Over 6,000 Minority Business Enterprises and Corporate Partners Attend National Conference on Supplier Diversity in Atlanta

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minority business owners shaking hands at conference

On Sunday, October 13, 2019 the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) kicked off its annual conference and business opportunity exchange in Atlanta. 

With over 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses representing millions of consumers, NMSDC is the largest and most successful non-profit advocating for minority entrepreneurs in the country. 

The conference draws over 6,000 minority-business owners and corporate partners from around the nation.

“Economic inclusion is one of the most urgent issues we face to ensure opportunity and prosperity for all Americans,” said Adrienne Trimble, President of NMSDC. “Our numbers prove our success in this area.

In 2018, we executed $400 billion in revenue for minority-owned businesses. Some 1.6 million U.S. jobs were created, resulting in $96 billion in wages earned.

Who: National Minority Supplier Development Council

NMSDC President: Adrienne C. Trimble

What: Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange

Where: Atlanta, GA Georgia World Congress Center

Why: Economic inclusion for all Americans is one of the most critical issues of our time.

About NMSDCNMSDC advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members. To meet the growing need for supplier diversity, NMSDC matches its more than 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses to our network of more than 1,450 corporate members who wish to purchase their products, services and solutions.

NMSDC, a unique and specialized player in the field of minority business enterprise, is proud of its unwavering commitment to advance Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American suppliers in a globalized corporate supply chain.

Visit the website at nmsdc.org for more information.

Texas News Station Hires All-Women, Black Anchors

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A local news station in Texas, has hired Black anchors who are all women

By B.E.T

Starting back on May 2, Jasmin Caldwell, Taheshah Moise and meteorologist Ashley Carter began hosting Texas Today. The weekday morning news show airs on KCEN, which is an NBC affiliate serving Temple, Waco, Killeen, and the surrounding areas.

Caldwell, who joined the station in 2017, told KCEN, “Growing up, I always saw all-white news anchors. I didn’t think that there would ever be Black newscasts. I knew there was always room for one, but I didn’t think that I would see three African Americans — male or female — permanently, all at one time. No way.”

Carter revealed how she heard the news that KCEN would hire Black women anchors, “Maybe about three weeks to a month after I decided to come here I got an email saying Jasmin is going to be joining Texas Today, which is going make the show you’re a part of all women.”

She continued, “It was pretty cool. I was like wow. It was just the icing on the cake. Not only be able to advance my career to where I wanted, but to be able to do it next to these two.”

Moise added, “I just think back to when I was a young girl and I used to watch the news with my parents and I never saw anyone who looked like me. If I did, they were outside reporting in the cold.”

Texas Today airs Monday through Friday from 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Click here to read the full article on B.E.T.

Black female-owned supplements brand builds on partnership with The Vitamin Shoppe

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Samia Gore, CEO and Founder of Body Complete Rx

By Cision PR Newswire

Body Complete Rx (BCRX), the first Black female-owned supplement company to break significant ground in the male-dominated, nutritional supplement industry, is proud to announce it will be launching its exclusive plant-based, vegan weight management supplements at The Vitamin Shoppe on August 1st. BCRX will introduce their TRIM line in over 700 retail locations nationwide, making them the first Black female-owned brand to launch in the retailer’s weight management category.

Founded by Samia Gore in 2017, BCRX is a self-funded wellness brand which has grossed over $10 million in sales in just under 4 years. Their natural, vegan supplements, which enjoy a celebrity following, provide a range of benefits based on customers’ specific needs, including weight management and improving energy, skin health, and nutrition. Products include vegan protein powders, supplements, a Vitamin C serum, collagen-boosting powder, women and men’s multivitamins, and superfood bars.

BCRX’s launch at The Vitamin Shoppe’s brick-and-mortar retail stores follows the brand’s recent rebranding and repackaging campaign, which included the launch of five new product lines of plant-based, vegan supplements, including TRIM, THRIVE, GLOW, NOURISH and PERFORM.

BCRX’s TRIM line, designed to empower customers to “power up and slim down,” features the brand’s best-selling weight management supplements. The plant-based, clinically proven supplements will help make customers’ weight loss goals achievable by curbing their cravings, revving up their metabolism, and supercharging their energy.

The TRIM line includes:

  • Boost Metabolism Drops ($50) – Adaptogenic metabolism boosting drops made with African mango and natural herbs like rhodiola, maca and astragalus.
  • Control Appetite Suppressant Capsules ($40) – All-natural appetite suppressant capsules.
  • Renew Energy Drops ($40) – Energy drops made with Riboflavin, Niacin and Vitamin B12.

BCRX’s partnership with The Vitamin Shoppe reflects the ever-growing position of the company within the wellness market.

“We are so excited to be launching at one of the top retailers of nutritional supplements in the country because it’s a true testament to the efficacy of our brand and products,” explains Samia Gore, founder and CEO of Body Complete Rx. “As the first and only Black female-owned brand in The Vitamin Shoppe’s weight management category, I am excited to make these wellness products more accessible to customers across the country and support their journey towards wellbeing.”

Click here to read the full article on Cision PR Newswire.

Kevin Hart Signs $100 Million Investment Agreement To Create HARTBEAT, Which Will Be Led By An All Black Leadership Team

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HARTBEAT Team L to R: CCO Bryan Smiley, Chairman Kevin Hart, CEO Thai Randolph, and CDO Jeff Clanagan

By Corein Carter, Forbes

Kevin Hart, trailblazing entrepreneur, executive, and entertainer, has now combined Laugh Out Loud and HartBeat Productions to create one of the leading sources of comedic storytelling and experiences with HARTBEAT, after more than a decade of leveraging his individual success to build the two high-growth companies.

With the mission of keeping the world laughing together, the multi-platform company creates entertainment at the intersection of comedy and culture. Hartbeat Productions’ best-in-class television and film production capabilities are combined with Laugh Out Loud’s extensive distribution network, as well as marketing, sales, experiential, branded content, digital, and social capabilities.

HARTBEAT was established with a $100 million investment from Abry Partners, a private equity firm that took a minority stake in the new company. Evolution Media Capital and a team from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP led by Sophia Yen, a partner in the Entertainment Group, advised HARTBEAT on the deal.

The creation of HARTBEAT and the capital raised with Abry Partners mark the beginning of a new era in comedy. Hart is proud of what has been delivered. As part of the agreement, Nicolas Massard, a partner at Abry Partners, will join the HARTBEAT board as part of the agreement. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, will remain a shareholder in Laugh Out Loud after signing a multi-year, first look deal and taking an equity stake in the network in 2020.

Hart discusses his commitment to building the most innovative and inclusive comedy storytelling company. “In an industry where people love to say no and shut doors, I’ve been confident in forging our own path and using our success to open doors for others. We’re taking the new entertainment blueprint we’ve built to the next level with this merger and funding, paving the way for a new generation of comedic talent. I can’t wait to bring more comedians, experiences, and heartfelt stories to the world.”

HARTBEAT intends to use the funds to expand its team, accelerate growth for existing brands and franchises, and develop a new IP that will appeal to a global audience. This will be accomplished by collaborating with today’s most influential stars and rising comedic talent, both in front of and behind the camera, using HARTBEAT’s creative engine, relationships, and resources.

The existing leadership from Hartbeat Productions and Laugh Out Loud will continue to oversee day-to-day operations. Thai Randolph, who previously served as President & COO of Laugh Out Loud and COO of Hartbeat Productions, has been appointed CEO of the new entity. Hart will serve as Chairman in the interim. Bryan Smiley of Hartbeat Productions will become President & Chief Content Officer, and Jeff Clanagan of LOL will become President & Chief Distribution Officer. Leland Wigington, co-founder of HartBeat Productions, will lead a new production banner under HARTBEAT.

Randolph spoke with For(bes) The Culture about the emergence of HARTBEAT.

“Commercially, it’s a milestone moment. In terms of the company’s capitalization and valuation, as well as the possibility of expanding the team to create more content. We are breathing rare air when it comes to scaling companies of this size, especially when it comes to having a company that is minority owned and run by people of color.” Randolph continues, “We don’t consider diversity to be an initiative because, the composition is more than half women and half people of color. We are diverse by design because it’s just good business. With the mission of keeping the world laughing together, we have a team that looks like the world around us, so we can program relevantly to those audiences.”

The LOL! Network was named one of the top 10 media publishers in an April 2021 Conviva report that ranked the size of social media audiences across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. It came in ahead of major players like Hulu. The merger and capital raise will allow HARTBEAT to expand and invest in the future of comedic entertainment, producing more in-demand content and experiences where comedy meets culture.

HARTBEAT is a full-service entertainment company that develops, markets, and distributes the most culturally relevant IP and experiences in comedy and beyond. The company is divided into three divisions:

● HARTBEAT Studios led by Bryan Smiley finances, develops, and produces comedy and culture-related film, television, and content.

● HARTBEAT Media, under the leadership of Jeff Clanagan, connects with consumers all over the world through events, gaming, music publishing, Web3 initiatives, and a vast distribution network.

● PULSE, the company’s branded entertainment studio, works with companies like P&G, Lyft, Sam’s Club, Chase, and Verizon to provide creative and cultural consulting.

Operating under HARTBEAT Media, the LOL! Network will continue to be the company’s flagship consumer brand, reaching audiences across its O&O social media, audio (SiriusXM) and OTT partners (Peacock, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV, Vizio, Redbox, Xumo, and more).

With projects featuring Tiffany Haddish, Hasan Minhaj, Amanda Seales, Deon Cole, and Affion Crockett, HARTBEAT creates hit vehicles for A-list comedians and brings the next generation of comedic voices into the mainstream.

HARTBEAT is currently working on more than 60 projects with 15+ entertainment partners, all of which are in various stages of development. The company also has several multi-year strategic partnerships, including the unscripted first look deal with NBCU’s Peacock, a film deal with Netflix, a partnership with SiriusXM, and a deal with Audible via the joint venture SBH Productions with Charlamagne Tha God.

Among the upcoming projects include: Me Time (Netflix) with Mark Wahlberg and Regina Hall, “Storytown” (HBO Max), the F. Gary Gray action heist Lift (Netflix), #1 on the Call Sheet documentary (Apple TV+), “Die Hart” season 2 (Roku), “So Dumb It’s Criminal” with Snoop Dogg (Peacock), and a new season of the Hart-led sports talk show “Cold as Balls” (LOL Network).

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Pharrell Williams wants to fund minority business leaders who want to uplift their communities

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Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, and Pharrell Williams, Founder, Black Ambition.

By Talib Visram, Fast Company

In a lighthearted moment at Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies Summit, the CEO of Black Ambition, Felecia Hatcher, suggested that the concepts behind today’s biggest crowdfunding businesses, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, were invented years ago by Black communities.

“All you had to do was look at the Black church,” she said. “We pass a plate every Sunday from one pew to the next. That’s how we funded scholarships. That’s how we fixed the roof.”

But there was a more poignant message to her comment, too. “We’ve had to be innovative out of necessity,” she said, given the lack of historical financial support for communities of color.

Innovation among minority communities has existed but hasn’t received due credit, capital, or support. Filling that gap is the aim of Black Ambition, a nonprofit organization and pitch competition founded by musician and record producer Pharrell Williams, which distributes startup capital and mentorship to Black and Latino entrepreneurs. Williams and Hatcher spoke to multimedia editor KC Ifeanyi about the competition returning for its second year, what they learned from its debut, and why they’re not looking for entrepreneurs who only want to line their own pockets.

The concept behind what they’re doing is the “uninterrupted founder.” That is: “What would your life look like if nothing stood in the way of you achieving success?” Hatcher explained. Throughout history, minorities in America have been faced with systemic racism that’s locked out opportunities for capital. Of the $148 billion that venture capitalists provided in funding in 2020, only about 3% went to Black entrepreneurs. “I always say [that] most Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, we get a round of applause from everyone, [but] we don’t always get the round of funding,” Hatcher said.

Williams added that the lack of networking power has also blocked success. “I know people [who] have had much better ideas [than me], and because they just didn’t have the ecosystem to go knock on the door, or pick up a phone, or send an email and get the codes, they lost out on genius ideas.”

Black Ambition hopes to provide both the capital and the networking. It’s awarding prizes of up to $1 million to founders. Last year, the organization gave its top prize, $1 million, to Livegistics, a Detroit-based software company whose operating system provides real-time digital records to stakeholders in the construction industry. It invested in 34 companies, and trained and supported 300 with mentorship by partners including Adidas, Chanel, and the Visa Foundation.

In a separate category, it’s also awarding up to $100,000 to founders who currently attend historically Black colleges and universities. “HBCUs have always been the fertile ground for growth in the Black communities,” Williams said. “They’re like little baby cities of potential.”

Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.

Strengthening Black businesses is good for CT, America

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black businesses: female ceo leading a conversation at a conference table

By Anthony Price, Hartford Business

Capitalism works best when businesses innovate and create jobs.

This was not the case when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. While all small businesses (companies with fewer than 500 employees) were affected, it flattened Black businesses like a tornado, impacting them far more than other companies.

From a public policy perspective, two questions come to mind: Why were Black businesses impacted more than other businesses? What can be done to strengthen Black businesses?

The answers are essential because Black businesses play a vital role in their communities.

When the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee released the report “The State of Black-Owned Businesses in America” in February 2022, Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez stated, “I’m hopeful that this report will provide a sober look at the reality facing Black business owners and help provide a path forward in terms of recovery.”

According to the report, “In 2020, Black business ownership rates dropped 41% between February and April 2020, the largest [decline] of any racial group.”

While “Black Americans owned 124,551 employer businesses, they represented just 2.2% of all employer businesses (the 5.7 million employer businesses with at least one employee),” the report found.

The challenge

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., released a report in December 2020 entitled: “To Expand the Economy, Invest in Black Businesses.”

A key finding is that “The underrepresentation of Black businesses is costing the U.S. economy millions of jobs and billions of dollars in unrealized revenues.”

Black people comprise 14.2% of the U.S. population. At a time when America is becoming more “racially and ethnically diverse,” Black-owned employer firms are not keeping up with the pace of the country’s population growth.

Historically, Black businesses have faced challenges and gaps in three areas: Access to capital, mentorship (access to a mentor), and access to business opportunities. Compounding these issues, Black businesses face “institutional discrimination and social inequalities.”

Most Americans build wealth through homeownership. Black homeownership lags behind that of whites. Furthermore, “The median Black household’s wealth ($9,000) is nearly one-fifteenth that of non-Black households ($134,520),” the Brookings Institution report said.

The report states that Black homes are “devalued by an estimated sum of $156 billion — the equivalent of more than 4 million firms, based on the average amount Black people use to start their businesses.”

Available resources

Capital is necessary. Connecticut is helping.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) provides financial support to HEDCO, a nonprofit lender based in Hartford that lends at reasonable interest rates to small businesses throughout the state, including many Black businesses.

Technical assistance is needed to help build up businesses. The Black Business Alliance (BBA) is a statewide organization based in Milford, supported by DECD funding. The BBA provides access to capital, technical assistance, space to showcase retailers, and networking opportunities.

Ann-Marie Knight, the executive director, says, “We’ve become a catalyst for change. We can be an organization that speaks on behalf of Black businesses.”

Led by volunteers, ShopBlackCT.com is a free, online Black-owned business guide. Founder Sarah Thompson and her colleague Yvette Young work at The Village for Families in Hartford. ShopBlackCT.com has over 1,700 businesses listed on its website.

Young says, “We offer Black businesses visibility and marketing support.”

Click here to read the full article on Hartford Business.

Major retailers boost Black female entrepreneurship as employment gap lingers

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Ulta Beauty has doubled the number of Black-owned brands that it carries.

By Maia Vines, CNBC

Major beauty retailers are boosting small, minority-owned businesses as Black female entrepreneurship helps bridge an employment gap.

As of last year, 17% of Black women in the U.S. were in the process of starting or running new businesses, according to the Harvard Business Review. That outpaces the 15% of white men and the 10% of white women who reported the same.

Yet, only 3% of Black women reported running mature businesses.

And the traditional workforce unemployment rate remains high among Black women, at 5.5% in March, compared with overall U.S. unemployment of 3.6%, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate among Hispanic women during the same period was 4.2%. For white women it was 2.8%.

In an effort to assist small businesses and advance Black entrepreneurship opportunities, major retailers such as Ulta, Sephora and Target have created start-up incubators and diversity programs, providing mentorship, financial support and new business opportunities.

This month, Ulta Beauty partnered with incubator Rare Beauty Brands and Black Girl Ventures, a foundation that funds and scales Black- and Brown-founded businesses, on the group’s second pitch competition for minority-owned beauty start-ups. The competition is a live, crowdfunded event where founders create a three-minute pitch in hopes of elevating their businesses.

The first-place winner will receive accounting consultations, $10,000 and a spot on Ulta’s product shelves for at least six months. Winners are picked based on audience votes. Voting between the seven finalists closed on April 14. The winner will be announced next week.

The competition also promises the chance at key mentoring. Black Girl Ventures offers coaching to applicants prior to the pitch, and Rare Beauty Brands works with business owners after their win.

“We already know that in the beauty industry, Black women consume more than their fair share of beauty products and yet, funding for Black female entrepreneurs is dramatically underdeveloped relative to where it should be,” said Rare Beauty Brands CEO Chris Hobson. “This is less about adding brand value to us and really more about righting a wrong and a way to say ‘Thank you’ to a big chunk of our consumers and try and be part of the solution here.”

Kim Roxie, founder and CEO of Lamik Beauty, the first Black-owned clean beauty brand to be featured at Ulta, won last year’s pitch competition from Rare Beauty Brands and Black Girl Ventures. She said the partnership with Rare Beauty Brands was transformative for her business.

“It was game-changing for me as a founder, and it was game-changing for my company,” Roxie told CNBC. “They allowed me to utilize their team in a way that I would have had to try to hire all those different people and it would have been out of my reach.”

“They sort of subbed in and filled in that gap for me.”

Ulta Beauty has pledged to spend $50 million this year on diversity initiatives, including the launch of an accelerated program to support Black founders and putting money toward marketing their brands.

In February, the company said it is roughly halfway toward reaching a goal of 15% minority representation on shelves as part of its broader diversity initiatives.

Scaling brands
Sephora runs similar accelerated programs for entrepreneurs, aimed at improving representation of brands from BIPOC — Black, Indigenous and people of color — founders. The company’s Accelerate program, which launched five years ago, received more than 600 applications from small business owners this year.

“The Accelerate program serves as a springboard for nascent brands to become visible, viable, stable, and financially solvent,” said Rauvan Dulay, vice president of global merchandising, business development and strategy for Sephora. “Business growth in communities of color creates jobs, opportunity, stability and generational wealth — having the potential for decades of positive impact.”

Big-box retailer Target launched Target Takeoff in 2016 with similar objectives but aimed more at mature consumer packaged goods companies. Five years later, the company added Forward Founders to its portfolio, an incubator initiative designed to engage Black entrepreneurs much earlier in their start-up journeys by helping them navigate critical stages, such as ideation, product development and scaling to serve mass retail, according to the company.

The incubator announced its second cohort in January.

“Target has a longstanding, successful track-record of Accelerator programs and we saw an opportunity to do more, and think differently about how we support underrepresented entrepreneurs,” the company said in a statement to CNBC.

Target’s Forward Founders program received about four times the number of applicants it anticipated this year, the company said. It tripled the size of the annual cohort and created an all-new virtual program so all applicants could benefit.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Putting Black Women First Starts With Entrepreneurship

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co black women business owners for the crabby shack wearing teir company t shirts and smiling at the camera

By Fifi Bell-Clanton, Yahoo! News

For nearly a decade, I’ve been the co-owner of a Black-owned seafood restaurant, The Crabby Shack. What initially started as a barbecue sensation and personal passion has transformed into a Brooklyn-based seafood joint where everyone and anyone can enjoy great food made with love. Despite the challenges that Black women entrepreneurs face, we persist and continue to fulfill our entrepreneurial dreams. But now, more than ever, we need an investment in resources, access to professional networks, and the business education needed to survive and thrive. My entrepreneurship journey was completely self-started. I went to local restaurants and researched what it takes to run my own. To fund the restaurant, my business partner and I had to crowdsource from friends and even relied on personal finances to get The Crabby Shack off the ground. It was a tough journey in the beginning but we kept at it. And through a labor of love, we built a seafood haven that speaks to the determination and power of Black women business owners.

The struggles we faced opening and maintaining the business aren’t unique. Research has shown that many Black, women-owned small businesses initially financed their business with their own personal savings. Also, roughly 17% of new businesses are started by a Black woman but only 3% eventually become mature businesses, ultimately leading to Black women owning their own businesses at a rate 24 times lower than white men.

Through business ownership, we can begin to close the racial wealth gap. With less than 1% of Black women owning a business, it’s clear that in order to pave a better future for Black women, we must invest in Black women entrepreneurs, particularly sole proprietors. Sole proprietors make up 96% of Black businesses and over half are women-owned.

Supporting Black entrepreneurship, and Black women solopreneurs, will help our entire economy thrive. Reducing the wage gap for Black women can create 1.2 to 1.7 million U.S. jobs and increase GDP by $300 to 525 billion. The numbers reveal a simple truth: when Black women succeed, we all succeed.

Participating in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses was the best thing I ever did to help my business thrive and become the successful entrepreneur I am today. The program gave me access to resources and a network that allowed me to take The Crabby Shack to the next level. Programs like Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women: Black in Business are taking a critical step in providing the tailored resources needed for Black women sole proprietors to thrive.

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

SERENA WILLIAMS BACKS BLACK WOMEN-OWNED STARTUP PROVIDING CUSTOMIZED WIGS THROUGH AI

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Serena Williams in a brown dress bent down in a seated position

By Days Tech

Serena Williams is a trailblazer in additional methods than one. This time she’s backing a enterprise aimed toward using synthetic intelligence to supply magnificence customers with custom-made wigs.

Parfait is a brand new wig customization platform aimed toward disrupting the business by being the primary to make use of facial recognition and synthetic intelligence to supply consumers with customizable wig merchandise. The firm raised $5 million in funding spearheaded by Upfront Ventures and Serena Ventures, in keeping with experiences.

“Parfait’s mission to leverage Al to solve core issues for both the tech industry and communities of color is something we, at Serena Ventures, have believed in since the beginning,” Serena Williams stated in a press release.

“She went on to say, “It’s been inspiring to witness their incredible achievements so far, and we’re proud to invest in this next phase of Parfait’s growth.”

Founded by former Target and Amazon government Isoken Igbinedion, the primary seed of funding will assist enhance Parfait’s manufacturing and enhance its provide chain to enter new markets throughout the globe. Through the improved facial recognition Parfait makes use of, the tech-based magnificence model goals to make the wig business extra inclusive to fulfill the hair targets of magnificence customers from all backgrounds.

“Training models used in facial recognition technology are largely unbalanced, often relying on training datasets that are similar in makeup, and do not represent the visual composition of faces worldwide. This often results in poor performance for users who do not fit into that dataset, often represented by white faces and male features.”

Williams shared her pleasure for the brand new funding in an Instagram Story put up, as captured by Essentially Sports. With Parfait aligning with Williams’ rules for her VC agency, the brand new firm is on the highway to success with the total help from one of many best athletes and Black feminine traders of all time.

Click here to read the full article on Days Tech.

Brooklyn’s New Black-Owned LGBTQ Club Is a Safehaven

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Owners of lgbtq club, Lambda Vodka, Lambda Lounge and Club Lambda Brooklyn

By Kalyn Womack, The Root

New York got another Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar in late April. Owners and couple Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon opened Club Lambda Brooklyn on April 28th. The lounge is an expansion of their first location, Lambda Lounge, located in Harlem. Hughes and Solomon felt it was obligatory to create a safe haven where all are welcome and also create a safe space for queer people of color.

Years ago, the two attended a club in New York where the DJ said, “Men don’t dance with men here.” That moment catalyzed the creation of Lambda Lounge. From there, they decided to expand Lambda and ultimately plan to open 10 Lambda locations spanning across the east and west coast. Big names who have attended Lambda Lounge include Lil Nas X, Meagan Good and DeRay McKesson.

Charles and Richard Spoke to The Root about the grand opening of their second location and what inspired them to set out on creating Black-owned queer spaces in New York.

Charles: So if we take it all the way back, prior to Club Lambda in Brooklyn, and Lambda lounge in Harlem, we started Lambda Vodka. We saw a need for spirit within the LGBTQ+ community that they were lacking that was created by us and specifically targeting us. The only issue with trying to sell and promote it was we didn’t have a strong enough following to make substantial amounts of money that we wanted to, to kinda have freedom within our life.

So we said, well, “Why not create a bar to sell our spirit directly to ourselves?” That’s where the idea of this came into play. Lambda lounge…it shocked us the way it took off. The first day of opening during COVID outside, we had to stop individuals from coming in. The community definitely came out to support us and we saw that a lot of cities around the country didn’t have Black-owned queer spaces targeting them. So that’s why we decided to move into Brooklyn next. And that’s where we are right now.

We felt we had to give our community a location of quality. We couldn’t speak for any other location that was out there, but there’s enough room for all of us to survive and all of us are surviving. It was like – if we’re gonna do this, we’re not just going to throw paint on the walls and open the doors, but give them a place that’s comfortable to them and for them.

TR: what were your experiences trying to find a safe space to enjoy nightlife in NY?

Richard: I’m a native New Yorker. I came from a time when it was very easy to go out to Christopher Street and find a space for people that look like me – and what I mean by that is people in the urban community, people of color. And all of those spaces are gone, long gone. So what I found very difficult is trying to resurrect those spaces within New York. We got a lot of pushback but we found a very comfortable home in Harlem.

Of course, Harlem, very safe space for people of color, it was very easy to incorporate queer people of color into that circle. We were welcomed with open arms. We thought we would run into a lot of adversity within the community being a queer space, but it was the complete opposite. We were welcomed, they actually assisted us, they had our back and it made it very easy to make that transition from the downtown nightlife to the uptown nightlife.

TR: Why is it so crucial for Black LGBTQ+ members to have spaces like these?

Charles: I think it’s important because now we are accepted in a location and not just tolerated. What we normally have to deal with within New York, and I’m sure in a lot of other cities, is we get one night a week and it’s between certain hours. I also noticed that if going to any of [their] social media, there was no presence of us on there but we would generate a large number of the income for them.

That’s why we feel the need is theirs. Every community owns their own and why not for us? And what we are starting to see now is being young, LGBTQ+ individuals, a lot of other young people are starting to or wanting to move into the nightlight or the restaurant industry or actually owning their own businesses because they’re starting to see examples of that now.

TR: What makes Lambda stand apart from other clubs/bars?

Charles: So people call it the “gay cheers” (laughs). With that being said, a lot of times you don’t go into a location and you see the owner having a drink with you or taking a shot with you. Ricky and I are very prevalent in the location. If you’re in there, there’s a strong chance you’re gonna see us sitting on a couch having a drink with some of the patrons who come in on a regular basis. It’s a place we call home.

TR: What can visitors look forward to at Club Lambda Brooklyn?

Charles: In Harlem, I do know that 100% of our DJs are a part of our community. We do currently offer karaoke night once a month. We also have a “big boy party” which is for our plus size LGBTQ+ men within the community and that’s really big for us. Outside of that, it’s normally a male demographic. In Brooklyn, however, we are trying to change that narrative – we have brought on a trans party where Thursday nights, once a week, is going to be dedicated to the people within the trans community, which I think is pretty awesome.

Sunday, we are trying to work with a lesbian promoter to where she will come in and bring her following. Now we’re, we’re broadening our market segment to not just target males, but pretty much all the letters within the LGBTQ+ community.

TR: Some straight women feel safer attending gay bars. However, sometimes they can take up space created for queer people. Will allies be invited to the new club?

Charles: We have an open door policy. Surprisingly enough, we are starting to get a lot of heterosexual females coming to the bar to kinda enjoy themselves and let their hair down. They come, they get sections and sometimes they’ll even bring their boyfriend in which is kinda shocks us that heterosexual males feel so comfortable within the establishment. We don’t have any restrictions. All friends of the community are welcome.

Click here to read the full article on The Root.

Essence Black Women In Hollywood Event Celebrates Black Stars While Shining A Light On The Lack Of Diversity In Hollywood

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Honorees Nia Long, Quinta Brunson, Chante Adams, and Aunjanue Ellis during the 15th annual

By Dominique Fluker, Forbes

On March 24, Essence Magazine hosted their 15th annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon at the Beverley Hills Wilshire Hotel, coming off the heels of a tumultuous pandemic and virtual ceremony in 2021. The star-studded event, held several days before the Oscars, recognizes the iconic achievements of Black Hollywood luminaries and up-and-coming starlets, and this year’s award ceremony did not disappoint as the theme was “The Black Cinematic Universe.” This year’s honorees are entertainment industry veterans Nia Long (You People) and Oscar-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard), along with newcomers Quinta Brunson, creator of (Abbott Elementary) and Chanté Adams (A Journal For Jordan.)

There was a sense of belonging, community, and sisterhood in the air as the stars ushered in from the gold carpet into the Beverly Hills Wilshire ballroom to celebrate the honorees at the luncheon. In the midst of the excitement, a looming sentiment rang in true throughout the day, the lack of support from Hollywood regarding diverse storytelling and uplifting Black women artists and professionals behind the scenes, which left us wondering how far Hollywood has come since #OscarsSoWhite?

According to the 2022 USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report by Katherine L. Neff, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, and Dr. Katherine Pieper, while white women and men of color have seen increased opportunities in the entertainment industry, this trend did not extend to women of color. Only five women of color directed a top-grossing film between 2020 and 2021, and fewer than 2% of all directors across 15 years were women of color — even though women of color earned the best critical reception for their work. The researchers say the results suggest that the quality that women of color bring to filmmaking is not an explanation for their lack of participation in top-grossing films.

The research results extends to women of color actresses as well. Of the 100 top films in 2021, only 32% featured an underrepresented lead/co-lead. This figure is slightly higher than 2020 when only 28% of movies had a lead/co-lead of color. 2021’s findings are still below proportional representation, as people of color make up 40% of the U.S. population.

While on the Essence Black Women In Hollywood Awards gold carpet, I asked Natasha Rothwell, writer, and Insecure actress, her thoughts on what the industry needs to do to diversify Hollywood. She said, “This is a question that white cis executive males in the industry should be answering. They need to ask themselves what they are doing to have representation in their projects to reflect what the world looks like. I want to see Black cinematographers and directors. I want to see more of us behind the screen.

Robin Thede and Courtney A. Kemp echoed a similar point of view. Courtney Kemp, former writer, and showrunner for Starz, brought up the constant scrutiny and doubt amongst white executives in Hollywood. She said emphatically, “Great question; I was saying as we’re watching with the Supreme Court hearings, we (Black women) are doubted and constantly undermined. It’s always so difficult for us to arrive and achieve and be appreciated for that arrival and those achievements. Today is about the opposite. Today is about celebrating us overcoming. It’s so exhausting sometimes to still have some of these same conversations. We’re still talking about firsts in 2022.”

Robin Thede, the creator of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, believes Hollywood is missing the diverse narratives of Black women. She said, “What’s missing in (Hollywood) are modern, normalized representations of Black women. We’re not a monolith. Whether it’s internet, TV, film, editorial, those things represent us, such as our sizes, shapes, color ranges, hair textures, matter. Black women have got to embrace our beauty and force the world, too, as well. We do such a great job of that, and events like Essence Black Women In Hollywood is a prime example.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Black Women Influencers Were Being Left Out, so This Marketer Built an Agency for Them

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La Toya Shambo founded her influencer agency, Black Girl Digital, in 2016

By Emmy Liederman, Ad Week

LaToya Shambo was used to being the only Black woman in rooms that advocated for the same faces in marketing campaigns—the typical white, thin determinants of beauty and success. But it wasn’t until 2011, when she was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street and holding her newborn, that she decided to do something about it.

Surviving that accident, spending months in rehab and her entire maternity leave in a cast changed Shambo’s life forever. “During that process, there was a lot of self-reflection,” she said. “I decided that I had to give back to the culture.”

A lifelong singer, Shambo had briefly flirted with the idea of working in music before settling on marketing. Following that, she transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology, switched majors from music business to marketing and spent her spare time in the library sifting through career books. After landing on the radio ad sales page and snagging an internship at 106.7 Lite FM, Shambo decided what she really wanted to do was work in media planning and buying.

Shambo has made stops at companies including SpikeDDB, Complex and Condé Nast, with each new role deepening her understanding of how to package and sell media while building a sustainable business model. At Complex, she got to observe the publishing business and connect with Black female bloggers who struggled to monetize their platforms.

Then came the accident. A few months after it, Shambo stopped by the Complex office to sign some paperwork. Her boss asked her why she had a smile on her face given all she had endured, and Shambo replied that she had “figured it all out.” Her vision was to build her own Complex, which led Shambo to found Black Girl Digital in 2016.

The shop’s mission is to address the equity and wage discrepancies for Black and multicultural women in the marketing industry through meaningful action, such as the launch of its own app, iLinkr. The program is a tool for brands and agencies that are looking to book and manage talent of color.

“At the time, there were no ad networks specifically for Black female bloggers,” she said. “That birthed Black Girl Digital, which was originally designed as a service to the Black community from the perspective of bloggers. All my bloggers then became influencers, and Black Girl Digital is my contribution to the culture.”

Click here to read the full article on Ad Week.

JPMorgan Chase Launches Diverse Supplier Grant Initiative to Address Barriers to Opportunity for Underrepresented Businesses

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Businesswoman analyzing investment graph and discussing plan in m

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) launched the Diverse Supplier Grant Initiative, a program aimed at providing Black-, Hispanic-, and Latino-owned businesses with the access to capital they need to secure corporate contracts.

Small and diverse businesses often find it cost-prohibitive to meet industry requirements like cyber security, insurance, and bonding when bidding for new corporate business. Satisfying these prerequisites can cost a typical small business somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000, creating a very real barrier to entry to doing business with the financial services industry.

JPMorgan Chase has partnered with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and certified 501(c)(3), to manage the program. LISC will administer the initiative end-to-end and report on the impact of this capital assistance on participating businesses. Impact metrics will include new contracts with corporations; new RFPs for which businesses qualify; the number of jobs created and retained; and revenue growth.

“Far too many otherwise-qualified diverse businesses are prevented from securing contract opportunities due to the high cost of compliance,” says Ted Archer, Global Head of Business Partner Diversity at JPMorgan Chase. “We’re proud to join LISC, our top suppliers and other corporate partners to create an industry-wide solution that will remove common obstacles to doing business, and contribute to building generational wealth in diverse communities across the country.”

This initiative, which supports the firm’s global commitment to advance racial equity, creates an alternative financial resource enabling business owners to meet the high minimum standards of most corporations.

The Diverse Supplier Grant Initiative is structured to attract corporate donations, which JPMorgan Chase will match dollar-for-dollar. The firm has initially made $5 million available to match corporate contributions in 2022.  So far, over $1.2 million in pledges has been committed by 28 corporations.

Over the past 30 years LISC has partnered with JPMorgan Chase to support inclusive growth initiatives in communities across the US – from affordable housing programs at the municipal level to national lending programs supporting entrepreneurs of color and marginalized business owners. Last year, JPMorgan Chase selected LISC to lead the national expansion of its Entrepreneurs of Color Fund.

“In our on-going commitment to entrepreneurs, LISC wants to establish market opportunities for aspiring businesses looking to work with supplier diversity initiatives nationwide, said Steve Hall, vice president of small business and economic development lending at LISC. “LISC investments will be catalytic to support entrepreneurs, employees, and communities.”

LISC will evaluate applicants and select eligible recipients which will typically be US based certified
Black-, Hispanic-, or Latino-owned businesses with an established track record and annual revenues above $5 million. While open to companies nationwide, JPMorgan Chase has a particular interest in  suppliers based in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and New York, as these cities present immediate opportunities for the firm to support  its enhanced spending commitment with Black Hispanic and Latino businesses. Funds can be utilized for tangible business and operational costs including technology; cyber or networking remediation; operational control enhancements such as disaster recovery; increases to insurance and bonding coverage. Depending on business needs, typical grants would start at $25,000 but not exceed $200,000.

The Diverse Supplier Grant Initiative’s built-in, pay-it-forward component is unique in making it self-sustaining. Businesses that receive funds and successfully secure new corporate contracts are required to return the funds to the original pool so they may be awarded to the next wave of eligible diverse businesses. Those that do not gain new corporate contracts as a result of the program can request to have the loans forgiven or repay the dollar amount they received at no interest. Criteria for forgiveness is tied to a diverse business’s access to new corporate contracts and business growth.

“Lowering barriers to corporate-readiness by bridging a common financial gap enables JPMorgan Chase and other participating corporations to develop a larger pool of capable diverse businesses to incorporate into their supply chains.” said Doug Roginson, program director and architect of the initiative for JPMorgan Chase.

Corporations that invest in the initiative can refer potential diverse business applicants for capital, which in turn helps expand and diversify their supply chain. At the same time, diverse businesses that access capital through the program will be in a better position to grow, as they qualify for a greater number of corporate contracts across multiple industries.

Roginson continues, “Through this initial grant, we could potentially transform as many as 100 diverse businesses in the short-term, positioning them not only for contracts with JPMorgan Chase, but for opportunities with the whole Fortune 500.”

To learn more about the Diverse Supplier Grant initiative click here.

To learn more about JPMorgan Chase’s work to advance racial equity, click here

About JPMorgan Chase:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading financial services firm based in the United States of America (“U.S.”), with operations worldwide. JPMorgan Chase had $3.7 trillion in assets and $294.1 billion in stockholders’ equity as of December 31, 2021. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing and asset management. Under the J.P. Morgan and Chase brands, the Firm serves millions of customers in the U.S. and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients globally.

Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com

About LISC:

LISC is one the country’s largest community development organizations, helping forge vibrant, resilient communities across America. We work with residents and partners to close systemic gaps in health, wealth and opportunity and advance racial equity so that people and places can thrive. Since our founding in 1979, LISC has invested $24 billion to create more than 436,320 affordable homes and apartments and develop 74.4 million square feet of retail, community and educational space. For more, visit www.lisc.org.

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