Black Business Expo


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Staff Reporter

COMPTON Myra Wallace has built a successful business outfitting some of the NBA’s biggest stars including A.C. Green, Byron Scott and Sam Perkins.

But she’s kept her business, M.K.O. Man, in Compton to help set an example for other African-American business owners.

“I thought it was important as an African American to keep my business in the community, because that’s what we need,” Wallace said.

That same sense of giving back to the community, she said, underscores her reasons for participating in the 9th Annual Los Angeles Black Business Expo & Trade Show, which runs April 25-27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

To Wallace and other participants, the expo is a chance to show the larger community that businesses owned by African-Americans are strong and getting stronger.

“The Expo is seeking to call attention to the many new emerging black businesses that are operating in Los Angeles as they represent some of the most important and vital sources of energy in the L.A. basin,” said Clyde Oden, president of United Health Plan, sponsor of the expo.

Oden said that statistics from the Census Bureau’s most recent tally of minority-owned businesses showed that Los Angeles County is home to 32,645 black-owned companies that generated receipts of $3.6 billion in 1992, a figure he says has increased in the five years since.

“L.A. is a place for business and we mean business,” Oden said.

M.K.O. Man (which stands for My Kind of Man) is one example.

The company, which specializes in big and tall fashions, started in 1996 and had sales of $250,000. Sales for 1997 are projected to double, and the MKO line is now carried at 85 stores throughout the nation and at Barrister’s in Beverly Hills and Burton’s in Los Angeles.

Wallace got her start sewing for friends and acquaintances.

“I was sewing men’s suits and doing local fashion shows,” Wallace said. “Initially I had a lot of taller models and they were telling me how they had a problem getting things to fit them and when I looked up at them, I thought if they can’t get clothes that fit, how do the ballplayers do it since they have to wear nice clothes so much of the time.

“It was then that the idea just dropped into my hands and I began thinking about developing a line for big and tall men,” she said.

A friend introduced her to Green, Scott and Perkins (all of whom played for the Lakers at one time or another), who agreed to model MKO clothes in photos to help Wallace launch her line.

“When you’re able to get that kind of clientele it pretty much speaks for itself from then on,” Wallace said.

The NBA players liked the pieces that Wallace made for them and wanted more.

Having a prestigious clientele clamoring for more and not much on the racks at stores for big and tall men was the deciding factor for Wallace who then charged into purchasing, production and eventually, showing her newly-produced line at the trade shows.

She got start up costs of about $90,000 together, bought 1,500 yards of sample fabric, dozens of buttons and trims, and began producing samples in denim, corduroy and knits.

Green said he likes the line because its fills the void between dressy and casual. “MKO has kept me in that very comfortable but very clean look,” he said.

He’s also learned a thing or two about fashion. “It’s sort of scary because I never would have imagined it but now I go around feeling fabric,” said Green, a 6-foot 9-inch forward for the Dallas Mavericks.

Other celebrities who wear MKO include Dr. Dre, Montel Jordan and Heavy D. “I’ve had a recent explosion of clients from the entertainment industry who have seen the clothes and now want their own pieces,” Wallace said.

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