Lessons From The Top

Three of 11 Titans of the B.E. 100s share their trials and triumphs on the climb up

to put our money where our mouth was.”

For the next three years, Chappell mounted a tireless campaign stumping for dollars. Wearing out several pairs of shoes, she canvassed different neighborhoods and pressed the flesh with black Philadelphians-blue-collar workers, professionals and entrepreneurs-anyone who would take a few minutes to listen. At the same time, she continued to push major corporations to buy shares and sought support from city hall.

Sitting in the small office she shared with her secretary, a worn Chappell tried to figure out the best way to accumulate huge sums of cash. Finally, she had a revelation: the best place to spread the gospel was in church. It wasn’t exactly a novel idea, but it was all she had. She convinced local ministers to let her address their congregations, from the pulpit on Sundays and from the dais at church functions. The polished banking executive became a financial evangelist, raising the economic consciousness of the black community-and the money she needed to finance her dream.

“In 1989, we set out to raise $6 million in capital-$1 million more than the regulatory requirement. It was a struggle, but the response was overwhelming and gratifying. African Americans and others from all walks of life-nearly 3,000 shareholders-purchased stock in United. Some had never owned stock before, but believed in our mission. We held ‘Black Bank Sunday’ in many churches throughout Philadelphia where prospectuses were distributed and discussed and stock was sold to church congregants who clearly saw the need for the bank and wanted to own a piece of history…a history that would have a lasting economic impact on Philadelphia and our communities. We soon became known as ‘The People’s Bank.’”

By April 1991, United had received $3.3 million from individual investors and another $2.7 million from 14 institutions. The bank the people built had cleared its first major hurdle.

Excerpted from Titans of the Black Enterprise 100s: Black CEOs Who Refined and Conquered American Business Copyright 1999 by Derek T. Dingle Reprinted by permission of the publishers John Wiley & Sons, Inc.To order a copy of the work call 1-800-225-5945 or visit the Wiley website at www.wiley.com

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