Blazing New Trails

The Allure Of business ownership continues to entice many Americans in light of the thorny job market, the lack of security, and a greater desire for professional independence. Although business owners are emerging from every corner of the nation, some entrepreneurs prove to be innovative and tenacious enough to rise above mediocrity. These strong-willed business owners redefine the landscape that maps out where black businesses can travel in the future.

The winners of the 2004 BLACK ENTERPRISE Small Business Awards are some of those businesspeople who steer the ship. Recognized during the ninth annual Black Enterprise/General Motors Entrepreneurs Conference held in May at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas, this year’s victors are: Faye Fields of Integrated Resource Technologies Inc., Colin Hill of Gene Network Sciences, Iris Rideau of Rideau Vineyard, and Camille Winbush of Baked Ice. BE’s editors surveyed several businesses to select companies that exemplify stellar concepts that push black entrepreneurship to new heights. In the next four pages, we will introduce the winners. For information about the 2005 conference or to nominate a Small Business Award candidate, call 800-543-6786.

After working for several management consulting firms, Faye F. Fields decided to create a firm that would deliver a strong message: Innovative Solutions—Excellent Results. Field’s bold endeavor rewarded her with the BE Emerging Company of the Year Award. This award recognizes businesses that have poised themselves for future growth by carving out a special niche or by adopting creative marketing techniques.

Integrated Resource Technologies Inc. was founded in Maryland in 1986. Fields, president and CEO of IRT, states that the company is a small business that operates like a big one. IRT provides management support services and information services to clients such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Marine Corp., and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. In 2003, IRT raked in $9.8 million in revenues; however, Fields wants to turn IRT into a $20 million company in the upcoming year. IRT has had a steady 40% sales increase for the last three years. This is the result of marketing, which Faye is directly responsible for, and developing relationships with partners, companies, and potential customers.

Fields makes a conscious effort to place African Americans in key positions, where they can directly impact the company. Fields admits that one of her greatest successes is seeing, “the number of people I can give employment opportunities to and the growth I provide to people who work with me.”

When technology meets medicine, the pair illustrates incredible possibilities for cancer research and the pharmaceutical industry. Gene Network Sciences makes this union possible. Colin Hill, the 31-year-old CEO of GNS, is this year’s winner of the Rising Star Award. The award acknowledges individuals, ages 21 to 35, whose outstanding skills, professionalism, and perseverance have established them as future business leaders.

GNS is a 4-year-old company based in Ithaca, New York. It has 22 full-time employees and is diverse on the technical and scientific level. GNS’ employees have extensive