1996 small businesses entrepreneurs of the year: who are among the nation's most promising small businesses? Meet the award winners of B.E.'s Entrepreneurs' Conference.

Author:Clarke, Robyn
Position:B.E. Special Report on Small Business - Cover Story
 
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DRAWN FROM THE WRECKAGE OF a downsized corporate America or inspired by their own independent drives and spirits, many are finding themselves lured by entrepreneurship. But those who dare to grab the entrepreneurial brass ring will find many challenges awaiting them: from raising start-up capital and marketing their business to attracting and retaining loyal employees. Indeed, few survive beyond the three-year threshold. In fact, three out of five businesses flounder before ever reaching their full economic potential.

Those African American entrepreneurs with the wherewithal and business savvy to defy the odds were honored in Orlando, Fla., at the BLACK ENTERPRISE NationsBank Entrepreneurs Conference last May. Following is a glimpse of the 19 recipients of the first annual BLACK ENTERPRISE Small Business Entrepreneurs Awards and the successful companies they have put on the small business map.

Emerging Company of the Year: This company is poised for future growth, now that it has utilized creative marketing techniques and resourcefully carved out a niche for itself. It's now ready to forge ahead in its industry.

BILL WILLIAMS, GLORY FOODS INC.

Most of us love home-cooking, but have little time or energy to prepare meals while juggling a family and career. Bill Williams, co-founder and president of Glory Foods Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, found a delicious solution and a unique market niche with his line of savory, precooked, canned soul food.

In 1989, Williams, 52, and co-founders Iris McCord and Daniel A. Charna, combined $25,000 in personal savings to test Glory Foods in local supermarkets. After successful results, the company went national in 1993 with its "heat-and-eat" line of Southern cuisine, including favorites like collard greens and field peas. A year later, Glory Foods boasted $3 million in sales, penetration of 10% of the black consumer market and distribution to over 15 grocery chains nationwide. If things stay on course, Glory will dear $5 million this year.

But it wasn't always easy. Williams had difficulty finding black farmers who could supply his vegetables. After much searching, he eventually found 10. As a result, Williams has spearheaded a $1.4 million scholarship program at Ohio State University for black students who wish to study agricultural science.

Partnerships like the one orchestrated in 1995 with Churchs Chicken, a subsidiary of America's Favorite Chicken, in Atlanta, are also on William's agenda. Initially, the...

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