I cannot recall a black agency ever winning ‘Best of Show’ in their respective ad market,” says Franklin.
“We really try to sell a vision that changes the face of minority advertising and subsequently will change everything. We have a huge responsibility in being able to shape the images of African Americans across the country,” Franklin adds. “We’ve got to do it right. Our work has to be inspirational enough to make a difference, not only a difference with our target, which may be black, but also a difference for white people who see these ads and go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.'”
With industry recognition, the company grew to 22 employees and secured top radio, television, print, alternative media, and short-film accounts with Gillette, Anheuser-Busch, IBM, the Missouri Division of Tourism, and comedian Cedric the Entertainer. These accounts make up 60% of Fuse’s business.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
A legitimate shot in a white-bastion industry was also Carvel Simmons’ aspiration in 1982 when he started Cincinnati-based Trio Trucking Inc. While operating his own insurance agency, which often insured truck drivers, Simmons saw a niche business opportunity: starting his own trucking company employing minority truckers.
Simmons recalls, “I looked around the city and said I don’t really think there’s that many, if any, minority truckers. So I wanted to find a niche in something that I could get into that was not overrun with a lot of different people, and trucking seemed to fit that niche.”
With a $500 investment, two partners who gave him a foot into the industry, and strong business savvy and drive, Simmons raced onto the scene. Trio (No. 89 on the BE INDUSTRI
The mission of merging general-market advertising and African American advertising led to the company’s name, Fuse Inc.
VICE 100 list with $34.8 million in sales) started out with a rented lot, three drivers, and one person for billings. And the company shot up from there. Simmons, 60, was eventually able to buy out his partners, and in 1994 he purchased his own seven-acre terminal for $500,000, which is now worth almost $2.5 million. From his terminal headquarters, Simmons oversees his entire operation, including 120 employees and another two lots. In addition to trucking, Trio now provides intermodal service with trucking routes between Georgia and Pennsylvania, and as far west as Mississippi, and rail shipments to 48 states, Mexico, and Canada. The truck fleet has also grown, swelling to 110 tractors and 450 trailers.
By introducing intermodal service, which provides shipping through different types of transportation, Trio gained contracts with all the major rails, which helped secure clients such as Procter & Gamble and Avon Products. “We serve a niche market doing a lot of things that other companies won’t, like short-haul business, which is [transporting] within a 300-mile radius,” explains Simmons, who delivers products to retail outlets. “So with the trucking and the intermodal business, we feel that the company is well on its way to a very, very rapid growth span. We’re anticipating revenues in excess of $50 million this