In my latest segment on Warren Ballentine’s Truth Fighter’s radio program, I shared with his listeners the importance of connection and exposure for entrepreneurs, new and established. I learned from my own entrepreneurial experience years ago as President of Milestone Media, Inc., an independent comic book company, that business owners had to be equal parts work horse and show horse. You can’t just toil behind the scenes without promoting products and services or developing relationships to open new markets and create access to prospective contracts. Conversely, an entrepreneur can’t spend time profiling. Without hawk-eyed oversight of sales, finances and employees, business owners can wreck enterprises, joining the heap of other commercial casualties.
Join African American trade associations and general market industry groups. Serve on community and business advisory boards. Engage in philanthropic pursuits. Attend conferences to build skills sets like learning to effectively use social media. One event that will most certainly give your company the competitive advantage is our 2011 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo which will be held May 22-25 in Atlanta. Although it is the nation’s largest gathering of black-owned businesses, more entrepreneurs should view our event as an investment. No other venue on the planet will give upstart entrepreneurs access to network or receive a business concept critique from the country’s top business leaders, including BE 100s CEOs.
If you need contacts, contracts or cash, participate in two event-related activities: the Elevator Pitch Competition and Small Business Awards. The Elevator Pitch has always been one of my favorites not only because of some rather audacious presentations but a number of offbeat ideas. There’s no business competition in the country in which a barbecue sports grill franchisor, a manufacture of tall women’s apparel and a web-based weight loss motivation company compete for the top prize. In fact, those were last year’s contenders. Go to our website to record and upload your best two-minute business pitch. The top 10 finalists will be invited to our conference to pitch ideas to attendees and judges — including BLACK ENTERPRISE President & CEO Earl “Butch ” Graves, Jr. — for a chance to win $10,000. Even if you’re not selected, the process will enable you to sharpen presentation skills critical to seeking new customers and financing. Remember these key pointers: Keep it short and simple, focus on business benefits and devise a creative but not over-the-top hook.
Our BE Small Business Awards salutes entrepreneurs in four categories: Small Business of the Year, Innovator of the Year, BE Next Award (for entrepreneurs between ages 21-35) and Teenpreneur Award (for business owners 13-18). Although there’s no cash prize, those selected have used this honor to turn exposure into new business. The 2010 recipient of the Small Business of the Year Award was NuJak Cos., a Lakeland, Florida construction management and real estate development firm. COO Timothy B. Jackson says the publicity of receiving the honor gave his company greater credibility in urban communities.
It’s vital for business owners to attend functions like our conference. It will help you as a business owner achieve what our event promotes — the opportunity to rethink your business.