February 21, 2013

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Real Entrepreneurs Need Employees and Cooperation to Grow Businesses, Malveaux Tells A.G. Gaston Conference

February 20, 2013

Dr. Julianne Malveaux told the A.G. Gaston Conference that real minority business growth requires cooperation. (special)

Of the 1.9 million African-American owned businesses in the country, about 1.8 million have no employees but the owner. In all likelihood that's not a real business, Julianne Malveaux told attendees at the A.G. Gaston Conference Wednesday.

A former president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., Malveaux has spent her life as an activist, a commentator, an economist and an educator. On Wednesday she was the closing speaker for this year's A.G. Gaston Conference for business leaders and minority empowerment.

According to Malveaux, too many entrepreneurs go into business only after they have lost a job and can find no other options. While that alone is not the problem, it's how they develop their businesses from there that yields little fruit, and too many entrepreneurs market themselves as consultants and don't tackle the difficult task of producing a product.

"My brothers and sisters who are entrepreneurs, what can you create?" she asked. "Being one person in your little-bitty business is not useful if you are not developing or producing anything."

The trouble, she said, is that even if an entrepreneur has a good idea, many are afraid to share that idea with others for fear someone else might steal it, but working alone is no way to grow a business.

Being one person in your little-bitty business is not useful if you are not developing or producing anything

"If you sit down with six or seven like-minded entrepreneurs, y'all might come up with something y'all can do together," she said. "Y'all might decide to support each other."

Real companies take people working together to produce the diversity of revenue streams it take to be successful, she said, and according to Malveaux, there have been few examples of that premise better than A.G. Gaston, himself, who went from selling sandwiches to miners to having a multitude of businesses, including banking, radio and a hotel.

Despite his success, there were many in Birmingham who spoke badly of him, she said, and even some who called him an Uncle Tom.

"But Uncle Tom can make a difference," she said. "He bailed people out of jail. He supported many movements. You don't have to wear a dashiki and put your fist in the air to make a difference."

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