Tees That Bind

Five years of the B.E./Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge has netted numerous business and personal relationships

Jr., owner of Richardson Gallery in Montclair, New Jersey. The Gallery specializes in art that reflects the African Diaspora in a variety of media, including original art and prints on paper, and sculpture in bronze, ceramic, stone and wood.

Richardson has also been an exhibitor at the Golf & Tennis Challenge for the past three years. Although he spends most of his time manning his booth there, he still finds time to do some networking and enjoy the event.

“I’m so busy with my display in the exhibit hall, it’s difficult to participate in any of the scheduled activities. But I usually get over to the spa for a treatment or two, my wife, June, and I grab a few minutes to play tennis together, and I always spend a good amount of time at the pool. This gives me a chance to catch up with some other people I haven’t seen elsewhere.”

Eddie and Monique Cheeks met the Richardsons in 1996. It was also the Cheekses’ first year attending the event. And over the past three years, their relationship has blossomed both at and away from the event.

“We sometimes meet the same vendors at other Expos,” say Monique. “They’re almost like casual friends when we see them now. They’re not pressuring us to buy things; it’s just that they’re helping us to look for things, getting to know us, helping us to decide on personal pieces and things for our home. It’s kind of refreshing.”

Richardson adds, “What began as a professional relationship has grown into a very comfortable personal relationship.” Initially, he was commissioned to acquire some pieces of art for Dr. Cheeks’ practice in Atlanta. “Eddie and Monique are consistent attendees at B.E. events, and I see them at both the Golf & Tennis Challenge and the Entrepreneurs Conference in May. I am on a mission to find them a very special sculpture to fit into their home decor.”

For the Cheekses, the event has become a must-attend fete for greeting old friends, making new acquaintances, establishing contacts and running into hometown folks. And after three years, they say that hasn’t changed.

At the 1998 Golf & Tennis Challenge, says Monique, “I met several people here in Miami who are from my home town. I wasn’t expecting that!” The couple view this kind of networking as key to all their business endeavors. Monique says whether the person is an entrepreneur, attorney or physician, he or she may know someone or have a client they can put you in contact with directly. She adds people are more willing to give referrals in a social setting because it’s relaxed, and they get to know you and build a relationship with you over a few days.

“The interaction between the attendees and business owners is one of honest interest and support. I also find networking opportunities among the other exhibitors,” says Richardson. “I meet and obtain new customers each year, and repeat attendees return to purchase additional artwork.” The gathering, he says, has provided a measure

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