Actor Hill Harper launches The Black Wall Street platform aimed at empowering investors of color

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Hill Harper wearing a blue coat jacket and smiling at the camera while he attends the Netflix Golden Globe Weekend Cocktail Party at Cecconi’s Restaurant

By Frank Holland, CNBC

Nearly a century after Black Wall Street — a center of Black business in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was destroyed in a racial attack — “The Good Doctor” actor Hill Harper is launching a fintech app of the same name to empower investors of color.

The Black Wall Street app goes live on June 1 and will offer a digital wallet for peer-to-peer payment and the ability to trade cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.

“What the Black Wall Street was in Tulsa and the Greenwood district is just very empowering,” Harper told CNBC about the once thriving Black business district.

“There were three pillars that created the wealth that was created in the Black Wall Street [in Tulsa],” he said, with the first two being institutional ownership and institutional trust by the community. “Pillar number three was the movement of money or capital within the ecosystem where dollars changed hands 60 to 100 times within a year before it left that Black community.”

Harper, who plays Dr. Marcus Andrews on the ABC medical show, said that dollars now leave the Black community within about seven hours. “I truly believe that unless we start owning our own fintech platforms, our own digital wallets, the dollar will leave within six to seven seconds.” said Harper, who also played Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CBS’ “CSI: NY.”

The goal of The Black Wall Street app is to give Black and Latinx investors a gateway into the digital transformation of investing and provide financial education to customers on cryptocurrency.

Harper, a Harvard Law School graduate, said he began working with Black web developers last year before the Covid pandemic to build the app, which aims to capitalize on mobile device trends in communities of color.

According to a 2019 report from Pew Research Center, 23% of Black Americans and 25% of Latinx Americans are “smart phone only” internet users compared with 12% of white Americans. The Pew study also showed Black Americans use a smartphone for mobile banking more than any other group.

Harper said he’s hoping to attract “unbanked” consumers and more sophisticated investors looking for a Black-owned site for cryptocurrency purchasing. “It’s not just about transferring money to folks, it’s about transferring information, ideas, and building community, and we see that that is the real value and the real differentiator.”

Najah Roberts, a cryptocurrency expert and owner of Crypto Blockchain Plug — a brick-and-mortar location in Inglewood, California, for cryptocurrency education and purchasing — will serve as the chief visionary officer for the app. As part of the launch, The Black Wall Street is planning a 30-city financial literacy tour that begins on April 30 in Los Angeles, with stops in Tulsa on May 31, a century since the original Black Wall Street was destroyed in a riot by white residents. Roberts will lead the tour and give fractional bitcoin shares to people who sign up.

The Black Wall Street offering enters a growing industry of fintech apps that allow peer-to-peer transfers including Square’s Cash App from PayPal’s Venmo. Visa estimates there is $4 trillion market for apps that replace the use of cash and checks in the United States. Rapper Killer Mike also launched this year the Greenwood app, another digital platform for investors of color.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Groundbreaking Study of Black Business Owners in the Wine Industry Reveals the Immediate Need for Inclusion & Equity

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Flyer that states "uncorked and cultured". During National Black-Owned Business Month, The Terroir Noir: 2020 Study of Black Wine Entrepreneurs uncovers business owners’ undeterred persistence and commitment to fostering change in the global wine industry

By Press Release, Advisor

Marketing professor and wine business researcher, Monique Bell, Ph.D., has released an inaugural study of Black wine entrepreneurs that captures survey data collected in the aftermath of the global pandemic and civil unrest in 2020. Survey participants, who represent a diverse spectrum of businesses and professional expertise, completed the online survey in late 2020 amidst pandemic-related losses and renewed civil rights and “buy Black” movements.

The Terroir Noir: 2020 Study of Black Wine Entrepreneurs survey respondents answered multiple questions related to their motivations for wine entrepreneurship, experiences with racism and other challenges, perceptions of the wine industry’s inclusion efforts, business strategies and practices, and the impacts of COVID-19. Black-owned wineries account for less than 1 percent of all U.S. wineries, while Black people typically make up more than 10 percent of American wine consumers. A majority of survey participants (43%), which represent wineries and other wine businesses, report that financial capital is the primary business roadblock to their business. Bias/racism was cited by 20% as the number one challenge, in general, for Black wine businesses. Further, more than half of respondents (58%) are neutral or disagree that the wine industry is taking meaningful action to be more inclusive of underrepresented groups.

“I am grateful to the Black wine business community for welcoming me during a very trying time and sharing their valuable insights for this important study,” says Bell, who performed the research during a sabbatical at the Fresno State Craig School of Business and subsequently founded Wyne Belle Enterprises. “The opportunity to connect with wine entrepreneurs inspires me to pursue further research and has opened pathways to increase exposure to and awareness about underrepresented groups in traditionally exclusive industries.”

The survey is the first of its kind among trade reports and academic examinations, and it will be followed by studies of Black wine professionals and consumers, respectively. Bell and her California State University colleagues, including Liz Thach, Ph.D., M.W., of Sonoma State, are currently analyzing more than 40 in-depth interviews with Black wine entrepreneurs.

“In illuminating Black entrepreneurs in the wine industry, Dr. Bell has identified an important gap in the global wine industry and in our collective knowledge about wine entrepreneurship,” says Liz Thach, Distinguished Professor of Wine and Professor of Management, Sonoma State. “As a wine business educator, writer, and consultant, I’ve sought to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to the forefront, and the Terroir Noir study will help further the industry’s progress.”

It was through Bell’s research that she met Angela McCrae, founder of Uncorked & Cultured, and joined the media platform centered on wine, wellness, culture, and adventure as Chief of Cultural Insights and Partnerships. McCrae and Bell, both graduates of Morgan State University, launched the Sip Consciously Directory, a comprehensive resource of more than 100 Black entrepreneurs in the three-tier wine distribution chain. Importantly, the directory enhances Black visibility in the $70 billion wine industry where less than 1% of wineries are Black-owned. The evolving resource connects wine lovers with Black-owned brands, distributors, and retailers, and is complemented by the growing Sip Consciously YouTube video series.

“With knowledge there is power, so it’s important for Uncorked & Cultured to be a destination and resource for consumers and the greater wine industry to understand Black wine entrepreneurs exist and the challenges we face in the industry,’ says Angela McCrae. “We’re filling a void and creating solutions to connect, not just Black winemakers and entrepreneurs with consumers, but also with mainstream brands and major distributors for an opportunity to tap into a far too often overlooked demographic.”

Click here to read the full article on the Advisor.

Instagram adds “Black-owned” label option to business profiles

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A post on Stormi Steele's Canvas Beauty Brand's Instagram account. Steele raked in $20 million in revenue in 2020, and is on track to hit the same number for 2021.

By Randi Richardson, NBC News

Stormi Steele posted a video on her social media accounts in 2017 of how to use Black hair products she created herself with $800 of capital.

Her homegrown business, Canvas Beauty Brand, later brought in $435,000 in profits through a single $100 paid social media advertisement. Steele said even with this rapid progress, buyers were still asking the same question: Is this Black hair care brand Black-owned?

Instagram has been key to customers finding Black-owned businesses to support and Steele said it has been integral to her business’s growth. And now the platform is strengthening that relationship between customers and Black-owned businesses.

Instagram announced Wednesday its new “Black-owned” label that U.S.-based businesses like Canvas Beauty can add to their profiles. The company and Steele said the label will make it easier to find Black-owned businesses.

“People still ask, ‘Is this Black-owned?’ I think it’ll get rid of that question and it’ll make our consumer, the woman and the person that we market to, trust us,” Steele said. “It helps us to not have to continuously reiterate we’re Black-owned, because that’s the difference between the conversion or not, most of the time, especially to the customer who wants to know that answer.”

Business accounts can select to display the “Black-owned business” label in their bios, and may be included on the Shops page.

Instagram does not have concrete numbers regarding how many businesses are expected to enable this feature. But more than 1.3 million Instagram posts included “Black-owned” or “Black-led” during the height of the racial reckoning in summer 2020 and through the fall. And the number of U.S.-based businesses that listed these labels in their profiles increased by 50 percent during that same period.

“There was a lot of tragedy happening in the Black community,” said Rachel Brooks, a product manager at Instagram on the equity team who worked on developing the label. “On top of that, there was a global pandemic raging, and a lot of challenges particularly with Black-owned businesses being able to stay open, maintain livelihoods, those sorts of things. And so what we saw is the community really rallied around Black-owned businesses somewhat naturally and organically by using #BuyBlack and all sorts of other ways of amplifying Black-owned businesses.”

That rallying prompted Instagram to develop an official label to support this specific interest, adding structure and making it easier for users to search for businesses, she said.

“When you see a profile, you know where the name is, you know where you can find the post, you know where you can find the stories or whatever it might be,” Brooks said. The idea is to create a standard so that people know how to consistently find the information. Otherwise, people are kind of fishing for this information.”

Brooks said the label will not contribute to what information the algorithm takes into account. But subsequent engagement with related accounts will do so. Instagram’s algorithm considers what type of content users previously liked, viewed or shared and uses that pattern, among other things, to present personalized content to users, then-director of product management Julian Gutman told TechCrunch in 2018. So accounts keeping tabs on Black-owned businesses are more likely to see them in their feed, giving the businesses more exposure and potentially increasing their revenues.

Steele raked in $20 million in revenue in 2020, and is on track to hit the same number for 2021. The first video she put money behind became a viral video and effectively launched Canvas Beauty. Since then, she’s used paid and unpaid advertisements on Instagram and other social media sites, she said.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

5 Minutes With MDee Beauty’s Deidra Smith

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Diedre Smith of MDee BEauty looking strong and wearing tee-shirt with company name across it

We often think of inclusion as only existing within professional or social circles, forgetting that it must also go a step further. In that spirit, the Black EOE Journal spent five minutes with Deidra Smith of MDee Beauty, a makeup company that is passionate about diversity without giving up on quality.

Black EOE Journal (BEOEJ): Where did your inspiration for MDee Beauty come from and what makes it stand out from the crowd?

Deidra Smith (DS): As a child I used to watch my mother put on her makeup, I dreamed of the day when I could do the same. From there my passion for skin care and the way I look took on a whole new meaning. It was more than just the way it made me feel, it was who I became once I became an adult. Skin care, the importance of lipstick all touched parts of me and what I deemed important. It was from that background the inspiration for MDee Beauty was born. I have used many products, never finding one with sustainability. There were many that became my favorite until later finding out that something in the formula had changed to make it no longer fit my needs. So, it was then that I started researching and later developing a formula that fit not only my needs but also that of other women who felt the same as me.

What makes us stand out from the crowd is basically the love that we put into the products. We have addressed issues of sustainability and longevity. Our ingredients are natural and good for the health of your lips. To enhance the lip care, we have subtle and bold colors that make this the perfect product that women who feel the same as I do, would want to consider.

BEOEJ: You’ve shared your views previously on the import of diversity and inclusion reform in the workforce. Why should businesses and business owners want to consider diversity, equity and inclusion when thinking in terms of their workforce, supply chain or mastermind group?

DS: I’ve been on both sides of this question as an employee and employer. I have been overlooked as a female and as a black female. I’ve been made to think that my ideas and what I had to say didn’t matter. It was kind of like when they tell kids, just be seen and not heard. Everyone’s voice needs and should be heard especially in the workforce on your team. Everyone’s background, experience and culture creates a product of inclusiveness, not only in the office but also for the market we are trying to reach. As the employer, I know that I don’t know everything, that’s why I surround myself with motivated, opinionated and diversity in thought. If you continue to do things the way they were done in the past, how do we get to the future?

BEOEJ: What can entrepreneurs or solopreneurs do to be a part of the change?

DS: Listen to the ideas of all. Decisions on what ethic groups like and don’t like can’t be made without those ethic groups being part of the conversation. Get it right the first time with inclusion of thought.

BEOEJ: Why, is not only the quality of your products, but also their sustainability, important to your company? What does sustainability mean to you as a business owner?

DS: There’s lot of good products out there but most don’t last. As women when we leave our homes, we want to look good all day. Looking and feeling a certain way we should expect it to last all day, maybe with a little touch up. We want you to be confident that your look can last all day. We did that. Our product is built on healthiness, vibrant colors and sustainability. It is our goal to keep you looking good all day long. Sustainability means that I stand behind my products. If you read the reviews MDee Beauty should be a staple in your beauty regimen. With the glowing reviews we have received thus far, it is evident that our company has sustainably, as the MDee Beauty roots continue to grow in the cosmetic industry. My goal is to continue to provide a quality product that people will purchase without reservation.

To learn more about Deidre and MDee Beauty, you can visit their website at mdeebeauty.com.

Photo Credit: Anthony Sealey

Black tech entrepreneurs get $1 million boost from Pharrell Williams

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Pharrell Williams in a gray hat and army jacket shirt

By Adrienne Broaddus, CNN

Entrepreneur Justin Turk knew his start-up was special, but a $1 million prize from Grammy award-winning singer and producer Pharrell Williams came as a shock.

On Tuesday, Williams announced the winners of his Black Ambition prize competition — and Turk and his business partner, Andre Davis, are in the national spotlight.

Williams’ non-profit was founded in December to help Black and Latino business owners close the wealth gap through entrepreneurship.

Turk and Davis, co-founders of Livegistics, took home the top prize of $1 million. The Detroit-based entrepreneurs run a cloud-based material management software company, which eliminates paperwork in heavy civil construction and demolition. The company also provides data and metrics that construction experts can use for efficiency.

Livegistics is also helping the environment through the elimination of tons of paper each year and helps local communities accelerate the elimination of blight in urban cities and neighborhoods.

“We knew we had something special, but you don’t go in thinking you will walk away with $1 million. But when it happens you are like, ‘Wow, we just won $1 million,” Turk said.

But the 40-year-old said he never knew joy and pain could co-exist simultaneously.

Success can be bittersweet
On the day he learned his tech start-up won the grand prize, his father-in-law died before he could share the news.

“All in 24 hours, it was the greatest and worst moments tied together forever. There we were with the our biggest business success to date along with the worst day of our lives all in 24 hours,” Turk said. “It is weird. Sometimes I feel guilty for being so happy about what’s going on, but I know he would have been excited.”

Turk, who co-founded the business three years ago with Davis, said that hours after he learned about winning he watched a team of health care professionals try to revive his wife’s father, whom he admired. He was a veteran who loved architecture. And they shared the same passion for construction.

Instead of hosting a celebration party for friends and family, Turk said he will bury his father-in-law in a private ceremony Saturday.

“He would have been enamored with what’s going on. If he would have been able to see all of this, it would have just blown him away,” Turk said. “He would walk around the city of Detroit and look at buildings on his own. This would have just made his decade.”

More like brothers
Turk’s and Davis’ friendship goes back decades. The two met in elementary school when they were 5 years old, Davis said. Then, they were college roommates at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Davis, the chief financial officer, said it was never a goal to become business partners but it made sense.

“He’s been in just about every special moment in my life,” Davis said. “Not only are we solving the single most significant reason construction companies go out of business (cash flow), we’re doing so in a manner that creates less work and makes the lives of our customers easier to manage.”

Davis, 41, said he worked at Financial One as an outsourced CFO to clients in the Metro Detroit area. He started and operated his own accounting and financial services practice for 10 years, managing to keep one foot in the non-profit sector to give back. He wants to encourage other Black and minority entrepreneurs looking to start their businesses to take the leap of faith.

“A thought today, backed by effort today, is one step closer to your dream tomorrow. Justin is brilliant. His background is the foundation for what I forsee as a unicorn in the making,” Davis said. “A third generation business owner, minority-owned, who understands all facets of large construction projects at an expert level…who also has a degree in computer science to speak tech geek language! You don’t find a Justin Turk walking around every day.”

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

From ‘Watchmen’ to ‘Blade’: Meet the First Black Woman to Write a Marvel Film

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Stacy Osei-Kuffour attends Premiere Of HBO’s “Watchmen” at The Cinerama Dome for Marvel

By Jasmine Alyce, Atlanta Black Star

Marvel‘s upcoming “Blade” reboot has tapped playwright Stacy Osei-Kuffour as the film’s head writer, making her the first Black woman to pen a Marvel movie.

Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali will star in the film as the half-human, half-vampire vigilante, a role originated by Wesley Snipes in the late ’90s/early 2000s film trilogy, and was reportedly heavily involved in the “meticulous” six-month-long search for the talent that would craft the story that led to Osei-Kuffour.

The studio’s search centered around finding a Black writer for the film and Osei-Kuffour gained their and Ali’s attention following her successful involvement in HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Watchmen,” on which she served as story editor and writer. In 2019, she earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding writer in a comedy series for her work on Hulu’s “Pen15.” Additional writing credits for her include Amazon’s “Hunters,” and the HBO series “Run.”

In late 2020, it was announced that “Candyman” director Nia DaCosta signed on to helm “Captain Marvel 2,” making her the studios’ first Black woman director. Marvel Studios President and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige has previously expressed hopes that the diversity in front of and behind the screens during the next phase of Marvel films will eventually “become the norm.”

“We’re lucky that we have the comics to guide us. They have been relatively progressive over the decades for their time,” he told Variety in March. “The character lineup allows us — we’re not creating full-cloth any of our characters, they’ve been in the comics for years — and we’re finally able to tell those stories. Looking at the remarkably positive experiences we’ve had making sure that the room where it happens is not a room full of people that all look the same. When that’s not the case, when there are people from various backgrounds and genders, stories are better. Being at a company for 20 years and having released 23 movies, it is always been ‘How do you keep things fresh and surprising on a story level?’ “

He continued, “When you’re doing a story about a female lawyer who is giant and green [“She -Hulk], or a Muslim teenager with superpowers in Jersey City [“Ms. Marvel”], or working with filmmakers and writers of color as we are — it’s so prevalent and so much a part of who we are and what we do now, that it doesn’t seem abnormal. It’s no longer a headline. A woman is directing something! Wow! I hope this will become the norm to the extent that this is no longer a rarity.”

Click here to read the full article on Atlanta Black Star.

I am a Black female CEO, and this is how I redefined the white men’s club in tech

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CEO stock photo of two people walking on top of blue glass

BY Danielle Rose, Fast Company

Growing up in East Oakland, I personally experienced the diverse realities of the divide between the wealthy and poor, and the ricocheting effects of violence and substance abuse. My mother was the only one to graduate from college in her family and she understood the importance of education and the doors it could open.

Her determination to ensure that regardless of our socio-economic circumstances combined with the promise I showed in math and science meant that I was able to attend an affluent private boarding school at the base of Mount Diablo in California on scholarship. This is where, for the first time, I often found myself to be the only Black person in a classroom. I was isolated emotionally and physically, living in one of the wealthiest communities in the country, worlds apart from my humble Oakland beginnings.

Despite my ability to perform academically, my continued attendance at my new school was repeatedly threatened because I questioned the school administration’s exclusionary and invisibilizing practices towards students of color. Nevertheless, I thrived and I graduated. I was accepted in and awarded scholarships from 12 of the top engineering programs in the nation.

My story isn’t unique, but in many ways, it’s not nearly common enough. Education, particularly in STEM subjects, has historically been unwelcoming to young people of color. And for those passionate about STEM, there are countless hurdles including loneliness, doubt, sexism, and racism to name a few. So let’s talk about it.

EVERY EXPERIENCE IS NOT ALL GOOD OR BAD, SO KEEP LEARNING
Being Black, a woman, and an engineer I found myself shadowed by skepticism in every space I occupied from high school to the present day. In meetings, my managers would not make eye contact with me when I spoke. My ideas seemed to land only when regurgitated by white male counterparts. My white male managers questioned whether I was paid too much because they thought my clothes were too fashionable. A senior executive told me that I seemed to be a better fit working at “one of those fancy boutiques on Rodeo Drive.” With two Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering and a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the third top engineering school in the country, I cannot say I ever contemplated working at Gucci. All of these slights told me I didn’t belong as I was, the authentic and costume-free me.

The micro and macro aggressions I experienced, while staggering and hurtful, only made me more reflective and self-aware. The times when people who looked like me and tried to minimize me, were especially informative. I used those painful interactions with people who I assumed would understand my experience as a way to deconstruct my own biases and become a stronger ally and advocate for others.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN YOU
From my early education and into my career, I was often the only Black person in a host of STEM education programs and it was lonely. I quickly grew to understand how easy it can be to look for the exit and self-opt out of spaces where you don’t see yourself represented.

Spelman College graduate Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It is no coincidence that it was during my undergraduate studies at Spelman College that I realized the power of representation coupled with social and emotional support when it came to success.

CREATE NETWORKS OF PEERS, MENTORS, AND MENTEES
The importance of this can’t be understated. Who you know, and who you surround yourself with will have an incredible impact on how you envision your future and realize your maximum potential. Connect and enlist a team of people who can see you, especially when you cannot see yourself, and who are authentically committed to your success and want to support you along your journey. You need people who will nurture your spirit, remind you of how you have grown, and of your superpowers during the inevitable storms of life. You need people who will shout with joy and applaud the loudest when you win because your wins are their wins.

LEVERAGE PERCEIVED EXCEPTIONALISM RATHER THAN INTERNALIZE IT
Ursula Burns, the first Black woman to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Xerox), writes about how there was a pattern where her colleagues would reconcile her success as a Black woman by elevating her to an “exceptional status.” They viewed her as incredibly gifted, instead of any other talented and hardworking Black person.

I lived this early on in my career. As an “only” or one of a few Black women in my engineering classes at Georgia Tech, the labs at NASA, the meetings at BP, and countless other spaces, I became the unicorn in the room. My achievements became my last name. When I was introduced it was, “This is Danielle. She has degrees from… She’s worked at…” Folks thought they were being complimentary, but instead, it felt “othering.”

What were considered rare accomplishments for someone who looked like me became the buoys that I grabbed hold of when I found myself in spaces that were not welcoming or generative to my professional development. I used the perceived exceptionalism to access roles and responsibilities that would otherwise have been considered uncustomary or too high-risk for someone with my academic and professional background. I successfully pivoted from engineering to working on a trade floor, to retail and marketing—all for the same company.

Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.

How this 28-year-old’s pandemic cookie business became a celebrity favorite

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ABC News' John Quinones talks about California coming back in business

, Good Morning America

When Lara Adekoya started baking cookies at the start of the pandemic, she never anticipated that a year later, celebrities like Issa Rae, Jenna Dewan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Melissa Benoist and Lena Waithe would be lining up to order from her Los Angeles business, Fleurs et Sel.“What I’m doing is reaching beyond just the backyard,” Adekoya, 28, told “Good Morning America.” “It’s refreshing to have their support, because these are people that now know who I am, and they know that I make really great cookies.”

Her Hollywood clientele isn’t just limited to celebrities either. The business owner has catered to Amazon Studios, A24, the Oprah Winfrey Network, HBO’s “Insecure” set and, most recently, National Geographic. But even though Fleurs et Sel has quickly risen as a business that’s only a year old, its success is anything but a fluke — Adekoya said she hustled to make a name for herself.

“I’m customer-obsessed and social media-driven, and I use those skills to create community through my cookies,” the baker of Nigerian and Japanese descent said. “I hope that my voice transcends communities and transcends different cultural groups so people know that we, as young Black women, we are capable of doing so many things.”

Adekoya’s venture started when she was laid off during the pandemic as a designer shoes salesperson at Nordstrom. Like many Americans, the pandemic prompted her to reimagine her career goals. According to a survey by Prudential, 50% of workers admitted that the pandemic made them rethink their careers, and another study by Microsoft found that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year.

Despite the career change, Adekoya said her job at Nordstrom was invaluable to the success of Fleurs et Sel because of the work values and connections she built there.

“The key to me working in designer shoes was building relationships, because in order to be successful, my work was strictly commission driven, so it was up to me to make money — I wasn’t going to be there and not hustle,” she said.

Two important relationships she cultivated there were with female entrepreneurs Aderiaun Shorter and event planner Mindy Weiss, the latter who is known in Hollywood for throwing lavish parties for the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Ciara and many others. When Adekoya started sharing her baking hobby on social media, her two former Nordstrom clients were the first to buy cookies and promote her. That’s when her idea for Fleurs et Sel really kicked off.

“I got a new entire following, and I was introduced to a new crowd that I would have never otherwise been exposed to,” Adekoya said. “Aderiaun and Mindy are both self-made women entrepreneurs, and they were both instrumental in mentoring me as a woman entrepreneur in this new space.”

The women’s support helped leverage Adekoya’s presence on social media, which in turn exposed her to high-end clientele. Adekoya credits community word-of-mouth and digital promotion for the social media craze of Fleurs et Sel.

Click here to read the full article on Good Morning America.

Pharrell joins Chanel to launch mentorship program for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs

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Pharrell standing in a vintage mickey mouse shirt smiling away from the camera

By 

Pharrell Williams is helping Black and Latinx entrepreneurs with his latest initiative. The two-part program — a collaboration between Chanel and his Black Ambition nonprofit organization — will specifically work toward providing emerging businessmen with “access to knowledge, insights and opportunities from industry-leading experts,” per The Hollywood Reporter.

In part one of the initiative, which is titled “Women Who Lead,” Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief, Samira Nasr, moderated a panel that saw Tracee Ellis Ross, Medley co-founder Edith Cooper, Good American CEO Emma Grede and Natalie Massenet, who is the co-founder and partner of Imaginary Ventures, discuss resilience and determination, the importance of clarity of vision and more.

The second part of the program is a series of mentorship workshops. Members will have access to Chanel’s network of experts, who will teach them about the process of launching and sustaining a brand among other things.

“Chanel’s support of Black Ambition is a cornerstone of Black Ambition’s mission and is vital to the success of the next generation of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs,” said Williams. He also noted the brand’s “commitment to investing in human potential and advancing greater representation in culture and society.”

”You may have a great business idea, but that doesn’t mean you know how to run a business,” he added in a statement to Vanity Fair.

“Even when you have a great business plan, you might not find the right operators. [The mentorship program] teaches you all of those things. Success really does have a lot of authors. Usually when you say, ‘Success has a lot of authors,’ it’s a dig at people who didn’t do something but are taking the credit. In this particular sense, when it comes to running a business, success does have a lot of authors — there are a lot of signatures needed to cosign to get a brand new idea off the ground.”

Click here to read the full article on Revolt.

Covid-19 decimated Black women-owned businesses — Ayesha Curry wants to change that

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Ayesha Curry signs books at Goya Foods' Grand Tasting Village Featuring Mastercard Grand Tasting Tents & KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations in Miami Beach, Fla., on Feb. 25, 2017.

By Alexi McCammond, NBC News

Ayesha Curry has a long list of accomplishments: actress, author and cooking television personality. And now she has her sights set even higher: helping one million Black women business owners. Curry joined the board of Goldman Sachs’ “One Million Black Women” initiative, which will invest $10 billion in Black women-owned businesses and owners over the next 10 years. She has also hosted listening sessions with Black women business owners in the restaurant industry.

The goal? To help Black women business owners in various industries gain greater access to capital and have the tools to ensure their businesses survive past the pandemic.

“The pandemic … shattered the restaurant industry in general,” Curry told Know Your Value. “… Access to capital, especially right now, was so necessary and so important to not only keep these places afloat, but to … find that growth that we’re all looking for.”

Other prominent Black women, including senior advisor to former President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are on the project’s advisory council.

In many instances, Black-owned and Black women-owned businesses were growing exponentially before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Black women were launching new businesses at greater rates than any other demographic between 2014 and 2019, according to American Express’s annual “State of women-owned businesses” report.

In that same timeframe, the number of female-owned businesses overall grew by 21 percent, but Black women-owned businesses grew by 50 percent according to the report.

And now in the aftermath of Covid-19, its many of these businesses that are trying to stay afloat. After all, Black entrepreneurs are typically over-represented in industries most affected by the pandemic, including the food, retail, and personal care industries.

Curry said joining this initiative is personal for her.

“I watched my mom build up her hair salon — she was a stylist for 40 years, a small business owner — and so I’ve seen that work ethic, and that strength behind that and it’s something that I’ve carried with me through my own career,” Curry said.

She’ll be supporting Black women in the restaurant industry in the greater Oakland, Calif., area with a focus on helping those women promote food security and have greater access to capital. She’ll be working alongside women like chef Reign Free, who owns Red Door Catering in Oakland and recently launched the Black Culinary Collective, to help fellow Black entrepreneurs, too.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

J.P. Morgan Creates Scholarship Program for Black College Students

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Jp Morgan building with sign. JP morgan is creating scholarships for black college students.

By Jeff Berman, Think Advisor

In the latest J.P. Morgan diversity and equity initiative, the firm has teamed with the United Negro College Fund to create the J.P. Morgan Wealth Management HBCU Scholarship Program. The initiative is part of the $30 billion Path Forward commitment to advance racial equity that JPMorgan Chase announced Oct. 8. Building on that commitment, J.P. Morgan Wealth Management said in March it set a goal to hire 300 more Black and Latino advisors by 2025.

The new scholarship program invests in students at historically Black colleges and universities who are interested in careers in financial planning “early on and creates a path for their long-term career success, strengthening the pipeline of diverse talent” for JPMWM, the firm and UNCF said in a joint announcement Monday. The program will provide scholarships and mentorships to students attending one of 11 HBCUs across the U.S. and help them develop the skills they need to grow a career as a financial advisor, they said.

JPMWM will award 75 scholarships annually over the next five years. Students receiving the scholarships will have the opportunity to participate in two summer experiences: the Advancing Black Pathways Fellowship Program and the first-of-its-kind J.P. Morgan Wealth Management Service Center Internship. After completing the internship program, students will also be eligible for another scholarship to be applied to their senior year.

“We’re committed to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management, and that begins by investing in students early on and creating a path for their long-term career success,” according to Christopher Thompson, head of Diverse Advisor Experiences at JPMWM. “We look forward to unlocking an enormous talent potential while boosting interest in a career as a financial advisor, which has excellent growth potential,” he said in a statement.

Click here to read the full article on Think Advisor.

Taking Pride In America’s LGBT Economy

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Collage with diverse people and "America's LGBT Economy" Title in the middle

Money talks. And now, more than ever, the private sector is listening to the collective voice of the LGBT community. In many ways, our dollar is as strong as our votes at the ballot box.

We have fought hard to secure our rights in the name of equality, but our true equity and ability to bring about change for our community lies with our economic power. Our buying power and impact on the nation’s gross domestic product have given us tremendous leverage to advance political advocacy and global human rights.

As is true with our social visibility, our economic visibility is essential in building a diverse and inclusive society — and the power of the LGBT dollar is becoming more and more visible every day.

That was the impetus for the formation of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce nearly 20 years ago. In 2002, we realized no one had truly considered the economic equality of LGBT people or the impact economics could have on the equality movement. With over 1.4 million LGBT business owners (and growing) behind us, we have seen the LGBT community earn its place at the table of economic opportunity. And it’s not just the Fortune 500 who are actively marketing to, partnering with, and procuring from the LGBT business community. Thanks to NGLCC’s public policy leadership, over thirty state, county, and local governments are welcoming our community’s businesses as an essential part of an equitable COVID-19 recovery.

Two decades ago, slapping a rainbow on a liquor bottle for one month of the year was enough for a brand to consider themselves “gay-friendly.” Findings from LGBT economic experts, however, have taught corporations the value of LGBT brand loyalty. More than 75 percent of LGBT adults and their friends, family, and relatives say they would switch to brands that are known to be LGBT friendly. In 2017 alone, the LGBT consumer buying power was over $917 billion. But we are so much more than just consumers.

If the total contributed value of the estimated 1.4 million American LGBT business owners is considered, our input to the economy is over $1.7 trillion. That would make LGBT Americans the 10th largest economy in the world.

Furthermore, our community’s businesses grow larger and last longer than others in the United States. On average, American small businesses fail around the five-year mark, but NGLCC’s certified LGBT-owned business enterprises average over twice that, with at least 12 years in business.

These LGBT-owned businesses are also powerful job creators: 900 LGBT-owned companies we studied created an estimated 33,000 jobs. LGBT entrepreneurs are committed to hiring greater numbers of LGBT employees and ensuring their own supply chains are as diverse as possible. Business leaders in our community continually redefine industries and shatter stereotypes. From technology firms to local restaurants and retail shops, we are proving every day that if you buy it, an LGBT-owned business can supply it.

When you look at a price tag, look for an indication that the company is an LGBT-inclusive corporation or an NGLCC Certified Business Enterprise. It has never been easier to go online or check with your local LGBT chamber of commerce to make sure you support the brands that have our community’s back. If you are an LGBT business owner and not yet certified as one, you’re leaving opportunities on the table to help your business and be counted as part of our LGBT global economy. You could join our ranks as a role model, job creator, and future LGBT business success story.

When it comes to diverse communities — LGBT people, women, people of color, people with disabilities, and more — we must stand in solidarity as a business force. We have never seen greater cooperation and solidarity than we have in recent months. And a great deal of that is due to the recognition that LGBT people are also part of every other community.

Use the LGBT community’s trillion-dollar clout to make a difference. Support your community when you shop, seek out LGBT-owned businesses when you invest and stand by those who stand with us. The LGBT community is an economic force to be reckoned with — and every one of us plays a part in it.

Read the report at Nglcc.org/report.


JUSTIN NELSON and CHANCE MITCHELL are cofounders of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). NGLCC is the business voice of the LGBT community, the largest global advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people, and the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses. www.nglcc.org @nglcc

Rihanna releases first Savage X Fenty Pride collection

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Rihanna attends a Fenty event in February 2020 in an orange turtle neck

By Melissa Minton, Page Six

Rihanna is starting off Pride Month with a bang. The pop star’s Savage X Fenty lingerie brand launched its first-ever Pride collection on Tuesday, along with an accompanying campaign. “Pride is all about appreciating your authentic self,” Rihanna, 33, said in a statement. “I am very excited about this collection and showing love and support to the LGBTQIA+ community, which includes so many of our customers, team members and fans.”

Just last September, Savage X Fenty — which is now valued at more than $1 billion — announced an expansion into styles for men. The brand’s star-studded Pride campaign features model couple Ahmad Kanu and Rahquise Bowen, artist Aya Brown, plus-size model and dancer Dexter Mayfield, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Gigi Goode, transgender influencer Jaslene Whiterose, Fenty Skin model Jazzelle Zanaughtti, Rihanna’s personal hairstylist Yusef Williams and more.

Available in sizes from 30A to 42H and XS to 3X, the collection includes smoking jackets, jock straps, crop tops, hosiery, boxer briefs and even a whip. Prices range from $16.95 to $69.95, with purchases from the line supporting LGBTQ+ organizations including GLAAD, the Audre Lorde Project, The Caribbean Equality Project, INC., Trans Latin@ Coalition and the Trans Wellness Center.

Click here to read the full article on Page Six.

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