Saturday, February 25, 2012

Minority businesses improve financial savvy at Regions workshop; scholarships and internships complement outreach

By Gabriela Lira

On Friday, February 3rd, as part of Black History Month, a group of small business owners gathered at the Regions Center on Deaderick Street to kick off the first in a series of workshops put on by Regions Bank and The Nashville PRIDE. These workshops are specifically designed to offer sound financial advice to help area minority-owned small businesses navigate today’s turbulent economic times.

One of the minority-owned businesses in attendance was A to Z Transportation Inc., which provides general freight services interstate and in Canada. Bruce Little (owner/CEO) and Derrick Vinson (head of sales) were there to network with other small businesses and learn more about banking services for their growing business. Mr. Little’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to recognize a need in today’s economy for freight services and, coming from a family of truck drivers, he was familiar enough with the industry to purchase and run a fleet of his own. When he started his business, he found it very difficult to obtain bank financing so he used savings and seed money from relatives. Today, his company goals are to stay strong through the recovering economy, raise more capital, and build credit. He is well on his way to meeting his goal as his company has experienced continued growth for the last year and a half. When asked what advice he would give to other minorities thinking of starting their own business he stated “create your own opportunities.” His head of sales added, “Follow your passion. Stay focused, disciplined, and diligent.” A to Z was a company built out of the recession and they want to serve as a testimony for other small businesses.

Jim Schmitz, Middle Tennessee Area President for Regions, explained that the percentage of small businesses that fail is too high because owners have a great idea but no experience or understanding of the financial side of business ownership. Regions Bank’s role in these workshops is to empower people so they are not afraid to start a business due to lack of financial education.

The small business seminar in Nashville was part of Regions' 2012 Black History Month campaign, Riding Forward, which celebrates "the contributions of African Americans past and present that move us forward today."

For information on other free small business seminars to be held in 2012, call 615-728-2030.

Editor's note: High school seniors could win a $5,000 college scholarship by entering Regions' Riding Forward Scholarship essay contest. The essay submission deadline is right around the corner - February 29 - but all you need to write is 500 words about an African-American who has inspired you. See complete rules hereAlso, high school seniors and college students should also consider applying for an internship with Regions or another local business through INROADS; the priority consideration deadline is March 31.  The internship application page is here; Regions' explanation of its role in INROADS is here. contibutor Gabriela Lira is a realtor at Village Real Estate. Lira was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a graduate of Yale University and Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management. Read more of Lira's bio here.

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