Playing to Win: These Ventures Are Growing through Innovation and Dedication. (Eight Annual Small Business Awards)

Article excerpt

Despite tough economic conditions, black-owned small businesses continue to grow--in fact, many are thriving. Each year; the editors of BE identify a dozen companies that have made a commitment to excellence regardless of economic woes.

The candidates for the BE Small Business Awards were selected from the following categories: Emerging Company of the Year, Business Innovator of the Year, Rising Star, and Kidpreneurs. The winners will be announced at the eighth annual Black Enterprise/Microsoft Entrepreneurs Conference to be held May 14-18, 2003, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee. Titled "New Rules, New Players: Changing the Face of Business," the event gives business owners the opportunity to identify capital sources, find vending opportunities, and, of course, network. Attendees will have a chance to meet this year's nominees--a group that can provide valuable lessons to entrepreneurs large and small.

EMERGING COMPANY OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

This award business that are poised for future growth they've carved out a special niche for their business or have adopted creative marketing techniques.

MadisonSmallwood Financial Group

TYPE OF BUSINESS Financial services PRINCIPALS Horace Madison, Solomon Smallwood LOCATION New York, NY

The disparity between the amount of money entertainers generate and the amount they actually keep inspired Horace Madison and Solomon Smallwood to help artists develop sound financial practices.

Launched in 2000, MadisonSmallwood Financial Group provides a range of financial services, including bookkeeping, accounting and tax preparation, estate planning, insurance coverage, and investment portfolios. The 20-person firm, which generated $2,1 million in 2001 and more than $2,2 million in 2002, has clients such as Usher, OutKast, Musiq, and T.J. Duckett, a running back for the Atlanta Falcons. All told, they manage more than $40 million in assets.

Synch-Solutions Inc.

TYPE OF BUSINESS Systems integration CEO John Sterling LOCATION Chicago, IL

Synch-Solutions Inc. is on the fast track to growth, but CEO John Sterling is looking to achieve that growth at a slow and steady pace.

The company provides systems integration solutions and implementation strategies, including business process design, application integration, project management, and training. Sterling's company, formed in 1998, has cornered a niche in the systems integration market. With 63 employees, the firm's revenues have grown from $1 million in 2000, to $6 million in 2001, to $13 million in 2002.

"We primarily do work in the public sector," explains Sterling, 38, who has a degree in computer science from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, and 12 years experience in the industry.

Total Service Solutions Inc.

TYPE OF BUSINESS Software design and engineering PRESIDENT & CEO John W, Chandler LOCATION Lanham, MD

John Chandler is going global. In the past year, Lanham, Maryland-based Total Service Solutions Inc. was awarded a $150,000 contract by the Department of Labor to install and develop a training center in Nigeria, West Africa, for the Armed Forces Resettlement Center. It will also provide the software to link computer systems to connect community resource centers in Western and Southern Africa with universities, colleges, and schools in the United States. With 95 employees, the business has been growing steadily. Revenues for 2000 totaled $7.5 million and grew to $8.9 million and $9.5 million for 2001 and 2002, respectively.

The company also provides IT training and customized software to the public sector.

BUSINESS INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

This award honors companies that have set trends and broken new ground in a particular industry.

Decision Information Resources Inc.

TYPE OF BUSINESS Research and evaluation services PRESIDENT Russell Jackson LOCATION Houston, TX

Laughed in 1984 by Russell Jackson, Decision Information Resources Inc. …