Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black Entrepreneurs Stress Relationships

Photo by Brandon Dill

Neely's Bar-B-Que founder Patrick Neely (center) gets a laugh from Gilliam Communications president Art Gilliam (left) and Hardy Bottling Company CEO Carolyn Hardy during a panel discussion titled "Black Economic Empowerment in Memphis and the American Dream" Wednesday.

Black Entrepreneurs Stress Relationships

Foundation For Success, Forum Participants Told

By James Dowd 
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Thursday, February 18, 2010 
If one word linked panelists at a forum on entrepreneurship held at the University of Memphis on Wednesday, it was "relationships."

As in, the strongest business ventures emerge from foundations built on strong relationships with clients, vendors and investors.

"People always ask me what it's like to work for myself, and I tell them that I don't work for myself. I work for everyone who walks through the front door of my business," said restaurateur and television personality Patrick Neely. "Develop a sense of loyalty with people. You can go as far as you want to go if you believe in yourself and listen to your customers."

Marvell Mitchell agreed.

"You need to provide an extra level of service and look for any problems that may exist," Mitchell said. "Problems are opportunities for success if you can provide the right solutions. Every cloud has a silver lining, so find them and turn them into gold."

Neely, founder of Neely's Bar-B-Que and cohost with wife Gina of the Food Network's "Down Home with the Neelys," and Mitchell, managing partner of Mitchell Technology Group, were panelists at "Black Economic Empowerment in Memphis and the American Dream," sponsored by the Black Business Association of Memphis.

Joining them were Christian Davis, president and CEO of Amir Companies, which includes real estate, commercial cleaning and entertainment businesses; Art Gilliam, chairman and president of Gilliam Communications; Carolyn Hardy, president and CEO of Hardy Bottling; and Marvell Mitchell.

"Despite where you come from, you can make it if you work hard and persevere," Davis said. "Align yourself with strong mentors and friends who'll support you in making the right choices."
In discussing challenges facing entrepreneurs, Hardy encouraged would-be moguls to capitalize on networking relationships and avoid pity parties.

"As an African-American woman, I knew that I had to be smarter than anyone else and better prepared in order to succeed," Hardy said. "I don't make any excuses. I just face the challenges head-on, and I believe that's made me a better person and entrepreneur."

The program was designed to inspire future business executives, said moderator Roby Williams, president of the BBA of Memphis. He encouraged audience members to set goals and write them down because, "If it's not written down it's still just a dream. A goal is a dream with a time limit."
The forum also served as a reminder that with success comes obligation.

"In the end, we have to remember that there are those who are not as successful and the ethics of business demand that we address that," Gilliam said. "We must remember those who have not had the opportunities that we've enjoyed and give back to our communities."

-- James Dowd: 901-529-2737

Black Business Association of Memphis upcoming event
What: 24th annual BENNY Awards, featuring keynote speaker Don Hutson, coauthor of "The One Minute Entrepreneur" with Ken Blanchard and CEO of U.S. Learning
When: 7 p.m. on Saturday
Where: Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis, 3700 Central
Cost: Tickets are $100 each, or $1,000 for a table of 10
Details: Call 901-526-9300 or visit online at 

No comments: