Black Enterprise 2012 Small Business Award Winners

Small Business is Big Business

Technology took center stage in several sessions. “Social Media X Factor: Take Your Business Marketing Strategy to the Next Level Now!” was packed with entrepreneurs looking to gain clout online and to leverage social media to position their brands and grow their businesses. Tips came courtesy of Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and Dawn Fitch, founder and president of Pooka Pure & Simple, an Orange, New Jersey-based natural bath and body company. Using Facebook and Twitter, Pooka Pure & Simple’s revenues have grown by 35% (see “Socialology,” March 2012).

A memorable moment was the keynote delivered by Janice Bryant Howroyd, CEO of ACT-1 Group, the first black woman to own a billion-dollar company. ACT-1 Group holds the No. 2 spot on the be industrial/service companies list with $1.8 billion in revenues and was named the 2012 Industrial/Service Company of the Year.  Entrepreneurs were inspired by the business titan, who is convinced that others can follow in her footsteps, but must know getting there is mind over matter. “To be a big business, you have to think like a big business,” Bryant Howroyd shared with EC attendees.

Living up to its mission statement “where deals are made,” EC provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to meet corporate buyers. Case in point is Nadine Thompson, founder and CEO of Nadine Thompson Enterprises and Soul Purpose Lifestyle Co., a direct sales lifestyle company that produces natural personal care products. During the “Sisters Inc.: Bouncing Back” panel, Thompson shared how her first million-dollar business, Warm Spirit, which she founded in 1999, experienced a hostile takeover in 2007. After the session, a representative from Sam’s Club approached Thompson about her Soul Purpose bath and beauty line, and pitched the idea of selling the products in-store at Sam Club’s Chicago locations as a featured vendor. “She said she was impressed and liked what I was doing,” Thompson says. “This opportunity would allow me to reach a lot of women who would be interested in Soul Purpose.”

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