What many of the participants were looking for were the right ingredients to start their own business.
What they left with was a complete recipe to launch, sustain and capitalize a business, with a little advice from the featured speaker, Carolyn Hardy, president and CEO of Chism Hardy Enterprises, LLC.
The setting (Jan. 26) was the second of a three-part business symposium entitled "Controlling How The Cookie Crumbles: Educating and Empowering Entrepreneurs." Hardy, the keynote speaker, followed a panel of successful business owners and entrepreneurs who provided plenty of business tips, strategies and technical support to more than 70 aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs at Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church.
The third symposium will be held Feb. 16 at Breath of Life Christian Center, 3795 Frayser-Raleigh Rd., from 9 a.m. to noon.
"I would advise you to make RIP (Resistance, Insistence and Persistence) a part of your business strategy," Hardy told the group.
Sponsored by The Carter Malone Group, a public relations, marketing and advertising firm, the panel included Nita Black, president and CEO of MAP Momentum; Alandas Dobbins, director of Memphis Office of Resources and Enterprise (MORE); Cynthia Norwood, managing director of alt.Consulting; William (Bill) A Martin, founder and CEO of Cushion Employee Services; and Deidre Malone, president and CEO of The Carter Malone Group.
After the panelists explained the mechanics of launching a business and sustaining it, Hardy took participants on a real-life journey. The trek included her tenure as vice president of Coors Bottling Company, her purchase and eventual sale of Coors, her growth strategies, her business philosophy, and her willingness to succeed despite the odds.
"God didn't allow me to start this journey and stop," she said. "There were roadblocks and land mines. But you have to be persistent."
Hardy's persistence intensified in 2006 after it became clear that she wanted to purchase Coors. She spent eight months working out a deal, but not before meeting with a group of white men who likewise wanted Coors for themselves.
"There was dead silence when I told them I wanted to buy Coors," said Hardy, explaining that she'd already done her homework and was prepared to go the distance with "the big boys."
"What they didn't understand was my RIP," she said.
Dobbins asked the question: "How do you grow prosperity and opportunity for all?" She said leveling the playing field means sharing the opportunities. MORE, she added, is doing just that by creating a new paradigm. "We're growing minority-owned businesses and creating wealth."
A business plan, however, is needed to tell your story, Black pointed out to participants. "A business plan helps you save time and money. When the business plan is finished, it's just the beginning."
R. Andre Wooten said he's been working on a business plan since 2012 to launch a world-class tennis facility that he's calling Tennis Oasis of Memphis, a division of WootenWorX. The symposium, he said, was encompassing and provided an opportunity to expand his network.
"The symposium provided resources that I need in order to assist me in launching my business," said Wooten, who's still working on aspects of the business plan and expects to win $1,500 that CMG is offering for the best business plan when the winner is announced in March.
Wooten, determined to succeed, said he needs help with financial projections, a topic the panelists broached. If a business loan would help in launching his business, Norwood provided "tips for getting the 'dough' you need."
"A lot of people aren't comfortable with the cash flow of their business," said Norwood, noting that upstarts most likely won't be able to meet the qualifications that banks require to get a loan. "That's why small lenders come into play."
She said alt.Consulting makes loans from $500 to $50,000.
Coming in from Nashville to take part in the symposium, Martin said business success is measures in talent. "You have to have people in the right seat and doing the right thing to succeed. The right team will make you stand out in the market place."
The right people, he added, don't need managing. "You got to have someone on the team that looks at it as a responsibility and not as a job."
Malone, who had planned to talk about public relations, marketing and advertising, yielded her time so that Hardy would have enough time to tell her story.