January 05, 2001

What does it take for minority entrepreneurs to succeed in America today? Whether growing up in another country or in the United States, whether poor or privileged, a minority entrepreneur with enough passion, flexibility and community roots can succeed in any business, according to four entrepreneurs addressing "Entrepreneurial America: Changing Faces, Transforming Business" on EntreWorld ( during February.

February columnists offering advice are: Carmen Bermudez, founder of Mission Management and Trust Co., providing financial services and employment opportunities to women and minorities; Barbara Manzi, President of Manzi Metals, distributor of metals to the aerospace and defense industries; Jeet Singh, co-founder of Art Technology Group, creator of Web applications that enable personalized content and e-commerce strategies; and Darien Dash, founder of DME Interactive, empowering minorities through interactive technology and services.

Growing up in the jungles of Costa Rica without electricity or indoor plumbing, Bermudez writes in "Mission: Possible and Accomplished" about working on assembly lines, cleaning hotel rooms, working as a flight attendant and becoming an award-winning Triathlon athlete. She ultimately launched Mission Management and Trust, which now boasts $1 billion in assets and donates a portion of revenues to charitable causes. Bermudez advises the following:

--Ask yourself whether you really feel a burning desire to do whatever you are contemplating.

--Analyze and capitalize on your personal strengths.

--Seek mentors and business leaders in your area.

"I have a passion for people and a passion for the industry, and I love a challenge," says Barbara Manzi of Manzi Metals in "I Didn't Get Here by Myself." "When somebody has an attitude about, say, women or minorities, we sit down and I explain the reasons why they'd want to do business with me and my company - and they change their minds."

Manzi, who is of Cape Verdean descent, says that growing up in a family of 12 children taught her how to share, listen and make sound judgments. She took advantage of on-the-job training, learning opportunities, mentors and networking.

"Coopetition" - cooperate and compete at the same time - is Dash's advice in "Bridging the Digital Divide" for African-Americans, Hispanics and other minority entrepreneurs for bettering both themselves and the community. With the country's $553 billion African-American market and a $490 billion Hispanic market in mind, he has made it DME Interactive's mission to expand the hardware and software infrastructure in minority communities that have been disenfranchised from technology.

With a heavy concentration of Asians in the telecommunications industries, Singh notes in "Operating in a Cosmopolitan Environment" that his father is Indian, his mother is Indonesian and his co-founder, Korean. He's found "favorable prejudice" throughout his career and advocates learning language skills if you're doing sales and marketing.

"The issues that a young, early-stage entrepreneur has to face change so dramatically from day to day that one of the biggest skill sets you need is range and flexibility," Singh says. "To thrive in this country, immigrants have to develop that flexibility, so we can apply it as entrepreneurs."

New additions to the Entrepreneur's Search Engine complement the "Entrepreneur's Bylines," including articles on "New Immigrant Entrepreneurs," "Enormity of Hispanic Market: Technology Is Key," and "Where Are All the Minority Entrepreneurs?"

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