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In 1995, armed with 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and with the support of family, friends, and members of the medical community (to the tune of $220,000 in seed money), Parran Foster started his own business. His dream: to become a major force in the industry and return part of the dollars spent to the community.
To improve his chances of success, Foster formed a coalition with minority physicians with whom he had done business. He also aligned himself with Parke-Davis, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer with products to serve the medical needs of urban communities.
Today, Foster is the president and CEO of Phoenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Waldorf, Maryland, which has some 15 employees and sales revenues of around $2.5 million. Phoenix, whose customers include doctors and hospitals, has offices in 11 major cities, including Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, and Baltimore.
Making sure that the dollars spent on prescriptions is recycled into the minority community, Foster’s firm contributes between 30% and 50% of its revenues in the form of college scholarships.
The company has committed $1 million to aspiring students. Some 250 students nationwide will receive $4,000 over the course of four years of undergraduate study. The scholarships are granted on a rolling basis. That is, once a student graduates, his or her share of the pot is given to an incoming student. Members of the Class of 2001 are the first 40 graduates of the Phoenix program.
Like many of his colleagues, Foster realizes that one cornerstone of wealth building is entrepreneurship. By boosting the value of a business, an entrepreneur creates a powerful asset in the community.
However, becoming a business owner is just one role you can play in developing viable black enterprises. Another way to support black-owned businesses is as a consumer. In other words, “buy black.” Still another method is to become an investor in a thriving entity. The following are the steps you can take to adhere to Principle No. 8 of the Declaration of Financial Empowerment (DOFE): to support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises.
Seek out black-owned businesses. One way that you can contribute more dollars to your community is through the patronage of black-owned businesses. We’re talking about more than just buying black art and black books twice a year from black vendors during street fairs and black expos.
There are a number of black institutions that provide quality products and services as well as have a positive impact on their communities. For one, many black-owned businesses employ African Americans in addition to providing donations and in-kind services to black nonprofit organizations and charities.
Also, African American entrepreneurs serve as valuable models for our youth. “Seeds of Success: Entrepreneurship and Youth,” a recent report published by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, found that 75% of black youth said they were interested in starting a business, compared with 63% of white youth and 64% of Hispanics. Their primary reasons were to build something for their families and to be able