2011 B.E. Small Business Award Winners

These companies nab top honors at this year's Entrepreneurs Conference

SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Thriving during downturn and expanding opportunity during an upswing is what separates an average small business owner from an outstanding small business owner. This award is presented to the small business owner whose pursuits exemplify the commitment needed to attain success.


It was a chance meeting that transformed years of sacrifice and planning into a fresh start for Ian Blount and Angela Cauley. When the couple finally launched their food blending and repackaging business, Coalescence LLC, in 2005, they already sold their home and moved in with Blount’s mother—along with their two children. Raising the $520,000 in startup capital to cover a slew of expenses, including a mixer, and retrofitting their 7,500-square-foot facility to meet food industry regulations was not easy.

But after 18 months of trying to drum up leads, the copreneurs had a chance encounter with a corporate employee at Wendy’s fast food restaurant who connected them with T. Marzetti Co., a company that produces salad dressings, dipping sauces and other condiments.

“When we first drew up our business plan, our goal was to be a vitamin and mineral nutraceutical company,” says Blount, the company’s chief vice president and senior operating officer. “One of our prospective clients, the T. Marzetti Company, asked if we could blend a Ranch Salad Dressing seasoning… although we had not planned on being a seasoning manufacturer, we had to be flexible.”

Blount and Cauley’s agility led the Ohio-based company to unprecedented growth. Coalescence inked lucrative contracts with Kellogg’s, Tyson Foods, Pepsico and a host of other major food and beverage distributors. The company saw revenue grow 12.5% from 2009 to 2010. And with business ramping up, Blount and Cauley moved from their original facility to a state-of-the-art 35,000 square-foot building.

We’ve seen a shift in technology and in the economic sphere over the past few years, how has this made you re-think the way you do business?
Blount:
We have teamed with an excellent IT company that keeps our services updated with instruments such as “cloud technology” which enhances informational sharing capabilities within our company.

How important is flexibility when running a business?
Blount: It is critical. You have to able to “change on the dime” to meet the needs of your customers. If their production schedule changes, guess what, so does yours.

What was a turning point for your business? Why?
Cauley: The turning point for Coalescence was when we landed our first major contract with the Kellogg Company. It challenged us to raise the bar with respect to our quality programs, inventory management protocols, operational excellence and cash flow.

What lessons in risk taking can you share with other entrepreneurs?
Cauley:
Taking calculated risks are extremely critical for any person contemplating becoming an entrepreneur. We learned from this experience that you should always plan for the unexpected. Make sure that you have an additional 15% to 20% financial cushion. In addition, never count dollars until the contract has been signed, and the purchase order has been received.

Let’s celebrate our 2011 Small Business Award winners by offering your congratulations to these outstanding entrepreneurs in the comment section below. To watch live stream content (sponsored by Pepsi) from Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, taking place May 22-25, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/. Be sure to check back after this year’s event for info on nominating a great business or entrepreneur you may know for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards.

Whether it’s a new service, product, or type of business model, these creative entrepreneurs will have an indelible impact on the way business is done. This award is given to a business approaching entrepreneurship in an innovative or groundbreaking manner
When Andre Woolery assembled his handy magnetic wristband, which kept tool bits close during ‘round the house handy projects, he soon realized he had a potential business on his hands. The then MBA student went into action tapping into his Stanford University classmates and their networks to get the MagnoGrip Magnetic Wristband patented. Woolery performed thorough market research, pinpointing several hardware stores within a 20-mile radius of his Menlo Park, California home, to pitch his product to on consignment.
The Jamaican-born entrepreneur first brought his product to market in 2005 and since then the wristband has made its way to more then 1,700 Lowe’s hardware stores, Home Depot, Walmart and Costco.
But the growth hasn’t been without risk.
“I ultimately decided that if they were willing to test market our products, then I should be able to sell out my first production run,” Woolery said about the local sales runs.
He has since extended the magnetic handiwear concept to include Quick Snap, a magnetic tape measure holder, a magnetic drill holder and a nine-pocket magnetic electrician pouch – all launched in 2011. The 35-year-old also launched a second office in Shenzhen, China.
What propelled you to start the business?
I started MagnoGrip because I felt that our first product, the magnetic wristband, solved a pain point that do-it yourselfers and pro-contractors experience. I also noticed that there was nothing like my invention on the market at the time.
What was a turning point for your business? Why?
Making the decision to focus exclusively on getting traction in the “big box” retail distribution channel. It forced us to take a hard look at our company and our business. As a result, we’ve improved our product offering, our supply chain and logistics operations and our sales and marketing initiatives.
Can you think back to a risk you took that paid off?
The key is to take educated risks so that you have a better chance of being successful. Educated risks will allow you to be prepared to handle success as well as the many setbacks you will encounter along the way. 

Let’s celebrate our 2011 Small Business Award winners. Offer your congratulations to these outstanding entrepreneurs in the comment box below. To watch live stream content from Black Enterprise’s annual Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, taking place May 22-25, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia, visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/. And be sure to check back after the this year’s event for info on nominating a great business or entrepreneur you may know for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards.

Let’s celebrate our 2011 Small Business Award winners. Offer your congratulations to these outstanding entrepreneurs in the comment box below. To watch live stream content from Black Enterprise’s annual Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec/ taking place May 22-25, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia, visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/. http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec/ And be sure to check back after this year’s event for info on nominating a great business or entrepreneur you may know for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards.

Let’s celebrate our 2011 Small Business Award winners. Offer your congratulations to these outstanding entrepreneurs in the comment box below. To watch live stream content from Black Enterprise’s annual Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec/ taking place May 22-25, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia, visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/. http://www.blackenterprise.com/ec/ And be sure to check back after this year’s event for info on nominating a great business or entrepreneur you may know for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards.

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ACROSS THE WEB
  • LaRita Smith

    Congratulations to all of the 2011 winners! Knowing the Coalescence LLC co-founders specifically, I can say without a doubt that they were destined for greatness and this is only the beginning of their success journey! Kudos!

  • Jordan GRAY

    Hola! I’m not surpised that Jonathan and Adam won,they show and have alot of determination and leadership!! CONGRATSS CUZZOS!