were no African American franchisees for the brand and Choice wanted to change that.”
Later that night, Rozier attended the VIP reception, where she met Earl G. Graves Sr., who encouraged her to go for it. “I initially told him that I felt God led me to the conference and that maybe I’d found my answer with the hotel industry. Mr. Graves suggested that I speak with some of the BE 100S, share my story, and vigorously pursue my dream.”
Today, Rozier, now an annual conference attendee, is president and CEO of Spears Global Marketing and Development L.L.C., a $400,000 marketing firm in Pontiac, Michigan, whose clients include, among others, the very health insurance company she left to realize her entrepreneurial vision and become the first African American woman to own a Quality Suites Hotel & Conference Center, a hotel that has 102 luxury suites and banquet/meeting rooms to accommodate up to 300 people.
“It hasn’t been easy,” says Rozier. “I had to come back home and raise approximately $3 million to fund the $10 million hotel project. I knew that I believed in myself and that I would never take ‘no’ for an answer. So I set out to see what funds were available through the city and state, and then I tapped friends and family.”
Two executives she sought out had companies on the BE lists: Don Coleman, president and CEO of Don Coleman Advertising, No. 1 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $270 million in billings, who is a member of Rozier’s church, and Anthony Snoddy, CEO of Exemplar Manufacturing Co. in Ypsilanti, Michigan, No. 21 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $165 million in sales.
“I can’t say enough about those guys. They believed in me and in what I was trying to accomplish. They, along with countless others, made my dream a reality. I am truly blessed and it all started because of BE.”
The conference ended on a high note with the Entrepreneurs Awards Gala Dinner, where African American business owners are celebrated and their achievements recognized at the Small Business Awards ceremony. The keynote speaker for the evening was Congressman Harold E. Ford Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, who assured the attendees that “as our economy changes and grows, Tennessee will emerge as a new market for young, aggressive, and visionary business leaders.”
Judging from the more than 1,500 attendees at this year’s conference, notwithstanding it has moved into a new home for the next two years, existing businesses looking to grow and new companies waiting to begin can expect to find answers to their capital needs, real prospects for their company’s expansion, and the inspiration needed to continue their dreams at the Black Enterprise/ Bank of America Entrepreneurs Conference.
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Tennessee is home to more than 19,000 African American businesses and an overall population of more than 5 million Tennesseans, providing a fertile ground for business start-ups and future success.
Tennessee Gov. Donald Sundquist told the assemblage of corporate heads and entrepreneurs that “profit is a good word