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Black business


April is black business month, and consequently is a great time  to reflect on the success and challenges faced by African American  entrepreneurs.
And while some statisticsincarceration, education the African American community are tremendously disheartening, a  look at the numbers of black businesses offers an important ray of  hope.
According to the most recent statistics published by the United  States Census Bureau, there are 1.2 million black-owned businesses in  the country up 45 percent between 1997 and 2002. That is just behind the  1.6 million Hispanic businesses and just ahead of the 1.1 million Asian  firms.
The majority of these firms are small companies with about  10,727 of them pulling in receipts of $1 million or more and about 973  employing 100 or more people.
Nearly four in 10 of these companies  operated in the services sectors including healthcare, social  assistance, personal service, and repair and maintenance.
California,  as always, continues to be a major home for black firms accounting for  112,873 of these businesses and trailing only New York (129,324.) Los  Angeles county has the second largest concentration of African-American  businesses (52,674) following slightly behind Cook County in Illinois  with its 54,758 businesses.
Sales and receipts for black-owned  businesses in the state increased by 59 percent, to $10.2 billion in  2002 well ahead of other minoritiesup 12 percent to $57.8 billion for  Hispanic-owned firms, while businesses owned by Asians had increases of 8  percent to $130.3 billion. Receipts for women-owned firms grew from  $121.2 billion in 1997 to $140.9 billion in 2002, a 16 percent increase.
California  and Los Angeles County are definitely places where black-owned firms  can start, grow and make a mark on the community, and Our Weekly  newspaper is a case in point. Founded in 2004, the weekly publication  reaches more than 150,000 readers. Although new to the market, company  owners Natalie Cole and David Miller have put the newspaper squarely in  the community eye and among their activities is hosting several major  political forums and spearheading a meeting of some of the regions most  diligent community activists.
Weve taken a page from the  newspapers of the past and strongly advocate for the needs of the  African American community, explained Cole, CEO and co-owner. That is  why we brought the grassroots community activists together to talk, and  thats why we hosted several political forums including one for the  Second Supervisorial District race.
As I said when we first launched  Our Weekly, there was a need that was not being met in this community,  and we have successfully filled that need, Cole said.
And we dont  intend to stop there, added co-owner and company vice president and  general manager David Miller. Whatever issues are out there that need  in-depth evaluation and consideration, well be looking at them. But  beyond that, were looking to set the pace because our goal is to be the  leader and not a follower, added Miller.
Cole developed her  newspaper expertise during a 20-year-plus career at the Los Angeles  Times and L.A. Weekly. Miller formerly held senior management positions  at the Wave Newspapers and the Los Angeles Daily News. The combined  experience of these partners was a perfect match for Our Weekly.
In  less than one year, Cole and Miller were able to gain Verified appoval  for the 50,000 weekly circulation. Since 2005, Our Weekly has been Los  Angeles largest audited black newspaper.
Circulation volume is the  foundation of our advertising rate structure. Therefore, we did not  hesitate to initiate and execute the audit process, because the value of  being an audited paper is critical to our advertisers, said Miller.  They know that they are reaching the most readers per dollar spent  based on actual circulation.
What truly separates Our Weekly from  our competitors is our feature articles and the fact that nearly all of  the articles are written by staff and contributing writers. There is not  a heavy reliance on wire services or wire copy, which equates to  someone else telling our stories, said Cole.
These efforts have  not gone unnoticed, because Our Weekly newspaper was recently named  media company of the year for 2008 by the Greater Los Angeles African  American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC). The honor was presented at the  groups 15th annual Economic Awards dinner, an event which each year  recognizes individuals, corporations and public officials who have  demonstrated their commitment to African American businesses and also  those who provide invaluable scholarship support for black students in  the inner city.
This year nearly 60 companies, agencies and  individuals were nominated for their efforts to support black-owned  firms.
In the Media of the Year category, Our Weekly competed against  the Los Angeles Times for the honor.
GLAAACC was established in 1991  by a group of business owners and executives led by Gene Hale,  president of G&C Equipment Corp. and Homer Broome, president, Marvid  Associates. The vision was to create an organization that would serve  as an advocate for African American-owned business enterprises and to  promote their growth and expansion into the international arena.
The  GLAAAC recognition of Our Weekly follows on the heels of awards to the  newspaper from several other major organizations within the city.
The  Black Business Association of Los Angeles honored Our Weekly as the  Black Business of the Year. This award is given to the BBA member  business that exhibits exceptional business growth while being  responsive to community service needs.
Since 1970, the nonprofit BBA  has contributed to and supported the development, progress and expansion  of more than 10,000 African American business enterprises. Nationally,  the BBA has access to and influence with more than 75,000 African  American owned and women/minority-owned business (WMBEs), through the  formation of strategic alliances with trade associations and  organizations throughout the US. The BBA’s mission is also to advocate  for and advance the development and growth of African-American owned  businesses.
The Community Financial Resources Corporation (CFRC)  awarded Our Weekly its Outstanding Community Advocate Award earlier in  March during its 15th annual Power Luncheon. The recognition was one of  four the business and home ownership assistance organization gave out.  The others were the Robert A. McNealy Trailblazer Award, the Outstanding  Community Reinvestment Partner award and the Outstanding Small Business  Achievement award.
The Los Angeles Community Reinvestment Committee  d/b/a Community Financial Resource Center (CFRC) is a non-profit  Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) dedicated to  providing low-cost financial services and counseling for residents and  businesses in low and moderate income communities of Los Angeles County.  The mission of CFRC is to create and enhance the economic wealth and  capacity of residents and businesses in disinvested areas of Los Angeles  by delivering quality community development programs, and facilitating  collaborative efforts among business, the community and government.

And  finally, Our Weekly publisher Natalie Cole was given a Rising Star  Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners-Los Angeles  at its 22nd annual Leadership and Legacy awards luncheon held at the  beginning of March.
The honor salutes a woman entrepreneur who has  established a critical milestone in her business and has displayed high  potential for entrepreneurial success.
NAWBO is the only dues-based  national organization representing the interest of all women  entrepreneurs across industries. It was founded in 1975 and has chapters  in almost every metropolitan area in the nation, and is represented in  33 countries.
The Los Angeles chapter began in 1979 and has as its  mission to propel women entrepreneurs into economic, social and  political spheres of power by strengthening the wealth creating capacity  of members and promoting economic development within the  entrepreneurial community. The organization also focuses on helping  women build strategic alliances, coalitions and affiliations and  advocates transforming public policy and influencing opinion makers.