AT&T is seeking the most agile businesses in America through its Agility Challenge competition, which comes with a large cash infusion and additional recognition.
The grand prize winner receives $50,000 while a judgeâ€™s choice winner gets $20,000 and three more fortunate entrepreneurs will win $10,000 each.
AT&T has narrowed it down to the top 10 finalists. Winners will be announced August 1. Voting is open to the public. You can cast your vote online for your favorite agile business; voting ends July 26. More information on the Agility Challenge, as well as other tools and resources for entrepreneurs, can be found at AT&Tâ€™s Business Circle hub.
The Pursuit ofÂ Happyness
A campaign ambassador and lead judge on a panel of business experts is Chris Gardner. Gardner is characterized as agility personified. His journey from homeless single father to inspirational business leader is well documented in his first New York Times bestseller, The Pursuit ofÂ Happyness. He not only went on to help develop the 2006 movie of the same name, he also continued to build his multi-million dollar brokerage; Gardner Rich & Company, in the face of a turbulent stock market and the everÂâ€‘changing demands of runningÂ aÂ business. Whatâ€™s more, he topped the bestseller list once again with Start Where You Are, a roadmap for success, which uses realÂâ€‘life examples to inspire others to pursue new challenges. Most recently, Gardner served as one of the producers on Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, the first feature documentary about the icon.
The Pursuit of Agile Businesses
As an ambassador for the Business Circle Agility Challenge, Gardner helped identify nationwide finalists from the small business community who understand and embrace agility in their dailyÂ pursuits. Among the top 10 finalists are three black-owned businesses: Co-Sign, GoodBoy Clothing, and Phillip Ashley Chocolates.
A self-taught chocolatier, Phillip Ashley is the founder and CEO of the Memphis-based small business that produces extraordinary designer chocolates. Esosa Ighodaro is the co-founder of the startup CoSign, an app that allows users to â€œtagâ€ items within content they upload to social networking sites. If their followers purchase the items, users receive a monetary reward. Oaklin Mixon is the founder and CEO of GoodBoy Clothing,Â a lifestyle streetwear brand that specializes in urban and casual wear.
â€œWe had over 1000 submissions from small business owners and entrepreneurs, across all industries, who were asked to provide their definition of Agilityâ€”what does agility mean to you?â€ notes Gardner. â€œAll of them are doing something that they are truly passionate about. They see a way that they can make a contribution to their community. But this is not a do-good contest; it has to be a real scalable business. All of the finalists are doing some real unique things.â€
Advice To Budding Entrepreneurs
Gardner says his collaboration with AT&T has to do with being able to reboot the American dream by having small business owners receive the same opportunities that he was given. His advice: â€œYou have got to be passionate about your business because it is so hard to start, grow and build a business, that the notion to just make money will never be enough. Also, you canâ€™t just walk away because itâ€™s tough. You donâ€™t have failures, but lessons to learn; opportunities, some are even practices. You have to have a plan, a real clear roadmap of where you want to go. You have to believe in that plan. Everybody is not going to see your vision. You have to be okay with that.â€