How 1 Woman Strategically Used Her Talents to Go From ‘Top Model’ to Top Entrepreneur

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Talk about a career change: Dominique Reighard-Brooks started on “America’s Next Top Model.” Today, she co-owns E.E. Ward, the oldest black-owned business in America.

Dominique Reighard-Brooks is a mover, in every sense of the word.

She is presently the co-owner of award-winning moving company E.E. Ward, which is also America’s oldest black-owned business. But her career began with a lengthy run on the popular reality show competition “America’s Next Top Model,” and soared when she graced the pages of publications like Ebony and Seventeen. Then, she signed on at E.E. Ward in 2014, working alongside her husband, Brian.

To the outside observer, it may appear as though Reighard-Brooks performed a professional 180. “It’s not the sexiest business,” she freely admits. But she finds plenty of crossover between modeling and moving.

“Being a self-starter, whether in the entertainment world or working in the logistics industry, means you’ve got to be willing to take action,” she explains. When you’re a model, singer and actress, you need to learn about marketing, self-promotion and persistence — all of which comes in handy when you’re running a company.

And in Reighard-Brooks’ case, when you’re trying to “enhance and re-energize the family business,” as she puts it, knowing a few secrets from the entertainment industry is helpful. After all, even a 138-year-old company needs to cultivate a fresh appearance on social media. Under her direction, E.E. Ward maintains an active — some might even say surprisingly glamorous, for a moving company — presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

In the years since Reighard-Brooks made her career change and joined E.E. Ward, the company has racked up a number of new awards for quality service, and she recently oversaw its first expansion outside of its home state of Ohio.

From Top Model to Top Entrepreneur

Reighard-Brooks was born and raised in the Columbus area by a family full of entrepreneurs, from her mother to her grandparents. At age 24, she found fame as a contestant on the 2008 cycle of “America’s Next Top Model.” Though she did not win the season — she placed fourth overall — her participation was a springboard into a busy modeling and performing career. In addition to appearing in popular magazines, she modeled for fragrance J’Adore and served as the face of Brooklyn beauty brand Carol’s Daughter.

[Related: Growing Carol’s Daughter in a Brooklyn Kitchen]

She relished those opportunities, but they frequently took her abroad, and she missed her husband and children while on shoots. So she contemplated a career change that would keep her closer to home. “I wanted to explore, evolve, and use other gifts and talents that were lying dormant,” she says. So, “I made a list of everything — every skill set, every relationship I’d developed over the years in entertainment, all of that.”

That personal assessment led her to team up with her husband, who had owned E.E. Ward since 2001 after buying it from his godfather, a member of the Ward family. Not everyone, of course, gets to choose such a relatively easy path into entrepreneurship. But Reighard-Brooks believed her experience would be an asset to the family business. “In my life, I’ve been a model, a singer, a writer, a video producer, a photo editor, a writer.” she says. “And I use all of those experiences in running the business.”

Reighard-Brooks helms a bustling operation. She manages a 50-person team — 70 strong when they hire part-time work during their busiest times — spread between its Columbus, Ohio headquarters and its Grove City, Ohio hub. Under her leadership, the company expanded outside Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina. She declined to disclose revenue figures, but says the company handles several thousand moves and deliveries each year, for both residential and commercial clients.

In addition, Reighard-Brooks is responsible for all of the content E.E. Ward produces — from social media posts and marketing campaigns to the development of its video content. A striking figure with long brunette hair, she frequently appears on E.E.Ward’s Instagram feed as the face of the company.

And in yet another unusual move for a moving company, she has also tapped into her fashion experience to launch a clothing division called 1881 Apparel. Launched last year as an offshoot of E.E. Ward, the venture “pays homage to the Ward family legacy.” The company, which sells tees and sweaters, is in its earliest stages, but Reighard-Brooks believes it has the potential to elevate the E.E. Ward brand.

Creating a Ripple Effect

When she joined E.E. Ward, Reighard-Brooks says she was wanted to cultivate the company’s unique position in history as the longest-lasting black business. She has directed the company’s ongoing involvement in philanthropic endeavors, such as its Laps for Learning fundraiser at the local YMCA. It emphasizes pool safety and has provided 393 lessons for low-income children to date.

 

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Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega Is Using Art to Uplift Brown and Black Women

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Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega

By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Pop Sugar

In 2017, Afro-Latinx visual artist Reyna Noriega began her career as a full-time creator. Little did she know that in just a few short years, she would have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, would be working with huge brands like Apple and Old Navy, and would design a cover for The New Yorker. Born and raised in Miami to a first-generation Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Noriega, who is best-known for her bold, vibrant, graphic work, was destined to be an artist.

“My father is also an artist, and I became interested early on in just the magic of it all, being able to bring ideas to life on paper and communicate in a universal language,” Noriega told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. “I was always the ‘sensitive kid’ feeling a lot and thinking a lot, so art and writing were great outlets for me to get all of that under control and to be able to process my emotions.”

Now, Noriega’s art is being seen on a much wider scale and impacting thousands of people who follow her on social media or see her art on city walls and T-shirts. To get there, she had to put in a lot of work, including studying and learning on her own, despite the fact that she took art classes throughout high school and minored in art in college. Using the help of books and YouTube, Noriega honed her skills and eventually left her job as a teacher, with the full support of her parents.

“I was very fortunate that my family believed in me and my ability to make my passion a career and even help me make it happen! To this day, my mom is the person that helps me run my online shop, and they encourage me to strive higher,” Noriega told us.

By 2019, Noriega started doing brand work, after getting comfortable with her style and what she wanted to represent as an artist. It gradually became easier for her to align herself with brands that had the same mission. She is currently working on Amex’s “Always Welcome” design collective launch, which will provide businesses with signage for their storefronts and indicate their stance on inclusivity.

“Honestly, every time I get an email, I am honored and humbled that my name enters rooms I never thought would. From companies whose products I used to save up for at one point, like Apple, to legendary publications like The New Yorker, or having thousands and thousands of people wear a shirt I designed with Old Navy. It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Ultimately, it was Noriega embracing her culture and her commitment to advocating for Black and brown people through her art that got her there. She says her Afro-Caribbean culture is what brings “vibrancy and flavor” to her art. But we think it’s so much more than that. With just a single glance, it’s obvious that Noriega’s background informs her work. Her use of color, the way she showcases the female form, the various complexions and skin tones she celebrates in her work, and the stunning, tropics-inspired botanical scenes she often creates speak to exactly who she is and where she comes from.

“Art has always been a place I look to boost my mood, museums, galleries, [and] learning about art history. But unfortunately in those spaces, rarely did I ever feel I belong, because my story wasn’t told on those walls, and in the rare occasion it was, it only highlighted the struggles and traumas,” she said. “I wanted to create work that would lift moods and raise the self-efficacy of Black and brown women with positive representation and vibrant depictions of joy.”

Noriega describes the art she creates with a tremendous amount of care and respect. Her mission is to create art that represents and uplifts communities that are often left out of the conversation. “I focus on women because as a woman, I know all of the challenges and barriers we face,” she said. “Inequalities in pay, harmful messaging on body image, the ongoing fight for body autonomy . . . it can be really exhausting. Add on to that the challenges being a BIPOC, and it just magnifies. My art is meant to celebrate women, inspire joy, and a reclamation of peace and rest.”

Noriega recognizes how important it is to not only amplify voices like hers but also to use her gifts and resources to speak up for people who don’t have the same advantages that she does. Even as a Black Latina, she’s cognizant of the privileges she has and the responsibility associated with them. “For me personally, I often look at my identities as a privilege, which pushes me to amplify Black voices even more. I am all too aware of the advantages I have received being a Latina in Miami, and even being ethnically Caribbean, although my race is Black,” she said. “Being able to say where your lineage comes from is a privilege many Black Americans don’t have. I have been unfairly judged and treated and had some very hurtful comments said to me, but I must also be aware of how my skin tone provides privileges, how my heritage provides privileges, and how knowing more than one language is a privilege.” And in recognizing that, she’s able to leverage her position to empower others in really visible ways.

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

How Black tech entrepreneurs are tackling health care’s race gap

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entrepreneurs photo: (from left) Kevin Dedner founded Hurdle, a mental health startup that pairs patients with therapists. Ashlee Wisdom's company, Health in Her Hue, connects women of color with culturally sensitive medical providers. Nathan Pelzer's Clinify Health analyzes data to help doctors identify at-risk patients in underserved areas. Erica Plybeah's firm, MedHaul, arranges transport to medical appointments.

By Cara Anthony, NPR

When Ashlee Wisdom launched an early version of her health and wellness website, more than 34,000 users — most of them Black — visited the platform in the first two weeks. “It wasn’t the most fully functioning platform,” recalls Wisdom, 31. “It was not sexy.” But the launch was successful. Now, more than a year later, Wisdom’s company, Health in Her Hue, connects Black women and other women of color to culturally sensitive doctors, doulas, nurses and therapists nationally.

As more patients seek culturally competent care — the acknowledgment of a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment — a new wave of Black tech founders like Wisdom want to help. In the same way Uber Eats and Grubhub revolutionized food delivery, Black tech health startups across the United States want to change how people exercise, how they eat and also how they communicate with doctors.

Inspired by their own experiences, plus those of their parents and grandparents, Black entrepreneurs are launching startups that aim to close the cultural gap in health care with technology — and create profitable businesses at the same time.

Seeing problems and solutions others miss
“One of the most exciting growth opportunities across health innovation is to back underrepresented founders building health companies focusing on underserved markets,” says Unity Stoakes, president and co-founder of StartUp Health, a company headquartered in San Francisco that has invested in a number of health companies led by people of color. He says those leaders have “an essential and powerful understanding of how to solve some of the biggest challenges in health care.”

Platforms created by Black founders for Black people and communities of color continue to blossom because those entrepreneurs often see problems and solutions others might miss. Without diverse voices, entire categories and products simply would not exist in critical areas like health care, experts in business say.

“We’re really speaking to a need,” says Kevin Dedner, 45, founder of the mental health startup Hurdle. “Mission alone is not enough. You have to solve a problem.”

Dedner’s company, headquartered in Washington, D.C., pairs patients with therapists who “honor culture instead of ignoring it,” he says. He started the company three years ago, but more people turned to Hurdle after the killing of George Floyd.

In Memphis, Tenn., Erica Plybeah, 33, is focused on providing transportation. Her company, MedHaul, works with providers and patients to secure low-cost rides to get people to and from their medical appointments. Caregivers, patients or providers fill out a form on MedHaul’s website, then Plybeah’s team helps them schedule a ride.

While MedHaul is for everyone, Plybeah knows people of color, anyone with a low income and residents of rural areas are more likely to face transportation hurdles. She founded the company in 2017 after years of watching her mother take care of her grandmother, who’d had to have both legs amputated because of complications from Type 2 diabetes. They lived in the Mississippi Delta, where transportation options were scarce.

“For years, my family struggled with our transportation because my mom was her primary transporter,” Plybeah says. “Trying to schedule all of her doctor’s appointments around her work schedule was just a nightmare.”

Plybeah’s company recently received funding from Citi, the banking giant.

“I’m more than proud of her,” says Plybeah’s mother, Annie Steele. “Every step amazes me. What she is doing is going to help people for many years to come.”

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Lafayette Black woman’s journey to medical school is inspired by women and funded by Tampax

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Lafayette Black woman's journey to medical school is inspired by women and funded by Tampax

By , The Advocate

Sydney Ambrose has long found inspiration through the women in her life and hopes to one day inspire the next generation of girls.

Ambrose, a Lafayette native and pre-med student at Xavier University, credits her grandmother and her dermatologist for her success thus far. She was recently named a winner of the Tampax Flow It Forward Scholarship, which aims to close the representation gap of Black women in health care.

“Tampax is funding me to be able to pursue resources that will help me become a doctor and serve the minority community because there’s a lot of mistrust within that community,” Ambrose said. “So I think it’s important to have physicians of color and women physicians of color who can build that trust and communication that is very much needed.”

Ambrose, 20, is one of 12 scholarship recipients who will receive up to $10,000 in annual tuition assistance. The scholarship program aims to support the next generation of Black women who are pursuing degrees in health care. Black women account for less than 3% of doctors in the United States, even though Black women account for about 13% of the country’s population.

“I definitely want to help provide more access, which is a big part of this scholarship in that it’ll help me get there,” Ambrose said. “But a lot of those populations, they don’t have a Black dermatologist within reach.”

Ambrose said she was inspired to become a doctor after a visit with Dr. Jennifer Myers, a Lafayette dermatologist, when she was a teen.

“Of course she’s a female physician, so that’s obviously really inspiring for me,” Ambrose said. “But also, she didn’t just try and rush me out the door. She really took time and conversed with me and made me feel really comfortable.”

Click here to read the full article on The Advocate.

Advocating For Women Entrepreneurs: A Conversation With Women Impacting Public Policy President And CEO Candace Waterman

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Advocating For Women Entrepreneurs: A Conversation With Women Impacting Public Policy President And CEO Candace Waterman

By Rhett Buttle, Forbes

October is National Women’s Small Business Month where we take time to recognize the achievements of female entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the economy. Prior to Covid-19, women were the fastest-growing segment of small business owners in the United States.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has slowed this progress and compacted long-standing inequities. For example, women-only receives 4% of all commercial loan dollars and the federal government has only reached its mandated goal of awarding 5% of its contracts to Women-owned small businesses only twice.

As President and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), Candace Waterman leads a national nonpartisan organization advocating on behalf of women entrepreneurs, strengthening their impact on our nation’s public policy, creating economic opportunities, and forging alliances with other business organizations. She has more than 35 years of experience across the private and public sectors and has owned three successful companies in the medical, real estate, and hospitality industries.

I recently had a conversation with Candace about the state of female entrepreneurs and WIPP’s efforts. I am grateful to her for taking the time to speak with me and below is a summary of our discussion.

Rhett Buttle: Before Covid, women were the fastest-growing segment of small business owners in the country. What can we do to support women who want to open businesses and rebuild that momentum?

Candace Waterman: It is true that prior to the pandemic, women were the fastest-growing segment of business owners in the county. While growth was strong across the board, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the fastest-growing sector was businesses owned by Black women. The pandemic has certainly turned back a huge amount of progress, as many women left the workforce or permanently closed their businesses, wiping out savings and losing out on wages and income.

From a business-to-consumer perspective, the easiest way to support women-owned businesses recovering from the pandemic is to do business with those locally, in your area. By doing so, you are helping them to keep their doors open. You may want to go a step further and recommend their businesses to friends and family. If you want to do more and have the resources to do so, you could also invest in women-owned businesses in the form of venture capital or by becoming an angel investor.

October is National Women’s Small Business Month where we take time to recognize the achievements of female entrepreneurs and their positive impact on the economy. Prior to Covid-19, women were the fastest-growing segment of small business owners in the United States.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has slowed this progress and compacted long-standing inequities. For example, women-only receives 4% of all commercial loan dollars and the federal government has only reached its mandated goal of awarding 5% of its contracts to Women-owned small businesses only twice.

As President and CEO of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), Candace Waterman leads a national nonpartisan organization advocating on behalf of women entrepreneurs, strengthening their impact on our nation’s public policy, creating economic opportunities, and forging alliances with other business organizations. She has more than 35 years of experience across the private and public sectors and has owned three successful companies in the medical, real estate, and hospitality industries.

I recently had a conversation with Candace about the state of female entrepreneurs and WIPP’s efforts. I am grateful to her for taking the time to speak with me and below is a summary of our discussion.

Rhett Buttle: Before Covid, women were the fastest-growing segment of small business owners in the country. What can we do to support women who want to open businesses and rebuild that momentum?

Candace Waterman: It is true that prior to the pandemic, women were the fastest-growing segment of business owners in the county. While growth was strong across the board, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the fastest-growing sector was businesses owned by Black women. The pandemic has certainly turned back a huge amount of progress, as many women left the workforce or permanently closed their businesses, wiping out savings and losing out on wages and income.

From a business-to-consumer perspective, the easiest way to support women-owned businesses recovering from the pandemic is to do business with those locally, in your area. By doing so, you are helping them to keep their doors open. You may want to go a step further and recommend their businesses to friends and family. If you want to do more and have the resources to do so, you could also invest in women-owned businesses in the form of venture capital or by becoming an angel investor.

Another, very important way to support women-owned businesses is to incorporate them into supplier diversity pipelines and supplier development programs and give them a seat at the table when discussing matters related to small business. When women don’t have a seat at the table, their voices get lost and they can’t share their pain points and what would be most helpful to them from a solutions perspective.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Clark Atlanta University to Lead Regional Center for Entrepreneurship as part of PNC $16.8 Million Grant

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

Clark Atlanta University will be one of four HBCUs to lead a Regional Center for Entrepreneurship, thanks to a $16.8 million PNC grant.

The national center will be located on the campus of Howard University, and will use a regional structure to include programming at three regional HBCUs—Clark Atlanta University, Morgan State University, and Texas Southern University. CAU will lead the South region, including HBCUs in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Each regional center will lead HBCU partners in their respective areas to coordinate education programs, research strategies, business outreach, and other community outreach efforts at partner HBCUs across the country.

A significant focus for the Center and its regional HBCU partners is to engage the black business community in growing their enterprises, thereby positively impacting the community and increasing employment and wealth for the black community.

“Clark Atlanta University’s entrepreneurial legacy extends back to the intellectual genealogy of W. E. B. Du Bois, who served as a professor of economics and sociology at Atlanta University for over 23 years in the early 20th century,” said CAU President, Dr. George T. French, Jr. “Clark Atlanta University, as well as many HBCUs, are engaged with passion and unfettered creativity to initiatives to enhance black entrepreneurship within the university and their communities.  We have always been at the forefront of entrepreneurship education, including established partnerships with entrepreneurs globally.”

The CAU School of Business Administration (CAUSBA), celebrating 75 years of excellence this year, will oversee the Regional Center and will complement ongoing and evolving activities in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED). CIED was established to develop a campus-wide entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem and Lab/Maker Space.  It offers Innovation and Design Thinking Courses and Workshops; Ideation, Lean Start-Up, and Small Business Mentoring; 3D Printing & Prototyping; Tech Transfer and Commercialization Support; Hackathons; and Business Pitch Competitions.

“CIED is the optimal focal point for innovative initiatives involving campus and community stakeholders,” says School of Business Administration Dean Silvanus Udoka.  “The Regional Center for Entrepreneurship will broaden the platform for our scholars to accelerate discovery, spark innovation, and creativity to spawn the launching of our students’ entrepreneurial endeavors and professional careers.”

CAU’s School of Business also has an Entrepreneur-In-Residence program that brings experienced entrepreneurs to the School of Business Administration to advise and assist students and faculty as they launch startups or explore the commercialization of research.  EIRs provide mentorship and guidance to the CAU community on business strategy and design, and social impact.  They also connect investors with inventors, creators, and researchers.

“We are grateful to PNC for providing us with the means to enhance our entrepreneurial initiatives, while promoting collaborations as amongst HBCUs such as Howard University and other prominent regional collaborators” said President French.

About Clark Atlanta University

Established in 1988 by the historic consolidation of Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869). Clark Atlanta University continues a more than 150-year legacy rooted in African-American tradition and focused on the future. Through global innovation, transformative educational experiences, and high-value engagement. CAU cultivates lifted lives that transform the world. Notable alumni include: James Weldon Johnson; American civil rights activist, poet, and songwriter (Lift Every Voice and Sing “The Black National Anthem”; Ralph David Abernathy Sr., American civil rights activist; Congressman Hank Johnson, Georgia District 4; Kenya Barris, American award-winning television and movie producer; Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway Director; Jacque Reid, Emmy Award-winning Television Personality and Journalist; Brandon Thompson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for NASCAR; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Recording Academy. To learn more about Clark Atlanta University, visit www.cau.edu.

Michael B. Jordan and Serena Williams Partner to Help HBCU Students and Alums Launch Businesses

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Michael B. Jordan and Serena Williams want to give HBCU students or alums some coins for their businesses.

By Jasmine Alyce, Atlanta Black Star

Michael B. Jordan and Serena Williams are combining their star power to help elevate the businesses of HBCU students and alumni.

The “Creed” actor partnered with Invesco QQQ and Turner Sports to bring the inaugural HBCU basketball showcase to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Dec. 18. In addition to spotlighting the universities and the talented athletes that attend them, the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic is sponsoring a startup pitch competition that will give current students and alumni the opportunity to win up to $1 million toward growing their businesses.

“Invesco QQQ and Turner Sports have been amazing partners in helping bring this experience to life,” Jordan previously said in a statement announcing the showcase. “I grew up watching basketball games on TNT, so I am confident they will deliver this set of games to a true audience of basketball fans and their families in an exciting way.”

The pitch competition was created in partnership with Serena Williams‘ SerenaVentures and MaC Venture Capital. Participants who want their piece of the pie will be required to submit business proposals and investor decks online now through Nov. 18 to qualify.

“HBCUs are an integral part of our educational ecosystem and have long been centers of entrepreneurial excellence. We are thrilled to be partnering with Michael B. Jordan and MaC Ventures on highlighting the brilliant student and alumni founders,” Serena Ventures General Partner Alison Stillman said in a press release.

Click here to read the full article on Atlanta Black Star

October Is Black Professionals Month, A Push To Make Corporate Leadership More Diverse

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black professionals month logo

The first day of October is the first day of a month-long push to help make corporate leadership more diverse. It’s the brain-child of two black executives who say it’s time to have more diversity at the top, so they are trying something new.

It’s called Black Professionals Month, 31 days of events, recognitions and celebrations.

Denise Kaigler is one of the co-founders. She told WBZ-TV it’s time to work together. Watch video here.

“There is a such a great opportunity for us to come together, black professionals to come together, to work together, to increase our presence, black professionals’ presence in leadership roles around the world,” Kaigler said.

October 1st starts a month-long series of virtual events and speakers, all with the goal of inspiring and coaching black talent.

“We are also going to be bringing speakers together to host sessions that cover a wide range of topics that impact the ability of black professionals to climb up that corporate ladder, personal branding, career advancement sessions,” Kaigler told WBZ.

Right now, she says, the numbers are bad. Black professionals hold only 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles in America, a change she knows can’t happen by the end 31 days, but one they plan to push for years to come.

Read the complete article on CBS local.

‘Shark Tank’ Hires Emma Grede To Be First Black Woman On Panel

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On Shark Tank Emma Grede To Be First Black Woman On Panel

By Alexis Reese, BET

There’s a new shark in town!

For the newest season of Shark Tank, the series will have its first Black woman shark on the panel. Good American CEO and SKIMS founding partner Emma Grede, will be one of this season’s guest panelists. She will join recurring sharks, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran.

Grede, an entrepreneur from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by way of London, will make her grand appearance during the season premiere on Oct. 8, according to Shadow And Act.

Grede graduated with a business degree in business studies at The London College of Fashion and has worked with brands like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Zac Posen, Christopher Kane, Chivas, Mercedes-Benz, and Sky.

She currently is the chairman of entertainment brand ITB with clients like Calvin Klein, Net-a-Porter and H&M.

‘I’ve been doing celebrity partnerships for a long time, and I started to realize that a lot of what I was being asked to do was to put together very ‘diverse’ campaigns,” she told ELLE UK. “Oftentimes, I would cast women [in a campaign] for a brand that didn’t make clothes that would fit them. ‘I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if we created a company where we made clothes for every woman, and the company looked exactly like the ‘diverse’ campaign, with me at the helm, a Black woman?’, and it worked.”

Click here to read the full article on BET.

Meet The Woman Behind Google’s Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships With Black Founders Around The Globe

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Rachael Palmer, the Woman Behind Google’s Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships With Black Founders Around The Globe

By Alexa Imani Spencer, Yahoo! Finance

Rachael Palmer is behind Google’s partnership strategy with venture capitalists and startups throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Her track record includes the launch of a $2 million fund for Black founders in Europe and a $3 million scheme in Africa, Business Insider reported.

“My role focuses on driving partnerships with the region’s top VCs and startup but also working on initiatives to transform the ecosystem for the better,” Palmer told Insider.

Before she joined Google, she worked at Microsoft and American Express. She spent plenty of time working with small businesses at the latter. As an internal consultant at Google, she “quickly found my back to working within the startup ecosystem”

Every day is different and far from typical, she told Insider.

“I spend some days working closely with founders to understand their business and how we can help them, or with internal product teams discussing opportunities to engage the VC and startup ecosystem,” she said. “Another day might be spent with a VC learning more about their portfolio companies, how we can partner and also what they look for in investments.”

Palmer shared her top five tips for businesses seeking to work with Google.

Keep Google’s users in mind

For startup founders hoping to secure an investment from Google, Palmer’s main tip is to ensure you have something to offer the company’s users.

“I meet many startups that want to get their content or product built into Search,” she said. “However, they often fail to step back and think about what’s in it for our users and how it enhances the product. For a partnership to work, it has to be mutually beneficial to both sides.”

2. Do your company values align with Google’s?

For Palmer, it’s important for her to get to know what’s in “the DNA of a company.”

“I really care about its values and how closely it meshes with Google,” she said. “In a pre-COVID world, I used to enjoy a visit to the offices as you can tell a lot about a company through seeing where and how they work.”

3. Think seriously about diversity

Palmer said about picking venture capitalist business partners, “I obviously care deeply about their ability to pick winners but I also care about their perspective on diversity.”

4. Think locally and globally

Palmer said she’s always been impressed by the go-to market strategies of EMEA-based startups.

“They often establish themselves in their home country then quickly create the blueprint for expansion by becoming really good at localization, developing local partnerships and navigating regulatory situations in different markets.”

5. Expect competition

Large companies like Google have rival founders and interested venture capitalists in numbers. This year’s Black founder initiative is one example.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Finance.

Rihanna takes time with album while unveiling lingerie line

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Rihanna takes time with album while unveiling lingerie line

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., AP News

Rihanna might be extremely consumed with rolling out her popular lingerie line, but finishing her forthcoming album is still a priority.

The multi-Grammy winner is just taking her time to “experiment.” She suggests her new music will sound much different than her previous projects.

“You’re not going to expect what you hear. Just put that in your mind,” Rihanna said recently before the taping of her “Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3” event, which will air Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s been five years since the pop star released her critically acclaimed eighth album “ANTI,” which included hits such as “Work,” “Love on the Brain” and “Needed.” Last year, Rihanna said she had started recording new music, holding “ tons of writing camps.”

“Whatever you know of Rihanna is not going to be what you hear,” said the singer, who has won nine Grammys in multiple categories including R&B, dance and rap. “I’m really experimenting. Music is like fashion. You should be able to play. I should be able to wear whatever I want. I treat music the same way. So I’m having fun and it’s going to be completely different.”

Rihanna hasn’t announced a release date yet for her new album, but music plays a major role in her Savage X Fenty event. It returns for a third straight year and will highlight her fashion line’s newest assortment of styles featuring an all-star lineup of models, actors and performers.

The show — recorded in downtown Los Angeles — will include performances by Nas, Ricky Martin, Jasmine Sullivan, Daddy Yankee and Normani. Adriana Lima, Gigi Hadid, Vanessa Hudgens, Erykah Badu and Alek Wek and Jeremy Pope make special appearances.

Rihanna said she’s looking forward to unveiling some of her favorite styles from the new collection.

“The cat suits, the crotchless,” she said, blushing and then moving on. “All the bras that make my boobies sit up, because, you know, I’m 33 now. They’re not where they used to be. I’m just looking forward to actually seeing my pieces on the talent, seeing it on so many different body shapes and silhouettes, because that’s what brings the pieces to life.”

In past shows, Rihanna has taken the initiative to become a champion of inclusion with her fashion line. She wants to continue to highlight men of all shapes, color and sizes in a manner similar to how she’s uplifted women with her line.

Click here to read the full article on AP News.

Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand donating $1M to help diversify newsrooms

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Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced that he will donate $1 million to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting to help diversify newsrooms.

BY OLAFIMIHAN OSHIN, The Hill

Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced that he will donate $1 million to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting to help diversify newsrooms.

The Jordan Brand grant will enable the society to expand its college internship program, create a summer journalism program at a historically black college or university in North Carolina, and launch a high school journalism project with a majority Black and Latino school in the state.

The Ida B. Wells Society, created in 2016 to help train and support minority investigative journalists, is housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Media.

“Investigative reporting is the most important reporting in our democracy,” society co-founder and 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones said in a statement.

“It’s the reporting that holds power accountable, that unearths the way it’s wielded, that tells the stories that people don’t want told. Our democracy is in crisis as politicians are advancing a wave of voter suppression laws across the country and journalists must step up to be the firewall for our democracy,” she added. “That makes the work we do as a Society and the substantial support of Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand so critical in this moment.”

Jordan, who was the main subject of the Netflix documentary series “The Last Dance,” pledged in 2020 to donate $100 million to organizations that are dedicated to racial equality, social justice and education access over the next decade, Black Enterprise reported.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

The Blueprint: A Conversation with Christian Wise Smith, Esq.

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Christian Wise Smith, suthor, smiling and holding up his childrens book

By Santura Pegram

(SP) – Tell people a little about Christian Wise Smith…who you are, how it all began, and what you’ve accomplished so far in life?

(CWS) – I was born and raised in the justice system. I saw my mother get arrested several times before she lost custody of me. My Uncle Steve was sentenced to life in prison for murder. I witnessed my grandmother stripped down to her underwear and handcuffed. Ultimately, my family and I experienced several traumatic encounters with law enforcement and the justice system during my childhood. Determined to break the negative cycles of my upbringing, I was able to turn my pain and tragedy into triumph, becoming the first in my family to graduate from college, ultimately earning my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Juris Doctor degrees. The horrors experienced during my childhood ultimately led me to devote my career to working with our youth.

(SP) – Realizing that poverty, idle time, a lack of opportunities, and peer-related pressure often entices and influences disadvantaged people of all ages (especially teenagers and young adults) to get caught up in turning to ‘street life’ for survival, how were you able to avoid such desperate measures and traps during your youth, which could have negatively affected you later in life?

(CWS) – Before finishing high school, I saw several family members and friends destroyed by murder, violence, drugs, and other crimes. At 17, I was kicked out of school. Headed down a path leading straight to a jail cell, Officer William Dean Sr., a Black police officer, took an interest in helping me to break free of the low expectations inherent in my situation. Due to his mentoring and support, I learned that I was capable of changing my path.

(SP) – Researchers have proven there is a direct link between socioeconomic disadvantaged individuals and crime. Additionally, there are those who believe that “over 90% of crime in America and around the world takes place due to economic disadvantages and the remaining percentage involves mental illness, social disagreements, and/or other miscellaneous reasons.” If those precipitating factors are true, why have more prosecutors and court systems not taken these seriously and opted to explore better strategies and proven solutions which reinforce teaching positive behavioral change and empowering people – economically, mentally, socially, and otherwise?

(CWS) – I visited the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle, Washington in 2018 to study a program they created called ‘LEAD’ (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion). Instead of booking people into jail for criminal activity that stems from poverty or behavioral health needs, officers instead take people to case managers who provide crisis response, immediate psychosocial assessment, and long-term wrap-around services that include substance, disorder treatment and housing. By the time I visited the program, they’d already had hundreds of success stories where people completely turned their lives around. Instead of being trapped in the system of recidivism, they now had jobs, housing, and lived productive lives. The program has also significantly improved their community overall. Once people are off of the streets and working, employment rates and property values increase. They’ve proven that this kind of justice system can work.

Unfortunately, most prosecutors and court systems have not opted to explore better options to help people break free from the system because of money. In 1865, we saw southern states enact Black Codes to ensure that newly freed Black Americans could be sentenced to labor for crimes such as vagrancy or “poor living conditions” after slavery was abolished. Today, many states use prisoners to manufacture license plates and other products. The prison industry is a multi-billion-dollar system. Think about bail bonding companies, probation services, and corrections officers just to name a few. Most elected prosecutors are financially supported by people who benefit from the prison industry. We need to see more prosecutors elected like Larry Krasner, Rachael Rollins, Aramis Ayala, and Deborah Gonzalez, and consider the advice of experts like Dr. Brandon Mathews and Adam Foss to see significant changes in our system that will ultimately help people break free from the system and live better lives.

(SP) – Police departments across the country have long been the primary instigator of public backlash for abusive tactics by law enforcement officers, especially acts committed against minority individuals. However, most often, prosecutors and court systems throughout America have played an equal or far more destructive role by primarily pushing for greater numbers of convictions or guilty pleas, versus considering life-improving alternatives and opportunities to dismiss cases that reveal little or no evidence to warrant prosecution. How do we get more prosecutors and judges to understand the role(s) they play in shaping or destroying communities, and make better decisions in pursuing restorative justice?

(CWS) – Our justice system has been driven by a “conviction by any means necessary” approach for several decades. This approach is cruel, costly, and counter-productive. It has created a hamster wheel cycle of incarceration that has especially destroyed the Black community, communities of color, and low-income people. This approach has destroyed lives, over-crowded jails and prisons, and has done nothing to keep us safer. The way we get more prosecutors and judges to understand the roles they play in the system is by no longer voting for prosecutors and judges who aren’t willing to change things. Voters have to be more vocal about the kind of people they want leading our local justice systems.

(SP) – A growing number of professionals in the areas of law and government are beginning to embrace the ideas of “criminal justice & prosecutorial reform visionaries” such as: Larry Krasner of Philadelphia; Rachael Rollins of Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Diana Becton of Contra Costa County, California; Jonathan Rapping of Atlanta, Georgia; Professor Jody D. Armour from the USC School of Law, and Judge Bruce Morrow of Michigan. Could you share your thoughts on some of the unique concepts any of them have implemented and how you might contribute to such growing trends?

(CWS) – I respect and appreciate those folks and everyone else who is willing to acknowledge the significant issues within our justice system and do something about it. Larry Krasner made headlines when he fired 31 staff members (which included trial attorneys, supervisor-level staff, and assistant prosecutors) on his fourth day in office to honor his promise to change the culture of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He promised to never seek the death penalty, end cash bail, and end the mass incarceration model that has plagued the justice system for entirely too long. He was recently re-elected for a second term, which makes me hopeful that more and more voters across the country will become more aware of what he and other progressives are doing and start to vote more likeminded candidates into other local offices.

(SP)– Throughout the United States, there are legal professionals and legislators who would argue that “debtor’s prisons, exploitive labor arrangements, and/or Peonage laws” no longer exist. However, if that were true, overzealous tactics such as charging parents (typically fathers or men identified as one) with a criminal offense instead of a civil one for nonpayment of child support; suspending the driver’s licenses of a parent who is unable or unwilling to pay support; branding them with unnecessary employment-dismissive criminal records; placing them on probation, and even incarcerating such people (most often only fathers) who are unable to pay a biased, expected amount to the child(ren)’s other parent (typically a mother) has been nothing short of a fruitless abuse of law practice and a gross waste of time and public resources. Fathers who find themselves in these circumstances refuse to speak out on this touchy subject for fear of being scrutinized further or mislabeled as a Deadbeat Dad as opposed to properly being recognized as a Dead Broke Dad. A 2019-2020 study in Baltimore which is often ignored, revealed an eye-opening perspective about how this “system” has continued to do more harm than good in many instances. What are your thoughts on better ways to move away from the criminalization of child support delinquency, which adversely impacts a family’s dynamics through increased poverty and the destabilizing of (father) parent-child relationships?

(CWS) – I haven’t encountered any child support cases during my legal career thus far, but I do believe that things can improve significantly to ensure that policies aren’t counterproductive. For example, suspending someone’s driver’s license and incarcerating them because of nonpayment makes it harder for that person to maintain employment. I guarantee you that nobody is using the same cell phone they used 10 years ago, but our court systems are operating the same way they did several decades ago. Technology always evolves and we adapt to it. Unfortunately, big systems that play vital roles in our everyday lives like the justice system, the education system, and the child support system don’t evolve and improve. If we valued improving these systems as much as we value advancing technology, our country would be in much better shape. The Baltimore Sun article you’re referring to (At what cost? For Baltimore’s poorest families, the child support system exacts a heavy price — and it’s hurting whole communities – Baltimore Sun) was published in March of 2020. It reveals how counterproductive the current child support system is in Maryland, and I think that article paints a pretty good picture of how bad things truly are across the country.

(SP) – In your opinion, what would/should the ideal “prosecutor’s office-court system” look like in terms of methodologies, operations, and intended outcomes?

(CWS) – Just as our culture changes and moves forward, our justice system must use innovative and commonsense solutions that respond to the issues we face today. We must rewrite history and create a paradigm shift in the justice system to value people over conviction rates. We can accomplish this if prosecutors prioritize resources on serious and violent crimes and end the revolving door model of mass incarceration by no longer using jails as ineffective and inhumane mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, and drug rehab centers. Diversion programs should be implemented for low-level non-violent crimes with paths to employment and educational opportunities. Prosecutors should right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs that disproportionately ruined Black and minority communities by no longer prosecuting possession of marijuana. Prior marijuana possession convictions not attached to violent crime or drug sales should be pardoned to help several people across the country obtain employment and housing opportunities.

Prosecutors should hold police officers accountable for any misconduct or abuse. Prosecutors should never take campaign money from police unions to maintain total independence and eliminate any conflicts of interest when it comes to prosecuting police. Cash bail should be eliminated because it keeps poor people detained simply because they can’t afford bail, putting them at risk of losing employment and/or housing, which eventually leads to re-offending. Every local justice system should have a Military Veteran’s court unit to get our brave men and women who suffer from psychological or substance abuse issues the proper tools they need to be productive citizens after encountering the system. Prosecutors should be transparent and accountable. Prosecutors should also partner with public school systems to do more to divert the school to prison pipeline. These things would get us on track to seeing an ideal justice system where everyone is treated equally.

(SP) – You have accomplished quite a bit in your 38-years. It’s refreshing to note that after deciding at the last minute to run for the highly coveted District Attorney position for Fulton County-Atlanta (the largest county in the state of Georgia), you went on to maximize your skill set by launching the National Social Justice Alliance. What led you to embark upon this endeavor and what do you hope it will achieve?

(CWS)The NATIONAL SOCIAL JUSTICE ALLIANCE – HOME (nsja.org) was created to bring prosecutors from across the nation together for a common effort to fix the broken American criminal justice system. NSJA believes prosecutors are the answer. Prosecutors are the gatekeepers of our local justice systems, and are responsible for holding everyone, including police officers and other prosecutors, responsible for the acts they commit. The 2020 police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the aftermath of protests for equality, justice and calls for police reform highlight the need for prosecutors to step up. Together, the gatekeepers of the system can finally end police brutality and ensure that equality and justice are the standard for everyone.

(SP) – People have been expressing their appreciation for your new children’s book, WISEUP Adventure Series: Chris & Key Go Vote! Tell those who are unfamiliar with it what was your motivation for writing it and what is the intended outcome?

Christian Wise Smith smiling dressed in suit and tie
Christian Wise Smith, Author

(CWS) – When I ran for District Attorney in 2020, I met so many people who believed their vote didn’t matter. Recognizing this as a byproduct of voter suppression, I wanted to do something to eliminate the negative thinking that people have about whether their vote can make a difference. The answer: our kids, the next generation. By teaching our kids now about the superpower of voting, they’ll grow up knowing their votes will matter one day soon. I also wanted to do more than just tell them about voting, so the book is interactive. Young readers and their parents learn the voting process in a simple way by completing a voter registration card and casting a ballot for their favorite color. Teaching kids and their parents how to vote with an interactive children’s book is a new and direct way to increase future voter participation, fight against voter suppression efforts, and encourage the normalization of a culture of consistent voting in local and national elections.

We also just launched a community outreach program through NSJA called VOTING IS A SUPERPOWER to teach children in public school systems about the voting process. Students will receive a backpack complete with supplies and most importantly a copy of the book. We also provide a pizza party for each school we visit and appreciation gift cards for the teachers and staff. If anyone would like to donate towards helping us reach our mission of teaching millions of kids across the country how to vote, please visit njsa.org and click on any of the donate buttons to make a 100% tax deductible donation.

(SP) – You’re clearly a sound decision-maker. What do you want or plan to be doing when you’re in your 50’s or 60’s?

(CWS) – I pray to be alive, healthy, and still using everything God has blessed me with to help all of us live better lives together.

Santura Pegram (santura.pegram@yahoo.com) is a freelance writer and socially conscious business consultant who has helped to advise small businesses; nonprofit organizations; city, county, and state governmental committees; elected officials; professional athletes; and school systems.

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    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022