February 22, 2005

More Entrepreneurs in Florida - Latino Business

More Minority, Under-30 Entrepreneurs in Florida - Jennifer Jefferson Businesses started by the under-30 set are popping up all over the city. And Cheryl Gonzalez, director of the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, says that membership has been growing at the chamber because of it. Ten percent of its membership is under 30.

"The number of minority, small businesses is growing," said Hilmon Sorey, president of the Florida Black Business Investment Board, a state organization started in 1985 to address the lack of black business growth.

Those who have started businesses in Tallahassee say they've done so to fill a void. Mike Robinson and Mark Todd, both 29, started their businesses almost five years ago.

Robinson opened Flava Music an urban music store, and Todd started MarkStarr Graphx, an Internet-based advertising and promotional company. Both said they saw an opportunity to fulfill a need in Tallahassee.

When Robinson came to town to visit in 2000, he realized Tallahassee lacked a place to buy his music.

Four months later, he moved from Fort Lauderdale with $2,500 and opened Flava Music. He ran the store at 1102 S. Adams St., close to Florida State and Florida A&M universities, and worked a second job at night.

He figured if any city needed variety in a music store, it was Tallahassee.

"I have been in the music business for over 20 years," Robinson said as he shuffled between glass cases filled with Soca, dance hall, calypso and reggae. He spent most of his childhood helping his father at its family-owned music store in Fort Lauderdale, called Records & Things.

He now has a staff of three and a steady stream of customers, mostly young people looking for air-brushed clothing, Caribbean oldies or newly released hip-hop albums. He tries to keep customers by providing personal service and offering his knowledge of music.

Todd, who is from Jamaica, didn't think that something as simple as producing fliers could turn into a profitable business.

Todd's "hobby turned into a hustle" in 2000, after he moved to Tallahassee to attend Florida A&M and pursue a bachelor's degree in history.

He noticed that most of the party fliers around town were handwritten and photocopied on colorful paper. So, he started designing graphic-laced fliers in his bedroom for $25 per job.

"It was something I did to pay a bill or keep my lights from getting turned off," Todd said. "But, I always wanted to be my own boss and set my own destiny."

Now the Internet-based company includes six employees and serves clients mostly in Tallahassee and Atlanta.

"Tallahassee is a real good testing ground," Todd said. "I met a lot of people from all over the country with one common goal: to excel and to make themselves better."

By word of mouth, the business expanded. He still produces fliers, but he also provides commercials, electronic press kits, brochures, CD/DVD duplication and T-shirts for companies ranging from FedEx to entertainment clients such as Roc-A-Fella Records and the rap duo Ying Yang Twins.

"Tallahassee is small-business friendly," said Coretta Hutson, owner of Samsara Boutique at 1241 W. Tharpe St.

The 28-year-old Guyanese woman was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Tallahassee to attend FSU.

The most valuable thing she learned in Tallahassee was that not everyone has to go to college to realize a dream. She opened up her own customized clothing boutique just before graduating.

Although she was a sociology and anthropology student, "I always liked clothes and the fashion industry," she said.

She likes setting her own hours and working at her own pace at the boutique.

The flexibility also allows her to be a full-time mother to her toddler, Alem.

"I get to bring her to work with me," Hutson said.

Hutson is pleased with her decision to open her shop, but she hasn't deemed it a success just yet. Hutson admits that her store has gotten people's attention, with its artificial-turf floor and lemon and lime-painted walls, but clientele isn't streaming in as fast as she would like.

Gonzales of the Capital City Chamber, said successful businesses generally are those that survive lean years.

According to a 2002 study of the number of black businesses by the Florida Black Business Investment Board, "the growth of black businesses has increased, but not at the same rate as the growth of all other businesses."

Robinson added, "You got to have will and determination. Not everyone is made for business."

Source: Copyright (c) 2004 Tallahassee Democrat. All Rights Reserved.

Latinos at 09:04 AM

February 15, 2005

Hispanic Entrepreneurs Latino

Hispanic Entrepreneurs Latino By Melissa Cantor - One hundred reasons why Hispanic business is thriving.

Two million and counting. That’s how many Hispanic-owned companies there are in the United States, a number experts estimate will hit eight million within the next 10 years. Women are a big part of the reason Hispanic entrepreneurship is thriving: Latinas owned nearly half a million businesses as of 2002, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research.

Hispanic-owned firms are not only growing in numbers—we’re making inroads in an ever-increasing range of industries: Companies such as Olga Martinez’s Allright Diversified Services in Fresno, California, are building our roads; entrepreneurs like Anthony Camargo of Anthony Nak in Austin, Texas, and Omar Torres of OPUS7 in New Jersey are designing the clothes and jewelry we wear; in Virginia, Dennis Garcia of Potomac Management Group heads one of the fastest-growing companies providing technology support for homeland security; pollster Sergio Bendixen of Bendixen & Associates in Miami is tracking the views of Hispanics nationwide.

These are just some of the faces behind the numbers. But success is not measured in numbers alone. In choosing those companies to feature in our first annual list of Latino business leadership, we focused not just on revenue but on innovation, growth, and the quality of the products or services offered, as well as on intangibles that directly affect our communities: During the worst economic downturn in decades, many business owners chose not to cut staff, even at the expense of reduced revenue, keeping countless families working.

Finally, this list is a work in progress. For reasons of time and space, many companies that undoubtedly merit inclusion do not appear in this year’s list. To those we offer our apologies and extend an invitation to write to us. Claim your place. Tell us your stories. Be counted among the top Hispanic entrepreneurs.

Latinos at 11:31 AM