Making Lucrative Connections

B.E.'s Fourth Annual Entrepreneurs Conference provided tools for black business owners to form strategic alliances toward building wealth

[in May] and formed the joint venture in July,” says Jackson. “I was looking for people who had the ability to create an alliance with local minority businesses to increase the capacity of both businesses to create jobs in Shreveport. I wasn’t looking for 100 alliances, just one good one.”

Jackson is also in discussions with other conference attendees to bid on a $235 million casino project in Shreveport and other municipal opportunities.
“The business-to-business Exchange is an added value to the conference because it allows you to have face-to-face contact with potential African American entrepreneurs,” says Steve Warren, vice president of corporate affairs for Wendy’s. “For Wendy’s, as an inaugural participant in The Exchange and in the Entrepreneurs Conference, we’ve had an opportunity to develop partnerships with prospective African American franchisees and suppliers for each year of our attendance.”

In addition, several authors held book signings at The Exchange Expo, including image consultant and event planner Harriette Cole (How to Be: Contemporary Etiquette for African Americans, Simon & Schuster, $26), be contributing writer and former small business editor Wendy Beech (Black Enterprise Guide to Starting Your Own Business, John Wiley & Sons, $19.95) and BE editor-at-large Derek T. Dingle (Black Enterprise Titans of the B.E. 100s). Also on hand for the signings were several CEOs of the be 100s covered in Dingle’s book.

A dynamic evening roundtable discussion featuring eight of the CEOs profiled in Titans provided unique and candid insight into the challenges and triumphs faced by some of the country’s top African American business leaders in getting their businesses off the ground and growing.

“You have to not be afraid to fail,” titan Emma C. Chappell, chairman, founder and CEO of United Bank of Philadelphia (No. 14 on the be banks list), told the crowd of more than 800. “People aren’t willing to take a chance, so they don’t realize their dreams. You must have perseverance to fight the good fight. . . .The only way we’re going to build wealth is to pass the baton.”

Indeed, most participants felt the titans session was the highlight of the conference, and a majority of attendees have requested the format for next year’s conference, according to Sherry Browne, program manager for the Entrepreneurs Conference. “I was impressed with their sense of realism, their roots and ability to express how they started, how they expanded and their hopes, dreams and drive to do better,” said Dr. Eddie R. Cheeks of Augusta, Georgia.

The four-day event was capped in dazzling fashion by the annual black-tie be Entrepreneurs Awards Dinner (to learn who won, see “Driven to Succeed,” this issue) followed by twilight dancing at the AfterGlow Party. Pro-Line Corp. (No. 39 on the be industrial/service 100 list) CEO Comer J. Cottrell was hailed as the recipient of the A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award for his 29 years of success in the beauty and haircare industry. The gala’s inspiring and emotional keynote address was delivered by the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and catalyst for the Madison

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