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

of Economic and Community Development Existing Industry Services. Amy then provided me with an introduction to Victor Tyler, program manager at the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services.”

IBTI currently provides training for the university’s Center for Government Training. “I’m currently in negotiations to provide training services for Mr. Tyler’s department as well. All told, including the contacts made at the Entrepreneurs Conference, IBTI should pick up an additional $150,000 in revenue for 2001.”

Ridgley-Hopson says that she was nothing less than thrilled to have seen and participated in a forum where everyone had business ownership and entrepreneurial aspirations in common.

She was also motivated by the speakers–most notably Willie Jolley. “His words of inspiration, ‘Never do what’s comfortable, do what’s necessary,’ and ‘Only the ridiculous can achieve the spectacular,’ took me to the next level on my entrepreneurial voyage,” she said.

Jolley’s four steps to success–Vision, Decision, Action, and Desire–caused the conferees to pick up their pens and jot down his sage advice.

Because of the inspiring rhetoric and the contacts she made, Ridgley-Hopson says that her new goal is to encourage all business owners to attend the Entrepreneurs Conference. “It is an event that will give you a definite return on your business and personal investment.”

One corporate giant who didn’t always see a return on his investment
is David Steward, CEO of World Wide Technology Inc. (WWT), No. 1 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $802 million in sales. “I’d like to tell you that I’ve been through a lot to get to where I’m standing today,” Steward said to the focused assembly. “I’ve taken my wife of 25 years through about eight or nine companies before enjoying the success of WWT.

“No matter what I’ve faced, personally or professionally,” said Steward, “what keeps me going is a passage from The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. ‘It’s not the strongest or the smartest that survive, but the ones most adaptable to change.’”

And change is what Sandra C. Rozier experienced when she attended the Entrepreneurs Conference for the first time in 1999, when it was held in Orlando, Florida. “I was working as the director of corporate marketing at a health insurance company, a firm that I had been with for 13 years. Although I enjoyed what I did and felt secure in my position, I knew that I wanted another challenge and I asked God to guide me in discovering what that might be.”

Rozier, who has been a frequent attendee of the BE/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge, learned of the Entrepreneurs Conference while there. “I really didn’t have a set agenda or even a plan for what presentations I would attend and I kind of wandered into the The Exchange Expo hall just viewing all of the interesting booths and opportunities for the black business community.” Rozier happened upon the Choice Hotels booth and began talking at length to Wendy Grant, who is in charge of diversity for the 4,500-hotel chain. “Wendy aggressively pursued me because up until that point there

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