Microsoft Launches Build Your Business Tour To Demonstrate Benefits of Technology to African-American And Hispanic Small-Business Owners in 14 U.S. Cities

NEW YORK, Feb. 8, 2001 — Microsoft Corp. has launched a 14-city Build Your Business Tour, offering free workshops to African-American and Hispanic small-business owners across the country to demonstrate the benefits of technology. The launch was announced at a press conference today by Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, via video address, and Orlando Ayala, group vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and services group, during a press conference at The Equitable Center in New York. The tour will begin Feb. 9 and will be presented at 14 U.S. cities through October 2001.

Microsoft developed the Build Your Business Tour believing that embracing technology is important to the success of African-American and Hispanic small-business owners in the new digital economy. Microsoft research suggests that African-American and Hispanic small-business owners want to use technology to better manage their businesses and that they fear falling behind if technology information is not readily available.

The tour will cover the majority of African-American small-business owners and 80 percent of Hispanic small-business owners in 14cities, including Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; Oakland, Calif.; Philadelphia; San Antonio; San Diego; and Washington, D.C.

Present for the launching of the Build Your Business Tour were Microsoft’s small-business associates, Tavis Smiley, president and CEO of The Smiley Group Inc., and Jeff Lopez, president of Dekra-Lite Industries Inc.; the tour’s corporate sponsors, Compaq Computer Corp. and Softchoice Corp; and co-sponsors, Elizabeth Lisboa-Farrow, chairwoman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

“The Internet is a critical tool for small-business owners,”
Gates said via satellite at a press conference at The Equitable Center in New York.
“Little more than a decade ago, the Internet was an obscure network of large computers used only by a small community of researchers. Today, it is the center of attention for business, governments and individuals around the world. Microsoft is committed to empowering small businesses with advanced Internet technologies and is excited about partnering with African-American and Hispanic entrepreneurs.”

“Today, desktop technology is widely used by the 630,000 African-American and 775,000 Hispanic small businesses with 10 or fewer employees,”
Ayala said to an audience of press and African-American business, political and professional leaders.
“Yet adoption of the Internet as a business tool among ethnic business owners has not been as swift. According to Microsoft-sponsored research,* less than 2 percent of African-American and 6 percent of Hispanic small-business owners have incorporated e-commerce strategies to help drive their businesses forward. Microsoft is committed to the success of African-American and Hispanic small businesses.”

“As the pre-eminent Hispanic organization dedicated to representing, promoting and advocating for the 1.4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is pleased to join Microsoft in its effort to expand the use of technology tools and resources to small businesses,”
Lisboa-Farrow said.
“The Hispanic community is well established in the U.S. marketplace and the Microsoft® Build Your Business Tour will be integral to helping Hispanic small businesses remain competitive in the world of e-commerce.”

“This is now the third millennium, and the nation is filled with many modern-day Booker T. Washingtons, George Washington Carvers and entrepreneurs striving for new heights, based on thousands of years of accomplishments,”
Alford said.
“The language for the new economy is connectivity. The Internet provides immense opportunity via reduced costs, speed of thought and a virtual level playing field. Don’t overrate the ‘digital divide.’ We can overcome it with ‘digital leaps.'”

Smiley and Lopez are Microsoft’s small-business affiliates and serve as the tour’s spokespersons in the effort to build on the ongoing and long-term work Microsoft has done in the African-American and Hispanic communities to help close the digital divide.

A highlight of the Microsoft Build Your Business Tour will be video presentations of case studies featuring Smiley and Lopez. The videos will illustrate how technology affects a nationally known small-business owner and an emerging star in the small-business community. The workshops are designed to send the message that e-commerce is important to help overcome barriers to do-it-yourself Web site development and demonstrate the features and benefits of the Microsoft bCentral™
small-business portal and business desktop products.

Those interested in more information or wishing to register for the Microsoft workshops may call (877) 435-7638 or may visit the workshop Web sites http://www.msbigday.com/africanamerican.htm or http://www.msbigday.com/hispanic.htm .

About the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of 1.4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States and Puerto Rico, which earn more than $200 billion annually. The USHCC serves as the umbrella organization for 200 local Hispanic chambers nationwide and actively promotes the economic growth and development of Hispanic entrepreneurs.

About the National Black Chamber of Commerce

The National Black Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization dedicated to the economic empowerment of African-American communities. The NBCC was incorporated in Washington, D.C., in March 1993. This business association represents 64,000 black-owned businesses and provides an advocacy that reaches all 640,000 black-owned businesses. One hundred and ninety affiliated chapters are locally based throughout the nation.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
“MFST”
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.

* Microsoft-sponsored National African-American and U.S. Hispanic Small-Business Technology survey, July 2000. Research fielded by Merrill Research, survey population was 250.

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