38 year old New Orleans native Alfonso Gonzalez II inherited Corporate Business Supplies, Inc. from his parents, but only after putting in the work. “I’ve worked here since 1996 when I was a senior in high school. I began working there part time doing warehouse and clerical work, and also made deliveries while in college. After graduating, I sold new cars for a local Nissan dealership before leaving to become an Account Manager working for my father. I’m now president of the company and manage the day to day operations. Corporate Business Supplies, Inc., sells business furniture and office supplies throughout the state of Louisiana. Similar to our big box competitors, we offer over 40,000 items available for next day delivery, with orders taken via our secure website, phone, or fax. We also provide support services, such as space planning and design services for office environment, and products such as such as custom printed forms and advertising specialties.“
Alfonso graduated from Eleanor McMain Secondary School, and Xavier University of LA with a BA in Business Administration and a double minor in Management and Accounting. In 2013 he received his Certificate of Entrepreneurship after graduating from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program and is also a member of the 2014 Class of the New Orleans Regional Institute. He currently serves on the board of the New Orleans Black Regional Chamber of Commerce., is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and serves on the City New Orleans Board of Zoning and Adjustments.
He is also a family man, the proud husband to Allyn Gonzalez and father to two sons (18 months and 6 months!). When not at work, he enjoys spending time with family or reading; “I’m currently reading The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow”.
Q: How did you get started? Tell us your motivation for starting this business.
A: My father had a business with partner prior to Corporate Business Supplies, inc. They decided to part ways and my parents began a new one in 1996. Corporate Business Supplies, Inc., is my main source of income.
As I mentioned, my parents began the business and my father ran it from its inception. I’ve always been interested in business, business news, and competition. From an early age my father had me working with him at his office in some form or capacity, and I knew I wanted to pursue business as a career by the time I graduated from high school. I had no doubts about wanting to work form CBS, Inc., at some point.
Q: What are you most proud of (related to your business)?
A: I’m most proud of helping steer the business in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was shortly after the storm hit that I took on a management role in the company. We lost several employees who evacuated after the storm and didn’t return, and many customers who didn’t survive the loss of business. Refocusing our model to accommodate the shift in our customer base is what I’m most proud of. We’re a nimbler company because of it.
Q: As an African American/Black entrepreneur, what were some of the biggest challenges and/or surprised you faced when starting your business?
A: Being the second generation to run a business comes with a set of challenges that unique to running a start-up, but here are some similarities. My father had a system and processes in place that differed from how I thought they should be run. Our managerial styles are similar, but I emulated a lot of what I learned from him, so that’s to be expected. As far as challenges are concerned, I continue to run into thoughts an attitudes, as a black businessman, that any black entrepreneur would encounter. There are plenty of potential customers who seemed amazed at the fact that we are able to offer the same level of service and price as our big box competitors, while my local competition doesn’t necessarily face the same obstacles. We are the only minority owned supplier of business furniture and office supplies in the metro area.
Q: What advice do you have to fellow African American/Black entrepreneurs starting business?
A: I’d say planning as thoroughly as possible before starting the business is most important. You have to be sure of what revenue streams the business will be able to tap into and what who your potential competitors are. Above all, you’ll have to be prepared work harder than most. If the idea of working 70 or 80 hours a week is a deterrent for you, I wouldn’t suggest starting your business.
Q: New Orleans is such a “robust” entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are the resources (people, networks, organizations, programs, books, articles, etc.) that you have found most useful in starting and/or growing your business?
A: New Orleans is an awesome city for starting a business. Organizations with small business incubators like Idea Village and Propeller offer entrepreneur programs and vital back office support and work space to help entrepreneurs develop. New Orleans also has strong local
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