Small Business, Big Ambition

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

Bob Johnson at a jazz festival and approached him about investing in his company. Already armed with an independent music label, a professional recording, intimate knowledge of the recording industry, and thousands of dollars in loans, the young entrepreneur persuaded BET’s Johnson to sign on as his business partner.
Three Keys Music has 12 employees, manages eight artists, and made about $600,000 in 2004. Johnson’s next goal is to open a New York office and start a management division.

TEENPRENEUR AWARD NOMINEES
This award recognizes entrepreneurs under the age of 18 who serve as role models and are committed to advancing the rich tradition of black business achievement.
Techmaster Computer Works, TYPE OF BUSINESS: Computer repair services, PRINCIPAL: Najee McGreen, LOCATION: Brooklyn, NY
Najee McGreen’s company profile reads like he’s been in business for much longer than three years. As president and CEO of Techmaster Computer Works, a computer repair services business, McGreen is responsible for overseeing his company’s repair jobs, the education provided through his company’s youth development program, and the free technical support provided through its community outreach program.
McGreen, 17, didn’t pursue his business, his business pursued him. Naturally gifted with computers, he would fix friends and neighbors’ systems at request. But before long, he found his services in high demand. Needing help, McGreen decided to incorporate a youth development program into his business. He started teaching small, two-hour classes on Saturdays. The $20 class is certified, and many of his 15 employees are former students.
Techmaster’s repair jobs cost $35 for the first hour and $15 for each additional hour. Half of the money made on a service call goes to the repair technician. McGreen says serving the community is as much a focus as running a profitable business.
McGreen is a self-taught programmer and repair technician; he reads books and studies online tutorials to sharpen his expertise and stay current. He also handles his business’ accounting using QuickBooks software. The business, which started with no capital, generated approximately $7,000 in 2004.

Hamilton Art Gallery, TYPE OF BUSINESS: Ceramics, PRINCIPAL: Geneva Johnson, LOCATION: Bronx, NY
Geneva Johnson runs the family business. She’s the CEO of Hamilton Art Gallery, which is in the business of painting and selling African American-themed ceramics.
Johnson and her sister and brother, who are vice president and chief financial officer of the company, first learned the skill of pottery from their great-grandmother when they were small. Driven by the desire to produce beautiful, positive images of African Americans, Johnson, 16, decided to turn play into profit.
Hamilton Art Gallery was launched in 2001 and required an initial outlay of about $200 for ceram
ics, paints, and brushes. One of Johnson’s primary vendors is a family friend who fires the bisque ceramic molds that Johnson stylizes and retails.
Initially, the business relied on a Website and word of mouth to generate sales. A year or so after launching the business, Johnson got involved in a couple of youth entrepreneurship programs and competitions where she learned, among other important business lessons, what went into a business plan.

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