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What does it take to follow your dreams and achieve personal wealth? The answer lies within our 2007 Small Business Awards winners, celebrated earlier this year at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo hosted by General Motors and held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
To determine who best exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit, BE’s editors surveyed a selection of small businesses from around the country. Whether working in an expansive manufacturing plant or from the comfort of their own homes, our winners are an impressive group of individuals, each of whom took risks and overcame fear. From a teenager whose product has helped simplify the lives of children to a woman who has triumphed in the competitive film industry, this year’s winners are an inspiration to their peers as well as the next generation of business owners.
In the following pages, these entrepreneurs discuss their zeal and initial uncertainty and their overriding determination to start their small businesses.
Emerging Company of the Year: Roxbury Technology
“Working to be socially and environmentally responsible as well as building a sustainable business is the most rewarding aspect of Roxbury,” says President and CEO Beth Williams. Working with outside consultants to help develop growth initiatives as well as green solutions, Williams is determined to keep Roxbury at the forefront in those two arenas. The Emerging Company of the Year Award recognizes businesses that have poised themselves for future growth by carving out a special business niche or by adopting creative marketing techniques.
Founded in Boston by Williams’ father, the late Archie Williams, in 1994, Roxbury Technology (www.roxburytechnology.com) produces remanufactured toner cartridges for printers and fax machines. Williams admits that being placed at the helm after her father’s death was initially very difficult, but “I felt proud to take over his legacy and compelled, because I truly believed in his vision for the company,” she says.
Williams, 43, plans to further enhance her dad’s vision by expanding the company and making it a full-service, environmentally friendly imaging solutions and recycling business. Williams foresees Roxbury as, ideally, a one-stop shop for clients such as Staples, Northeastern University, and Simmons College Partners Health, among others. Last year the company generated $11 million in revenues, and Williams projects $12 million to $14 million for 2007.
Roxbury currently employs 40 workers (two work part time), but by the end of the year Williams plans to add 10 new positions in the administrative, managerial, and production areas.
Williams’ first instinct is to give back to the community by hiring some of its residents. “[My father] always believed in economic development within the inner city,” says Williams. Striving to uphold Roxbury’s mission, she continues to seek ways to help. “How can I be a vehicle of success to others?” she asks. “How can I make a difference while making a profit?”
Innovator of the Year: HopStop, Chineda Echeruo
“How do you cost-effectively spread the word?” Chinedu Echeruo asked himself when he founded HopStop. “How do you tell the world, ‘This is my