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The key to doing business is knowing how to play. Play tennis, play golf on your morning walk, but while you’re at it, play a few business cards and ace a deal along the way. That piece of advice is old hat for some who created their own “old boy network” of pulling each other into the business loop and patting each other on the back. African Americans, however, are often left out of that game and, more critically, out of the deals. For the last four years, the Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge has created a unique venue for black entrepreneurs, professionals and celebrities to “play the game” on another kind of level.
A total of 1,300 golf, tennis and spa goers from all regions of the United States gathered last Labor Day weekend, August 28-September 1, at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami, one of the largest facilities in the country. The event has grown tremendously since 1994, when 800 attended, says Senior Vice President of B. E. Unlimited John C. Graves. Of those in attendance last year, an impressive 76% returned from the previous year.
“In talking to a number of sponsors, we found that the variety of people we’re drawing from corporate America is rising every year. We’re also seeing a growing number of people in higher positions in the black business community,” says Graves. “The first year, we attracted the most avid golfers and tennis players. Over time, it became a fixture as the premier networking event in the African American community.” B.E. Challenge event coordinator Andrea M. Delph agrees. “We’ve become more important to the key leaders,” she says, adding that the Golf & Tennis Challenge is the largest African American sporting event of its kind. “As the event matures, so does our audience,” she explains. The attendees are heavy hitters, indeed. They spent an incredible $3.6 million dollars on the event and have a median household income of $111,080. More than half own a business, and 98% have college degrees.
EACH ONE TEACH ONE
Of course, not everyone who attends is a corporate climber. A number of entrepreneurs found the event to be just the boost they needed jump-start? their business. Clarice Kavanaugh, president of the Kavanaugh group, an event planning business in Long Beach, California, was encouraged by BLACK ENTERPRISE CEO and Publisher Earl G. Graves to attend. They met last year at a function sponsored by Summit 2000, a group that brings together black businesses in Los Angeles. Graves, an honored guest, put her in touch with Bill Hammond, president of Hammond Entertainment, the entertainment coordinator for the Golf & Tennis Challenge. Now, Hammond has become a mentor and they are currently working on a project together.
“I couldn’t afford the $2,000 it cost to go to Miami, but then again, I couldn’t afford not to go,” says Kavanaugh, 47, who also works as a district trainer at Abbott Pharmaceuticals. “When we talk about segueing out of corporate America, everyone is not