From Starting a Book Club to Becoming an Entrepreneur

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You know that feeling when you’re reading a really good book? Like the author really gets you and has written down feelings you thought were only in your own head?

Glory Edim has bottled that feeling and turned it into an online community, monthly book club and (as of September of this year) a conference called Well-Read Black Girl.

Like many of us in New York City, Edim says that she felt isolated and alienated in her day-to-day life in Brooklyn and she wanted to feel more authentically connected to people in her community.

“I wanted somewhere to call home and feel safe and secure,” said Edim. Mainly, she wanted to connect with other black women. “Race is typically who we are seen as and I wanted a space that I could be my full self.”

Edim did what any great entrepreneur does: she turned her personal pain point into a community, where others like herself could connect with each other as well as the black women authors they read and love. She hosted her first book club in September 2015.

Through her monthly book clubs, she eventually realized that she wanted something bigger: a full-day’s conference to bring readers together with black women authors. The Well-Read Black Girl Festival (WRBG Festival) was launched and funded on Kickstarter in June 2017 and quickly hit its fundraising goal of $15,000. The final tally ended up more than double that initial goal, raking in almost $40,000 from 928 backers. The backers purchased tickets to the festival as well as Well-Read Black Girl tote bags and books to support the efforts.

It’s no surprise that Edim knows how to run an online fundraising campaign. She began working at Kickstarter in March 2016 as a public outreach specialist and is now a community specialist. She says that being able to help coach Kickstarter members through the process of launching their campaigns gave her insight into how to run her own hugely successful campaign.

“Since I work there, I recognize the power of the platform. Creators thrive here. Lives change,” explained Edim. “My life has changed. I feel more like an entrepreneur.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Using Your Voice as a Powerful Business Tool

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Angelica Nwandu headshot

By Angelica Nwandu

The power of voice is an often-underestimated tool within the business world. Countless entrepreneurs have harnessed the power of their voices to create strong online brands that people trust.

By putting your voice out there, you can establish yourself as a leader in the industry—translating into endless business opportunities. If you’re an up-and-coming entrepreneur, the number one way to grow your brand is by sharing your expertise across all mediums. You’ll see the ROI in no time!

Here’s how you can use your voice as a powerful business tool through content and other means:

Find Your Niche

The first step in using your voice as a business tool is to establish your expertise. You need to establish yourself as an expert within your niche. That is the only way your audience will take your words as an authoritative resource.           

Dive into your skillset and find the area that you believe is your strongest field. What can you offer that no one else in your industry can?

Once you’ve found the place where you can set yourself apart from the rest, target in on that. Create useful and educational content surrounding your expertise. Write about things no one else besides you can write about, and find the questions no one has answered yet. By doing this, you will start to gain traction and attract a significant audience.

Have a Strong Social Presence

Social media is important for networking and discovering potential customers. Post consistently to LinkedIn and connect with prospects. Your connections will then see your expertise and hopefully consider you as a thought leader.

Always engage with your followers. Respond to comments and encourage conversation on your social profiles. Make sure every one of your social profiles is complete with a profile picture, bio, and more so that you come off as authentic and professional.

In addition to all this, feel free to join social groups on Facebook and more that you believe could bring a larger audience to your brand. Share your own personal articles and additional educational resources that would be of value to these groups.

Be Authentic

One crucial part of transforming your voice into a business tool is authenticity. In order to utilize your voice as a tool for business, you first need to establish trust. And trust only comes with authenticity.

When posting content or networking with potential clients, be sure to be authentic. If people trust you and your content, they’ll be more likely to do business with you. Post content in your personal tone and voice. Be a useful and reliable educational resource for your target audience.

Also, pass on the self-promotional content. Post and share content that your audience can truly benefit from as opposed to self-promotional advertisements. 

Post Consistently

If you want to be taken seriously in your industry, you must post consistently. Posting consistently will establish you and your brand as a trusted voice in your niche. Post educational, compelling, and unique content that will help you reach your audience. Create a posting schedule that keeps you on track to share educational content. Overall, hold yourself accountable to posting regularly.

Also, make sure your tone and quality are both consistent. You want your content to be top-notch every time you share content.

Harness the Power of Video

Video is one of the most essential mediums today. It can convey vital information more effectively while also offering more opportunities for creativity. It will communicate your voice better and stronger.

Instead of writing post after post, consider a quick one or two-minute video. Speak about topical subjects, best practices, and more. This can make you stand out in your industry and garner trust from your audience.

Seek out Speaking Opportunities

One of the best ways to use your voice as a business tool offline is to seek out speaking opportunities. If your city is hosting a conference or convention within your industry, see if there’s any way you can contribute. Volunteer for a panel and showcase your expertise. Attendees will take note of your insight, and you may be able to turn them into customers.

Overall, your voice can be a powerful business tool to attract a broad audience. Choose your words wisely and utilize your expertise to find your target market. Authenticity, trust, and consistency can go a long way, so be sure always to put your best foot forward.

Your voice is the most powerful business tool you have. Start using it today!

Angelica Nwandu is the founder of The Shade Room, a site that covers celebrity news and celebrates black culture. She was named as one of Forbes “30 under 30” in 2016 and has created a media company that inspired Refinery 29 to dub Nwandu “the Oprah of our generation.”

Former Attorney Launches First Black-Owned Stock Exchange in 230 Year US Stock Exchange History

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black businessman working on laptop wearing a suit smiling

When it comes to investing, estate planning, and overall generational wealth building, Black people are often at a severe disadvantage due to a shortage of knowledge, education, and access.

And while in recent years, there has been an increase in resources and opportunities for Black people to plan for their futures, grow their money, and set their children up for financial success, they are still lightyears behind compared to their white counterparts. Former attorney, Joe Cecala, recognized this and, through a partnership with Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, a minority-owned private equity firm, founded The Dream Exchange, the first Black-owned stock exchange in the 230 years of US stock exchanges.

Dream Exchange’s mission is to “focus on small business capital formation and diversity using the power of the American investing public.” The new stock exchange promises to “allow investors to empower innovators and emerging businesses in a way that has never been done before.”

In a statement, Cecala shared, “The Dream Exchange is a real solution to the long-term systemic issues plaguing our country by providing a marketplace where money flows to any organizations that help us to survive better as a society.” He hopes to provide access to the capital markets system by making it available to more individuals and businesses. Cecala also says that the Dream Exchange will list new companies with breakthrough ideas at an early stage so that investors will see the most significant potential opportunity.

William H. Ellison (Bill), Chairman of Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, said, “For years my team and I have looked for a way to help mid-size businesses participate more extensively in the US economy, we feel the Dream Exchange is that way.”

When it comes to investing, estate planning, and overall generational wealth building, Black people are often at a severe disadvantage due to a shortage of knowledge, education, and access. And while in recent years, there has been an increase in resources and opportunities for Black people to plan for their futures, grow their money, and set their children up for financial success, they are still lightyears behind compared to their white counterparts. Former attorney, Joe Cecala, recognized this and, through a partnership with Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, a minority-owned private equity firm, founded The Dream Exchange, the first Black-owned stock exchange in the 230 years of US stock exchanges.

Dream Exchange’s mission is to “focus on small business capital formation and diversity using the power of the American investing public.” The new stock exchange promises to “allow investors to empower innovators and emerging businesses in a way that has never been done before.”

In a statement, Cecala shared, “The Dream Exchange is a real solution to the long-term systemic issues plaguing our country by providing a marketplace where money flows to any organizations that help us to survive better as a society.” He hopes to provide access to the capital markets system by making it available to more individuals and businesses. Cecala also says that the Dream Exchange will list new companies with breakthrough ideas at an early stage so that investors will see the most significant potential opportunity.

William H. Ellison (Bill), Chairman of Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, said, “For years my team and I have looked for a way to help mid-size businesses participate more extensively in the US economy, we feel the Dream Exchange is that way.”

In addition, due to the current global pandemic, the Dream Exchange has been educating members of Congress on the need for venture securities, how to protect capital markets, and the creation of opportunities in the post-COVID environment.

Continue on to the Chicago Defender to read the complete article.

Who Said Woman Was Not Meant to Fly?

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Bronwyn Morgan pictured smiling sitting at a table

By Laurie Dowling, National Utilities Diversity Council

What do you get when a serial innovator merges her vocation and her avocation? You get Bronwyn Morgan, founder of Xeo Air, an outsourced AI-based drone services and data analytics company, and Airversity Drone Academy & Consulting.

Founded in 2019, Xeo Air is the next step in a management and entrepreneurial journey that has taken Bronwyn from strategic visioning at Fortune 100 companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, to media, academia and now aerospace futuring.

For those of us whose knowledge of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV – drones) has mostly been garnered from adventure movies, it may come as a surprise that in the next two years the commercial drone industry in the US is expected to reach $100 billion. In the four years since the Federal Aviation Administration granted more operations exemptions and flight regulations for professional drone services, they have increasingly become a part of business and civilian life, even if we aren’t always aware of them. They do and will perform functions ranging from mapping and data collection to delivery, crop fertilizing and facility disinfecting.

Xeo Air focuses on business to business solutions with inspection and mapping services with high definition video, thermography, LIDAR and infrared, for industries including civil infrastructure, oil and gas, wind, solar, utilities, construction, telecommunications, disaster response and government. Xeo Air is a young startup with an administrative team of four and 20 FAA part 107 certified pilots, and Bronwyn and her backers see it poised for growth as companies continue to embrace this game-changing geospatial data collection tool that saves businesses time and money so they can make decisions more quickly.

Additionally, to serve the growing need in public safety and corporations that need in-house capacity in unmanned aerial vehicles, a year ago, Bronwyn created a training company – Airversity Drone Academy and Consulting – which fields a team of FAA 107 certified instructors (pilots) based around the US who provide FAA exam prep and flight training.

A few questions for Bronwyn:

Are there a lot of drone companies owned by women?

I am part of a small but growing segment of the industry owned by women. Less than 10 percent of drone companies are owned by women, but the numbers are increasing, and there are more women in senior positions in larger companies as well.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your company so far?

Scaling up. It takes resources and time to grow your client base and to source talent, and you must sharpen your business model as the environment changes in this young industry. We also have limitations based on regulations and equipment innovation, but that is changing rapidly.

Have you had to educate potential customers on drone services because of misperceptions?

Absolutely. What most people know of drones is primarily their military usage. Our UAVs are very different and our business is different. We have to educate our potential clients about how drones can help their businesses and how we can help them make decisions faster, safer and at a lower price point than traditional services. And when you put it together with machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data becomes more actualized. There are so many uses for our services. Example: We’re able to get up and down a tower for routine inspection within an hour and capture significant data critical to immediate maintenance requirements. We can also assess damage to critical infrastructure after disasters, which can mean life and death in emergency response. Additionally, our capabilities can provide streaming information that allows customers to see real time the status of any asset. The use cases are endless.

What do you think is your competitive advantage?

We’re building an end-to-end product. We can collect data; keep you informed digitally through the processes and analyze the information for immediate use. We’re able to take care of customers end to end. And we can do it securely, with a high level of customer service. We treat our clients’ business as if it were our own.

What is in your future?

I’m working on solutions with flying passenger vehicles, to be announced soon. This is the future of aeronautics. It’s a dream job. When I was in high school, I wanted to fly fighter planes, which they didn’t allow women to do. I think my job is better!

We agree. In fact, please forgive the pun, but we think Bronwyn is soaring.

For more information on Xeo Air click here.

For more information on Airversity, click here.

For more information on NUDC and its free programs to advance diversity, click here.

What Will the Workplace Look Like After Covid-19?

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Motion blurred shot of two business people talking through modern office hallway. People walking in office entrance hall.

By BWISE

What will the workplace look like after the long nightmare of Covid-19 is over? While there is no way to be certain of the changes to come, it will most definitely be much different than it looked prior to it.

Companies across the country are laying off and furloughing employees in record numbers and unemployment has reached levels not seen since The Great Depression. In addition, we now have four generations in the workplace: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Generation Z., each with their own needs and perspective on how Covid-19 has affected them. Unlike other economic downturns, this pandemic has also resulted in significant illness and loss of life for millions of people. And the devastation of small businesses is unprecedented.

How will organizations of the future handle all of this?

Companies are in the business of making money, not dealing with the fallout of a healthcare and fiscal crisis. There is not even a business function that exists to handle what corporations, government or academia is dealing with these days. While human resources might seem like the appropriate department to coordinate these efforts, it is not. After years of reductions in staff, it has neither the capacity nor the qualifications to even adequately handle what is happening now. What’s needed immediately and for the long term are experts in workplace solutions. These experts are paying attention to global social and economic trends and are advising business leaders on how not just survive, but to adapt.

The Importance of D&I

In the future, we will almost certainly see a rise in positions in life sciences as well as in supply chain management. As software began to take over the world, both industries have faced reductions in salaries and employees due to managements’ drive to cut costs. While millions of people practiced social distancing at home, we now see how essential these functions really are. And just as important is ensuring that organizations are not cutting back on their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts amidst all of this. The economic disparity in race and gender has had a tremendous impact on communities of color. The rates of infection and mortality for Blacks and Hispanics far exceeds that of the population overall. Business and political leaders must prioritize plans to make sure that EVERYONE in the workforce can earn a livable wage.

Moving the Needle

Without an influx of new talent each year, the United States will far further behind other nations in innovative and technological advances. There is still a critical need for qualified technical workers, but we cannot expect women and underrepresented minorities to remain in work environments where they do not grow and thrive. We also cannot expect girls to enter fields where they do not see positive role models. It’s imperative that we stop the constant drip from the leaky STEM pipeline by working hard to retain diverse candidates from the middle to the end. Despite our best efforts to encourage future generations to become scientists and engineers, there is no guarantee they will enter or stay in the STEM workforce once their education is complete. Let’s spend more time and money to ensure we can keep those Black women who are determined enough to make science a career.

Founded by Erika Jefferson, Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE), which supports underrepresented women in STEM through networking, mentorship, and career development, is partnering with Cambio, a multi-faceted recruiting and diversity platform founded by Neil Patwardhan and Bob Richards. Both organizations are focused on truly moving the needle on DEI hiring in meaningful way.

Partnering for Good

BWISE, with its professional job board and network of over 15,000 scientists, engineers and technologists, can focus on guiding employers and diverse job seekers with a focus on Black women in STEM. And Cambio, through its diversity engine and analytics, can spotlight diverse candidates and focus on delivering the best. BWISE was founded with the purpose to support underrepresented women through networking, mentorship and career development. The group primarily consists of Black women from middle management through senior leadership with degrees in the sciences, math and engineering who would like to connect with others. The organization provides a platform and a space to share career experiences and be empowered.

Cambio’s mission is to create a more human experience in the world of recruiting and job searching, and to make the process more transparent by embracing the swipe culture of viral mobile applications. A powerful part of the company’s platform is the ability to surface underrepresented qualified talent to ensure recruiters get the right visibility. Cambio aims to speed up the hiring process and lead the way in diversity hiring to help companies meet their workforce goals for 2020 and beyond.

For additional information, news and updates on BWISE, visit www.bwiseusa.org.  

For additional information, news and updates on Cambio, visit www.cambiome.com.

Successful Pet Butler ‘Entre-manures’ Showcase Franchisor’s Strong Potential for Growth

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Rebecca Stewart stands outside in front of her Pet Butler work vehicle

(ATLANTA, Georgia)-Rebecca Stewart was home one night watching “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch,” a former CNBC show that highlighted American business success stories. This particular episode featured Pet Butler, which provided “poo-fessional” pet-waste cleanup and removal services to residential and commercial customers. “Why didn’t I think of that?” thought Stewart, who came from a family of entrepreneurs and was in need of a change from her job in Corporate America.

            That was more than a decade ago and in 2008, Stewart did, indeed, become Pet Butler’s first franchisee in Georgia. In 2017, Spring-Green Enterprises (SGE) acquired the brand and it has been reinvesting in its marketing, technology and operational support systems, culminating in a modernized model designed to deliver a profitable, recurring-revenue business that caters to pets and their people.

Pet Butler is positioned for nationwide growth, especially in the Atlanta market, where Stewart serves clients in DeKalb and Fulton counties and Vinings in Cobb County. She has been one of Pet Butler’s top-performing franchisees ever since she left behind her 22-year career as a systems programmer analyst in 2006 before opening her Pet Butler franchise two years later. Working hard to build a new business was never an issue, given the history of entrepreneurism in the Stewart family and the skills and values learned growing up in a small town. “We work hard for ourselves and that’s earned us loyalty and respect in our community,” Stewart said. “I left IT because I wanted to be my own boss and create my own hours. In IT I was meticulous and that translated well to pet-waste removal. We are very attentive to the clients we serve and pride ourselves on our customer service.”

Pet Butler offers large, protected territories that foster scalable growth, which has helped make the brand No. 1 in the “No. 2” business for thousands of clients across North America. Roughly 85 million U.S. families, or 67 percent of households, own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). In the U.S., pets include 90 million dogs and 94 million cats. In 2018, pet services accounted for $72.56 billion spent and was estimated to grow to $75.38 billion in 2019.

Stewart’s team provides pet-waste cleanup services to private residences, parks and multi-family properties of all kinds. Pet Butler also offers cat litter box swaps/cleanouts, onsite empty-clean-refill or sift out-top off cleanouts, as well as installation and service of commercial pet-waste stations. Pet Butler follows preventive safety measures during the novel coronavirus pandemic that include wearing personal protective equipment, sanitizing vehicles between jobs and practicing social distancing. “Pet owners have become very aware of the services we provide and appreciate the convenience that Pet Butler provides,” Stewart said. “We are seen as more of a necessity than a luxury.”

About Pet Butler

Pet Butler Franchise was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of +43 years old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 26 states with long term plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years. Pet Butler provides an opportunity for pet lovers to turn their passion for pets into a business. To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit www.petbutler.com and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. To inquire about a franchise call 844-777-8608 or go to www.petbutlerfranchise.com

Air Force general confirmed as first black chief of a U.S. military service

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General Charles Q. Brown in uniform

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be the next Air Force chief of staff, making him the first African American leader of a military service as the Pentagon and the country grapple with a raft of racial issues.

The confirmation also makes Brown the second African American officer to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Chairman Gen. Colin Powell.

The 98-to-0 vote was a blowout approval for the four-star general. Vice President Mike Pence presided over the historic vote.

President Donald Trump, who nominated Brown in March, hailed the general on Twitter.

“My decision to appoint @usairforce General Charles Brown as the USA’s first-ever African American military service chief has now been approved by the Senate,” Trump said, though the tweet came before the confirmation vote. “A historic day for America! Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!”

Brown’s nomination had been in the works for months, yet the vote came amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Top Air Force officials led the way in speaking out over the past week and calling for dialogue on racism. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the service’s top enlisted leader, became the first senior military official to speak out, and was followed by outgoing Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

Brown, who is currently the commander of Pacific Air Forces, delivered an emotional message Friday about his experience as a black airman.

In addition to becoming the first African American service chief, Brown will be the most senior African American Pentagon leader since Powell chaired the Joint Chiefs from 1989 to 1993.

“I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd but for the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd,” Brown said. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.

“Without clear-cut answers, I just want to have the wisdom and knowledge to lead during difficult times like these,” Brown said of his nomination to be the service’s top officer. “I want the wisdom and knowledge to lead, participate in and listen to necessary conversations on racism, diversity and inclusion.”

Continue on to Politico to read the complete article.

This Black-Owned Business Defied the Odds of COVID-19

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Shontay Lundy holding a bottle of Black Girl Sunscreen

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, business owner Shontay Lundy refused to let her company suffer the economic devastations that could come.

Lundy owns a small sunscreen company called Black Girl Sunscreen, which is run by five people. Now, as businesses begin to open back up in the United States, Lundy has successfully secured a million-dollar investment from a private female funding source.

Lundy founded Black Girl Sunscreen in 2016 when she decided that the world needed a sunscreen that specifically catered to women of color. The sunscreen uses all-natural ingredients, avoids harmful chemicals and is made to apply without streaking. The company has accumulated much success since it opened in 2016, but Lundy knew the company had to improve their strategy in the face of a pandemic, as businesses owned by women of color are given very little funding.

The Black Girl Sunscreen team decided that the best way to keep business afloat was to boost the company’s social media presence and marketing strategy, working overtime to accomplish their goals. Since this improvement, Black Girl Sunscreen received a tremendous boost in online sales, persuading them to release a new product in the near future.

The sunscreen company’s marketing campaign for an inclusive sunscreen has also earned Black Girl Sunscreen a full-time spot on Target’s shelves in 200 locations, the only indie product to be carried at all times by the chain. The company currently sells an SPF 30 sunscreen and an SPF 50 sunscreen for children.

The Co-Founder of Reddit Resigns to Support Racial Diversity

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Alexis Ohanian-Serena pictured at HBO event

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and husband to professional tennis player Serena Williams, has resigned from his position at Reddit to persuade the company to hire a black candidate to take his place.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, prominent subreddit pages, such as “The Donald,” posted derogatory and racist content toward black people.

While social media platforms are usually able to monitor and ban this kind of content, according to the company’s hate speech policy, the posts remained and were promoted on Reddit remained. In outrage, many popular subreddit pages privatized and blocked new content from being posted as a form of protest. Many called for Steve Huffman, co-founder and CEO of Reddit, to fix the policy including former CEO Ellen Pao.

Ohanian, desiring to better the platform, posted on Twitter on June 5, just two days after the Reddit protests began, and resigned from the company in favor of hiring a black candidate to take his place.

“I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’” Ohanian tweeted.

In addition, Ohanian has pledged to use any profit he makes in Reddit stocks to serve the black community, starting with one million dollars donated to Colin Kaepernick’s Foundation.

Huffman responded that he will be honoring Ohanian’s request and will be working to change their policies to specifically address hate. “I want to take responsibility for the history of our policies over the years that got us here,” Huffman stated, “and we still have work to do.”

These Companies are Stepping Up in the Fight for Racial Equality

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a person writing word Inequality on glass board

When it comes to encouraging diversity, especially during the Black Lives Matter movement, here are some of the companies that are supporting racial equality.

Bank of America

On June 2, Bank of America announced they will be pledging one billion dollars toward community programs and minority-owned businesses over the course of four years. The money was pledged in response to both the death of George Floyd and the impacts of COVID-19. Bank of America hopes this money will further help minority-owned businesses thrive, improve health services in Black communities, and open up positions for more bank employees.

Uber

To encourage its users to support black-owned businesses in response to George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter Movement, Uber has announced that it will be waiving all delivery fees coming from black-owned restaurants in the United States and Canada. This process will begin on June 5 and continue throughout the rest of the year. Uber has also stated they are planning to create an initiative specifically designed to aid black-owned restaurants, as well as other businesses.

Additionally, Uber has pledged to create more diversity within their employees.

UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group is donating a pledged ten million dollars to help the neighborhoods of Minneapolis rebuild any damage taken in response to the protests. This will include five million of those dollars being donated to the YMCA Equity Innovation Center of Excellence.

UnitedHealth Group has also pledged to pay for all of George Floyd’s children to go to college when the time comes.

Disney

Disney will be donating five million dollars to companies that stand for social justice, including the NAACP, which Disney has pledged two million dollars to. Disney employees are also encouraged to donate to social justice causes, as Disney has promised to match any donation made by a Disney employee.

P & G

The umbrella company for brands, such as Tide and Olay, P & G has created the “Take on Race” fund that will be distributing five million dollars to organizations that will advance education on race, better communities, and improve all healthcare systems. The fund will be working directly with large and small organizations, such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the United Negro College Fund, and Courageous Conversation.

Your Custom Catering & Events: Feeding Those in Need

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nattiel turner seated outside on bench near businesses

By Sarah Jester

The impact of COVID-19 on the catering and event industry cannot be overstated. Gatherings all across the world have been delayed or canceled for the months ahead, leaving many businesses scrambling. However, many have pivoted their business strategy to serve others in this time of need, like Certified LGBTBE® Your Custom Catering & Events. The Charlotte, NC-based catering and events firm has partnered with a local nonprofit to help give back to the community.

“During COVID-19 we had to cancel or move more than 30 events to date due to government mandates and closures,” explained founder Nattiel Turner. “We partnered up with a non-profit, Hearts Beat as One, to feed children that were food insecure due to school closures in the most impoverished zip codes and also families of those laid off due to bar and restaurant closures.”

Turner’s business normally caters events like weddings and corporate affairs, as well as institutional catering for schools, crisis centers, and nonprofits. Now, they are feeding hundreds of children and families every day at multiple locations.

“The donations and grants to Hearts Beat as One cover the product needed and payroll for the staff working to prepare meals,” said Turner. “While we are not profitable, we are sustained and our employees can continue to support their families.”

Turner worked in management in the hospitality industry before going on to found Your Custom Catering & Events in 2012, which was LGBTBE certified in 2019. Through LGBTBE certification, he has opened up numerous opportunities for his business.

“I have been able to leverage corporate and non-profit contracting for both event and institutional catering,” he explained.

When asked what was unique about Your Custom Catering & Events, Turner cited the individuality of their business-client relationships.

“Each client is viewed as unique and we avoid a cookie cutter approach meeting each client where they are and meeting their individual needs,” he said. “We are able to offer a tailored approach and source food from local providers while keeping our costs at a minimum.”

Through his business, Turner aspires to create a foundation to help alleviate the effects of food insecurity through partnerships with local farmers to increase community access to fresh food, in addition to cooking classes for children and young adults. He had some key advice to offer to those with similar goals, as well as aspiring LGBT entrepreneurs.

“Surround yourself with a network that can help guide you in the beginning,” said Turner. “Accounting, marketing, suppliers, etc. Do not be afraid to screw up and be criticized as you move toward your dream.”

Have you repurposed your business to aid with relief efforts related to the spread of COVID-19? Click here to submit your story.

For additional ways to help you, your business, and the LGBT community during this time, visit the NGLCC COVID-19 Resource Hub for the LGBT Business Community.

The Cutting Edge Elite: Supplying Staffing & Hope When Needed Most

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The Cutting Edge Staff outsde witth a lake in the background in group photo

By Sarah Jester

COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, putting many small businesses on pause. However, some of these businesses have been able to repurpose their missions and resources to contribute to significant relief efforts. Headquartered in New York City, Certified LGBTBE® The Cutting Edge Elite, Inc. (CEE) is doing just that!

Founded by Nathan Perry & Lucas Mendieta, CEE is a staffing agency that offers a wide variety of residential, promotional, catering, and event services, as well as field project staffing and project coordination. As most events in major cities have been put on hold or delayed to uphold social distancing, CEE was left with a dedicated team that was ready to help out in a time of crisis.

“During these difficult times we believe it is everyone’s duty to contribute where they can,” Perry explained to NGLCC. “For over a decade, CEE has deployed event staff and leaders who are experts in fast moving, chaotic environments, that are both complicated and stressful. They trained in courses for skills as well as emotional intelligence. And they flourished as bonded and powerful teams. That experience is now critical.

The team’s experience is now being put to use in CEE’s newly minted Relief Division.

“We have developed the Relief Division to offer their expertise during crisis, at-cost,” said Perry. “To have maximum impact. To support the success of others. And to keep our people working. And we partnered with medical professionals to ensure this is done safely.”

CEE is now offering relief staffing and direct hire for relief projects that are taking place in various areas. Some of these projects include food preparation, packaging, and delivery, assistance with wellness checks, facility checks, urgent errands, labor support, and remote project coordination. In other words, as Perry puts it, the CEE team is ready and available for all “ad-hoc relief efforts based on client needs.”

NGLCC

LGBTBEs like CEE are stepping up to support relief efforts throughout the nation, especially in hard-hit New York City. This further underscores why it is imperative that the City of New York finally include NGLCC Certified LGBTBEs in citywide contracting opportunities.

As many small business owners know, teamwork lies in the core of success. CEE is no exception to this belief. Perry told NGLCC he was most proud of “building an employee-empowering, shame-free institution in multiple cities.”

As for the benefits of being a Certified LGBTBE® in times like these, Perry points to the NGLCC network as a point of connection.

“The NGLCC has provided numerous opportunities for learning, growth, networking, identifying partners as well as valued mentorship and personal relationships,” he said.

“My first job when I moved to New York City over a decade ago was with Cutting Edge Elite. Back then it was just a handful of young employees and two courageous, young entrepreneurs with a vision.  As their company grew into one of the most respected staffing and event companies in the region, so too did their commitment to giving back.  CEE regularly donates staff, money, time, and essential resources to nonprofits, including many that support LGBTQ youth. I am not at all surprised to see CEE’s leadership on display through their Relief Division efforts. I am so proud to have CEE in the NGLCC family, and to call Lucas and Nathan treasured friends and colleagues,” said NGLCC Senior Vice President Jonathan Lovitz.

Need assistance with a relief project? Visit ceenyc.com to connect with CEE staff.

For additional ways to help you, your business, and the LGBT community during this time, visit the NGLCC COVID-19 Resource Hub for the LGBT Business Community.

Job Interviews are Going Virtual, Here’s What You Need to Know

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Man giving virtual job interview online

As businesses prepare to open their doors again, the hiring process has begun. Nearly forty million Americans lost their jobs from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that many of those people will be searching for work and participating in job interviews.

But, as we are still adhering to some social distancing rules, many of these interviews are likely to occur via video call.

Interviewing virtually is an unfamiliar territory, but having a successful, meaningful virtual interview is definitely possible.

Here are the best tips for having the most successful interview on a virtual platform.

  • Presentation
  • As you would for an in-person interview, you want to look presentable. While this means wearing an interview-appropriate outfit, you want to make sure that your background and camera angle are also presentable. Make sure your background is clean, containing as little distractions as possible, and that your computer’s camera is catching the best angle of yourself. This will allow the interviewer to see the best version of yourself while bringing their full attention to what you are saying and not to what else is happening in your environment.

  • Make Eye Contact
  • As you would in a physical job interview, you want to make eye contact with the interviewer. It can be difficult not to look at your own reflection in the video call and worry about how you look to the other party, but remember to look into the computer’s camera to show the interviewer that you are paying attention to what they are saying and are really listening.

  • Remember the Lag
  • Unfortunately, video calls are known to lag and glitch. Neither party is at fault, but be aware of these inconveniences. Talking over the interviewer, accidentally interrupting, audio cutouts, and temporary freezes are bound to happen, so speak slowly and talk only when necessary to avoid these possible interview mishaps.

  • Use Your Resources
  • Virtual interviews allow for better access to virtual resources. Keeping interview notes on your screen and using screen share to give examples of your work will help you to remember your best selling points and show your interviewer what you are capable of.

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*Please be sure to check event websites for latest updates on postponements or cancellations due to COVID-19 precautions.

Upcoming Events

  1. National Society of Black Engineers 46th Annual Convention
    August 19, 2020 - August 23, 2020
  2. 2020 American Society for Health Care Human Resources Association Event
    August 22, 2020 - August 25, 2020
  3. Blacks in Government (BIG) 42nd Annual National Training Institute
    August 24, 2020 - August 27, 2020
  4. NFBPA: A Construct for Change Forum 2020
    October 8, 2020 - October 13, 2020
  5. HBCU Career Development Marketplace
    November 10, 2020 - November 12, 2020