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They're Baaaaaaack!

From Bag Boy To Boss

Gregory Calhoun, Calhoun Enterprises Inc.

Then & Now
No. of employees
1992: 300
2001: 560
Sales
1992: $50 million
2000: $100 million
Biggest change
Calhoun Enterprises grew to become the 25th-largest African American-run company in the United States, according to Black Enterprise magazine.

While We Were Away
In 1992
Number of African American-owned companies: 620,912
Since 1992
Minority-owned businesses have increased by 68 percent.
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census; SBA

At 16, Gregory Calhoun bagged items at a supermarket in Montgomery, Alabama. At 30, he ran the store. Now 47, he is president and CEO of Calhoun Enterprises Inc., the second-largest African American-run company in the South, according to Black Enterprise magazine.

"As the company has grown, my role has changed," says Calhoun. "Now I [create] opportunities rather than handle daily operations." He consults with major companies on diversity issues, and his work with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on several projects also gives the firm national prominence. Yet Calhoun has trouble gaining fair access to capital. "It's hard for us to get the credit it takes to operate a business our size," he says. "I sit on bank boards that lend people three times as much money, without half as much as I own. The good old boys system still exists."

Still, Calhoun's sales have doubled since 1992, and he projects earnings of $100 million for 2000. More important, he says, "People have grown with the company through employment opportunities, and in that way, I'm giving something back to my community."

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: They're Baaaaaaack!.

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