Business Dynamos

Black women are making inroads in the world of business. Like these three, you can tap exciting markets and achieve entrepreneurial success.

and rich fabrics appeal to our type of bride in her late 20s to early 30s, and we’ve seen sales double over the past two years.” Producing quality garments is paramount at Amsale, where Aberra design all the gowns herself. Her 46 employees work out of two floors of a fashion district loft and do everything from cutting the 10 yards of Duchess satin, four-ply crepe or fine silks that can to into each gown to shipping the garments to retailers.

Today, with 65 accounts in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, Amsale projects sales of $15 million for 1998 and plans to maintain a steady annual 30% growth rate for next year. This is a conservative estimate considering the response to the evening-wear collection she previewed in Hollywood last October. Within one month of hitting the stores, her new collection — which ranges in price from $500 to $4,000 — had a 55% sell-through. Several of her pieces were also immediately scooped up by celebrities such as Kim Basinger, Vivica Fox and Vanessa Williams.

Despite the celebrity draw, gaining widespread popularity and fame is not Aberra’s focus. She will fill some 6,000 orders next year for retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Her strategy, just like her gowns, is simple: steady growth and exclusivity. “We don’t want to grow beyond our means,” states Aberra. In fact, on average no more than two retailers in a big city can carry her dresses, hence the Amsale brand maintains its quality and cachet.

Early last year, Aberra opened a 1,500-sq.-ft. boutique on New York’s Madison Avenue. “We always wanted a presence there, and it will become our ‘laboratory’ where we can find out what the customer wants in
order to help us with future collections.” Aberra does not offer the same designs in her boutique that are available in retail stores. Her advice for fledgling entrepreneurs: “You must be committed and do it with passion. If you don’t enjoy it, get out.”

GAL CONNER
Business strategy: Don’t mimic the competition; provide solutions that help clients to be self-sufficient
Ten years ago, Gail Mosley Conner told her husband, Curtis, that she wanted to start her own environmental engineering firm. He smiled at his former high school sweetheart, pregnant with their third child, and said, “Great, you can use the money you make as your spending change.” That “spending change” amounted to $2.5 million in 1997 gross sales and is expected to double this year.
G&C Environmental Services “wasn’t born of a business plan, but of a dream,” says Conner, the company president and CEO. The Newtown Square, Pennsylvania-based company provides environmental engineering and industrial hygiene services to commercial, governmental, industrial, municipal and institutional organizations.

Before a building can be remodeled or major construction performed, Conner and her 10 employees go in and assess for dangerous chemicals such as lead and asbestos, estimate the contamination and then recommend companies to do the cleanup. Oftentimes, her firm will go in where larger environmental firms have proved ineffective, correct the problem and then

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