New Places New Faces

At the 6th Annual B.E. Entrepreneurs Conference, black business owners inked groundbreaking deals while networking the night away in Opryland

Every entrepreneur, no doubt, is well aware of the economic impact of a slowing economy, and, it is hoped, has made the strategic changes to his business necessary to survive. Yet, despite the downturn in the market, Edward E. Felder Jr., president of Blue Chip Lending Group, a commercial loan and business sales firm in Tampa, Florida, found his first Black Enterprise/Bank of America Entrepreneurs Conference, “Awesome!”

“I made many business contacts,” says an enthusiastic Felder, who also rented space at The Exchange: Business to Business Expo, which housed more than 70 exhibitors. “Matt Denkins, a representative from Cendant Properties, the parent company of Winngate Inns and other hotel brands, came over to my booth and asked questions about our offerings. We talked about Blue Chip’s extensive services, and, by the end of the conversation, Matt referred a client who was looking for financing in the $3 million range. This is a real deal in its beginning stages.”

Felder also met with the owner of an Athlete’s Foot franchise in Atlanta who was looking to expand into southern Florida. “He came to the booth and explained his expansion plans and his need for financing to the tune of more than $300,000. We played telephone tag for a while after settling back into our respective work environments after the conference, but eventually connected. That deal will close in mid-2002.”

An AXA financial planner, Jan Williams, referred Blue Chip’s services to two of his clients. One was looking to finance the purchase of 14 Jiffy Lube car centers in the Atlanta region; the other was in need of $500,000 to refinance her business.

Asked whether he will attend the Entrepreneurs Conference in 2002, Felder answered before the sentence could be fully articulated. “Not only will we attend the conference, we will once again exhibit at The Exchange Expo and come even more prepared than we were in 2001.” It’s difficult to imagine how, with four lucrative deals pending from this conference, Felder measures preparedness!

Not all businesses have been as successful as Felder’s. IMotors, a now-defunct direct seller of certified used vehicles formerly headed by Chairman and CEO Lloyd Ward, once employed 600. Factors such as the economy led to the downfall of the company. But Ward delivered a riveting speech, and his optimistic tone left attendees feeling that there was nothing in business so devastating that it could not be survived. “No matter what kind of business you start or career you’re in, always remember to lead with a scope of vision, manage with a force of fact, operate at the speed of thought, and walk with elephants–carefully.”

Earl G. Graves Sr., publisher of BLACK ENTERPRISE, felt it imperative to remind black business owners that despite economic uncertainties, “we are always in a recession. That means we must always operate in a leaner and meaner fashion.”

And we are doing that, according to Milton Jones, vice president of the Bank of America Mid-South. “African Americans contributed $600 billion to the U.S. economy in year 2000″ despite the

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