5 Business Strategies You Need to Know Today

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Confident Businessman. Happy african guy smiling at camera working at office. Panorama, free space

By Mark Quadros

Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected 76.2 percent of U.S. businesses. COVID-19 impacted most of these businesses negatively, disrupting everything from their supply chains to their in-store sales.

So, if you’re one of these business owners, how can you adjust your operation to thrive during lockdowns, stay open for customers and keep staff engaged?

Here are five COVID-19-involved business strategies to help small businesses survive the pandemic:

Redefine your business growth opportunities

The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown measures have disrupted many significant industries, including the hospitality industry, retail industry and entertainment industry. Naturally, companies in these fields have changed how they deliver their products and services to customers to continue growing.

But redefining your opportunities isn’t just limited to companies directly affected by lockdowns.

If you want to keep growing during the pandemic, you will need to seek out new ways to improve your profitability, including:

  • Entering new markets
  • Taking out a bridge loan and investing in new projects
  • Adjusting your marketing and sales approaches
  • Targeting new customers
  • Redesigning old processes with new online business tools
  • Forming new partnerships (especially with local suppliers)
  • Finding new ways to improve your offerings for customers

To identify the best opportunity for your brand, you must research potential options, identify the best ones and formalize them with a new business plan. According to this guide to business plans, your business plan should include detailed product and service plans, a market analysis, a management plan and a financial plan for each growth strategy.

Adapt your current business models

Experts predict that coronavirus will continue to spread around the world for the foreseeable future.

Naturally, if your brand wants to survive this new normal, you’ll need to crisis-proof your business so you can continue to operate in the current economic climate. To crisis-proof your business, you should:

  • Measure the damage to your company regularly so you can adapt to potential problems before they arise
  • Back up your data and embrace digital solutions to help staff work from home
  • Prioritize the health and safety of your employees with workplace safety measures like social distancing, hand sanitizer and masks
  • Reduce your cash flow to only essential expenses
  • Adjust how you deliver products and services to customers to ensure their safety when shopping
  • Re-organize your work processes to prioritize key functions (e.g., by redefining customer support)
  • Establish contingency plans for further lockdowns and pandemic restrictions

If you are self-employed or a small business owner, you could also take out a personal loan to keep your business’s cash flow steady as you adjust your business models.

Rethink your financial structure

A 2020 study on 5,800 small businesses from the U.S. found that the average brand with over $10,000 in expenses only had access to two weeks of cash at the start of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, many of these companies had to adapt their spending habits to survive.

And the rest of us should learn from them.

To keep your brand alive during the pandemic, you will need to establish an emergency fund to cover any unexpected events (like lockdowns). You can build an emergency fund by saving the money you would have spent on unnecessary expenses.

To identify unnecessary expenses, sort your expenses into two key categories:

  • Value-adding expenses that are crucial to running the business (i.e., expenses like supplier costs, inventory acquisition costs, online advertising, staff wages and technology costs)
  • Extra expenses that are not crucial to running the business (i e., additional office space, extra professional training and food/drinks)

Once you have sorted your expenses, identify expenses you can eliminate to reduce your operating budget and make cuts according to your priorities.

Retrain your workforce

While it may seem wise to fire non-essential staff and redirect their salaries into your emergency fund, this decision may hurt your business financially long term. Currently, it costs $4,425 to hire the average employee and weeks to train and acclimate them. To avoid incurring this cost later, retrain your workforce and adjust their duties to match your new business model.

You should also consider ways to improve your employee’s productivity (the quantity of their work) and efficiency (the quality of their work). Improving productivity and efficiency will increase your business’s output, increasing your revenue and decreasing your expenses.

To improve efficiency, you can use a productivity formula and calculate your current figures:

Productivity = Total Output / Total Input

Efficiency = (Standard Hours Spent On Task / Actual Amount of Time Spent on Task) x 100

Then, brainstorm business-specific ways to improve productivity and efficiency.

Build meaningful relationships

Finally, you should prioritize maintaining good relationships with your customers. As research shows that the top 10 percent of customers spend three times more per transaction than the bottom 10 percent, maintaining a relationship with loyal customers will increase your revenue.

To maintain a connection with customers, you could:

  • Set up social media accounts and encourage customers to send you User-Generated Content (UGC)
  • Establish a customer loyalty program to keep customers happy
  • Improve your email marketing
  • Send digital ‘thank-you’ cards to customers
  • Offer special discounts to loyal customers
  • Improve your digital customer service practices
  • Convey your COVID-19 safety measures to customers with a poster

New normal, business

Periods of economic are very stressful for companies, but they frequently result in long-term growth and new industry-wide trends. For example, people often credit the fast rise of eCommerce to the 2003 SARS outbreak in China or the rise in click-and-collect to the early months of COVID-19.

If you follow the tips in this guide, your company can emerge from COVID-19 stronger and more profitable than ever before.

Source: Score

How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business

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female business owner arms crossed and smiling

How To Become An MBE

Minority-owned businesses are on the move. There are now more than four million minority-owned companies in the U.S., with annual sales totaling close to $700 billion. According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship minority businesses have created 4.7 million jobs in the U.S over the past 10 years.

In a climate of intense awareness for the fair treatment of all minorities, getting your business officially certified as minority-owned can open important contract opportunities.

In the spirit of equalizing opportunities, federal, state and local governments and big corporations reserve a percentage of their contracts exclusively for minority-owned businesses. To get your share of the contract pie, however, your business needs to be officially certified as a minority-owned business. Here’s how you can get certified. 

National Minority Supplier Development Council

The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is a membership organization comprised of small minority-owned businesses and large corporate businesses, both public and privately-owned. With 23 affiliate regional councils nationwide and 1,450 corporate members, the NMSDC’s mission is to promote supplier diversity through education and connect corporate members with minority-owned businesses.

The NMSDC also offers an official certification process for minority-owned businesses.

Does Your Business Qualify?

To qualify for certification, you must meet these qualifications:

  • The business owners must be U.S. citizens
  • The business must be at least 51 percent minority-owned, operated and controlled. (Per the NMSDC, a minority must be at least 25 percent Asian, Black, Hispanic or Native American. Also, minority eligibility is established through screenings, interviews and site visits. For publicly-owned businesses, at least 51 percent of the stock must be owned by one or more minority group members.)
  • The business must be for-profit and physically located in the U. S. or its territories.
  • The minority owners must also participate in the daily management and operations of the business.

Start Locally

Although the organization’s headquarters is located in New York, the NMSDC requires applicants to register and fill out the online application on the website of the regional NMSDC affiliate closest to their business.

Before you start the application, make sure you’ve gathered the required documentation (requirements vary by business type). You’ll need:

  • Your business history
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Stock certificates and stock ledger
  • Minutes to the board of director’s and shareholder meetings
  • Corporation bylaws and amendments
  • Any agreements and documents regarding ownership, operation, and control of the business
  • Identification documents for all principals including business cards, resumes, driver’s licenses and proof of U.S. citizenship (birth certificates or U.S. passports only)
  • Corporate bank resolution agreements and bank signature cards
  • Business lease agreements/security deeds
  • Proof of general liability insurance and bonding if applicable
  • Copies of the businesses’ canceled checks

Don’t worry about completing the online application all in one sitting — you can save your progress along the way and return to the application at your convenience.

When you submit the application, you’ll be asked to pay an application fee, the amount of which varies by region. 

What’s Next?

Once you’ve uploaded the required documentation through the online portal, you’ll be asked to schedule a site visit and interview. Then you can expect an NMSDC Certification Specialist to reach out for confirmation.

Typically, the certification review process can take up to 90 days to complete, although you’ll need to check with your regional office to see how the process time frame has been affected by the pandemic.

Your application will be reviewed by the NMSDC’s Certification Committee and then submitted to the Board for final approval. The Board reviews the Certification Committee’s recommendation and then makes the final decision. Once your application is approved, you’ll be notified via e-mail and postal mail. The certification is then required to be re-certified annually by providing current tax forms and any changes in contact information.

If your application is not approved, you can file an appeal with the Board.

Finding Opportunities

Becoming an official Minority Business Executive (MBE) then allows your business to participate and take advantage of the many networking and educational programs provided by the NMSDC. Check with your regional office about business opportunity fairs, leadership training, and networking opportunities.

For federal and state contracting opportunities, go to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) contracting website. Here you’ll find a large number of helpful links to procurement opportunities nationally and locally, plus helpful guides on how to bid for them.

The official website for federal contracts is called SAM. You need to register your business there so you can bid and receive contracting notices.

Don’t limit yourself to government and corporate contracts. Once you’re certified, make sure you note your business is minority-owned on all your marketing vehicles, including your website, brochures, email newsletters, etc. You never know who is on the lookout to support your minority-owned company by sending business your way.

Source: Score

Less Than 1% of Hotel Owners Are Black Women. This 34-Year-Old Is Changing the Game

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34-year-old Davonne Reaves says she became the youngest Black female hotel owner under a major chain.

By , Next Advisor

Davonne Reaves is not your typical 34-year-old.

Last year, Reaves and her former college roommate turned business partner, Jessica Myers, brokered a historic $8.3 million deal to acquire a Hilton hotel.

Through this deal, Reaves says they became the youngest Black women to co-own a hotel under a major hotel chain.

Investing in a hotel may seem like a faraway dream, and for most Black people, it’s an even bigger stretch. “Only 2% of hotel owners are African-Americans, and less than 1% are Black women,” said Reaves. But she is determined to change the narrative.

Reaves is a 14-year veteran of the hospitality industry, and in 2017 founded The Vonne Group, which provides coaching, courses, and advice about hotel investing, raising capital, and becoming a hotel owner. Reaves also sits on the board of her alma mater, Georgia State University’s Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality. But her path hasn’t been without challenges.

From Front Desk Agent to Hotel Owner
While attending college, Reaves worked as a front desk agent at a Hyatt hotel in Atlanta, which sparked her interest in hospitality. After graduating with a degree in sociology, she wanted to explore the corporate side of the business, but felt she lacked the financial skills that would make her a strong candidate for certain positions. Reaves accepted an unpaid internship to learn the skills she needed.

“That was my introduction to financial analysis, feasibility studies, and the investment side of hotels,” she said.

In 2017, after a few years in Boston and several positions with different organizations, Reaves took the biggest risk of her career and left the corporate world. “I’m continuously building other people’s brands, making other people wealthy,” she said, which led to a realization: “Why don’t I take that same initiative, drive, passion, hard work ethic and put it within my company?”

Reaves now lives in Atlanta and in 2019, she partnered with Jessica Myers to form the Epiq Collective, a real estate venture which pools community resources together to invest in commercial real estate deals. Through Epiq Collective, and in partnership with Nassau Investments, Reaves and Myers closed the deal to acquire a Home2 Suites by Hilton in El Reno, Oklahoma, in 2020.

Hotel Ownership as a Black Woman
At the Vonne Group, Reaves kickstarted the 221 initiative, her mission to create 221 Black hotel owners and investors in 2021. “I hope my story will inspire people to not only think big, but also think about hotel investing and ownership as a possibility,” she said.

Outside of buying a hotel, there are other ways to invest, like hotel real estate investments trusts (REITs), which allow investors to add hotels to their portfolio in a similar way they would add stocks or bonds. “I want more people to look at hotel investing as a way to diversify their retirement portfolio and build generational wealth,” she said.

According to the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), Black people hold 1.5% of positions at the director level and above, with only 0.5% of those positions held by Black women.

Click here to read the full article on Next Advisor.

Black Women Gamers Aren’t Unicorns — They’re The Future

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Gamer Girl and founder of Black Girl Gamers

By Jay-Ann Lopez

Many people still think that being a gamer and a Black woman is a juxtaposition. It’s not. We’re not unicorns. Just like in any other industry, there are content creators, industry professionals, and consumers, and Black women can be found in all of these categories — but they’re often overlooked, underestimated, or outright ignored. So Black women are taking their spot in gaming for themselves.

If you’re not familiar with gaming, let me briefly explain how we got here. Gaming started with simplistic classics like Pong, and in their infancy, games were aimed at a broad audience who just wanted to play and have fun. But after the video game crash in the 1980s, the industry essentially said, “Fuck it, let’s just focus on white men and boys.” And after decades of game creation and marketing geared toward men, here we are in 2021, with the majority of the highest paid gamers being white men. Not to mention that the workforce in the industry is also dominated by white men. According to jobs site Zippia, 72% of video game developers in the US are men, and 72% of developers are also white. And unfortunately, with this came the foundation of a toxic misogynistic culture, which companies overlooked and sometimes encouraged with their early marketing — just look at one ‘90s Playstation advertisement.

As the social climate changed to become more critical and vocal about racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination, some companies have vowed to change, but only after hitting rock bottom. In July, a lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by the California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged the company long facilitated an environment of harassment, discrimination, and a toxic “‘frat boy’ workplace culture.” The suit led to an outpour of horror stories on social media that exposed what often happens behind game creation. Some triple-A companies have started to hire experienced chief diversity officers, who slowly but surely hope to tackle the ingrained bias internally and in their games.

But many gaming companies are still struggling to hire, and retain, Black employees which means, beyond the marketing, the culture isn’t progressing. Just 6% of video game developers in the US are Black, according to Zippia, so it doesn’t take long to look under the surface and see the dust is still under the rug. Brands are still enabling toxic content creators or work environments where marginalized people can feel as though they are collateral damage as we’ve seen with recent revelations about Activision. There’s still so much to do, and it seems the industry only reacts to current events, such as the murder of George Floyd, rather than plan for a better future. Despite changing demographics and efforts from within to create more inclusive spaces, Black women still aren’t visible and have long been ostracized, ignored, and underpaid.

The space is democratizing. But rather than the companies that make millions, it’s creators-turned-entrepreneurs who are doing the necessary work to address the lack of transparency and seemingly unclosable gaps in gaming.

Click here to read the full article on Refinery29.

Meet The Founder Who Has Helped Women-Owned Businesses Secure Over $14 Million In Funding

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The Founder Who Has Helped Women-Owned Businesses Secure Over $14 Million In Funding

By Pauleanna Reid, Forbes

Black women have outpaced white men in starting a business according to recent studies. Yet despite being among the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs, only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses. This is largely because building a strong, growing entity that has moved past its starting stage requires access to capital. A barrier for growth that highlights the inequities women of colour continue to face in finance. Black women run businesses not only get approved for loans at rates 20 percent lower than men but also receive significantly smaller loan amounts as well.

For Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, a fintech and investing expert and founder of EnrichHER, her mission is to change that. EnrichHER, the only digital lending platform specializing in connecting diverse entrepreneurs to capital, is Novellus’ solution to fuel inclusive economic growth by providing business owners with capital, coaching, and connections.

“I believe that women entrepreneurs are the cornerstones of society; our businesses not only create jobs, but they strengthen economies and sustain whole communities,” states Dr. Novellus.

In 2017, Dr. Novellus founded EnrichHER by gathering 50 organizations in Atlanta to test her idea. The full program launched in February 2019, receiving applications from 3,000 women-led businesses. “EnrichHER is the perfect name because we’re trying to put money into companies that have gender diversity in the leadership position. And by doing so, we’re enriching the business and enriching her,” Dr. Novellus explained. The platform focuses on two different types of customers. One being the funder profile – either an angel investor or a small angel group – that wants to fund a new majority founder. The other funder type is for a larger organization such as PayPal to deploy greater sums of money to well-qualified business owners. Providing the ability to make a financial transaction directly through EnrichHER makes it frictionless for funders to make investments. “Everything is built into our platform, and they can walk away a year later with a principal plus interest payment and knowing that they have funded new majority founders,” stated Dr. Novellus.

In 2017, Dr. Novellus founded EnrichHER by gathering 50 organizations in Atlanta to test her idea. The full program launched in February 2019, receiving applications from 3,000 women-led businesses. “EnrichHER is the perfect name because we’re trying to put money into companies that have gender diversity in the leadership position. And by doing so, we’re enriching the business and enriching her,” Dr. Novellus explained. The platform focuses on two different types of customers. One being the funder profile – either an angel investor or a small angel group – that wants to fund a new majority founder. The other funder type is for a larger organization such as PayPal to deploy greater sums of money to well-qualified business owners. Providing the ability to make a financial transaction directly through EnrichHER makes it frictionless for funders to make investments. “Everything is built into our platform, and they can walk away a year later with a principal plus interest payment and knowing that they have funded new majority founders,” stated Dr. Novellus.

Dr. Novellus is no stranger to gaining access to resources. She is one of very few Black women founders who has raised over $1 million in venture capital. But her journey toward economic empowerment and leveraging the power of investments began when she was just 15 years old. Recognizing that she would require a strategic plan to reach her goals, Dr. Novellus raised over $600,000 in scholarships to fund 11 years of higher education. She achieved this herculean feat by reaching out to over 200 companies to inquire about scholarships. Her persistence worked, and companies decided to invest in her educational goals.

Much of her determination and advocacy for economic equality began with the conversations held in her household growing up. Defying common misconceptions about women and their perceived lack of financial knowledge, Dr. Novellus was taught differently, “My mother always told me that women were the best at managing money and managing finances, even though other people often tell us otherwise. Women are the best because they typically have to manage all the money in every household.” Dr. Novellus’ mother encouraged her daughter to be knowledgeable and feel confident in any kind of financial transaction by giving her hands-on experience from an early age. “Outside of learning how to invest in the stock market at 12, I told my mother that I wanted to do the taxes for our family, so she allowed me to read through the tax books. And she believed that I could do it,” Dr. Novellus explained.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Thriving Black-owned businesses ‘righting the wrongs of the past’ in rural Mississippi

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Kenesha Lewis, 30, opened a juice and smoothie shop in her hometown of Greenville, Miss. where fresh and healthy food options are hard to come by.

By , NPR

In Greenville, Miss., pop. 27,000, a modern, brightly lit juice bar stands out in the small downtown lined with mostly mom and pop businesses and a few taverns near the town’s riverbank casino.

The chorus of friendly, neighborly hellos is a customer favorite, but what’s really turning heads is the owner of Kay’s Kute Fruit, 30 year-old Kenesha Lewis.

“I’m really excited for the young people to walk in, and they say, who’s the owner, and they’re like, what? I had somebody do that to me,” Lewis says laughing.

Growing up here, she can’t recall any prominent Black-owned businesses like hers (today the town is about 81% Black). She and her husband Jason Lewis opened up this brick and mortar last Spring after a few years of making edible fruit arrangements and smoothies and selling them out of their home on the side of their regular jobs.

“Being a young woman here in the Delta, it’s not a lot of health options,” Kenesha says. “It’s not a lot of places you can go and get a healthy wrap and then you can go in the same place and have nice service.”

Indeed, the Delta is known the world over for its delicious comfort food, but fresh produce and even regular grocery stores are few and far between. At Kay’s the blenders appear to always be running, churning up pineapple or mango smoothies with the popular add-ons of chia seeds or turmeric.

“Acai bowls and pitaya bowls, nobody sells that around here,” she says.

Lewis got the idea to start a business after her husband kept getting on her case for eating too much sugar.

“I lost two teeth and he said, ‘wait a minute now, you’re too young to be losing these teeth,'” she recalls, laughing. “[he said] ‘Let’s figure this out.’ So we created smoothies together and I said, okay, this is good for me.”

And it turns out, it was also good for business. Lewis exceeded her projected annual sales in her first month after opening. Growing up, she says people in her community were good entrepreneurs but they usually worked out of their homes. Her mom is a stylist and her dad ran a house painting business.

So, as a Black woman now with a storefront downtown, she sees herself as a role model.

“Our Black people are waking up, they know that they can do this,” Lewis says. “I think that we have helped them to understand that they can do this, they can succeed in this era.”

In this isolated corner of the country, the odds are still stacked against Black women particularly. The mostly rural Mississippi Delta has long been synonymous with racial and economic inequality. Yet today there are a growing number of small, economic bright spots, due in part to a grassroots effort that’s trying to right some of the wrongs of the past.

Hundreds of new Black-owned businesses like Lewis’s are starting to spring up in this region long seen as being dismissed or “forgotten” by outsiders.

The racial and economic disparity goes back decades
Drive south of Memphis, near the massive river levees, and a lot of small town store fronts are boarded up. Some buildings and old homes are condemned or abandoned. Much of this seemingly never-ending, flat expanse of land and its cotton fields is still controlled by white business interests. So when Tim Lampkin, 35, moved back to his hometown of Clarksdale after college and a stint working in corporate America, he had an idea.

“When I came back I noticed that a majority of the businesses in Coahoma County, and particularly where we’re looking at in downtown Clarksdale, are white owned,” Lampkin says. Like in nearby Greenville, more than 80% of Clarksdale’s 15,000 residents are African American.

In 2016, Lampkin started what he calls an economic justice non-profit. Higher Purpose Co. helped Kenesha Lewis in Greenville from start to finish, applying for a loan, prepping her for meetings with bankers. And they follow up frequently with her today, all things Lampkin says would probably be a given for aspiring white business owners in the area.

“If we’re going to make special exceptions for entrepreneurs because, you know, they’re a white farmer and we know their family, why can’t a Black entrepreneur get the same level of access and understanding and patience when it comes to getting access to capital?” Lampkin asks.

A mentorship program Higher Purpose started in late 2019 is now helping some 300 Black entrepreneurs across Mississippi take their business acumen to the next level. The non-profit helps them do things like find grants to cover closing costs or tap into donations and seed money for renting or buying spaces and storefronts.

“Part of this is just evening the playing field for everybody,” Lampkin says.

The disparity here goes back decades. At Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, says the region is a microcosm for the country’s broader racial and economic inequality.

“In the consciousness of America, this is considered to be one of, if not the most, racist states in the union,” Herts says. “Everybody’s able to look at Mississippi and say, at least we’re not Mississippi.”

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

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

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Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega

By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Pop Sugar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

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

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

By Cara Anthony, NPR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

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

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

By , The Advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on The Advocate.

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

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

By Rhett Buttle, Forbes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Clark Atlanta University

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

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

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

By Jasmine Alyce, Atlanta Black Star

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on Atlanta Black Star

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

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black professionals month logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complete article on CBS local.

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    February 22, 2022
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    February 22, 2022
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    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022
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    March 17, 2022 - March 19, 2022
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    March 29, 2022
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    April 12, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  3. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  4. From Day One
    February 22, 2022
  5. From Day One
    February 22, 2022
  6. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022
  7. NOBLE 2022 William R. Bracey Winter CEO Symposium
    March 17, 2022 - March 19, 2022
  8. From Day One
    March 29, 2022
  9. From Day One
    April 12, 2022
  10. From Day One
    May 10, 2022