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Investing Your Gifts in Others

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Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, many people lose sight of the fact that Jesus was the ultimate gift from God for all humanity. Our lives would be hopeless and purposeless if God had not given us the precious gift of His son. And just as the three wise men came to worship and present gifts to Jesus, entrepreneurs should be ready to do the same with their time, talents, and resources. You do that by sharing yourself with others. Jesus said, “If you have given of yourselves unto the least of these, you have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

It is a universal truth that we reap what we sow. So, for entrepreneurs who aspire to succeed in their business and personal lives, you should be at the front of the line in terms of enthusiastically sowing your talents into others’ lives, especially the next generation. This will position you to receive incredibly abundant returns, including some that might not be measured in financial terms. Nevertheless, when your have the perspective that giving precedes getting, you will understand that the benefits you receive will be much greater than just a contract or deal.

What will help you to do this successfully is recommitting your focus to making this season revolve around appreciating God for what He has done for you and with a sense of gratitude investing yourself into others’ lives. The return on your investment will be great, far beyond what you could ever imagine. As it relates to the investment of your gifts:

1) Ask God how you can maximize your gifts, talents, relationships, and resources to have a positive impact on the people around you, especially our youth.

2) Ask Him to show you how to position your business to contribute to specific solutions and remedies for challenges and problems in your community.

My prayer is that God would richly bless you and your family during this time. I hope that you are able to connect with your family and loved ones and experience the warmth of enriching relationships that reinforce God’s love for you. As you feel His love embracing you, pour yourself into someone else’s life. You won’t regret it, your business will prosper, and better yet your Father will be please with you.

Best wishes during this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Paul Wilson



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Leveraging Strategic Relationships - Pt. 2

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Continued from Part 1...

It's very easy to say that more strategic partnerships are needed for small businesses; however, it's much harder to make it happen for various reasons. One of the most obvious reasons is that there has to be two willing partners to make a deal. Also, there must be financial incentives on both sides that would make such a deal attractive for the near term and the future. Nevertheless, where there's a will there's a way.

Below are three different strategies in the form of decision rules that small businesses can use to assess whether or not they should consider strategically partnering with another company in order to grow their businesses. These decision rules are crucial, because of the potential negative impact that a bad decision can have on a small business.

Decision rules for:

1) Strategic alliance or Collaborative partnership. Companies should only form alliances that are highly selective, focusing on particular value chain activities and on obtaining a particular competitive advantage garnered from the combination of resources and capabilities that it and its allies possess that give it an edge over rivals. This approach is best used when two or more companies choose to work together very closely, but without going as far as a joint venture, merger, or acquisition.

2) Merger or Acquisition. Use when alliances don’t go far enough in providing a company with access to the needed resources and capabilities required to gain a competitive advantage over its strongest rivals now and in the future. A company should only merge or acquire another company whose strengths will complement or enhance its own, not one who has the same weaknesses.

3) Vertical integration. Vertical integration should only be considered if the integration will strengthen the firm’s competitive position by producing sufficient cost savings to justify the extra investment, add materially to a company’s technological and competitive strengths, or truly help differentiate the company’s product offering. Furthermore, the company first should evaluate thoroughly whether or not they have the expertise to integrate the operations of the vertically integrated company into its own before making this type of decision to broaden its strategic focus.

Partnering with another company can be very risky, so due diligence is the key. Before you as a business owner decide to go this route as an option for business growth and expansion, you have to make sure that you do a thorough analysis of the other company’s financials, strengths and weaknesses, operations and management style, reputation, and their company values and culture among other things. This relationship will be like a marriage, so the personnel of the two businesses better get along well or else you’re just asking for trouble. Make sure that during your “dating” process you learn all that you can before jumping into the relationship. The more time you spend on the front end in the due diligence and planning process, the less time you will spend on the back end trying to resolve problems and issues that could have been avoided.

Strategic relationships can be very lucrative as a growth strategy, but they can also be very damaging. Just make sure that if you are pursuing this path for your business to “measure twice and cut once.” You don’t want your business to be ruined by a bad relationship. Happy dating!


References
Thompson, A.A., Jr., Strickland, A.J., III & Gamble, J. E. (2005). Crafting and Executing Strategy; The Quest for Competitive Advantage, Concepts and Cases (14th ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.


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Leveraging Strategic Relationships - Pt. 1

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Often because small businesses have a shortage of capital and capacity, they struggle to compete against their larger competitors. Yet despite their uses in almost every sector of business, strategic alliances, including mergers and acquisitions, have not been pursued aggressively enough as viable options for growth. As large corporations continue the trend of reducing their suppliers and looking for companies that can handle larger, more diversified tasks, smaller companies must consider a broader range of alternatives to grow more quickly. New ideas and solutions related to growth and expansion must be developed and embraced by these companies if they want to be competitive.

Much of the responsibility to make this concept a reality rests with the small business owners. In order to position themselves for larger deals, smaller skilled companies that lack capacity must leverage their strengths with one another to create bigger, faster, stronger enterprises that are more capable of handling complex, multi-million dollar sourcing deals. This will require more forward thinking entrepreneurs who are willing to engage in these strategic relationships with the potential of having to relinquish some control. The big picture must take on a greater meaning. Everybody might not be able to be the head honcho. However, if two companies can come together to create a stronger single enterprise, allowing them to win larger, more lucrative contracts, then that is more important than each individual company remaining separate and fighting over scraps.

Corporations also have a significant role to play in this type of growth strategy. For them to have a meaningful impact within their small business and diverse supply bases requires bold, courageous action and strategic resources, including human capital and management assistance. There needs to exist an incubator-type atmosphere that will provide these companies the support and guidance needed to make these kinds of business relationships successful. Nobody benefits if these arrangements fail. This kind of action also requires proactive, forward thinking corporate visionaries who are willing to make long-term commitments that may not pay immediate dividends, but will eventually result in substantial benefits to both the company and their suppliers.

With the right amount of focused attention, however, mergers and acquisitions can become viable options for many corporations who are looking to grow their diverse supply base as well as develop new sourcing solutions that add overall value. This not only demonstrates good corporate citizenship on the part of the corporations, it helps to establish new sources of ideas, innovation, and inspiration.

Return here soon for Part 2.


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What really is empowerment?

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Empowerment is defined by the dictionary as:


  1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority. See Synonyms at authorize.
  2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable: “Computers... empower students to become intellectual explorers” (Edward B. Fiske).

I realize that the word empowerment often is overused and misused. Therefore, I have redefined what empowerment means so that there is no confusion or misconceptions about how I use this word. Empowerment should be viewed as a process with a strategic intent or expected result rather than just as a single action. Actually, it involves several steps to enable a person to reach a particular goal. The key steps in the empowerment process should include motivating people, providing them with valuable knowledge and information, training them in relevant areas, exposing them to situations through which their new knowledge can be applied, and creating an overall atmosphere that removes barriers and establishes opportunities for success. The end result is that progress is achieved through the enhancement or improvement of the person and/or situation.

How does this relate to entrepreneurship and business development? Socio-economic factors are significant drivers influencing negative situations that exist within many minority communities, including crime, poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, disease, and lack of education, among other things. These environments can only be enhanced or improved as the people within these environments are empowered to do so. One of the key ways to make this happen is through entrepreneurship and business development.

Community transformation is fueled by economic development. Helping people grow and establish businesses is an effective tool to help to economically empower people to improve their standard of living and the communities in which they live. Of course economic empowerment does not happen just because we want it to. A strategic plan must be crafted and implemented, involving all parties that are relevant to this discussion, including corporations, minority business advocacy organizations, governmental agencies, current and aspiring small business owners, and a community’s citizens. Each of these entities has a vital role to play in this economic development and community transformation strategy.

Working together gives us the opportunity to create viable partnerships that can develop practical solutions, resulting in tangible benefits for those in our communities. Together, we can create more opportunities to empower more people.




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Inner City Entrepreneurs

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Although a lot can be inferred, not much is known about inner city entrepreneurs in terms of their business practices, motivations, skills, knowledge base, etc. Boston University, along with the Kauffman Foundation, has published a report entitled, "Building Ventures and Expanding Community Ties: The Case of InnerCity Entrepreneurs." According to the authors, the purpose of this study of 29 inner city entrepreneurs was to "explore how well current theories about entrepreneurs and firm growth are supported when applied to minority and female-run entrepreneurial ventures inside urban settings."

The results of their study are very interesting.

Excerpt:
This study shows the relative importance of individual, firm and community factors in driving the growth of inner-city enterprises. We find that the entrepreneur’s involvement in the community is tied to his or her values, motives and strategic actions. In these ways, community involvement has an impact on the growth of the venture. These insights highlight the gap in our thinking about economically and socially driven ventures. Most of the ICE entrepreneurs do not fit the classic profiles of “traditional” businessmen and women who are primarily, perhaps even exclusively, focused on the bottom line or social entrepreneurs who use good business practices explicitly to do more social good. Their ventures are best described as “hybrids” or “business-and-community ventures” in that they reflect both the entrepreneur’s need to focus on the bottom line and the socially-minded activist‘s desire to make the community better.


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Using the knowledge gained from this research, we should be able to develop and implement programs that help promote more business-minded social entrepreneurs in urban communities. These individuals have a love for inner cities, because they often live there, and they are committed to making them better for all people. It seems reasonable to me that they should be equipped with the tools and capital to do just that. With the right type of mentoring and business development resources, they can be more effective than a lot of other programs that are supposed to be in place to revitalize inner city communities that are falling short. It's time to start investing resources where there can be a good chance of a return, socially and financially, and stop throwing money at programs that are no longer working.

Full article. Enjoy!


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Next-Gen Entrepreneurs

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I recently had an opportunity to spend some time around a group of young people. It was very enlightening for me, because although they were very talented, they did not have the adult attention, guidance, and supervision needed to help them grow and develop in such a way that would allow them to maximize their gifts and abilities. Unfortunately, this is the plight of many of our youth today. So much of their talent goes unrealized, because they don’t have the right people in their lives to help pull the greatness out of them.

Personally, I consider myself more of a late bloomer as it relates to thinking entrepreneurially. Growing up I wish I had had someone to teach me the basics of entrepreneurship versus just telling me that best way to achieve success in life was to advance up the corporate ladder. If I only knew then what I know now about being able to create one’s destiny through entrepreneurship, the path I have taken might have been very different. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the experience, knowledge, and skills that I have been able to accumulate in corporate America; however, I definitely would have approached my career much differently.

This has led me to think creatively about possible ways to help our youth prepare a future that can have multiple paths to success, not just one. Here are some proactive steps that we can take to better prepare the next generation for a lifetime of success:

  1. More mentoring of our youth is needed in business, entrepreneurship, personal finances, and otherwise. These mentors should focus on helping our youth discover, develop, and maximize their gifts, abilities, and talents. They need to see the applications of skills that are both profitable and legal. They need to see positive role models that are making money and having a positive impact in their communities.
  2. Teach them what it means to be a true leader. Teach them how to apply leadership principles from a business and community perspective. Ethics along with social conscience must be at the center of these lessons.
  3. Develop them to be entrepreneurial thinkers. They need to learn to be problem-solvers, issue-resolvers, solutions-providers, and wealth-creaters. This will help to defeat the victim mentality that many of our youth have today. Learning to think like this is very important, because even if someone chooses to pursue a lifelong career in corporate America, they should still be entrepreneurial in their responsibilities and endeavors, providing a valuable return on (employee) investment to their organizations.
  4. Establish programs that can be integrated with their education that teaches entrepreneurial skills. If they cannot be integrated effectively in schools, then they must be community based. We need more thought leaders that can contribute innovative and creative ideas to the development of these types of programs.
  5. Help youth to start their own businesses. Current entrepreneurs should be on the forefront of this initiative, donating their time, talent, and resources to see that the next generation of entrepreneurs early on gets the knowledge, information, and other essentials needed to be successful in business and life. This will have positive economic and social benefits throughout the community.

If we look at various people groups around the world, and particularly in the U.S., part of their entrepreneurial success has been the fact that their businesses have been transferred generationally, allowing the next generation to continue to expand the wealth base that had already been created. African-Americans need to establish our own legacy of passing down profitable, successful businesses from one generation to the next in order to create generational wealth. We need to catch the vision and not just think about our own success, but of the future opportunities for success for our youth. Intentional action must be taken by those with the talent, resources, skills, and influence to position our youth to carry the mantle for generations to come, so that we will be able to realize the promise of the “latter house truly becoming greater than the former house” (Haggai 2:9, paraphrase).

Tags: , entrepreneur, leadership, youth entrepreneurship, youth ministry


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Thankful

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There are so many things to reflect upon at this time of the year for which we should be thankful. Especially, when we think about the pioneers and leaders that blazed the trails before us, such as DuBois, King, Malcolm, Vivian, Bethune, Mandela, Tubman, Parks, and many, many more that I would not attempt to name here, we would not have the opportunities in business that we have, let alone being able to exercise and enjoy our basic rights and freedoms as human beings.

Also, as we think about the predecessors in our own families, they may not have had famous names, but they each contributed in their own way to the myriad of opportunities that are open to us today to succeed and create generational wealth. The reason this is important to me is because my parents soon will celebrate another wedding anniversary. They have been married over 30 years. Although they may not have taught me how to be a businessman per se, they did teach me how to be a real man. And that will carry me a lot further in business than just knowing marketing, finance, purchasing, etc.

So, enjoy your turkey day, don’t get too stuffed, and don’t forget to thank God for the people he placed on earth to open the doors that have allowed the rest of us to succeed.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

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Not-So-Surprising Economic Impact from Immigrant Businesses

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In new research, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter discovered that immigrants who live in inner cities are key catalysts to economic growth and urban investment. One quote of his in particular is very interesting:

The immigrants "change the very face of entrepreneurship in inner cities" and "provide a much-needed shot of economic vibrancy to distressed neighborhoods."

His study seems to validate what many of those who actually work to build up these communities have already known for a long time, which is minority entrepreneurship and small business development is a critical driver for economic growth. It's time to stop studying these issues and start making strategic investments into these communities in order to accelerate the economic impact and help alleviate some of the problems that exist there today. It's time for those with the resources and ideas to come together to create effective and long-lasting solutions that help these businesses grow. Small business growth is one of the key factors that will help to lift these neighborhoods and communities out of the conditions that they are in. This will not only benefit those communities, but also those who make the commitment to invest there.

Check out the rest of the article at USA Today.

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New Growth Strategies Needed

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The following excerpt is from a press release made by The Boston Consulting Group concerning the state of minority-owned businesses:

Impressive gains made by minority-owned businesses over the past few years stand to be squandered unless new growth strategies are adapted to compete in a rapidly changing business market, according to a new study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The report, The New Agenda for Minority Business Development, sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri, argues that minority businesses are not maintaining pace with the larger U.S. business community and that a change of "mindset" is required to ensure sustained growth. The study further states that it is necessary for minority businesses to work with corporations as well as government agencies to better adjust and take advantage of the changing global marketplace.

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I believe that it is necessary reality that small and minority-owned businesses need to start thinking globally, not just locally. The world is getting "smaller," which means that it's also getting more competitive. With corporations able to get just about any product or service from just about anywhere around the world, small businesses need to be aware that their competitors aren't just down the street, but the are also across the globe. In order to stay in the game and succeed, these entrepreneurs need to start thinking beyond geographical boundaries and start thinking about how they can expand their products, processes, and delivery systems to serve the needs of global corporations. This is no longer a option - it has become a necessity for large and small companies alike.


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Suggestions for Small Biz

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In my work, I have been fortunate to see the good bad and ugly of small businesses. Based on my experiences and interactions with small businesses and large corporations, I have listed some thoughts and considerations to help increase your opportunities for success and growth:

  1. Define your core competencies. You can't be all things to all people.
  2. Based on your core competencies, develop a business strategy model that complements them. Get some help developing a comprehensive business plan. This allows you to put some feet to your faith and a deadline to your dream.
  3. Understand your target customer's business model to make sure that it's a good fit with your business model. You may have the flexibility to deal with different customers, but be careful. You might have to specialize in an industry rather than generalize across many.
  4. Understand that particular industry's business culture. Understand also that different companies within the same industry can have very different personalities.
  5. Become solutions oriented. Research and understand the challenges that your target companies are facing, and develop products and services that provide solutions to those challenges.
  6. Build relationships with key decision makers. The RFP process is too late to start that process. Sometimes there are long sales cycles, so be patient and work hard to establish a good rapport with those in purchasing and business units.
  7. Join industry trade groups of those companies that you are targeting. Often times relationships are established and strengthened at their yearly events. These events are also good occasions to learn more about the issues, challenges, and opportunities faced by industries and specific companies.
  8. Identify strategic partners that allow both of you to leverage your strengths, positioning each of you for larger and better contracting opportunities. Consider strategic alliances, 2nd tier, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions. It's better to get a piece of a larger pie than none of a smaller pie. Be creative - don't think that you always have to go it alone.

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Profitable Corporate Social Responsibility

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An area that is often overlooked when people discuss the profitability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives is minority business development, i.e. Supplier Diversity. This is an area that has not been fully mined to discover innovative ideas and practices that not only serve to have a positive impact on minority communities, but also can provide a positive ROI back to invested corporations.

Supplier diversity often gets placed in the category of affirmative action as it relates to negative connotations of what the true purpose of these types of initiatives really are. Nevertheless, tangible value can be obtained from the performance of diverse suppliers. High performance organizations understand that supplier diversity is more of a supply chain issue than it is a diversity issue. Accenture completed a study that identifies the definitive link between supply chain performance and the bottom line. Therefore, healthy supply chains lead to healthy companies.

The ways which minority/small businesses can impact an organization's supply chain include but are not limited to:
  • Lower costs due to less overhead
  • Innovative solutions
  • Specialized services
  • New technology
  • Increased flexibility
  • Key insights into target markets

Furthermore, the impact of doing business with these companies can be linked back to a company's revenue potential. One must remember, that these suppliers are often current or potential customers. The more advanced and effective a company's supplier diversity initiatives are, the more positively that translates to influence that a company can have within certain market segments. Companies that take a more proactive, innovative approach to their supplier diversity initiatives will reap the benefits on both ends of the value spectrum. Now that's CSR at it best!


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Minority Entrepreneurship = Economic Inclusion

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In this article, Dr. Melvin Gravely, Managing Director for the Institute of Entrepreneurial Thinking and author of When Black and White Make Green, has done an excellent job of outlining the crucial link between minority business development and economic empowerment within minority communities. He articulately explains how this country was grown through entrepreneurship and how those same principles, if applied strategically and effectively, can produce powerful results within areas of our society that generationally have been under the oppressive weight of poverty.

Enjoy!


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Supplier Diversity Innovations

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Over the past 3 to 5 years P&G has had one of the more successful supplier diversity programs. In fact, earlier this year they were inducted into the prestigious Billion Dollar Roundtable for those companies who have spent more than $1B in a year with diverse business enterprises. This was a great feat for which they should be highly commended.

This type of accomplishment cannot be achieved by accident. There must be a significant commitment and investment, starting with the CEO on down throughout the entire organization, to reach an incredible milestone that only a handful of companies have done. This also takes an innovative approach to supplier diversity that focuses on the supplier's long-term success.

One of those innovative practices involves helping their minority business enterprises (MBEs) to facilitate mergers and acquisitions. Here's two examples:


1.) Film Fabricators, Inc. (MBE) and Johnson-Bryce Corp. (MBE)
Proctor & Gamble helped facilitate the joint venture between these two MBE’s that resulted in them moving from Tier 3 suppliers to Tier 1 suppliers and a $100 million, three-year contract to produce packaging for five P&G brands. P&G recognized these companies potential, but that they had technical and financial limitations to be top tier suppliers.


2.) BBA Fiberweb and Amantea Nonwovens, LLC (MBE)
A $30 million commitment from P&G created the first nonwovens minority-owned supplier. Amantea will provide specialty nonwovens to P&G's North American diapers and global tampon businesses via a distribution agreement with BBA Fiberweb, an existing strategic P&G nonwovens supplier.

Amantea will be responsible for managing all logistics in the new contract. BBA Fiberweb will continue to be the manufacturer of this material for the period of the contract. During the 18 month distribution agreement, Amantea will build internal capability and construct a new nonwovens line to produce nonwovens materials for P&G. Plans are being finalized for a longer term supply agreement between Amantea and P&G that includes a new plant in Ohio.

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As long as P&G continues to keep the long-term success of their suppliers as a top priority, them and their suppliers will enjoy long-term prosperity with one another.

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Minorities and Venture Capital: A New Wave in American Business

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Back in 2003, the Kauffman Foundation published a report that detailed a growing interest by venture capitalists to fund minority-owned businesses. Here is an excert from the web site:

The report MINORITIES AND VENTURE CAPITAL: A New Wave in American Business, based on a study by Dr. Timothy Bates of Wayne State University and Dr. William Bradford of the University of Washington, finds investments in minority business enterprises (MBEs) resulted in healthy returns equal to, if not slightly higher than, traditional investments by mainstream venture capitalists.

"We set out to find out if minority-oriented venture capital investing was solid," said study co-author Dr. Timothy Bates, distinguished professor at Wayne State University. "We found strong, preliminary evidence of a robust minority venture capital industry."

Key Findings

  • Minority enterprise venture capital investing is quite profitable. The average investment per firm was $562,000; the average gross yield per firm was $1,623,900, generating an average net return of $1,061,500.
  • Minority-oriented venture capital funds did not concentrate in high tech. Unlike the broader industry, which invested heavily in high-tech ventures, a more diverse portfolio kept funds focused on MBEs from their colleagues' steep slump.

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It would be interesting to see how the data may have changed over the past couple of years. More venture capital is still needed to be invested in minority owned businesses in order for many of these high-potential companies to expand to a level where they can be viable, competitive enterprises. Investments in minority-owned businesses are no more or less risky than any other business entity that a venture capitalist might be investingating. The opportunity is right and the time is now to make this a reality that provides positive benefits not just to the venture capitalist and the business owners, but also to the business's customers, employees, and the communities in which they reside.

You can read the full report at http://www.kauffman.org/pdf/minorities_vc_report.pdf. Enjoy!


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Real Economic Development

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This week Wal-Mart announced that they have launched an investment fund specifically targeted to minority and women-owned businesses. This innovative solution will help these types of companies grow through mergers and acquisitions. "Even though small businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, access to capital remains a key barrier to growth for women and minority-owned businesses," said Jay Fitzsimmons, senior vice president of finance and treasurer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. "By creating this fund we help fill a significant void and can have a positive impact on those businesses that are ready and able to move to that next level of national and international distribution for retailers."

Although Wal-Mart has taken their hits in the PR department over the past couple of years due to the
debatable impact of some of their business practices (even as it relates to the impact on local small businesses), they may have hit a homerun with this one - at least as it relates to small business development. Key tenants of community and economic development includes business development and job growth. If there are no mechanisms and financing to make this happen, economic empowerment for the lower class will just be a pipedream.

According to
NAIC, although minorities account for 30 percent of the U.S. population, less than 2 percent of all venture and private equity funds are invested in minority companies. There are many quality small businesses out there that could expand much further beyond their current capacity and capabilities - if they had access to capital. This scenario has to change dramatically if we as a society are truly committed to seeing communities come out of poverty and everyone having an opportunity to be economically empowered. Those with the means to do so must put their money where their mouth is and make these kind of investments the norm and not the exception.

What should incent investors is the fact that investing in these companies is not like they are just blindly throwing money away. The investments must be prudent and strategic so that they can earn a return like they would with any other investment target. What should create even more of an attractive investment environment is the fact that minorities are starting businesses faster than any other segment of the population. Over the past several years, the growth rate for minority firms has exceeded those of all U.S. firms, both in the number of firms and revenues. Between 1992 and 1997, the number of minority-owned firms increased 29.6 percent, as compared to 3.9 percent for all U.S. firms. In 1997, there were more than 3 million minority firms. Of these, 84,000 have revenues in excess of $1 million and many are in high-growth industries, such as technology and health services. Businesses of this size, representing 55 percent of the jobs and 65 percent of the revenues of minority firms, are an important component of local and regional economies and of overall U.S. economy (Source: Minority Business Development Agency).

This could be a gold mine for many investment and venture capital firms, as well as corporations that are looking to bolster their supply chains and impact their communities through their supplier diversity programs.

Wal-Mart has shown some leadership in this area. Now the question is will other major corporations follow their lead?


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This is not my grandfather’s America

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This was an excellent post on the Detroit Free Press web site that I ran across as it relates to personal empowerment and shedding the "victim mentality." Enjoy!


Posted by Jamaal Michaels Oct 20, 2005 5:52:57 PM
When my grandfather grew up, white people told him he wasn’t good enough, but black people said he was. When my father grew up, white people told him he couldn’t compete, but black people said he could. So imagine my confusion when I saw blacks celebrating the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision affirming that blacks are indeed not good enough to get into the University of Michigan Law School.

It’s ironic. Forty years after the Civil Rights Act was proposed in Congress, liberals insist blacks are incapable of meeting the same standards as whites. It’s conservatives who believe in the limitless potential of blacks.

Today, blacks are the CEOs of American Express, AOL/Time Warner and Merrill Lynch. Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire and Colin Powell was Secretary of State. This is not my grandfather’s America.

Too many blacks do remain oppressed, but not by white Americans. Rather, it is by blacks who relish a perverse sub-culture of low standards and perpetual victimization. No longer do white racists tell black children books are for white people. Today, black people do this. Every day, black children suffer ridicule and disgrace for doing their homework, behaving in class, striving for excellence — in short, “acting white.”

And within the perimeters of this black sub-culture, success is exalted only when it is earned in sports, music, dance, and in the Democratic Party. Should a black person succeed in other arenas, for example becoming secretary of state, Supreme Court justice or national security advisor, he or she is exiled from the race, his or her racial identity revoked.

Within this sub-culture, blacks have narrowly defined the path to success and equate “black” with “victim.” Condoleezza Rice? Not a victim, ergo not black. President Bill Clinton played the victim and was declared “the first black president.”

Other communities suffer systematic discrimination: Koreans, Chinese, Latinos and Jews, to name a few. But within these communities people encourage each other to go to school, get good grades and go to college. In some communities not earning a graduate degree is shameful. Only within the black community is academic or entrepreneurial success openly chastised.

Liberal black elites should stop preaching the rhetoric of perpetual oppression and encouraging all black people to be victims. Black leaders have done in 40 years what white people could not do in 400; they’ve made us accept inferior status.

It is time they told the truth about which blacks affirmative action helps. Affirmative action helps the children and the grandchildren of Jesse Jackson, John Conyers and Al Sharpton who have the money for the SAT prep courses, private schools and the clout to call the deans of admission should something go awry. Moreover, they all have the alumni status to get their children into their colleges and universities. Ironically, they all are able to do for their children what they complain that many white Americans have done routinely and systemically for generations.

It is time for liberal black leaders to stop hiding behind racism and admit that our priorities as a community have become our greatest hurdle to achieving long-term success. They must stop dismissing successful blacks, regardless of party affiliation, as exceptions in an otherwise victim-rich race. They must stop blaming white Americans for the sins of the past and set goals for the future. Most white Americans live in the 21st century; it is time more black Americans joined them.


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Innovation from the Ashes

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Check out this article on USAToday that talks about an American icon, IBM, that we built from the ashes of disaster. Enjoy...

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/maney/2005-09-13-flood-ibm_x.htm?POE=click-refer




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A New New Orleans

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Check out this interesting article from USAToday...

Finally some people are starting to think creatively about the rebuilding efforts in ways that will benefit all the residents of New Orleans, not just vulture-like real estate developers who only see dollar signs and ignore the plight of the people who need the most help. I believe there is an opportunity for prosperity for all of those who desire to live in New Orleans again. That includes large corporations, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the poor who were previously forgotten and ignored.



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Re-Building Communities

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Rebuilding Communities

By nature I am a builder, a developer. I see things that I believe are broken and I want to fix them. I see a lack of structure, and I want to put some in place. I see disorganization and I have a strong urge to bring organization. I see inefficient processes and I want to infuse efficiency into them. That is who I am and what I do. Therefore, it is very hard for me to read about the seemingly continual disorganization and discontinuity of the relief efforts. It is very clear to just about everyone that this country was not ready for a disaster of this magnitude that has impacted nearly 1 million people directly or indirectly. For a while, it seemed like chaos was king, with the response effort adding more misery and grief to lives that had just been devastated.

Once hurricane season is over (Rita is on her way), the focus should shift fully to rebuilding lives and communities of those who have been displaced. After all the cameras have left and the sensation has died down, there still will be tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands people that will be trying to find and pick up the pieces of their lives, literally and figuratively. Even those who have chosen to be permanently displaced (they don’t want to go back), will need help rebuilding their lives in their newly adopted hometowns. However, what is really waiting for them in their new cities? How challenging will it be for them to get jobs in markets which were already tight? If they lack the skill sets to get the jobs that are available in these locales, what other options will be available to them then? What is the plan in those cities whose populations have instantly swelled in weeks for what normally may have taken decades?

It will be very interesting to see which cities and communities are able to come up with the most innovative and effective plans to insure that their new residents have the opportunity to build new lives successfully and that the resources are made available to them to help them get back on their feet. For many, the displacement will prove to be a blessing in disguise, because it will open up new doors and opportunities that previously weren’t thought about or explored. However, this will only be true for those cities and communities that welcome these individuals and help them to find real solutions to their real problems.




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Blaming the Victim?

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Although the Katrina aftermath and repercussions are going to be an on-going national focus for a loooooong-time, that will not be the sole purpose of this blog. Having said that…

It’s very interesting to me how many people are blaming those who did not evacuate, as if they purposely chose to be victims of this horrific event. It’s almost as if people are implying that the living conditions or situations were voluntary for the majority of those who stayed behind, i.e. the poor. There is no doubt in my mind that if 1) they could have predicted the severity of the storm, and 2) they had the means to get out, then they would have done so. Census records show that many of the areas that were most severely impacted are some of the poorest in the country, not just New Orleans! Therefore, even if they wanted to leave, which many probably did, they didn’t have the resources to go (i.e., no money for a car, bus, or plane ride, or an extended stay at a hotel). I’ve also heard many people saying that those who were evacuated to the Super Dome and the Convention Center should have had four to five days of food with them. Again I use the same argument, because many could barely afford groceries as it was, so to ask them to buy 4 to 5 days’ worth of food was really unreasonable…

We all need to recalibrate how we see the poor and how to help alleviate these conditions. There needs to be a new understanding of how to raise the level of poverty in this country. Yes, we need to require people to take personal ownership of their own conditions and their futures. However, if they don’t have the resources to pull themselves up by their “own bootstraps,” then how can they be expected to figure their own way out of their situation. People don’t just need to be told what to do. In addition to being “inspired,” they need to be EDUCATED and EQUIPPED for success. This is not a short-term fix or something that can happen overnight. There must be a long-term commitment – supported with MONEY – that will enable people to grow out of their current state and build a life that can be perpetuated to their children. Right now, poverty is reproducing poverty in a vicious cycle that must be broken with innovative solutions, not the same, out-dated programs that have shown only limited success, if any success at all. This commitment must come from the public and private sectors, IF we truly are committed to changing the long-term situation in this country, and not just providing a temporary, quick fix for those who have been displaced. Otherwise, let’s not make false promises or show temporary compassion. These people – Americans – deserve better than that.


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Silver Lining

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It is truly heartbreaking to see the physical devastation that has happened in the Gulf Coast. It is even more heartbreaing to think of the lives that have been totally transformed forever by these catastrophic events. One of the key things that clearly has been exposed is the fact that abject poverty is not a thing of the past in this country. Instead, it might possibly be more prevalent now than in the past (which is truly sad considering all of the advancements that this country has made). Yet, there must be some solution that not only could help alleviate some of these problems, but assists people in developing a greater sense of purpose and self-worth, while also empowering them economically.

There is a silver lining in these dark days for the people of the Gulf Coast. The end of one era has created the opportunity for fresh beginnings to be built on new foundations of hope. It is my hope in this forum that I can bring some critical thought and creative ideas to help make the concept of personal economic empowerment a reality for more people. One key way to do this is through business ownership and entrepreneurship.


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Building Empowered Communities

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Not to repeat what you can read in my profile, but I am committed to empowering people that can build better communities. I believe that entrepreneurship and small business development can be used as a strategic tool to make that happen. Therefore, I will use this blog to explore how entrepreneurial thinking can produce creative ideas and innovative solutions to challenges that many impoverished communities face nationally and globally.

Biznovations.net will be a forum where the seed of an idea can be developed into something that can be practically implemented to create positive change and progress. This can only happen when many people, who have incredible vision, diverse skills, boundless energy and a passion for progress, come together to create something greater than what one individual could do on their own.

I am really looking forward to reading your comments, ideas, thoughts, criticisms, and anything else that you think would aid the process of empowering entrepreneurs and improving communities. This should be fun and exciting! Let's get started...

Sincerley,
Paul


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