It’s no secret that 2001 was a particularly difficult year for business. A sluggish economy, cuts in capital spending by large corporations that led to increased competition, as well as many other factors, combined to create one of the more challenging environments in years. Despite this, entrepreneurship continues to thrive — something epitomized by the four winners of the 2002 BLACK ENTERPRISE Small Business Awards.
Presented in May during the 2002 Black Enterprise/Microsoft Entrepreneurs Conference at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, this year’s winners are: André Taylor of Interactive Sports, Ronald E. Mays of Montgomery Jet Center, Camilla Amber White of Jam-N-Yams, and André J. Downey of Environmental, Engineering & Construction Inc. BE’s editors poured over surveys and business models of hundreds of firms across dozens of sectors to find the true standouts in the world of small business. These entrepreneurs represent the best of the best. Over the next four pages, we’ll introduce them to you.
RONALD E. MAYS
Emerging Company of the Year
Ronald E. Mays formed Montgomery Jet Center in Montgomery, Alabama, less than three years ago, but already his company, which generated some $4.5 million in revenues last year, is on the expansion track, making him the perfect recipient of this year’s BLACK ENTERPRISE Emerging Company of the Year award. The award recognizes businesses that are poised for future growth.
Currently working out the final arrangements on a $7 million contract with two major auto manufacturers, Mays, 38, began with a single plane and now boasts seven aircrafts and 15 full-time employees. His list of clients includes radio personality Tom Joyner, Dr. Ira V. Hilliard, pastor of New Light Christian Center in Houston, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
As a result of the Entrepreneur’s Conference, Mays has received inquiries from the likes of Russell Simmons and the Rev. Al Sharpton, both of whom attended the conference. Winning the award was a very satisfying, yet humbling experience for Mays. “Knowing that you can achieve — do something different against the odds if you remain focused and not allow yourself to be distracted — is very satisfying,” he says. “If you weather the storm, you can make it and encourage others.”
Business Innovator of the Year
The BLACK ENTERPRISE Business Innovator of the Year award honors companies that have successfully set trends and broken new ground in a particular industry, and André Taylor’s Interactive Sports in New York City fit the bill. Taylor, 41, president and founder of the sports media company, turned his passion into profits in 1990 when he formed the sports news and information services provider, offering it to mainstream fans through the Web, radio, and wireless communications while creating content for niche audiences. Revenues for 2001 totaled $1.2 million.
“When I started my company, it was about bringing advanced media to sports. I think [receiving] this award encapsulates the many things that I have done and helps people understand what is unique to my company,” says Taylor. Looking ahead, Taylor plans to expand his business and form partnerships with other media outlets.