black-owned business, and (2) to contribute to improving the black community. Less than a month later, he established the concept that would fulfill both promises.
While researching business opportunities, Collins came across statistics on computer usage and the racial disparity among users, commonly known today as the Digital Divide. “I knew that filling that gap would be the basis of my business,” he recalls.
Collins had no previous experience in running a business. Yet, he was determined to put computers in the hands of minority users. His plan was to establish a company that would enable minorities to purchase computers at affordable prices and provide them with in-home consultation and support-a sound concept, but one that would prove difficult to sell to traditional lending institutions.
Collins shopped the idea around and got plenty of rejection before using his own savings to provide seed money for the new venture, Access 1 Computers.
In April 1996, Access 1 was launched in a tiny Maryland office. That same month, Collins and two partners, who have since been bought out, decided to attend a local black women’s trade event where they handed out literature and collected more than 4,000 leads. From April to December of that year, word spread, business soared, and revenues reached $275,000.
In 1999, revenues topped out at $3 million for the 40-employee enterprise. “We offer a unique concept: in-home consultation, free delivery and setup, phone support, and a financing agreement wherein customers purchase computers with no down payment and [an interest] rate dependent upon the customer’s credit. The best part,” Collins says, “is that it’s really making a difference.”
Maxine Lynch, a satisfied customer, wrote: “Your salesperson, Kisha, came to my home on New Year’s Eve and took me step-by-step in customizing the computer for myself and my 15-year-old granddaughter. I was thrilled.” Another customer, Robin Williams, wrote: “I was computer illiterate. But after getting help in setting up my system, and the training I received from your staff, I now feel very comfortable and am ready to move forward with my home-based business.”
Access 1 Computers, 9633 Liberty Rd., Suite F, Deer Park Business Center, Baltimore, MD 21133; 410-521-7677; www.access1computers.com.