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?

grabbing its share of lucrative general-market accounts.

UniWorld has increased its use of event marketing to deliver African American consumers to its clients. Through such programs as the UniverSoul Circus and the home-grown Acapulco Black Film Festival, the agency has established new venues where companies can connect with such consumer segments as black families and upwardly mobile African Americans. And, at the same time, UniWorld has extended its reach into the general market. Its Three Musketeers print and television ad campaign, featuring The Nanny’s Fran Drescher, has become the most prominent. “We have developed opportunities for our clients that these ethnic boutiques can’t match,” says CEO Byron Lewis. “We just have to continue to show them that we can do it better.”

The greatest challenge for all blackowned business–BE 100s included-is actually seeing the money. Last year, Earl G. Graves Ltd., the parent of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine (No. 58 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $36.9 million in gross sales), launched the Black Enterprise/Greenwich Street Fund, a private equity investment vehicle, to finance black-owned companies with gross sales between $10 and $100 million. The fund–in which Earl G. Graves Ltd. owns 51% and Travelers Group, the New York-based financial services conglomerate, owns 49%–is expected to have a capital base of at least $60 million and enable concerns to position themselves to move into the $50-$100 million range–and, eventually, go public.

Carlton L. Guthrie, the CEO of Lansing, Michigan-based Trumark Inc., one of the nation’s largest black auto suppliers (No. 55 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 list with $38.1 million in gross sales), took a different approach. Last year, he teamed up with CEOs, bankers and corporate professionals to create The Runners Club, an advisory group focused on transforming small black businesses into BE 100s companies.

The instruction includes the mechanics of structuring successful business deals, making internal operations more efficient and finding and keeping corporate clients. The entrepreneurs heard from the organization’s top-notch brain trust, which includes BE 100s CEOs like Guthrie; William M. Buford III, CEO of Reliant Industries Inc. (No. 30 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with gross sales of $68 million) and Loida Lewis, CEO of TLC Beatrice. “The BE 100s companies must take the lead in creating more large black-owned businesses,” asserts Guthrie. “That’s what we are trying to do with this program.”

It will be interesting to see which of these companies emerge on the BE 100s and, better yet, crack the billion-dollar mark.





1997 SALES*


TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. New York, NY




Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. Chicago, IL




La-Van Hawkins Urban City Foods L.L.C. Baltimore, MD




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