Leading The Pack

From high technology to publishing, b.e.'s small business award winners are pushing their companies to new levels

Amid the lingering aftereffects of the recent recession, certain savvy business owners are emerging from the miasma stronger than ever. They’ve managed to keep their ventures afloat and grow them by adapting to difficult times. These stalwart businesses, led by die-hard entrepreneurs, are poised to shift into high gear and lead the way to recovery as America’s business conditions continue to improve.

The 2003 winners of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Small Business Awards are among those hearty entrepreneurs. Presented during the 2003 Black Enterprise/ Microsoft Entrepreneurs Conference in May at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, this year’s winners are: John Sterling of Synch-Solutions Inc., Colleen Payne-Nabors of Mobile Cardiac Imaging L.L.C., Orlando Robinson of D&D Innovations Inc., and Kenya James of Blackgirl Magazine. In selecting these winners, BE’s editors analyzed dozens of business models and surveys to select those who embody the spirit of black entrepreneurship. Over the next four pages, we’ll present them to you. For more information about the 2004 conference or to nominate a small business award candidate, call 800-543-6786.

John Sterling
Emerging Company of the Year
John Sterling is gracious about winning the BLACK ENTERPRISE Emerging Company of the Year award; he’s not even thinking about resting on his laurels. The award, which recognizes businesses that are poised for future growth because they’ve carved out a special niche or have adopted creative marketing techniques, was given to Sterling as part of BE’s Small Business Awards.

Chicago-based Synch-Solutions Inc. provides systems integration solutions and implementation strategies with services that include business process design, application development, project management, and training to ensure that institutions run more efficiently through the use of technology. With 63 employees, the firm’s revenue has grown from $1 million in 2000 to $6 million in 2001 and $13 million in 2002. Sterling predicts continued growth for 2003.

“We are on track for revenues of right around $20 million for the year,” says Sterling. Much of that growth is expected to come from its business continuity services that allow companies and government agencies to continue to function off-site in the event of a catastrophe. “We’re going very deep into the homeland security arena.”

Sterling anticipates seeing his firm rank among America’s largest black-owned businesses. “In 10 years, I imagine we’ll be nationwide and have over $100 million in revenue. We’ll also be playing at the highest level as a systems integrator,” Sterling says. “That would be my goal — to be on the BE 100S.”

Colleen Payne-Nabors
Business Innovator of the Year
“When I think of one thing that keeps me going with this company, it’s perseverance,” says Colleen Payne-Nabors, 40, CEO of Mobile Cardiac Imaging L.L.C. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Perseverance and novel business concepts enabled her to win the BLACK ENTERPRISE Business Innovator of the Year award for 2003. This award honors companies that have successfully set trends and broken new ground in a particular industry.

Launched in 1998, Payne-Nabors’ firm provides mobile nuclear medicine, nuclear cardiology, and ultrasound services to rural and metropolitan hospitals and clinics via customized trucks. The company now employs a

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