Thursday, August 27, 2009

National Minority Economic Development Week Recap

I had the pleasure of attending the national Med Week celebration in Washington DC on behalf of DiversePhilly. The national director, David Hinson, University of Penn Wharton School of Business alum (and a former business owner) talked about the importance of strategic alliances (partnerships, joint ventures, mergers/acquisitions) as growth strategies instead of the traditional organic growth. Then Ervin "Magic" Johnson, former team captain of the NBA champion LA Laker's and business owner, spoke about his growth strategies and his partnership with Starbucks (he owns 105 stores in the urban community). I wish I could copy his speech but these are highlights from my notes. When he approached Starbucks, they had no stores in the urban community. He went to them with a value added proposition about how the urban population (a previously untapped market) is critical to the growth of the Starbucks brand. So the owner of Starbucks said he would come down to LA and conduct due diligence on the Magic Johnson movie theaters. Magic said when he conducted his SWOT (strengths, weeknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, the strengths were Him (passion, drive, brand name and competitive nature), a great management team and excellent customer service. He listens to his customers because they will tell you what they want to make your company successful. As he is from the urban community he identifies with his target market. The fountain drinks in the movie theater chain have not only the traditional Coke but also strawberry, fruit punch and grape because his target audience grew up on Kool-Aid! He asked the food vendors if they had enough hot dogs and the food vendor said they had enough for a month but they sold out of hot dogs on the first day because his target audience does not do dinner AND a movie, they do dinner IN the movie! As a result of seeing the revenue generated at the AMC/Magic Johnson theaters (which was a proven track record) the Magic Johnson/Starbucks deal was done. Now Magic has proved that the urban community can pay $3.00 for coffee but he offers pound cake and red velvet cake among others because the target audience he serves won't eat scones.

Magic talked about how every other community has figured out that partnerships and trust are needed to do well in business but the message has been sadly lost African American community (see Nicole's Commentary 5 August 2009). I would rather have 25% of 10 million than 100% of 10,000 any day. What really struck my heart was when he talked about passing the knowledge to the next generation. The story behind the story of Nicole Newman is my grandfather, Robert Newman. Robert Newman came from a farming family in Virginia to build a life and new home out on the main line. The key to his new life was creating a paving business which did residential beautification projects in Delaware and Montgomery County. He was blessed with three sons before my aunt, the baby girl, was born. None of his sons (including my father) joined him in the family business which unfortunately closed doors (he did not sell the brand name, client list and goodwill, the business just shut down) before he passed in 1991. That family history taught me the importance of passing the knowledge. Magic shared a similar story of getting your children involved early in the business. He started his own son as a janitor and an associate on the concession stand. Last Sunday, I had a meeting with a client and I took my children along. My 6 year old son was so excited to go to a business meeting at Chili's, he asked could he give me a kiss. I said "No, not now". He said "when OUR clients leaves can I give you a kiss?" My client and I shared a laugh because he identified her as OUR client. Magic, I agree start them young in the FAMILY business and make it a prioirty to pass the knowledge to the next generation.

I will be front and center as my inspiration, Nakia Stith from Top of the Clock, receives her award from the 4th annual "Passing The Torch" ceremony at The Enterprise Center. This is my annual event as I watched with great pride as our friend, Sirena Moore from Elohim Construction Company received her honor last year. It is these events which continue to inspire me to build this company so that my children, Sahar Omar and Nasir will be standing next in line with a chance at being honored at the 24th Annual "Passing the Torch" ceremony....

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