Certainly the prospect of starting your own business may seem daunting, but each year men and women pursue entrepreneurship with determination and a will to succeed.
According to the Office of Advocacy’s Small Business Administration (SBA), 628,900 new employer businesses were started last year (up from 628,300 in 1997). And 9.7% of the 3.6 million new self-employed firms were black-owned.
New and existing business owners are faced with many challenges, among them obtaining start-up and working capital, competing with other firms, keeping abreast of technology and maintaining profitability.
This year, we pay tribute to four fearless entrepreneurs who embrace their challenges and continue forging ahead. They were honored at the Fourth Annual Black Enterprise/ Bank of America Entrepreneurs Conference last May in Orlando, Florida, during the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Awards Dinner. These businesses are clearly in the forefront with regard to innovation, professionalism and growth.
EMERGING COMPANY OF THE YEAR
The Emerging Company of the Year Award recognizes businesses that are poised for future growth. They have adopted creative marketing techniques and carved out a niche for themselves.
Kathryn B. Freeland
RGII Technologies Inc.
In the fiercely competitive information technology arena, Kathryn Freeland has to be creative to attract and retain the best employees and clients. Freeland is CEO of RGII Technologies Inc. Her firm, which is based in Annapolis, Maryland, provides information technology, systems integration and engineering support services to federal, state and local governments.
"We want employees to come up with better ideas and help our clients achieve their missions and goals better," says Freeland, 36. "I try to attract them with benefits [that make them want] to stay with a growing company. Our competition is fierce from [both] small and large companies. What sets RGII apart is our ability to personalize our services to our clients and to provide a quality support staff at reasonable prices."
To the astonishment of most clients, Freeland meets with each and every one of them on a quarterly basis, even if it means she has to be on the road for an entire month.
"I want to know personally from clients how we’re doing, directly from them," says Freeland. "If there are issues, we can resolve them before they get out of hand. When these pieces are in place, revenues don’t matter. I know we’ve been successful."
Freeland started her company in 1990 in the basement of her home with a desk and a computer. With $3,000 saved up, she worked at her company (previously named Freeland and Associates) and a full-time job as a program analyst manager at Cost Engineering Research in Alexandria, Virginia, while trying to get a business and strategic plan together. In 1992, tragedy struck. Freeland’s first son, Richard Gregory II, was born but lived just 50 days before succumbing to an illness. As a memorial to her son, she incorporated the business as RGII Technologies in 1994.
Business picked up, and in 1995,