Gaining The Competitive Edge

Small black firms are forging alliances and applying new technology in order to increase market share and boost profits

producing and providing a product. According to Heyward Davenport, regional director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in New York, “minority-owned companies have to think along the same lines in order to compete for business. They are going to have to follow some of the same practices as the big corporations. Minority-owned companies have been very slow to follow that example.” To assist small businesses in doing this, the MBDA, on its Website (www.mbda.gov), is setting up an electronic format that will allow companies that are looking to partner with other firms (either in the form of a merger or as a temporary partnership), to be matched. The agency’s business center will also provide consulting to assist these firms in structuring a business development deal.

One unique business partnership that defies a specific category is that of Joy Pacheco, president of 1-year-old inSource Inc., a $25,000 payment processing company, and Bidenia Simmonds, president of the $1.5 million Bougainvillea Inc., a 4-year-old enterprise that sells juices and sauces made from hibiscus flowers. Both companies are based in Rochester, New York.

Using each other’s skills and strengths, Pacheco and Simmonds have been able to work toward and achieve their professional goals. Pacheco previously worked in corporate banking and advertising, and studied commercial art and graphic design. Capitalizing on her marketing skills and business contacts, she has designed the packaging for Simmonds’ hibiscus products, has written the press releases, and is currently assisting her in raising $1 million from equity investors. “It’s been a valuable learning process,” Simmonds says of searching for capital. “These are things that I would never have learned in a classroom. I’ve learned about buybacks, how to put together a slide presentation to enhance the presentation of my product, how to look for venture capital companies over the Internet, and how to find individual investors,” she says.

Aside from their present search for capital, their alliance has increased Bougainvillea’s gross revenues from $10,000 to $3.2 million for fiscal year 2000.

Simmonds, a CPA, is adept at several computer programs. She assisted Pacheco in switching to Peachtree, an accounting system that allowed Pacheco to run her business more effectively. “We use it to do our data entry for accounts payable and receivable,” says Pacheco. “It generates our monthly reports and maintains our vendor list.” Simmonds also trained inSource employees on the accounting system, helped set up inSource’s database, and assists the company in setting up and maintaining its customers’ databases.

The two business owners have also been able to keep costs down by creating their own logos and business cards. “With Bidenia’s technical knowledge and my design knowledge,” says Pacheco, “we’ve been able to do all of that in-house.”

“A lot of times, if you don’t have the extra cash,” Simmonds adds, “it’s helpful to have someone who can jump in and help with those things.”

KNOW YOUR COMPETITION
In order to stay competitive, you must remain visible in the race for business opportunities: Take a trip to the nearest SBA or SCORE office and inquire

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