© 2019 NABAA 

From Legacy to Destiny 

By Lonnie Saboor 

 

With the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

 

As-Salaam-Alaikum:

 

It is indeed an honor for me to be among you today.  To celebrate another Muslim Journal “A Time To Be Grateful” event.  Memphis: Roads Traveled In The Promised Land.  The Legacy and The Destiny.  I would like to thank Muslim Journal and the National Muslim Business Council for inviting me to give the keynote address at today’s Business Breakfast.

 

I bring greetings from the believers of Atlanta, Georgia.  My discussion will cover three areas:

  • The Business Legacy of Muslim Business Development in Atlanta.

  • Efforts to unite Muslim Businesses both locally and nationally.

  • What we can do today to achieve our rightful business Khalifa (custodian/vicegerent) position in the Promise Land (and I don’t mean just 40 acres and a mule). 

 

ATLANTA MUSLIM BUSINES LEGACY

Five months after accepting Islam in 1974, while a MBA student at Atlanta University, I was asked to become the business manager for Temple #15 (known today as the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam).  Within two months I became the Southern Regional Business Manager for the Nation of Islam.  Showing you how Allah prepares you, in January of 1974 I decided to take an unpaid internship at the Atlanta Business League where I worked to assist small minority businesses with financial analysis and business plan development.  My first assignment after taking over the community businesses was to develop a new organizational structure for our businesses and to obtain a $30,000 loan from Trust Company Bank to cover payroll and other operating expenses.  Both of these acts were successful.

 

All of our businesses were under a separate corporation called YOUR CORPORATION.  We operated 4 (four) Steak & Take Restaurants, 2 (two) Your Fish Markets, a full-line bakery called Your Bakery, moved over 30,000 lbs. of fish every month (Whiting H & G –“the chicken of the sea”) imported from Peru, sold cases of sardines imported from Morocco, and distributed five (5) gallon and one (1) gallon containers of purified water processed through a water purification system created by a Muslim chemist who was also a professor at Morehouse College.  We employed over 90 employees and had annual sales of over a million dollars in 1975.  Our sales volume would have placed us among the Top 100 of African-American businesses listed in Black Enterprise magazine in 1975.   

 

One of the first things we did was to enable each employee to make at least minimum wage, and obtain health and life insurance. We decentralized each store and make the managers responsible for their own store’s purchases, payroll and operational expenses.  Each store became accountable for being profitable and managing the number of people needed to operate efficiently. This would prove to be a very important decision because within a year the Internal Revenue Service would come down on the entire community business structure around the country after the passing of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.  It was during that time that we decided to sale all of our available stores to each manager. This completed the transition from community to individual business ownership in Atlanta.  A few years later one of the stores we sold would be purchased by Muslim businessman Lawrence Shamsid-deen, who would go on to establish 17 Supreme Fish Delight Restaurants.

 

EFFORTS TO UNITE MUSLIM BUSINESSES LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY

Several Muslim business people in Atlanta tried to come together for several years but it never lasted. Then in 1986 Imam Mohammed delivered a lecture at the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam and told us that like- minded business people should come together and associate with each other.  He said that I don’t care if you are an electrician, doctor, lawyer, or plumber find a way to come together and associate with each other.  That was the spark we needed to establish the Islamic Business Association of Atlanta.  We have had our challenges but twenty-eight years later we are still discovering ways to reinvent our organization. 

 

In searching the Holy Quran we based the need for our non-profit business organization on two  (2) Ayats from the Holy Quran; Sura 3, Ayat 104 “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to obtain felicity.” ; and Sura 42, Ayat 38 “Those who harken to their Lord, and establish regular prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation, who spend out of what we bestow on them for sustenance.” Some of our accomplishments have included:

  • Coordinated the first “Islamic Venture Capital” forum in Atlanta.

  • Assisted Muslim businesses interested in participating in the 1988 Democratic Convention.

  • Convened a meeting of Muslim business associates in 1992 that established the National Muslim Business Association and assisted in the creation and expansion of over ten (10) other Muslim Business Associations around the country. David Hasan was a board member and has continued this effort through the National Muslim Business Council. 

  • Assisted the National Muslim Business Association distribute over 20  business video tapes/DVD’s taped from Conferences held in Atlanta and Washington D.C.  All tapes were produced by Taqwa Productions Inc.

  • Selected to be a member of the minority business consortium working with the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games (ACOG), to ensure minority business participation in the Games.

  • Provided financial support to assist Atlanta Muslim business leader Lawrence Shamsid-deen establish the First Southern National Bank in the state of Georgia.

  • Assisted the Atlanta Masjid in acquiring its present shopping center location.

  • Conducted over 100 workshops, breakfast, luncheons and dinner meetings in metropolitan Atlanta.  Guest speakers have included the President of the Atlanta City Council, top Muslim and non- Muslim business leaders in metropolitan Atlanta.

  • Participated as a presenter at several National Muslim Conventions.

  • Hosted one of the most financially successful C.P.C. (Collective Purchasing Conference) workshops in the country.

  • Co-sponsored a reception at the Georgia State Capital for Imam W. Deen Mohammed.

  • Participated in the formation of the Georgia Summit of African-American Business. Organizations to increase the involvement of minority businesses with the state of Georgia. 

  • Provided information to member business associates that allowed 16 Muslim business projects to be funded by the City of Atlanta’s small business programs.

  • It is important for you to know that what we have done in Atlanta can and should be duplicated by all other Muslim Business Associations around the country.  

 

What we can do today to achieve our Khalifa position in the Promise Land

After 40 years of following the Holy Quran, the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and the leadership of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, we should be ready to take our rightful position as Khalifa in the world.  Your family needs you, your Masjid needs you, Mohammed Schools need you and Muslim Journal needs you.  In fact as we approach 2015 your city, state, country and world needs you today more than ever before!

 

What Business People Should Do

If you are in business today or want to start a business, you should do the following things:

  • You must determine your vision for your business. Is it revenue of $50,000, $500,000 or $50 million?  The limit of your vision will become the limit of your business.

  • Continue to grow and understand the industry your business is in like the back of your hand.  If you are in an industry that is going down, 99.9% of the time your business will be going down also.  Know the best practices of your industry and improve on them.

  • Review and revise your internal business plan yearly to reflect new information you have based on your past operational revenue, overhead and market changes.   

  • Develop a succession plan for your business if you want it to continue after you.

  • Master the art of wealth accumulation (personal consumption control and debt management).

  • Continue to develop your business team and circle of business associates.

 

 

 

What Local Muslim Business Associations Should Do

If you are a Muslim Business Association or want to start one, you should do the following things:

  • Add younger business people to your Board (ages 20-40).  

  • Develop a membership directory

  • Establish your association website and make it very user friendly.

  • Promote the experience of your Board on the website.

  • Add a member’s only portal to your website.

  • Develop online webinars for members.

  • Add a Resource page to your website that will connect your members with local partner organizations that can help your members grow.  (In order to truly empower your members you must identify other organizations that have business development as part of their purpose).

  • Develop an action plan to assist all levels of business members both internally and externally.

  • Use social media to communicate with your younger membership base.

  • Identify business sponsors for your association. (Sponsorships will be needed to insure the financial stability of the association and allow the organization to continue serving its membership base).

  • Make contact with your city, county and state Economic Development and Community Development offices to inform your members about available programs in your area that they can take advantage of.  Some of these programs can be interest free, grants and tax credits.  (In Atlanta, I have been able to provide over ½ a billion dollars in public/private sector financing to assist over 600 business projects.  State and Federal Tax Credits can allow you to get grant funds to finance your apartment and senior citizen housing projects, thus minimizing your equity injection.  Find out if you have areas in your city that are qualified as Tax Allocation Districts or Tax Increment Districts that provide special funds to commercial property owners.  Invite these agencies to speak at your membership events).

  • We need every association to join the National Muslim Business Council in 2015. (There is strength in numbers and active associations can make a difference. There are many projects and opportunities around the country that we can take advantage of if we are connected and know each other.  In Atlanta along we have the new $1.3 billion dollar Atlanta Falcon Football Stadium going up in 2017.  My office at Invest Atlanta is issuing the $200 million in bond financing required by the city of Atlanta to fund part of the project.  Active associations can allow us to pass on upcoming business opportunities in various cities and states; form potential joint venture partnerships with each other and expand our annual business revenue substantially.  As an active association we should have excess to your membership directory and expect you to know about the credibility of your members.  If I know about a possible $50 million engineering project in Atlanta and one of our members is looking for a joint venture partner, I would expect you to let us know if you have any concerns regarding a member listed in your directory.  This is also an added incentive to have all Muslim businesses in your area join your association.

 

Conclusion

Working together we can command the strength of the fist that provides the power needed to push forward.  Working together we can overcome obstacles in our path. It’s our time, 40 years have passed and we are now working with a new generation of believers.  It is time to take our 40 year Legacy deeper into the Promised Land to achieve our awaited destiny.

 

As-Salaam-Alaikum