James C. Johnson
What does it take to create a company that not only produces superior goods and services but also conducts business to make people’s lives better? We discovered the answer in our search for the 2006 BLACK ENTERPRISE Small Business Awards winners. Our champions are four such companies.
Their purpose-driven achievements were acknowledged at the 11th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference hosted by General Motors, held in May at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. For information about the 2007 conference or to nominate a small business,visit blackenterprise.com.
After surveying an extensive list of small businesses, BE’s editors selected four outstanding companies with owners who successfully harnessed talent and expertise. Honored for their business acumen and their efforts to positively influence their community, this year’s winners embody the spirit of black entrepreneurship.
From incorporating cutting-edge medical technology that eases pain and suffering to creating signs that encourage patience toward new drivers, our winners have distinguished themselves by developing fresh ideas to serve their customers and educate the public. On the following pages, we’ll introduce them to you.
EMERGING COMPANY OF THE YEAR: NADINE THOMPSON WARM SPIRIT
For Warm Spirit’s 24,000 independent consultants, working with this beauty and wellness company means more than earning additional income from direct sales. The marketing network offers consultants the opportunity to own their own business and improve their quality of life.
“My business has always been about making the world a better place for women who look like me,” says president and CEO Nadine Abraham-Thompson, 47. Her goal is to increase her diverse network to 70,000 consultants in the United States within the next three years.
Warm Spirit (www.warmspirit.com), founded in 1999 by Abraham-Thompson and Daniel Wolf, produces a comprehensive collection of nature-based beauty and healthcare products. The Exeter, New Hampshire-based firm reported sales of nearly $15 million in 2005 and projects sales of $20 million for 2006. This growth, which is a result of successfully identifying — and staking a claim in — a bourgeoning market, has earned Warm Spirit the Emerging Company of the Year award. It recognizes businesses that have carved out a special business niche or adopted creative marketing techniques and thus are poised for growth.
Abraham-Thompson hopes to continue the company’s success by expanding internationally and tapping into marketplaces in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Africa. “I started a project with a women’s collective in Ghana where we are collecting shea butter products for our line,” she says.
Warm Spirit was created to empower African American women, an audience Abraham-Thompson felt was underserved as consumers and entrepreneurs. Now its founder is focused on promoting the concept of wealth building among its consultants. “It’s important that we create a legacy for the next generation,” says Abraham-Thompson. “I’m also working with a partner to see if we can get help from an investment firm or Fannie Mae to help our consultants achieve their goals of homeownership.”
BUSINESS INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR: DR. LYNN LOCKLEAR LIFE-ENHANCING DENTISTRY
Most people don’t know what temporomandibular joint dysfunction is, but those who have it understand that it