Dawn Of The Black Millennium

The B.E. 100s have ridden the wave of economic prosperity to great heights, but will the good times continue into the next century?

Terry has moved into consumer-oriented licensed apparel. Last year, the company snagged such lucrative licenses as the Jackie Robinson 50th anniversary celebration and T-shirts of a stamp collection based on The Munsters. He is currently wooing the National Hockey League and the National Football League.

To bolster the company’s capital reserves for this major undertaking, he initiated a $7.5 million private placement of convertible preferred stock. Investors include gridiron superstar Warren Moon and actor Samuel L. Jackson. “I view it as the creation of strategic alliances,” Terry told BE. “The investors bring additional business like Sam Jackson’s golf tournament or Warren Moon’s connection with J.C. Penney, and we, in turn, pay them royalty income and dividends.”

For Soft Sheen Products Inc. (No. 18 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list) the opportunities come from pulling in new consumers. In addition to its traditional brands–Soft Sheen, Optimum Care, Mizani–the company created Alternatives, a new relaxer product for Generation Y consumers. To reach the burgeoning urban youth market, Soft Sheen promoted Alternatives on local television in the top 25 markets populated by African Americans.

A number of BE 100s companies continue to buy growth. Take Milwaukee-based V&J Foods, Inc. (No. 28 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list) grew a phenomenal 89.2%, from gross sales of $36 million in 1996 to $70 million in 1997, by buying 61 Pizza Hut franchises located in the New York suburbs of Rochester and Syracuse. V&J has started the process of “co-branding” the Pizza Hut franchises with the Burger King outlets that it currently owns.

Grocer Jonathan Johnson took another track. After his deal to purchase a supermarket in Virginia’s Tidewater area fell through, the president of Community Pride Food Stores (No. 43 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $46.7 million) decided to build one from scratch. He entered into an $4 million agreement with the City of Richmond to develop a 45,000-sq.-ft. combo grocery store to service a high-traffic, affluent neighborhood. The new store, complete with an indoor cafe and a government-operated liquor store, is expected to ring up another $20 million in annual revenues. Additionally, the supermarket chain is getting a $6.8 million facelift to its eight existing outlets.

Besides the healthy economy, some BE 100s companies are getting ready to take advantage of an agreement that the Clinton administration has reached with the Big Three automakers to increase minority procurement activity to 5% from the current 4.2%. The value of the new vending initiative: roughly $3 billion by the year 2001. (Federal law requires automakers that sell vehicles to the government to use minority firms as suppliers.)

In fact, some BE 100s CEOs like Jon Barfield of The Bartech Group (No. 31 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $62 million in gross sales) believes the action will eventually drive his Livonia, Michiganbased temporary services firm to go public. &quo
t;This program will increase our opportunity to do business with the large suppliers to the Big Three,” said Barfield at Vice President Albert Gore’s

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