It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to network with 1,200+ of the most progressive black entrepreneurs from around the country. However, what set the networking apart at the 2010 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo was the opportunity to be inspired by the country’s black business legends at the BE 100s Anniversary Celebration & Awards Dinner. It is an annual event that takes place at the Entrepreneurs Conference that commemorates the titans in the automotive, advertising, financial services, and industrial/services industries.
I’ve attended the dinner several times before and have never lost the desire to hear the success stories firsthand. The video biographies are captivating. I’ve learned how the entrepreneurs started their firms and were able to grow them into enterprises that employ hundreds, generate millions in revenue, and continue to raise the bar for businesses across the board.
Walter E. Douglas’ story about his Detroit-based Avis Ford dealership was a testimony in determination. While auto dealers across the country were struggling, Walter and Mark Douglas, his president, were able to grow their revenues by 15% last year. That is truly motivating news. I have no excuses!
Don Coleman, president of GlobalHue, the Advertising Agency of the Year, reminded me that there is a market for multicultural marketing and corporate America will pay for it—especially when they are short on resources and forced to be creative. As an entrepreneur who has to bootstrap, this is an important reminder. Lean times are the mother of innovation, and creative thinking can challenge me to develop a brand for my company that will benefit for years to come.
A black female entrepreneur — Suzanne Shank, CEO of Seibert, Brandford, Shank & Co. L.L.C. — won the award for Financial Services Company of the Year. The challenges that a female entrepreneur faces hit home with me. Watching her win her award was even more motivating considering that she has established her firm as one of the top 10 of all municipal bond investment banks—in a male-dominated industry.
Warren Thompson, president of Thompson Hospitality Corp., received the Company of the Year award. He reminded me of the importance of intergenerational wealth. Planning a business that can support my family is one thing. However, establishing a firm that can employ my family and hundreds of others takes vision and hard work.
Don Barden, owner and chairman of Barden Companies, received the A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award. Although health issues prevented him from accepting the award in person, his president, shared a captivating story about his early days. He got an autographed book from A.G. Gaston, and it is still in his office today as motivation. As someone who went on to be the first black owner of a casino in Vegas, Barden reminded me that the entrepreneurial dream can start from humble beginnings and the stories of powerful entrepreneurial mentors.
However, the highlight of the awards banquet was the video histography of Black Enterprise, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this August. The story of the vision and determination of black entrepreneur Earl Graves Sr. and the team at Black Enterprise was shared through photos, music, and stories over the four decades the magazine has been in print. I know this is a video I will want to watch several times—especially when forces are discouraging me from focusing on a large vision and having the commitment to see it through.
If you attended the awards dinner, what was your favorite part of the event? Please share any highlights or memorable moments below.
Malla Haridat, the founder and CEO of New Designs for Life, is a nationally recognized expert in the specialized field of entrepreneurship education and has trained over 1,000 students. She has traveled extensively throughout the United States working in partnership with companies developing creative solutions for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. A dynamic thinker, strategist, and speaker, Malla now works with a wide variety of organizations applying her creative talents to the challenges of business transformation. Her company was awarded the 2005 New York City Small Business Award of the Year by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and has been featured in publications like The New York Times and on Martha Stewart Radio.