Small Business, Big Ambition

This year's nominees got up and running with more than a little drive

We honor the accomplishments of small business pioneers like these every year with the BLACK ENTERPRISE Small Business Awards. The winners will be announced at the 10th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, hosted by General Motors, May 18–22, at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas.

Emerging Company of the Year NOMINEES
This award recognizes businesses that have poised themselves for future growth by carving out a special business niche or by adopting creative marketing techniques.

Vision Systems & Technology Inc., TYPE OF BUSINESS: IT Services, PRESIDENT/CEO: Dwayne Robinson, LOCATION: Ellicot City, MD
Dwayne Robinson, president of Vision Systems, founded his IT services company in 1997 and ran it from home. He had one employee — himself — and a lot of ambition. Less than 10 years later, that ambition has helped Robinson bring his entrepreneurial dreams to fruition. He now runs a 12,000-square-foot facility and employs a staff of 45. Last year’s gross revenues amounted to more than $7 million.
Robinson, 41, worked as an IT consultant/software engineer for 10 years prior to starting his company. He took a critical look at the marketplace and decided to focus on the underserved government sector.
VSTI specializes in providing innovative Web-based services and enterprise integration information solutions. The company’s clients include national security agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Aviation Administration. Many VSTI employees have top-secret security clearance, enabling them to access and service classified information and systems.
Robinson prides himself on the expertise and work ethic of his employees and the reputation VSTI has built among its clients.

Carol’s Daughter Inc., TYPE OF BUSINESS: Bath and body care products, PRESIDENT/CEO: Lisa Price, LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY
How about a coconut mango pineapple smoothie? Or some Jamaican punch? These delectable concoctions aren’t made to quench your thirst but to moisturize your skin. They are only two of the many inviting products from Carol’s Daughter, a line of hair, face, body, and bath potions; fragrances; candles; incense; and gifts items.
Founder Lisa Price made her first Carol’s Daughter creation in her kitchen more than 15 years ago and officially founded the company in 1993. Her products are made with all-natural ingredients and include fruits, spices, and plants. And they’re made not just for women but for men, kids, and babies.
Price, 42, started her company with around $100 and a love for scents. Her motivation for starting the business was to be true to herself and follow her interests. Just a few years prior, financial problems had led her to declare bankruptcy.
Carol’s Daughter brought in more than $3 million in revenues last year and is still growing. Initially a one-woman operation, the company now employs more than 20 people and has established a huge local, international, and celebrity consumer base.

Physical Therapy & Sports Assessment Center, TYPE OF BUSINESS: Physical therapy practice, PRESIDENT: Edward Lee, LOCATION: Silver Spring, MD
Inspiration comes in many forms. Edward Lee’s came in the form of an injury. The former wide receiver and kick return specialist for the Detroit Lions suffered a knee injury in 1983 that spelled the end of

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