Hennessy Announces $1MM Acceleration Fund to Champion Next Generation of Black Entrepreneurs

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Narrated by legendary recording artist, philanthropist and venture capitalist Nas, new “Dear Destiny” focuses on Black excellence, referencing the vision, ambition, creation and evolution of Black Wall Street from Tulsa 1921 into the year 2021.

SOURCE Hennessy

NEW YORKMarch 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Hennessy, the world’s best-selling cognac, today unveils the “Never Stop Never Settle Society,” a comprehensive growth accelerator co-created with the Marcus Graham Project (MGP) to ensure a more equitable landscape for Black entrepreneurship. To introduce the initiative, new “Dear Destiny” creative produced by UNINTERRUPTED and featuring hip-hop legend Nas debuted on March 27th during the 52nd NAACP Image Awards on BET, placing the spotlight on the legacy of Black Wall Street.

“The ‘Never Stop Never Settle Society’ builds on Hennessy’s long-standing commitment to Black communities and ongoing mission to champion cultural diversity by pushing the limits of potential for Black entrepreneurs,” says Jasmin Allen, Senior Vice President, Hennessy US. “We aim to expand on that legacy in the most impactful and meaningful ways by providing access to capital and resources to those demonstrating the ability to reshape Black communities through social impact.”

PHOTO : PRNewswire

With respect to past models of community-built success including Tulsa’s Greenwood District, the “Never Stop Never Settle Society” was instituted to provide Black entrepreneurs with high-impact funding, resources, and infrastructure to further their journeys and ultimately transform communities.

Hennessy will accept applications starting Tuesday, April 6th, awarding a number of member benefits to qualified applicants:

  • Lump sum funds in the amount of $50K will be administered to selected ventures with potential to reshape the world through social impact
  • Access to The Gathering Spot Connect, a Black-owned digital hub offering networking, education, and business development resources
  • Growth opportunities at the program’s physical footprint and state-of-the-art office at Moët Hennessy’s headquarters in New York City. Debuting late 2021, the space will offer scheduled access to a content studio, along with a compelling slate of educational programming and leadership engagement for business mentorship

Moët Hennessy USA executives and partners including the Marcus Graham Project will co-create program elements, evaluate proposals, and select the curated group of Black entrepreneurs whose visions will be accelerated. Leadership will also further aid member journeys, helping to evolve early business ventures over time.

“Some of the most powerful leaders and creators in the Black community are entrepreneurs creating jobs, rich legacies, and taking ownership of new paths. Access to capital resources to allow for authentic growth has traditionally been a barrier,” says Lincoln Stephens, Co-Founder and CEO of the Marcus Graham Project (MGP). “For over a century now, Hennessy’s participation in the Black community has transcended typical corporate action, and I’m excited to be part of this next chapter that substantively uplifts entrepreneurship as a means towards closing the wealth disparity.”

As one of the first corporate sponsors of the NAACP, Hennessy unveiled the program during the 52nd NAACP Image Awards, bringing its history with the organization full circle. Legendary recording artist, philanthropist, and venture capitalist Nas presented the first-ever “Never Stop, Never Settle” Award, a celebration of Black entrepreneurship, to former WNBA player-turned-owner and executive, Renee Montgomery. The evening also kicked off a cross-platform rollout for “Dear Destiny,” Hennessy’s new creative featuring the Grammy Award Winning artist and created and produced by UNINTERRUPTED, referencing the vision, ambition, creation, and evolution of Black Wall Street from Tulsa 1921 into the year 2021.

“A narrative about family, legacy, entrepreneurship and empowerment, Dear Destiny is a message to my daughter Destiny, and in many ways, the entire Black community. Inspired by Tulsa’s hub of cultural activity and community-built success, it pays homage to the Black creativity and wealth that thrived during this time in history,” says voiceover artist and Hennessy Ambassador, Nas. “Nearing the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, I believe the powerful spirit of Black Wall Street is still strong and can be revived with programs like Hennessy’s “Never Stop Never Settle Society.”

Applications for Hennessy’s “Never Stop Never Settle Society” will open on Tuesday, April 6th. For additional information on eligibility and membership benefits, please visit NeverStopNeverSettle.org.

ABOUT HENNESSY
The leader in Cognac, the Maison Hennessy has shined around the world with its exceptional blends for more than 250 years. Built on founder Richard Hennessy’s spirit of conquest, the brand is present in more than 160 countries. Based in the heart of the Charente region, Hennessy is also a steadfast pillar of the regional economy, the standard-bearer for a sector rich in expertise. The House’s success and longevity are rooted in the excellence of its cognacs, each of which is born of a unique process of transmission from generation to generation. The first wine and spirits house to be certified ISO 14001, Hennessy unites its capacity for innovation and the support of all of its partners to protect this exceptional area. As the crown jewel of the LVMH Group, Hennessy is a major contributor to French international trade, with 99% of production sold in export, and a worldwide ambassador for the French art de vivre.

Hennessy is imported and distributed in the U.S. by Moët Hennessy USA. Hennessy distills, ages and blends spanning a full range: Hennessy V.S, V.S.O.P Privilège, Hennessy Black, X.O, Privé, Paradis, Paradis Imperial and Richard Hennessy. Imported Cognac Hennessy® 40% Alc./Vol. (80º), ©2021 Imported by Moët Hennessy USA, Inc., New York, NY.

ABOUT MARCUS GRAHAM PROJECT (MGP)
Founded nearly 15 years ago, the Marcus Graham Project (MGP) is a national organization focused on developing the next generation of diverse leaders in the advertising, media, and marketing industries through training, mentorship, and professional development opportunities to ensure the industry is more inclusive to better reflect the diverse world we live in.

ABOUT UNINTERRUPTED, PART OF THE SPRINGHILL COMPANY
The SpringHill Company is a global consumer and entertainment brand created to empower greatness in every individual. The SpringHill Company unites three companies built by LeBron James and Maverick Carter: UNINTERRUPTED, the athlete empowerment media, experiences  and consumer product company, SpringHill Entertainment, the premium scripted and unscripted film and television production company and The Robot Company, the brand and culture consultancy. With a dynamic and diverse team committed to creating the most culturally inspired content, entertainment and products, The SpringHill Company is built to be the defining brand for a new generation.

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.

Target says it will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025

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People stand in line at Target in Kips Bay during the coronavirus pandemic on April 14, 2020 in New York City.

By Melissa Repko, CNBC

Target said it will hire more Black-owned companies, launch a program to identify and support promising minority entrepreneurs and add products from more than 500 Black-owned brands to its shelves or website.

Altogether, the discounter said Wednesday, it will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025.

“We have a rich history of working with diverse businesses, but there’s more we can do to spark change across the retail industry, support the Black community and ensure Black guests feel welcomed and represented when they shop at Target,” chief growth officer Christina Hennington said in a news release.

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and protests across the country have ratcheted up pressure on corporate leaders to advance racial equity and do more than simply cut a check — or risk losing business. The uneven death toll of the coronavirus pandemic and financial toll of the recession also spotlighted the country’s sharp racial disparities with health care and economic opportunity.

Floyd was killed in Target’s hometown of Minneapolis, now the site of the murder trial for the police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck. One Target store, located near the site of Floyd’s death, had to be completely rebuilt and some of its other stores were damaged during rioting.

Companies have spoken out about diversity and inclusion as consumers pay attention and some direct their dollars toward businesses that align with their values. Generation Z — the group of teens and early 20-somethings who are aging into shopping and establishing relationships with brands — care more about social justice compared with former generations, according to an annual survey of teens by Piper Sandler released Wednesday. Teens surveyed by the firm ranked racial equity as their most important political and social issue, followed by the environment and Black Lives Matter.

Over the past year, major retailers like Nike, Walmart and Ulta Beauty have rolled out their own pledges, such as devoting more shelf space to Black-owned products, evaluating how they hire and promote employees, featuring more Black people in their ads and reducing the number of police or security in stores to prevent racial profiling. A growing number of retailers, including Macy’s, Sephora and Gap, have signed on to the 15 Percent Pledge, which aims to make Black-owned products on store shelves proportional to the country’s Black population.

Among Target’s changes, the retailer said it will more actively seek out advertising firms, suppliers, construction companies and other kinds of businesses that are Black-owned. It said it will create a program called Forward Founders for early-stage start-ups led by Black entrepreneurs to help them develop, test and scale products to sell at mass retailers like Target. It will be modeled off of Target Accelerators, a program for start-ups that the retailer uses to foster up-and-coming brands and ultimately, to sell fresh and exclusive products that attract customers and help it differentiate from competitors.

In some categories, such as beauty, Target said it already has 50 Black-owned and Black-founded brands — but would like to add more for other kinds of merchandise.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Supporting an inclusive economy: small businesses, Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, and their intersection

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Business man analyzing investment graph and discussing plan in m

For many of us, connections to small businesses are deeply personal—your local barber shop or family dentist, the spot for the best pizza in town, the small contractor you call to fix your leak.

Businesses like these make up the fabric of our communities—but many don’t realize what a big role they play, collectively, in the U.S. economy.

However, they face unique challenges even in the strongest of times and now, amidst the covid-19 pandemic, many small businesses are struggling to survive.

The situation at hand

JPMorgan Chase Institute research found that prior to the covid-19 pandemic, typical small businesses had only enough cash on hand to keep the lights on for two to three weeks. This was even more pronounced for small businesses in majority-Black and Latinx communities, where the typical business had only one to two weeks of reserves.

Interestingly, researchers found that in the Fall of 2020, many small businesses actually had cash reserves at higher levels than normal. This seems like great news—but when you look under the hood, the situation is more precarious. [3]

There are two factors to explain the elevated reserves: 1) an injection of cash from federal and local policy shored up many of the businesses likely to face a shortfall, and 2) a decision many businesses made to delay or dial back payments on things like upkeep of key assets, limiting wages or employee benefits, or other choices that may not be financially healthy in the months or years ahead.[4]

So, while cash balances are larger than usual, they may not be enough for small businesses to continue to survive in these tumultuous times. Expenses have already begun to outpace revenue. This trend could have a disproportionate impact on Black- and Latinx-owned companies, that tend to experience lower revenues and profit margins compared to white-owned counterparts.[5]

Help in many forms

Many small businesses face similar challenges: lack of access to capital and resources to grow. However, businesses owned by people of color and other underserved groups face these challenges more acutely. For example, according to the JPMorgan Chase Institute, Black, Latinx and women-owned small businesses are underrepresented among firms with substantial external financing. While there are no simple solutions, business, government and nonprofit leaders should work together to support, sustain and grow these critical enterprises.

For example, December’s $900 billion stimulus package included a second infusion of PPP funds, with $12 billion set aside for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).

While the terms might be unfamiliar, you likely already know your local CDFI or MDI. Some local banks or credit unions might fall into this category.

An MDI is a bank whose ownership or leadership is made up of a majority of people of color. CDFIs are community lenders, which primarily finance in low- and moderate-income communities and focus on small businesses, as well as affordable housing and nonprofits. Both MDIs and CDFIs earn these designations from the federal government, due to the vital financial services they provide in communities that are often underserved. CDFIs in particular are designed to meet these needs by offering capital and guidance to help ensure the success of vulnerable businesses. We think that’s a winning combination.

But MDIs and CDFIs need banks to provide additional capital to fund this critical work in communities. Here’s where JPMorgan Chase comes in.

Part of the solution

We believe that business has a role to play in addressing societal issues, along with business and community leaders. JPMorgan Chase is committed to building a more inclusive economy and our support for small business, especially in Black and Latinx communities, is a critical element of this work.

That’s why, in February, the firm announced new initiatives focused on providing MDIs and diverse-led CDFIs with additional access to capital, connections to institutional investors, specialty support for Black-led commercial projects, and mentorship and training opportunities. Initial investments and commitments to minority-owned and Black-led MDIs included Liberty Bank and Trust, M&F Bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank and Broadway Federal Bank. The firm also committed $42.5 million to expand the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund to reach new U.S. cities in 2021, providing loans and technical assistance to minority-owned small businesses in collaboration with LISC and a network of CDFIs. Since its inception in Detroit in 2015, the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund has deployed more than $32 million to Black, Latinx and other underserved entrepreneurs, including Jimmie Williams from Chicago, who received a small business loan to scale his landscaping company. In addition, we continue our direct support for small business, including through PPP.

This work is part of the $30 billion commitment over five years we announced in October 2020 to provide economic opportunity to underserved communities to help close the racial wealth divide. The firm is continuing to put this commitment into practice by combining our business, policy, data and philanthropic expertise.

We are committing $350 million over five years to help grow Black, Latinx, woman-owned and other underserved small businesses. This includes:

Philanthropy, low-cost loans and direct equity investments: Supporting the signature Ascend Program, helping build the capacity of diverse-led nonprofits across the globe to more effectively support entrepreneurs, and investing in early-stage businesses to help companies drive economic opportunity, including in Black and Latinx communities. Last month we made our initial direct equity investment in Bitwise Industries.
Policy: Releasing new data-driven policy solutions such as increasing resources for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Microloan program, which provides loans of up to $50,000 to help small businesses. The firm will support advancing these policy reforms to help address the immediate and long-term challenges small business owners face.
Supplier diversity: Spending an additional $750 million with Black and Latinx suppliers, and co-investing up to $200 million in middle market businesses that are or will be minority owned via a new initiative with Ariel Alternatives.
Wrap-around support: Launching a nationwide Minority Entrepreneurs program to help entrepreneurs in historically underserved areas access 1:1 coaching, technical assistance and capital.

Together, these commitments will help reduce barriers to capital access and support the growth of thousands of additional underserved businesses.

Read the full article on the Washington Post.

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.

 

Milton Jones of Peachtree Providence Partners Named Chair of UNCF Board

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Headshot of Milton H. Jones

Atlanta business and civic leader Milton H. Jones, Jr. has been elected Chair of the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Board of Directors, becoming the first African American to hold that position.

Jones succeeds William F. Stasior, Sr., retired Chairman and CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton, who served as UNCF’s Chair for 11 years. Former Chairs of the UNCF board include: John D. Rockefeller, III; former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo’s International Food and Beverage Division Michael H. Jordan and former Revlon President and CEO Jack Stahl.

“Since 1944, UNCF has played an integral role in changing the life trajectory for each student it has served, and l look forward to continuing that legacy,” said Milton Jones. “Our member institutions and students remain the focus of our collective efforts. As we progress each year, we will grow our organization by building upon the strong foundation laid at UNCF’s inception and strengthened throughout its history.”

“All of us at UNCF are excited to have Milton become our new Board Chair,” said UNCF President and CEO Michael L. Lomax, who has known and worked with Jones for more than four decades. “Milton brings a wealth of business knowledge and a thoughtful and collaborative leadership approach that will help us thrive and continue to drive UNCF’s and our HBUCs’ impact and growth.”

Angela Webb, founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners said, “We are incredibly proud of Milton as he assumes this role with UNCF. Milton’s life and career are a testament to his devout commitment to helping others and serving the community. We know he will do excellent things and leave a legacy that inspires others to support and revere our country’s HBCUs.”

Walter Davis, founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners said, “Milton has been an indispensable member of our team at Peachtree Providence Partners, so I am certain his time leading with UNCF will prove to be fruitful and inspiring to the young people the organization serves. I look forward to supporting Milton as he advocates for the students and institutions that change the fabric of our nation.”

In this role, Jones will work to grow the UNCF endowment, benefiting the 37 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) belonging to the UNCF network of member institutions.

Prior to his election as Board Chair, Jones served as Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Finance Committee. He has been a member of the UNCF Board since 2005.

Jones is a founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners Holding Company, LLC. In this role, he advises and collaborates with CEOs in key sectors that include financial services, healthcare, technology, government, and higher education. For more than 32 years while at Bank of America, he held a series of senior executive positions with global responsibilities including roles reporting directly to the Chairman and CEO.

Jones is vice chairman of the Meharry Medical College Board of Trustees; treasurer and a board member of 100 Black Men of America; co-chair of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors and serves on the advisory boards of the Metro Atlanta YMCA, Boy Scouts and the Commerce Club. He is a member of the Downtown Atlanta Rotary Club and is a member and past chairman of The Atlanta Business League and of 100 Black Men of Atlanta.

Source: Peachtree Providence Partners

Photo Credit: PRNewswire

‘We Don’t Have The Luxury To Fall Apart’: Black Businesses Get Creative To Survive

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Keitra Bates stands outside of the original location of Marddy's in Atlanta. It's a shared kitchen where home cooks can prepare their goods, and collectively market them.

By Debbie Elliott

Entrepreneur Keitra Bates stands in a gleaming glass-front retail shop in a new development on the south side of Atlanta.

“We’re looking at almost 2,000-sq-ft. of raw space,” she says, pointing out the floor-to-ceiling windows that face onto Atlanta’s popular Beltline, railways converted to trails and parks encircling the city.

Photo Lynsey Weatherspoon for NPR

This will soon be the second location for a business she started called Marddy’s — short for Market Buddies, a shared kitchen where home cooks can prepare their goods, and collectively market them.

Her dream began at a far less glamorous spot in a long-neglected neighborhood west of downtown.

“When I was first standing outside with no keys on Fair Street and a boarded-up door, I would not have guessed this,” Bates says.

“This place is proof that you can save yourself,” she says.

Like many Black-owned businesses, the pandemic had the Atlanta food entrepreneur wondering if her fledgling shared commercial kitchen would survive. Looking back a year later, she says it meant getting creative and doubling-down on her mission of connecting with other Black entrepreneurs in order to thrive, and grow her business.

Creating affordable environment for Black businesses

She acknowledges it’s a big step opening this second location at the new Pittsburgh Yards development.

“There’s no hiding,” she says. “Everything that we say that we are, people can kind of peek in and see, like, are they really making those pies? Yeah, we’re really making the pies.”

Black-owned small businesses have long faced difficult odds whether it’s access to financial capital, or discrimination in contracting. Now, the pandemic has hit them the hardest, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that Black businesses closed at more than twice the rate of white-owned businesses in early 2020.

Pittsburgh Yards is specifically designed to address the obstacles facing Black entrepreneurs. The public-private project converted an old transportation hub into shared working space.

The idea is to create an affordable environment for African American businesses to nurture one another, says Erika Smith with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, (which also sponsors NPR). Smith says Atlanta’s Beltline is an economic generator, but has also fueled gentrification.

“We are realizing in communities where the Beltline is developed, it’s increased the cost of rents for residents and commercial businesses,” Smith says. “So part of the strategy is how can we leverage a physical space like Pittsburgh Yards to also satisfy that business displacement issue.”

“They have a right to survive”

That’s Keitra Bates story. She ran a pizzeria in west Atlanta until revitalization attracted a new landlord who raised her rent. She couldn’t afford to stay open. And she saw other Black-owned businesses priced out as well, closing what had been venues where local home cooks could sell their breads, sauces and pies. She calls them hidden entrepreneurs in danger of being ghosted, along with the traditional flavors of the neighborhood.

Bates is one of the Americans NPR has been following as part of our Kitchen Table Conversations, which started four years ago.

“These people have created a business with their talent and they have a right to survive,” Bates told NPR in 2019 after she got Marddy’s up and running. “Just because there’s new money coming in doesn’t mean that their business should get snuffed out.”

Bates, who is 47, has worked to grow a catering business, aggregating the products her vendors make. About a dozen now use Marddy’s shared kitchen, making products including spices, flavored nuts, and vegan cheese sauce.

Read the full article at NPR.

This New Agency Is Harnessing Data To Improve Black Women’s Access To Wellness

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Jasmine Marie sits at her lap top smiling at her screen. She is sitting at a desk , aside her computer is a plant and behind her is her bed.

By Anna Haines

“Black women aren’t a monolith, representation isn’t enough,” Jasmine Marie, the CEO and founder of Black Girls Breathing, tells Forbes. “We need the data to craft solutions that meet their unique needs.”

Since the company’s inception in 2018, Black Girls Breathing (bgb) has been going beyond their breathwork circles, strategically collecting feedback from their community. Now their new research and creative agency, House of bgb, will be devoted to the research they’ve collected to fill the gap in data on Black women.

PHOTO : SOLOMAN JONES VIA BLACK GIRLS BREATHING

Black women are disproportionately affected by health issues stemming from chronic stress, yet continue to face disparities in accessing wellness services, like breathwork, which can cost upwards of $300 a session. Even for those with insurance coverage, consistent mental health services remain largely inaccessible, says Marie. COVID-19 has not only heightened the financial barriers facing Black women, but made their need for accessible health care even more urgent.

In response to the pandemic, Black Girls Breathing has offered sliding-scale, virtual breathwork classes, and fundraised to provide over one hundred Black women with free breathwork access for one year. But Marie worries these initiatives are not enough—68% of the bgb community has reported that the bgb breathwork circles are the only consistent mental health practice they have. By strategically collaborating with companies that have Black women’s best interests in mind, House of bgb plans to make Black women’s access to mental health services sustainable.

“We’re keeping it all in the family, building this community and making companies rise to the occasion, not just leeching on our culture but working with us in the right way,” says Marie. She wants to set a new bar for representation, insisting House of bgb will only work with companies who demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving health outcomes for Black women. Whether it’s custom research or developing a brand campaign, clients who want to reach this target audience have an incentive to work with House of bgb’s Black-led team because they’ll be “sowing right back to the community,” says Marie. “Black creatives will have jobs to work on and Black women will be able to continue to access breathwork in a free and accessible manner.”

Given that Black women control a major portion of the African-American community’s spending power—estimated to reach $1.5 trillion this year—house of bgb’s ability to collect real-time data on the needs of Black women gives them a competitive edge. They’ve surveyed the bgb community on a wide range of topics, such as job loss, insurance coverage, occupation, stress levels at home and work, and of course, how breathwork has helped participants specifically. Their first white paper summary, “Impact Of COVID-19 And The State Of Black Women’s Mental Health,” released last month, combines these findings with public research to draw new insights on Black women’s unique needs.

House of bgb is just the latest example of Marie’s creative approach to entrepreneurship. “I love the fact that I don’t have a typical mental health background because that’s where innovation begins,” Marie tells Forbes. The bgb founder was working in global brand development when she discovered the healing benefits of breathwork through a pastor at her church in Harlem. “In 2018, I woke up and it was clear in my spirit that I needed to get trained in it,” she says.

Read the full article at Forbes.

Shaquille O’Neal becomes founding partner, investor in new ad agency focused on diversity

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Shaquille O'Neil looking off to his right with his hand pointed forward speaking and wearing a suit and tie

The Wall Street Journal

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal has become known since retiring from the game for his prolific work as a celebrity pitchman, working in front of the camera to help brands including Papa John’s and Frosted Flakes win customers.

In his latest venture, he’ll be working with marketers behind the scenes.

Image: Courtesy of Twitter

Mr. O’Neal is becoming a founding partner and investor in Majority, a new ad agency focused on serving up talent of diverse backgrounds. The agency arrives as Madison Avenue grapples with a history of inequity amid the nation’s renewed call for social justice, large agencies increasingly take measures to diversify their ranks, and some marketers press agencies to increase the diversity of the teams that work on their accounts.

“Most agencies still struggle to meet a 25% diversity target,” Mr. O’Neal said in a telephone interview. “We want to flip that diversity ratio to turn the minority into the majority.”

The agency plans to hire a diverse pool of talent defined by “black and brown people, women and LGBTQ,” said Omid Farhang, co-founder and chief executive of Majority.

“The goal for our company is to show how creative output changes when you flip that ratio,” Mr. Farhang said. “It’s as much about social equity as a shrewd business decision. Diversity is a competitive advantage. Diversity leads to different kinds of ideas that create different types of cultural discussions.”

The American Association of Advertising Agencies, or 4As, issued a report in September showing that Black and African-American employees make up just 5.8% of the agency business, and of that portion 68% held administrative or entry-level roles. The study, which looked at 165 agencies representing more than 40,000 employees, also found that 8.7% of the sample identified as Hispanic or Latino.

Mr. O’Neal won’t handle day-to-day agency tasks but will support the shop by joining meetings, networking and reaching out to brands and celebrity contacts as needed, he said.

“I’m just motivated to do this in a way to create new opportunities,” said Mr. O’Neal. “A lot of people talk about it. I’m tired of talking about it. I want to do something about it. I just want to make progress.”

Mr. O’Neal has worked with brands for decades, through both endorsement and investment deals. He owns many Papa John’s Pizza and Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises.

He is also looking to purchase Reebok with Authentic Brands Group, where he is a partner, from Adidas AG to revive the brand, he said. In December, Adidas said it is exploring a sale of the U.S. fitness brand.

And last fall he helped form a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, to make acquisitions in the media and technology industries.

Read the original article at Fox Business.

TIAA becomes first Fortune 500 company to appoint two consecutive Black CEOs

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TIAA new female CEO speaking at podium with microphone in her hand wearing a bright blue dress

BY Jordan Williams, The Hill

TIAA on Thursday became the first Fortune 500 company to appoint two consecutive Black CEOs.

The retirement and investment firm announced that it appointed Thasunda Brown Duckett as its new president and CEO effective May 1.

Duckett’s appointment makes her the second Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Walgreens announced late last month that former Starbucks executive Roz Brewer will become its new CEO beginning March 15. 

Duckett is joining the TIAA from JPMorgan Chase, where she was the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking. In that role, she led a banking network of $600 billion in deposits and 4,900 branches.

Duckett will be replacing Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., who previously announced that he will be retiring from the company on March 31. However, he will remain CEO until Duckett assumes the role.

The Executive Leadership Council told The Washington Post that TIAA’s succession is “the only Black CEO to Black CEO transition of this magnitude of which we are aware.” The council told the newspaper that Bernard J. Tyson, the CEO of Kaiser Permanente’s CEO who passed away last year, was replaced by another Black CEO. However, Kaiser is not a Fortune 500 corporation.

Read the complete article at The Hill

Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black Aims to Scale Sustainable Minority-Owned Businesses & Close the Racial Wealth Gap

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Business man analyzing investment graph and discussing plan in m

Ariel Investments, LLC (“Ariel”) today announced the launch of Ariel Alternatives, LLC (“Ariel Alternatives” or the “firm”), a private asset management firm.

This announcement marks Ariel Investments’ first foray into the private investment sphere in its 38-year history.

Ariel Alternatives’ initial strategic initiative (“Project Black” or “the initiative”) will have a mission to scale sustainable minority-owned businesses. Through this effort, Ariel Alternatives intends to invest in middle-market companies that are not currently minority owned, transforming these entities into certified minority business enterprises, as well as existing Black and Latinx-owned businesses. Project Black will forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. The initiative will seek to position these companies as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies – supporting supply chain diversity. Project Black aims to close the racial wealth gap by generating jobs, economic growth and equality within underrepresented populations from the entry level to the boardroom.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (“JPMorgan”) has committed up to $200 million to be co-invested alongside Project Black for future transactions. This commitment is part of JPMorgan’s previously announced plan to invest $30 billion to advance racial equity. Over the next five years, JPMorgan will seek to provide economic opportunity to Black and Latinx communities by: promoting and expanding affordable housing and homeownership; growing Black and Latinx-owned businesses; improving financial health and access to banking; and investing in a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

The Co-Founders of Ariel Alternatives are Leslie A. Brun and Mellody Hobson. Brun will serve as Chairman and CEO of Ariel Alternatives and will lead the Project Black team. Brun is an executive with over 40 years of expertise in investment banking, commercial banking and financial advisory services. He is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Hamilton Lane, one of the largest global investment managers providing private markets solutions with over $500 billion in assets under management and supervision. Brun is also Chairman of the board of directors of CDK Global, lead independent director of Merck & Co., Inc. and Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., and a director of Corning, Inc. and Ariel Investments, LLC. Hobson continues in her current role as Co-CEO, President and director of Ariel Investments, LLC and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust. She is also Vice Chair and incoming Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation, and a director of JPMorgan Chase.

Leslie A. Brun commented: “It is no secret that the racial wealth gap in America continues to widen, day by day. While we have been encouraged and inspired by the supply chain diversity commitments recently made by large corporations, we believe that it is time to accelerate these promises with real, measurable
steps. Our work will aim to bring operational excellence, financial resources, minority ownership and leadership to these companies.”

Ariel Alternatives’ advisory affiliate, Project Black Management Company, LLC, plans to invest in existing standalone companies and corporate divisions in the middle-market that are not currently minority owned, as well as existing Black and Latinx-owned businesses, with $100 million to $1 billion in revenue. Initially, the initiative will pursue 6-10 deal opportunities. Through a rigorous review and direct engagement, Project Black’s investment team researched the needs of Fortune 500 companies across industries. Project Black plans to focus predominately on healthcare, industrial, media and marketing, outsourcing, manufacturing and packaging, technology, transportation and logistics, and financial and professional services. The strategy will continue to be informed by direct engagement with Ariel Alternatives’ network of Fortune 500 companies that are committed to diversifying their vendors. The Project Black investment team believes that through ownership and ongoing counsel, future companies would become scalable platforms with long-term growth potential.

Mellody Hobson continued: “Through Project Black, we plan to ultimately disperse opportunity throughout underrepresented communities. We want to change the narrative and foster true action and demonstrable change. Ariel’s 38-year heritage was built on a patient yet urgent approach to public market investing. The same core values will be brought to Ariel Alternatives in the private investment arena.”

Ariel Alternatives’ investment team will be led by the Co-Founders of Project Black, Frantz Alphonse and Richard Powell, who will also serve as Senior Managing Directors of Ariel Alternatives. Previously, Alphonse and Powell were Co-Founders and Senior Managing Directors of APC Holdings LLC (“APCH”), a private investment and corporate development firm. Alphonse and Powell will partner with Ariel Alternatives and Project Black Senior Managing Director Charles Corpening. Previously, Corpening served as Chairman of Joshua Partners, a private equity firm, and he was a longtime co-investor and Senior Advisor to APCH. These three senior team members have worked in similar markets over decades and bring deep relationships with Fortune 500 C-Suite executives, board members and purchasing officers. This investment team has gleaned insights through extensive research that will inform the firm’s targeted investment approach.

Ariel Alternatives will also leverage strategic counsel from its advisory board on an ongoing basis.

This group has served on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies, and advised on several M&A transactions:
• Paget L. Alves: Former Chief Sales Officer and President of Business Markets Group, Sprint Corp; Board member of Assurant, Inc., International Game Technology PLC, Synchrony Financial, Yum! Brands, Inc. and Ariel Investments, LLC
• James Bell: Former CFO, Boeing Co.; Board member of Apple Inc., CDW Corp. and Dow Inc.
• William M. Lewis, Jr.: Managing Director and Chairman of Investment Banking, Lazard Ltd; Board member of Ariel Investment Trust
• Robbie Robinson: Co-Founder and CEO, Pendulum Holdings, LLC; former partner at BDT Capital Partners
• John W. Rogers, Jr.: Co-CEO, Chief Investment Officer and Director, Ariel Investments, LLC; Board member of The New York Times Company, Nike, Inc., McDonald’s Corporation and Ariel Investment Trust
• David J. Vitale: Former Vice Chairman of Bank One Corp.; Board member of United Airlines Holdings, Inc., several Duff & Phelps investment company funds and Ariel Investments, LLC

Ariel Investments was advised by Kirkland & Ellis LLP on the creation of Ariel Alternatives.

About Ariel Alternatives, LLC
Ariel Alternatives, LLC is a private asset management firm affiliated with Ariel Investments, LLC. It is an enterprise newly conceived for the times, built on a 38-year-old foundation. The firm’s initial initiative, Project Black, will have a mission to scale sustainable minority-owned businesses which will serve as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies – supporting supply chain diversity. Project Black plans to close the racial wealth gap by aiming to generate jobs and economic growth within underrepresented communities. The initiative plans to invest in businesses that are not currently minority owned, as well as existing minority-owned businesses, forging a new class of Black and brown entrepreneurs. Over the next decade, Project Black hopes to create 100,000 new jobs in disproportionately underrepresented minority communities across 6-10 companies. With scale, Black and brown wealth would grow from the entry level to the boardroom.

For more information, please visit Ariel Alternatives’ website at arielalternatives.com.

About Ariel Investments, LLC
Ariel Investments, LLC is a global value-based asset management firm founded in 1983. Ariel is headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Sydney. As of January 31, 2021, Ariel’s firm-wide assets under management totaled approximately $15 billion. Ariel serves individual and institutional investors through five no-load mutual funds and 11 separate account strategies.

For more information, please visit Ariel’s website at arielinvestments.com.

Walgreens’ new CEO Roz Brewer on bias in the C-suite: ‘When you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot’

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Rosalind Brewer standing on stage clapping hands smiling warmly to audience

Originally posted by Courtney Connley CNBC

Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Rosalind Brewer is continuing to blaze new trails in corporate America.

At the end of February, Brewer, who is the coffeehouse company’s first Black and first female COO, will be leaving her position to serve as CEO of drugstore chain Walgreens. In this new role, she will be the only Black woman currently serving as a Fortune 500 CEO, and just the third Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 firm in history. Ursula Burns, who served as the CEO of Xerox between 2009 and 2016 was the first, and Mary Winston, who served as interim CEO at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2019, was the second.

Photo Credit: Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer, president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, speaks during the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Sarah Bentham | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Prior to joining Starbucks in 2017, Brewer spent five years as the CEO of Sam’s Club, which is owned by Walmart. As a longtime executive in corporate America, she’s spoken openly about the bias and challenges she’s faced as one of very few Black women in the C-suite.

“When you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot,” she said during a 2018 speech at her alma mater Spelman College, which is an all-women HBCU. “You get mistaken as someone who could actually not have that top job. Sometimes you’re mistaken for kitchen help. Sometimes people assume you’re in the wrong place, and all I can think in the back of my head is, ‘No, you’re in the wrong place.’”

During the speech, Brewer recalled the time she was invited to an exclusive CEO roundtable in New York City when she was serving as the CEO of Sam’s Club. During the reception, she said, she met a fellow CEO and introduced herself in the same way the other men in the room had introduced themselves, “Roz Brewer of Sam’s Club.” After exchanging introductions, she said the fellow CEO asked her what she did at the company and proceeded to ask if she led marketing. Puzzled by the question as the invitation to the event stated that it was a roundtable for CEOs, Brewer says she responded by saying, “No, that’s part of my organization.”

After the man continued the conversation by asking if she worked in merchandising, Brewer said she gave the fellow CEO a “side-eye” as she was actually serving as the keynote for the event. “I enjoyed the look on his face when my bio was read,” she said. “It was a good day.”

Brewer, who was listed at No. 48 on Forbes 2020 Power Women list, explained that the CEO roundtable was one of many incidents in which she’s encountered bias inside and outside of work. “If there is a place where bias doesn’t exist, I have not found it,” she said.

Recognizing that many women experience bias and gender discrimination in the workplace, Brewer said that her biggest message to women in business is to “stay steadfast” and know that “your voice matters.”

Read the complete article here.

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