The Cutting Edge: Next on Deck - Black Enterprise

The Cutting Edge: Next on Deck

Wake up people!

Opportunity is at hand; can you see it?

I firmly believe there lies potential for growth and prosperity amid these economically troubling times. After attending several entrepreneurs and investing conferences over the past six months, I noticed a number of recurring themes. Here’s a look at some of the business concepts that may change the game for many small business owners and Every Day Joes like myself.

Engage me, please: The old rules of paying your dues and climbing the corporate ladder have been shaken with the advent of Web 2.0. Young people have created lucrative companies and branding opportunities utilizing new media technology.


A college classmate of mine, Jason Smikle, started his own fledgling web-based company, (Truly Unique Vision Online) about two years ago. After interning at MTV and learning about film production, he realized, EUREKA! –I can do this myself. And that’s exactly what he did. TUVOnline started with a couple maxed out credit cards and a “party cam” where he and other students filmed weekend and campus events and posted them online. At the recommendation of a contact from Burrell Communications Group, Smikle leveraged his network’s audience for market research. They began doing market research for advertising firms to find out what young people are interested in. Smikle says in 2007 he earned $50,000 in revenue which doubled to $100,000 by 2008.

“The most significant constant that is occurring in business right now is that companies know they can’t market to consumers the same old way but the rules for success have not clearly been established,” says Carol Watson multicultural advertising and marketing talent source at Tangerine-Watson, Inc.

The problem?

While at an entrepreneurs conference in February, experts advised small business owners to engage their customers via blogs, social networking and a host of other Web 2.0 platforms.

The overwheming response was resistance. “Can I hire someone to blog for me?,” one entrepreneur queried. “Do I really need a Facebook account? I just don’t have the time,” said another entrepreneur. What I gathered from many of these conferences is customer engagement is growing increasingly important to maintaining clients and growing your business. While some older business owners shift to new age technology reluctantly, young people are growing with the advancements, and it’s shifting business dynamics.

Young adults knowledgeable and skilled “will be able to write their tickets” if they continue to build their Web 2.0 expertise, Watson adds.

Growing in Africa
: Investing in Africa also stood out as a possible trend or growth opportunity, too. Black Enterprise has long been a proponent for finding financial opportunity on the African continent. This is not because it’s an African American-based publication, but because it makes good business sense. This issue was driven home during the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Coalitions Wall Street Summit in January.

“Those who’ve invested in African stock markets are doing a little better,” said Rosa Whitaker, CEO of The Whitaker Group, a consulting firm focused on development in Africa. “In capital markets the economic crisis hasn’t affected Africa because the economies are not directly interlinked,” she added.

At the conference, panelists suggested researching emerging market funds or even small business opportunities.

Renita Burns is the editorial assistant at