Deals Deals Deals!

Making connections at the B.E./Bank of America Entrepreneurs Conference, the premiere networking event for black businesses

Wanna make a deal? You know, the bottom-line-enhancing kind of deal? If the answer is yes, then read on to find out about the stories that led other small business owners and entrepreneurs to the dealer’s table. And the odds are in your favor that if you heed their advice, you’ll probably end up with a deal of your own.

It all took place at the 2000 Black Enterprise/Bank of America Entrepreneurs Conference held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The theme of the conference, which drew a record crowd of more than 1,400 people, was “Smart Moves: Leveraging Power, Wealth and Influence.”

And according to Renata W. Hannah, president of R.W. Hannah Enterprises Inc., a prepaid legal services firm, she practiced it faithfully. “I checked in at the be Entrepreneurs Conference ready to do business, and I checked out with a handful of contracts.” One in particular promises to snowball into the type of deal salesmen would give an arm for.

Hannah met Shawn Buchanan, president of Omaha, Nebraska-based All American Meats Inc. and the winner of the black enterprise Emerging Company of the Year award for 2000. Not only did Buchanan agree to enroll his company in the plan, but he also introduced Hannah to the director of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Hannah joined the chamber and attended a chamber-sponsored conference for 75 to 100 businesses in late September.

“When I was in Florida, I never knew anybody in Nebraska,” Hannah says. “Now I’m beginning to rack up.”

Always prepared, Hannah handed out an elegant black folder containing brochures and a CD. She also came with a “proactive” attitude and a natural knack for making a positive impression. Keenly aware that Kathryn B. Freeland, CEO of RGII Technologies Inc., and be’s 1999 Emerging Company of the Year award winner was going to speak, Hannah made a point of meeting with her.

After selling Freeland on the services of her company, only a few minute details stood between R.W. Hannah Enterprises and a lucrative contract with RGII.

Hannah is an independent associate of Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., a 28-year-old company that offers entrepreneurs like Hannah the opportunity of starting their own business by enrolling companies in a program that operates like a health maintenance organization. By paying a monthly fee, members are granted access to a nationwide network of attorneys and their services. Depending on the plan, some of those services are free. “It’s good! It’s really good! That’s why I’m doing quite well,” she exclaims.

The four-day conference attracted CEOs, established and aspiring entrepreneurs, and decision makers from corporate sponsors of the event. “We are always there because we know that we’re going to reach the people who count in black business along with aspiring business people,” says Byron Lewis, chairman and CEO of UniWorld Group Inc., No. 1 on the be advertising agencies list with $250 million in capitalized billings estimated for 2000. “The Conference is one of the best networking opportunities for any black professional,” stresses Lewis.

Jimmy “Mac”

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