6.07.2013

Builders Not Beggars: Supporting Black business a matter of Black survival

By Starla Muhammad

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Black-owned businesses still face an uphill climb in terms of financing, investment and support but the enthusiasm, resolve and willingness to grow was evident at a recent Black business conference.

Over 1,000 budding entrepreneurs, established business owners and those contemplating delving into business ventures recently gathered for the 18th Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference and Expo.

A wide variety of sessions and panel discussions with the goals of advancing the development of Black businesses included, “How You Can Become Unstoppable—And Accelerate Your Business,” “Success: The Next Generation—Keeping Business in the Family,” “Your Product Here! Finding Your Corner of the Big Retail Shelf,” “Blogs, Apps, and Taking it Viral: Growing Revenue in the Age of Social Media,” and “Sisters, Inc.,” a session dedicated to Black women entrepreneurs to name a few.
The conference was an opportunity for established Black business owners to share tips, expertise, do’s and don’ts.

Bill Perkins, president and owner of Bill Perkins Automotive Group is not only a top car dealer in Ann Arbor, Mich., he is also the second largest minority-owned dealership in metro Detroit. His company is 100 percent Black-owned and grossed over $111 million in 2008, according to Black Enterprise. He shared his reason for going into business for himself.

“I guess for me, starting out working for a corporation, I realized early on that I was not in control of my life. These people, they were paying me good money, but they controlled my life. ‘OK Bill we like the job you’re doing but you know, we’re going to promote you so we’re moving you to Los Angeles, California, we’re moving you to Kansas City, Missouri,’ ” he told workshop attendees on a the panel dedicated to generational businesses.

Having worked several years for other car dealers, Mr. Perkins wanted to take control of his own destiny and struck out on his own. He is now training his son to take the reins of the multi-million dollar family enterprise.

Jessica A. Johnson is president of Johnson Security Bureau, family-owned since 1962. Ms. Johnson took over the family businesses when her grandmother died. She said the sense of community and affinity for family business her grandparents had down South never left when they moved to New York.

“They instilled in us the importance of doing business with other family businesses. So for example we listed to WBLS and WLIE, the Sutton family, we went to and met at Sylvia’s and we would see Mrs. Woods and her other family members working around the restaurant. They took pride in publications like Black Enterprise, Ebony and Jet to support the Johnson family (no relation),” said Ms. Johnson, who will be honored with a “40 Under Forty” award June 13 The Network Journal, a New York-based magazine dedicated to Black professionals. The company also received the 2013 Black Enterprise Family Business of the Year award at the May 15-19 gathering.

“We were able to see successful family businesses, we were able to be a successful family business and now we’re able to present and demonstrate to our community what it means to be a successful family business. So the culture and community aspects are very important,” she said. [READ MORE]