Macy’s Celebrates Black Creatives With Icons of Style

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The group of black honorees stand posing fiercely for the camera

-Macy’s celebrates Black creatives with today’s launch of Icons of Style, a collaboration with five Black visionaries to help move the fashion world forward. Featuring exclusive designs across ready-to-wear, men’s, and shoes by Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton, Aminah Abdul Jillil, Allen Onyia and Ouigi Theodore for brands found only at Macy’s, each creative artfully designed a fashion-forward capsule of must-have spring items, inspired by their unique perspective and dynamic style. Icons of Style is available now on macys.com and select store locations nationwide.

Zerina Akers for Bar III is designed with functionality, versatility, and a touch of statement making moments in mind. The capsule consists of mixed media suiting, chain link embellished body suits, strong shoulder knit dresses and a new play on proportion with the classic sweatshirt. True to the Bar lll aesthetic, the capsule is the perfect mix of both feminine and modern components.

Photo: Business Wire

“This collection is probably the most special because it is my first design collaboration. Through my styling work I have designed many things but never something under my own name. This is very special,” said Zerina Akers.

Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts

Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts is inspired by her personal style and love for fashion. The collection features bold, vibrant prints that take form in feminine suiting, printed blouses, and her love of the kimono; a symbol of her Black and Japanese heritage. Known for creating iconic looks for some of the music industry’s biggest stars, Misa’s extraordinary vision pairs well with I.N.C.’s focus on representing the most current trends.

“My designs vibrate on a high frequency. They bring happiness and excitement to the people who see them and want to wear them,” said Misa Hylton.

Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International Concepts

Extending her love for creative self-expression and bold fashion moments, Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International Concepts brings forth the power of the statement heel. Using her performing arts background as inspiration, Aminah mixes unexpected shapes and dramatic details to spark confidence in every step. Using gold hearts and chunky chains as signature details, the collection features a breadth of styles that are timeless, versatile, and collectible.

“This collaboration is exciting to me because it means for me, personally that dreams come true. That hard work pays off. That being different and not like everyone else is ok,” said Aminah Abdul Jillil.

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International Concepts

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International Concepts pays homage to Macy’s traditions as a leading department store incorporating iconic details with a modern, trend-forward look. The men’s collection is a nod to his own personal style while focused on accessible design. Allen effortlessly uses his exceptional eye to combine dynamic use of colors, patterns, and silhouettes into instantly covetable items all geared towards statement making style.

“This is a collection that celebrates this amazing opportunity Macy’s has provided me, and I wanted to put that celebration and feeling back into the collection and pay homage,” said Allen Onyia.

Read the full article at businesswire.

 

It’s About Making Us Feel Seen: How 3 Brand Founders Are Making Space For Black Women

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Three black women brand founders headshots

By Natasha Marsh, Refinery 29

In the wake of social unrest in 2020, as the country reckoned head-to-head with its stance and role in racism, many companies released blanket statements professing their solidarity with Black people, most of which lacked emotion and felt more like a sink-or-swim tactic. Brands who declared to suddenly be woke were met with skepticism and the unanimous knowing that for years, their inaction reflected their failure to support the Black community both personally and professionally. History has shown that the system was never built to nurture Black-founded companies the way it has their white counterparts, making it nearly impossible for these brands to prosper and, in many cases, preventing them from ever getting off the ground.

But with more and more companies beginning to take inventory of their blind spots and part in systemic racism, this is starting to change. In fact, according to a 2021 survey by The Harvard Business Review and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses, compared to the 10% of white women and 15% of white men. Indeed, Black women-owned businesses are on the rise, which may be because we’ve finally been given more access to the resources and capital to properly sustain them.

The rise of brand incubators and mentorship programs has certainly helped pave the way. Working to meet the growing needs of entrepreneurs who weren’t traditionally given a seat at the table, they help equip small businesses owners with the tools and support they need for success. By passing the mic to Black women, they give us the space to build community, empower one another, and, in part, inspire the next set of young Black entrepreneurs-to-be.

Ahead, get to know the founders of three Black-women-owned businesses in  program and how they’re using their platforms to inspire Black women to be their most authentic selves and forge their own paths.

Malisa Parke of Swanky Designs

Founded by creative mother-daughter duo Malisa and Imani Parke, Swanky Designs is handcrafted jewelry, apparel, and home goods brand, most known for its bold and colorful statement earrings. Sharing a deep love of art and fashion, the pair have channeled this passion into creating pieces of wearable art that speak to women’s individuality.

More so than anything, the Parkes believes in lifting women up and creating collections that complement that. “My goal is to empower other women to live their authentic lives, to not be afraid of standing out,” says Malisa. Rather than follow the ever-changing trend cycle, they aim to stay true to themselves, drawing inspiration from both the world around them and their roots. “We’re from New York, so we’re always in the city, looking at things like shapes and buildings,” Malisa explains. “We’re also very much into African-inspired jewelry, but with a twist, and we’d like to continue digging deeper into that.”

Ahead, Refinery29 spoke with Malisa about her creative relationship with her daughter, how it’s shaped their brand journey, and why we all should be our own trendsetters. 

You run your brand with your daughter, Imani. What inspired you to go into business together?
“We both have the creative gene. Imani has always been a super creative person. She started designing clothing at 14, while I used to sell jewelry at different vendor shows. One day I said to myself, You know what? I can do this myself. I prefer my own creativity, and Imani told me she wanted to do the same. Our creative juices flowed so well together that I suggested we do it as a team, and that’s pretty much how it was born.”

What lessons have you taught each other throughout your brand journey? How has your business strengthened your mother-daughter relationship?
“Imani teaches me a lot. Because she’s younger, she keeps me very fresh, but she also allows me to make mistakes. She’s teaching me not to be so constrained and to be freer. At this point in her life, I’m guiding her through it and helping her learn to [navigate it]. Being in business together strengthens our relationship in some ways, but she’s my daughter, so we butt heads a lot. When you’re in business with anyone, you’re going to clash; it can be tough, but then I’m reminded of the importance of our relationship”

In what ways do you use your brand to uplift and empower Black women?
“I hope to influence Black women to know they can do this, too, and that there’s room for everyone in jewelry making, no matter what medium you’re using. Age shouldn’t stop you from doing anything, know you can do it whenever you want. I also don’t think we should be so concerned about following fashion trends; we should be our own trendsetters. You shouldn’t have to worry about buying or being the latest — just do you. It’s a constant learning experience — we ask ourselves: How can we get better? What’s going to be the best for us?”

What advice do you have for young Black entrepreneurs?
“Read, learn, and get a mentor. Don’t just jump into it and expect things to happen because you’ll be quickly disappointed that it doesn’t happen that way. If you’re an entrepreneur, what you do is your passion, and it comes naturally to you. But you also need to read about the business side of things. Understanding capital, loans, taxes, and manufacturing; are things you have to know. Talk to people who are doing it and be open to accepting help.”

Dr. Anne Beal of AbsoluteJOI

For many Black consumers, the desire to take better care of our skin has been hindered by the fact that we’ve been long ignored by mainstream beauty brands. This makes it taxing to source products to effectively combat the most common concerns of melanated skin, like hyperpigmentation and dark spots. So was the case with physician Dr. Anne Beal, who launched AbsoluteJOI after struggling to find products that worked both for her and her daughters. Her research led her to discover that 70% of women of color believe the products currently available don’t work for them, so she developed her own, tailored to women over the age of 35 seeking to address signs of aging.

“There are so many products available that address aging, but people with melanin-rich skin don’t show aging with fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Beal says. “Instead, we start to show age with changes in skin tone and dark marks.” Fusing scientifically based active ingredients and soothing botanicals, AbsoluteJOI products focus on balancing and nourishing the complexion while reducing the damage caused by aging and hyperpigmentation. Rather than offer a dizzying array of products, Dr. Beal took a minimalist approach by launching a tight edit of cleanly formulated necessities, such as a tinted daily SPF moisturizer and a retinol-powered, tone-evening night oil.

Ahead, Refinery29 spoke with Dr. Beal about how she uses her brand and platform to make Black women feel more seen, plus the skin-care advice every woman of color should follow. 

When it comes to caring for skin of color, what are some of the most common misconceptions?
“Historically, there have been a lot of recommendations for products and home remedies, including everything from lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to using bleach — both medicinal like hydroquinone and actual commercial bleach. The reality is that skin of color is incredibly sensitive, so we need to take a very gentle approach. Secondly, the approach toward aging skin care for the general population is very much centered on fine lines and wrinkles, but many women of color first develop dark spots and changes in skin tone and, later, the lines. So when you’re thinking melanin-rich skin, the approach should be to address tone first.”

What is the most important skin-care advice you think every woman of color should follow?
“Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, all day, every day. Many women of color think they don’t need it because they have melanin, but we do. We age with dark marks, and those are signs of sun damage. It’s also important to look for a sunscreen with blue light protection. Recent studies have shown that the blue light emitted from our screens — like our phones and computers — causes hyperpigmentation in darker-toned skin. Retinol is also a fabulous ingredient [for evening skin tone].”

In what ways do you use your brand to uplift and empower Black women?
“First and foremost, to say I see you. I recently posted a video discussing the four features of melanated skin that make us unique, and so many commenters mentioned how they feel seen and heard. I’ve also posted reels where I share the behind-the-scenes of our photoshoots, and it’s just a melanin celebration. I’m also very deliberate in who I collaborate with and what businesses I work with, and I try to seek out other Black women as business partners. I have aspirations to, at some point, grow the company to where we can invest in and mentor other businesses.”

What advice do you have for young Black entrepreneurs?
“One, I would say read and be well-read. Two, don’t start a business — solve a problem, and the business will come. When you solve a problem, the implication is that you know who your customer is, what they want, and what their challenges are. If you solve their problems, then you have a business there. Take a customer-focused approach.”

Terese Brown of Terese Sydonna

Jamaican-born, New York-raised designer Terese Brown infuses her vibrant Jamaican culture and love of Japanese art and architecture into every collection she creates. A self-starter, she’s greatly focused on inspiring women to step into their authentic selves for their communities and, most importantly, themselves. “I personally understand the struggles women face navigating pressure to fit a particular image and standard of beauty,” she says. “I want to change this and empower them to confidently reveal their inner strength and untapped superpowers.” And so, she considers her sophisticated collection of dresses, robes, two-piece sets, and accessories as “modern armor.”

Many white or non-Black entrepreneurs start businesses with capital from generations of wealth in their families, but unfortunately, this is not a common thread in the Black community. Brown, who has experienced her own career pivots and understands the value of mentorships and incubator programs first-hand, is looking to change that with her work on several advisory boards centered around entrepreneurship. “As a minority business owner, being authentic, being unapologetic about my story of sacrifice, dreaming big, and overcoming the extra hardships to be where I am now are what matters most,” she says.

Ahead, Refinery29 spoke with Brown about what led her to start a brand of her own and the importance of uplifting other Black women.

You began your career in finance and then pivoted to working with some of the biggest names in fashion. What inspired you to make this transition and eventually start a brand of your own?
“As an immigrant and the oldest in my family, it was always my mother’s dream for me to be successful and get a “big” job, and for a while, I bought into that. I did my stint on Wall Street, but it just didn’t feel right or feel like me, so I made the transition to buying and merchandising. I started working as an assistant buyer at a major retailer right before the 2008 recession, and one day I went to work, and half of us were fired. I remember feeling so relieved; it was my opportunity to get out to do what I really wanted to do. The next week, I was enrolled in a one-year design program, and within a year’s time, I was working as a designer by day and on my own line, Terese Sydonna, by night.”

You proudly manufacture your collections in New York City’s Garment District. Why is it important to you to keep your brand locally made?
“I feel like I’m living my American dream. I’m proudly Jamaican, a New Yorker, and a Bronxite, and I feel like New York has given so much to me. I love working with the small businesses that make Terese Sydonna what it is. Every single person that I work with who helps us create the prints, that do our manufacturing, or handle our grading and marking is part of an individual family business of color and immigrants. It feels so good to know that, together, we’re creating something so beautiful. It means the world to me knowing that I’m helping out my community.”

In what ways do you use your brand to uplift and empower Black women?
“My brand is all about authenticity. I wasn’t able to truly tell my story until I started being authentic in owning the fact that I am a Black woman. How can I design something if I’m not empowering myself and empowering Black women, too? When I look back on my time on Wall Street and in buying and merchandising, there were so many spaces where I couldn’t be myself, where my hair was an issue, or where I was the only Black woman. Many of my clientele are Black women, and they face these same challenges every single day. I wanted to change that, so I sought out to create a community centered around celebrating each other and what makes us unique. I couldn’t do any of this without celebrating Black women because they truly built my business and helped me get to where I am today.”

What advice do you have for young Black entrepreneurs?
“Whatever your idea, always listen to that inner voice telling you to do it. No one is going to cheer for you as hard as yourself. You are your biggest cheerleader. I also think young entrepreneurs need to realize that the story behind your brand is what matters. People are more interested in ideas, feelings, and stories — they care less about the clothes, they buy them because it’s you, and that’s what makes you magic.”

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

New Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey©, by Harvard Business School Alumnae and Business Leaders Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams, Sponsored by Google, Published Today

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two diverse tech students in classroom reviewing work on computer screen on google

By PR Newswire

Today, Harvard Business School alumnae and co-authors Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams published their 2021 U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey© sponsored by Google. Titled Untapped Women of Color: The Talent Force Multiplier, the new release, and third in five planned annual surveys, is unique in its analysis of the opinions and capabilities of women desk workers and students across four generations. The work also highlights new, evolving skills and attitudes that managers must develop to assess and motivate talent, across cultures as well as generations, in the complex post-COVID workplace.

For the first time, the 2021 edition of the U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey© compared and contrasted the experiences of 300 White and Black male managers with those of 4,000 women managers and desk workers across four races (Black, LatinX, Asian American and White) and four generations (Gen Z students [ages 17-24], Millennials [ages 25-39], Gen X [ages 40-56], and Boomers [ages 57-74]). The results underscore the need for a more nuanced appreciation of “generational diversity,” an original concept coined by Stewart and Adams.

In addition to including Black and White male managers, this year’s survey takes a deeper look at Asian American women desk workers, with differentiating responses by the women’s countries of origin: China, Vietnam, India and the Philippines.

Co-authors Adams and Stewart, a Board Partner at Google’s Gradient Ventures, note that they truly appreciate Google’s support of their work. “The company’s sponsorship validates the originality and importance of our research,” they say. “We are also grateful for the on-going expertise of our survey partner, Quadrant Strategies. We believe creating a talent multiplier requires building new management capability in the areas of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), as well as understanding Generational Diversity in the workplace.”

“The data leads the co-authors to the conclusion that great managers matter,” says Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer at Google. “The underappreciated generational changes identified in the survey should encourage and challenge leaders to assess ‘untapped’ talent pools as a force multiplier for business success. At Google, we see this research as another lens to inform our ongoing work to build belonging, while providing exceptional thought leadership to all companies navigating the growing complexities of the workplace.”

Highlights from the new research include:
Despite promises of progress, despite disruptions to corporate recruiting, the co-authors’ chief performance metric – the Onlys – remains stalled, with almost half of Black and LatinX women continuing to report being frequently or always the only person of their races in professional settings.

More distressing is that the number of Black and LatinX Millennial Onlys has spiked: 55% for Black and 45% for LatinX.

The 2021 results show clear differentiations among Black and LatinX Millennial women, especially when it comes to confidence about the future, ways of coping with workplace stresses, and even teaming up within the “sisterhood.”

This was a breakaway year for innovation among Millennials, what this survey calls “First to Know About Technology.” 44% of Black Millennial women desk workers said they are always the first to know; 42% for LatinX, 33% for Asian Americans and 38% for White Millennials.

Black and LatinX women reported that they are actively participating in the current startup boom.

32% of Black Millennial women said they founded or co-founded the company they work at, more than doubling the 14% in 2020.

Just as they reported in 2020, Black women across all generations are more likely to be “side-preneurs”—to have a business they are working on outside of their desk jobs. 27% said they are side-entrepreneurs, as opposed to 16% LatinX, 11% Asian American, and 12% White women.

Millennial women are acknowledging systemic racism in the U.S. and are not shy about using their power to address it.

In 2021, Asian American women fell behind other racial groups, across all generations, in terms of career satisfaction.

Only 30% of Asian American women (down from 39% in 2020) agreed a great deal that they’ve had the opportunity to do meaningful and satisfying work, compared to 42% White women, 47% LatinX women, and 51% Black women).

Chinese American respondents, in particular, reported the lowest career satisfaction, while Indian American, Filipina American, and Vietnamese American women were comparatively more satisfied.

Only 17% of Chinese American women feel greatly fulfilled at work, compared to 33% of Filipina American women, 32% of Indian American women, and 31% of Vietnamese American women.

Click here to read the full article on PR Newswire.

YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

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African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

By Annie Krall, WBay

“A woman’s hair is her crown” a saying which takes on a deeper meaning for black women. Wearing their natural hair for example in afros or braids is a source of cultural pride. But it sometimes invites social and professional rejection.

Some of the African American women in our community and across the country tell us heavy is the head that wears the crown in the struggle for racial equality. For black women, having access to products and stylists who know how to care for their hair and makeup can be life-changing.

“Just access to basic products sometimes can be a huge barrier to being able to feel really good about how you’re looking,” Renita Robinson the vice-president of diversity and inclusion at Prevea Health shared. “So, with African American hair there are curl patterns and you can have super curly hair. My hair is super super curly. So, when my hair was longer when it was 12 inches long, when it got wet it was probably about an inch. It curls up super tight. You have to straighten it to have it look longer.”

It’s a local problem. Trying to find a hair stylist with different textured hair can be difficult. Which is why visiting black hair stylists like Shear Images Salon in Appleton is so crucial. However, it’s not just a problem of beauty access in Northeast Wisconsin. It’s a national issue.

“I’ve been on sets where I actually came with a full afro like this, it was actually bigger, and I left with my hair straight, and it wouldn’t revert back,” model, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate Tanaye White remembered. “I’ve been on sets where the makeup artists didn’t have my foundation color and I was literally on set looking like Casper the Ghost. I’ve been on sets where I’ve had to run into the bathroom and do my makeup myself because no one knew or had what I needed.”

Working for brands like Adidas, Sports Illustrated, and Juicy Couture featuring her natural afro, Tanaye said was a turning point in her career. As was the summer of 2020 for the modeling industry after the race riots with the creation of the Black Beauty Roster. An entertainment industry directory of hair and makeup artists with expertise on people of color.

An initiative to prevent models showing up to fashion shows and feeling, “just exhausting,” Mamè Adjei, a model, actress, and activist, emphasized. “Exhausting and a little traumatizing to be honest because we’ll go on set and I would just love to get up and be on set like my white counterparts and not worry about doing my hair or makeup. But I have to come prepared as with anything in life.”

When asked about having that expertise about different skin tones and different hair types, how important is that to sort of see makeup artists who are able to work on models like you, who actually have that familiarity that a lot of times wasn’t there.

“I love Black Beauty Roster because they really amplify the voice of D&I,” Tanaye replied.

Showcasing the beauty and strength of black women in Northeast Wisconsin.

“If a person doesn’t feel good about belonging or has issues around belonging and those kind of things,” Renita said. “Of course not looking good is only going to exacerbate it particularly if there is bullying. Or if there are environments where people are making comments to make you feel more vulnerable.”

These black women emphasized three points. First, fostering positivity and understanding even if you don’t regularly have to think about your hair. Secondly, to use resources like YouTube to learn more and be an ally or do outreach. Finally supporting local black hair stylists or joining the Black Beauty Roster to inspire change.

Click here to read the full article on WBay.

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.

Dr. Dre helps break ground on new Compton High School performing arts center

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Dr. Dre

By ABC 7

A performing arts center at Compton High School that’s being built with the help of music mogul Dr. Dre is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Compton native – who donated $10 million to the project – joined city and school leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the first step in getting the center up and running.

The facility will include a 1,200-seat theater and will be a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.

“When I was approached about funding a performing arts center that would provide an arts and technological education to students and be accessible for the community at large, I was all in,” said Dr. Dre. “I wanted to give the young people of Compton something I never had.”

Dr. Dre – born Andre Young – grew up in Compton and first rose to fame as a member of NWA, whose debut album was titled “Straight Outta Compton.”

He later found success as a solo artist, producer and businessman.

The performing arts center will be the first new high school facility to be built in almost a decade in the greater Los Angeles area.

Compton High School is more than 100 years old.

“This is very historical for Compton,” said Compton Unified School District Board President Micah Ali.

Click here to read the full article on ABC 7.

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.

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