Black Accessory Designers Alliance presented the work of Emerging Accessory Designers of Color For NY Fashion Week on February 15

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Black Accessory Designers Alliance™ (BADA) presented the creations of emerging accessory designers of color at their semi-annual New York Fashion Week Pop Up Soirée.

The event, a celebration of talented, yet undiscovered artisans, took place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Unarthodox at 547 West 27 Street, Suite 300 in West Chelsea.  Wilbur Pack, Jr., the co-founder of BADA, was among the designers showcasing the newest styles of his bag line SK WiLBUR.  He says, “We are very proud to generate this opportunity for designers, like me, who would not normally be able to afford the cost of showing for New York Fashion Week.  With BADA, we are able to pool our monies to reach the shared goal of shining a spotlight on each individual and our community as a whole.”  Ursallie Smith, the interior design dynamo behind Rococo Design Interiors and the mastermind behind Pillow Throw and Tuck™ decorative pillows, presented her home accessories line for the third time with BADA.  “It’s gratifying to be a part of BADA sharing my aesthetic with a broad spectrum of people,” Smith admits.  Velvet Lattimore, the owner of Vedazzling Accessories Boutique in DUMBO, Brooklyn and co-founder of BADA presented accessories by a diverse group of designers carried in the store.  She says, “There is so much under-the-radar talent out here. With BADA and Vedazzling Accessories, I am able to introduce their work to the buying public and press, too.”

Dawn, owner of Fashion Trybe, TV interview

Adding to the style mix this season is the brand called Fashion Trybe.  Bold and colorful necklaces comprise the label that launched officially in November 2016 by a four woman collective.  In the planning stages since 2015, Christel Cole, Stacey Hebron, Dawn Holloway, and Francine Hunt were already in formation when Beyoncé made her declaration.  With many years experience in buying, merchandising, product development, and fashion styling, these black girls who rock are fully prepared to outfit all the classy, sassy ladies ready to up their fashion game.

Joshua with SK WiLBUR Bag

After more than ten years as a licensed optician working with A-list actors like Chris Noth, Blythe Danner, Amanda Seyfried, and Oscar© winner Meryl Streep on their eye care needs, Tanisha Middleton made the decision to focus on her own vision as a business owner and established Framed By Tee Tee.  Capitalizing on all her business relationships in the optical world, she was able to open up her very own online optical boutique in 2014.  Stylish yet affordable frames for both men and women populate the site noted for its excellent customer service.  Tanisha believes that an amazing shopping experience will have you wanting to come back for more and telling your friends, too.  Be on the lookout for Framed By Tee Tee at a Brooklyn outpost in the near future.

Ursallie shares a laugh
Plush Vodka display

Lauren Tatum, the boss chick behind Bunny Paige, became obsessed with jewelry as a child when a treasured vintage necklace her mother gave her broke and she was left with a pile of beads, rhinestones, and inspiration to work with.  From that moment, a love affair with handcrafting began.  She established Bunny Paige in 2012 after quitting her unfulfilling office job and traveling to Japan and South Korea where she was inspired by the culture’s bold, brash, bright, and funky street style.  When she returned home to Cleveland, she was ready to fully immerse herself in her passion.  Since then, Lauren has gotten orders from around the globe on her Etsy store, is carried by other local retailers, and is widely known for her subversive use of Swarovski® crystals.

Pamela Wright is the visionary responsible for the jewelry line House of Queen Charlotte.  She first started making jewelry while living in England where she was inspired by the beautiful European locales.  When she returned to the United States she found her niche as a makeup artist and skincare specialist.  After raising her children and becoming a grandmother, Pamela decided to take up jewelry making again and created her label.  Each piece of jewelry is made with love and created to be a work of art.

Premium liquor brand Plush Vodka was the sponsor for the event and conducted a tasting.  Plush Vodka is infused with plum, is six times distilled from corn grain, is made using only natural flavors, and is gluten free. Sweet plum fruit, used in the Far East for years to make plum wine, is one of the most complimentary fruits for pairing with a premium liquor. The result is the smoothest, most elegantly flavored vodka available.

Press Inquiries should be emailed to thebadaorg@gmail.com or contact Wilbur Pack, Jr. by phone at 917 520 4615.

These are the 4 surprising lessons I learned when I started managing people for the first time

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woman manager leading a conversation at a conference table

By Rousseau Kazi

When I first moved into team management from product management, I quickly learned that managing people is very different than managing a product.

As it turns out, people are complicated.

I had the wrong expectations about what it would take to be a good manager, something I’m sure many people can relate to.

Becoming a manager for the first time requires a lot of trial and error, and no matter how diligently you prepare, mistakes are inevitable.

That being said, the following lessons have helped me navigate this transition, and I hope that they can help those who are undertaking their managerial journey for the first time.

Lesson one: Products don’t fail silently, people do

Mistaking silence for satisfaction is one of the most common mistakes new managers make. When you manage a product, there are alerts and other objective measures that notify you when something is wrong so you can fix it. People don’t come with warnings, and often, they’re suppressing their feelings.

As a new manager, it’s easy to assume that people will come to you when they have a problem, but chances are this won’t happen. Many find it intimidating to approach a new manager, so they avoid doing it altogether. The truth is, we’ve cultivated work environments where people are hesitant about speaking up. This might be because of fear stemming from a reaction. It might also be because they have been burned in the past.

Solution: Take the time to get to know your team

As a manager, you need to recognize that people will fail silently. It’s vital to make time to get to know your team so you can better sense when things may not be going well. Acknowledge that you’re probably bad at asking the right questions to really understand what’s going on, so make your intentions clear. Make it known that you don’t view “asking for help” as a weakness and all you want to do is help. Setting up simple processes/channels that enable your employees to reach out to you when they need your support is a great start.

Understanding that silence doesn’t mean success is in itself a step in the right direction. Next, get to know your team inside and out. Learn their habits, likes, dislikes, and pet peeves. As trust between you and your employees develops, they may start to be comfortable around you and may start to ask you directly for help and advice.

Lesson two: Products don’t have fear, people do

Something else that is disproportionately apparent in people versus products is emotion. To be even more specific, it’s fear. Fear drives so many things within us, and it’s common for many to relate negative emotions to something they’re afraid of. Work is no different—since so many people derive purpose from their role. Fear manifests in the workplace in many different ways. People don’t want to seem weak at work because they associate that with not excelling (even though we’re all afraid of something). As a result, fear commonly manifests as anger. When you’re angry, you can talk about what you’re scared of without seeming weak because you’re blaming it on something else. Products, on the other hand, don’t have this negative compounding effect built into them.

Solution: Remind yourself that everyone is afraid of something

Always keep in mind that everyone is likely afraid of some scenario. Try to understand what that is and then do whatever you can in your power to prevent it from happening. Get to know your team and what excites them. Aim to create safe spaces for them to open up so you can help prevent any future destructive behaviors.

Lesson three: Products don’t get lost in their emotions, people do

One thing that’s hard to come to terms with is understanding that as a manager, you have explicit power. Even if you understand that you have the privilege of helping facilitate people’s careers—it doesn’t stop you from being human. It doesn’t stop you from getting upset when someone on your team is upset with you, and it doesn’t stop you from having those same destructive tendencies that they have. The only difference is that when you do it, it’s worse. Your blast radius is so large that if you let yourself get lost in your emotions, you’ll never be the safety net that your team needs you to be.

Solution: Learn to let go of your ego

Keep in mind that if someone is upset, they’re probably just afraid of something. Every minute you waste defending your ego is a minute you’re not spending on getting to the root of their fear. The faster you get there, the quicker you can actually solve the problem.

Lesson four: Products don’t require you to earn their trust, people do

Just because you’re their manager doesn’t mean that people will respect or trust you. We’ve all had managers who we held to a very high standard. But the second you become one yourself, many of us forget that. Chances are, you have a lot more empathy with what managers go through now than what you did back then, and the longer you are in your role, the less you remember what it was like to not have explicit power.

Because of this, some people just assume that trust is implicit. They expect that their team will have their back and trust their decisions. As a result, they put in less thought when it comes to validating their choices, they don’t put in the extra effort to get to know their team, and they don’t go above and beyond to prove to their team that they are there to help. But respect doesn’t automatically come with a title change. It’s something that you need to earn. Your team, or report, will never reach their full potential if you don’t earn their trust first.

People are more complicated than products. Most managers know that in theory, yet are often in for a rude awakening when they start to encounter the realities of their new role. When a product fails, you can intellectualize it. When a person falls, the impact is significant and in many ways—it falls on you.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Interested in Owning a Food Franchise?

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black franchise owners standing in front of McDonalds

When it comes to deciding on the type of franchise business you want to own, consider several factors—the business location, how many people you’ll employ, and more.

And once you’ve decided on a franchise business you think you’d like to own and operate, you’ll have to weigh the positives and the negatives.

If you have decided on a food franchise, there are some unique considerations for this type of business.

 
 
The Positive Side of Food Franchise Ownership

  1. As long as you have a steady stream of customers patronizing your restaurant or food store, revenue tends to be pretty high.

Of course, it depends on the franchise, but when you think about it, it’s tough to buy breakfast or lunch for less than $8–$10 in most food-service establishments, with dinners usually costing even more. As long as you have a steady stream of customers patronizing your restaurant on a consistent basis, your revenue figures will be fine.

  1. New food-service establishments create a lot of local buzz.

Most people know when a new restaurant opens in town, especially if the grand opening is a memorable one.

When you buy a franchise, marketing assistance is included in the upfront and ongoing fees.

Good franchisors know how to put on a strong grand opening, and if yours goes well, you won’t have to wait long for customers to line up to try (and purchase) your food.

  1. Food-service is fast paced.

It’s quite an experience to own and operate a busy food-service business, especially when your take-out phones are ringing off the hook, people are waiting in line to order, and your cash register is overflowing with cash.

If you like working in a high-energy, fast-paced environment, you’re going to love owning a food franchise. Don’t count on there being a dull moment.

  1. Real estate assistance is provided.

Location can make or break the success of a food franchise. You want to have the best one possible. That’s where a franchisor with a good real estate expert is key. To be exact, immediately after your franchise agreement is signed, the real estate person at franchise headquarters gets to work.

She leverages her connections with the nation’s leading commercial real estate companies to help secure the best location possible for your new business. That alone gives you a huge advantage over an independent businessperson (without commercial real estate connections) who’s trying to secure a location for his restaurant.

The Negative Side of Food Franchise Ownership 

  1. Food franchises have high employee turnover

If you become the owner of a food franchise, plan on going through a lot of employees. Turnover rates in the hospitality industry hover at nearly 70 percent.

That means you’ll be spending a lot of time on employee training, new-hire paperwork, and shift filling. (Unless you have a manager who can do this for you.)

  1. Food franchises require a physical location

Having a location means a couple of things.

First of all, compared to an office-based or home-based franchise, your expenses go up, as you’ll be paying for things like the build-out, signage, rent, utilities, and more.

Second, you’ll have to sign a multi-year commercial lease. These leases tend to be complicated and are landlord friendly.

Tip: Before you sign a lease, hire an attorney to go over it with you. And make sure your attorney has a lot of experience with commercial leases.

  1. Food franchise ownership requires long hours

In addition to the long hours, food franchise owners need to have a lot of energy, especially during peak times, where you’ll have to pitch in when needed. Whether it’s cleaning tables, helping prepare the food, or manning the phones, you’ll be smack dab in the middle of the chaos that all busy food franchises experience.

Owning a food franchise can be a good way to go for someone who enjoys a busy, high-energy environment that includes a good number of employees.

Furthermore, if you can afford to own several units of a high-performing food franchise, your business can end up being quite lucrative.

Source: sba.gov

Kamala Harris Proposes Plan To Invest $60 Billion In Historically Black Colleges

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Kamala Harris speaking at podium

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) rolled out two policy plans Friday morning aimed at closing the wealth gap for black Americans. Harris said in a press release that if elected president, she will invest $60 billion in historically black colleges and universities and $12 billion in black-owned businesses and entrepreneurship. She said she would also invest $2.5 billion in programs that train black teachers ― an addition to her March proposal to raise teachers’ salaries.

The presidential hopeful, a graduate of HBCU Howard University, described the proposal as “the next major planks in her Black agenda,” according to her campaign’s fact sheet.

Of the $60 billion she plans to invest in HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, Harris said she would put $10 billion toward school infrastructure to build classrooms, school labs and other facilities. The other $50 billion would be used to create a competitive fund at the Department of Education to support science, technology, engineering and math education at HBCUs. The competitive fund would go toward scholarships, fellowships and research.

The $12 billion policy proposal would be allocated to federal contracting programs that would help black business owners create businesses from the ground up.

“We can create a pipeline for ensuring that Black Americans are leading the research and entrepreneurship to grow our innovation economy and participate in the wealth it generates,” the campaign fact sheet states.

Continue on to the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

From Wall Street to Your Street; Former Goldman Sachs VP Becomes Franchisee with # 1 Home Inspection Company

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Elton Andrews stans next to his work vehicle

“Wall Street was an amazing ride,” reflects former Goldman Sachs VP, Elton Andrews. Along with his 25-year run at Goldman Sachs, Andrews spent an impressive 32 years total in the financial sector. Facing possible retirement, Andrews took some time off to be with his family, but it wasn’t long before he began searching for a new project.

“I loved what I did for those 32 years and I experienced many areas of the business,” said Andrews. “From my beginning in operations, managing a trading desk, becoming involved in the development and growth of the electronic trading marketplace, I interacted with some of the most brilliant people in the industry. They really had an impact on my life! I was mentored by some of the best, and then I had opportunities to mentor others. That work/life experience was priceless, and will be with me in everything I do in the future.”

And that future is here. “I developed a very strong desire to start my own business,” he said. “I saw the Pillar To Post Home Inspectors model, and I was intrigued.”

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the brand to which more than three million families have turned to for 25 years to be their trusted advisor when buying or selling a home. Consistently ranked as the top-rated home inspection company on Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise500®, they are enjoying their 19th year in a row on that list.

“I saw Pillar To Post Home Inspectors as a total change of direction, but in a market that still somewhat related to finance, so it seemed a natural fit for me,” Andrews explained. “In my previous career, attention to detail, people management, building the client experience, and the needs of the client were all part of my daily focus. I will manage my Pillar to Post Home Inspectors business with the same mindset and dedication.”

A professional evaluation both inside and outside the home is at the core of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors’ service. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors input data and digital photos into a computerized report that is printed and presented on site. All is provided to clients in a customized binder for easy reference, allowing homebuyers or sellers to make confident, informed decisions.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with home offices in Toronto and Tampa. There are nearly 600 franchises located in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces. The company has been named Best in Category in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise500 ® ranking for 19 years in a row. Long-term plans include adding 500 to 600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.  To inquire about a franchise go to pillartopostfranchise.com.

Introducing the First Ever Black Woman-Owned Rideshare Service for Kids

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owner of kiddie commute and the vehicle

You don’t have to be a parent to know that parenting is a full-time job with barely any breaks in between; and ensuring your child is well attended to is an around the clock task, even when they aren’t in your presence.

Shan Cureton, a mother of three, understands this all too well. She is the founder of Kiddie Commute, a full-service transportation company for kids located in the greater San Diego area; and the only Black woman-owned transportation company in the state. It is also the only comprehensive service that serves the needs of parents and caregivers, offering safety and reliability.

Launched in 2017, Kiddie Commute was created purely out of need. “I am a busy working mother. At the time, I worked and went to school full time. My youngest son was in Kindergarten, I had another son in middle school, and a daughter in high school. It was challenging picking up my youngest son from class in the middle of the day when I had to work or be in class.” Cureton says she didn’t have family available to help her with school pick-ups. “Adding to that stress, my oldest two were taking Lyft.

I was a nervous wreck as I watched the ticker on the app pick up my most precious assets and drop them off at home. I couldn’t focus because let’s face it, they were strangers. I had no peace of mind and assurance that the driver was safe.” Cureton did some research online and discovered that it was illegal for Lyft to transport minors alone. “Some drivers would anyway, and some would cancel the ride when they found out it was a child they were picking up. I searched online for a company that could solve my problem, there wasn’t a local one, and that’s when the light bulb went on. Kiddie Commute was born.”

Being a woman of color, Shan was ready to take on the challenges of creating and launching the company. Any hardships or frustrations that would come were worth it. “With the business and entrepreneurship being dominated by males, it’s sometimes challenging for your voice to be heard. When you can get a word in edgewise you are seen as domineering or too boisterous. This is very disheartening as running a tech company requires a tenacious leader that’s not afraid to step out on the balcony.”

Continue on to Black News to read the complete article.

Ken Bouyer: Success in Inclusiveness

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Kenneth Bouyer-EY

By Brady Rhoades

As EY Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting, Ken Bouyer lives by a motto: “Lift as you climb.” But he has expectations of those he lifts, just as those who helped him had expectations. He poses this question to professionals who are looking to thrive in corporate America.

“How do you define success and what are you willing to ante up in order to achieve that level of success?”

The answer is different for everyone, he said to Black EOE Journal, but if teams pursue their purpose with commitment and a willing to sacrifice, the results can be startling.

“We’re incredibly committed to diversity and inclusion,” Bouyer said of EY, referring to the company’s stellar record of hiring and promoting women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities. “And I get to be an insider on that and get a sense of the investments we make… I get a chance to see it year in and year out.”

“When you think about why diversity and inclusion matter, a big part of it is the diversity of thought and perspective,” he added.

Bouyer had plenty of “lifters” as he labored his way up the steep incline during his early career years in the 1990s (he remembers his hire date at EY on October 1, 1990).

He was a first-generation corporate professional.

“I didn’t know how I should act, what I should do.”

But he had help.

“The mentors and role models I had and being part of that as a young professional: invaluable,” he said.

His biggest lesson?

“Your brand is everything. How do you show up every day in your office? What’s your brand and reputation like?”

He said integrity is foundational to EY’s brand and most great brands across a variety of business models. Ever in lift-and-climb mode, he encourages others to build their brands.

He asks corporate managers an uncomfortable but important question: When you leave the room, what do your employees say about you? What kinds of words are used?

“People have to trust and rely on you, and integrity is a big, big part of that,” he said.

Looking back on his rookie year at EY, he remembers a different corporate culture in America.

“When I first started… there were no programs focused on diversity and inclusiveness,” he said.

He’s proud of how far EY has come in the past 29 years, where they’re going, and what it means for future generations.

“Our talented minorities have an opportunity to be so successful, and anything we can do to help raise awareness around the diversity and inclusiveness issue is going to make us better.”

Bouyer, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter, is responsible for developing and implementing a recruiting strategy that focuses on creating a diverse talent pool. Fostering an inclusive culture where all individuals can achieve their full potential is a global priority and a business imperative for EY. The organization strives to reflect the changes in world demographics—taking into account the new mix of cultures and individual characteristics that build its talent pool.

Bouyer also serves on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Minority Initiatives Committee and a number of other boards. He is a recipient of the Federation of Schools of Accountancy “Practitioner Service Award” for his distinguished service to the profession of accounting and accounting education.

Bouyer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. He is a lifetime member of the National Association of Black Accountants.

Photo Credit: EY

From Con to Entrepreneur

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Mikey owner of Ice Cream shop stands outside in his uniform holding a thumbs up

Michael “Mikey” Cole owns the first, award-winning pop cultured-inspired ice cream shop with locations in New York’s Lower East Side and Harlem. But Mikey’s road to success wasn’t a smooth one. The entrepreneur pursued a degree in economics and business management, and served time in prison before founding Mikey Likes It Ice Cream.

It is almost impossible for an ex-con to get hired, but Mikey transformed his life, and as he is growing in his career, he is giving back to the community.

“And that’s what the business is about now,” he said to The Huffington Post. “You know, with the ice cream business, it’s not just about creating ice cream. It’s spreading the word—it’s about giving back to the community, to help the next generation so they don’t make the same choices I’ve made.”

The popular organic ice cream shop creates homemade artisan and all-natural ice cream, inspired by Mikey’s deceased aunt’s vanilla ice cream recipe. “I decided to continue on this ice cream journey with the love my aunt instilled in me,” he says.

Mikey has created custom ice cream flavors for people like Hillary Clinton and Jay-Z, among others, and has been featured in The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Essence, and New York Magazine.

A New York Native, Mikey knows what dessert lovers will enjoy in his hometown. His ice cream flavors have names that reflect American pop culture, including Foxy Brown and Nutty Professor. One of his offerings, Mikey’s Daddy Mac, was named one of the best ice cream sandwiches in New York City.

Mikey uses profits from the shop to cater youth events—free of charge—and provide scholarships for local students. “To give back is the most important thing for us,” he told The Huffington Post.

Sources: huffpost.com; Mikey Likes It

Using Their Platform for Reform

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STREETER LECKA/GETTY IMAGES

Barack Obama Teaming up with NBA for Professional Basketball League in Africa

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced their plan to launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL)— a new professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa—and former President Barack Obama is reportedly going to be involved, according to The Associated Press. Obama recently tweeted, “I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court.”

BAL will be built on the foundation of current club competitions the FIBA is organizing in Africa. Scheduled to begin play in January 2020, BAL would mark the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.

The NBA also recently announced its plan to introduce a re-imagined direct-to-consumer offering of NBA games for fans in Africa by the start of the 2019–20 NBA season. The offering would include new packages, features and localized content, with additional details to be announced at a later date.

The NBA and FIBA plan to conduct qualification tournaments later this year to identify the 12 teams that would represent several African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia, with no more than two teams from the same country able to qualify.

Platform for Reform-IMAGE SOURCE NBA

The two organizations also plan to dedicate financial support and resources toward the continued development of Africa’s basketball ecosystem, including training for players, coaches and referees, as well as infrastructure investment.

Source: pr.nba.com

 

Queen Latifah is Developing Affordable Housing in Newark

Platform for Reform-GILBERT CARRASQUILLO/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES

Queen Latifah, the Grammy award-winning musical artist, acclaimed television and film actress, label president, author, entrepreneur and now developer, is investing in a $14 million development of multi-family town homes as co-president of the Blue Sugar Corporation, alongside Gonsosa Development.

According to nj.com, rents for the market rate units will start around $1,800 a month and are expected to open by December 2020. The affordable housing building is expected to be finished in December 2021, and units there will be priced according to a person’s income.

The New Jersey-born native isn’t the first celebrity to break ground in Newark—former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal constructed a $79 million, 22-story apartment complex called Shaq Tower.

Source: nj.com

 

Jaden Smith Partners with Flint church to Provide Fresh Water

Platform for Reform-RODIN ECKENROTH/GETTY IMAGES

First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church spent a year working with Jaden Smith and his foundation JUST on a mobile filtration system called The Water Box that reduces lead and other potential contaminants. According to mlive.com, the box utilizes the same filtration system Smith’s bottled water company JUST Water uses.

The eco-friendly company was founded by Smith and his dad Will Smith in 2015. “While Jaden was surfing as a young kid, some plastic water bottles floated by him and he soon realized they were dirtying our oceans and killing the environment,” said Will. “He was immediately motivated to do something to save our planet; our future—and with that JUST Water was born.”

Source: mlive.com

9 Reasons Recognizing Companies and Employees Is Important

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two men shaking hands in the office

By Mona Lisa Faris

We all remember scientists Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner’s experiments famous for exploring the benefits of using rewards and positive associations to change both behavior and emotion. Lately, I’ve seen it to be true with companies as well.

Few corporate awards are as highly sought after or revered as a prestigious Best of the Best title. A company achieving recognition in this area values inclusion and has a hand on the heartbeat of diversity at all times. There are two ways to achieve this award, either by employee vote or by a third party strictly looking at numbers. In my opinion, independent third party HR auditing, such as filling out a survey, outweighs employee-based evaluations.

Nine reasons recognizing companies and employees is important:

1. Demonstrate You’re Doing Something Right
Business awards are important badges of honor to companies. The Best of the Best list is an opportunity to demonstrate to clients, employees, investors, customers, and the general public that yes, you’re doing something right, according to a third party and an objective panel of judges. Whether or not your company has had direct involvement with these awards, the results are an invaluable source of information. It gives you an edge above your competitors, too.

2. Diversity Matters
A company that makes it on a Best of the Best list believes in diversity and understands the importance of salaries, benefits, leadership, personal growth, and well-being, ultimately revealing what employees really care about in the workplace. Organizational cultures built on inclusion drive engagement, which drives business and financial performance.

3. Employee Retention
Recognizing a job well done affects employee retention. When employee morale receives a boost, employee retention is increased. When a company is rewarded, it’s encouraged to strive to stay on the Best of the Best list and do even better. It is not a good sign when a company makes it on the list for a year and then doesn’t make it the following year.

4. Better Job Performance
Recognition keeps employees feeling proud and passionate about their work. When employees are recognized, they are encouraged to perform better, and consistent recognition—especially when they’ve gone beyond the call of duty—will enhance their job performance. According to Great Place to Work, “Employees who say they have a great place to work were four times more likely to say they’re willing to give extra to get the job done.”

5. Attract Great Talent
Award-winning status can help you compete for great talent. Customers, prospective employees, and the community hold top workplaces in high regard. If you’re recognized as a Top Veteran-Friendly Company, for example, it encourages veterans to apply with less hesitation knowing you’re diverse and inclusive to the veteran community. You present the following message: “Welcome, veterans, we’re here to train you and support you.”

6. Media Exposure
Recognition as a Best of the Best company will keep your diversity message and branding alive all year long. Companies on the Best of the Best list performed two to three times better than their counterparts. Being awarded is a great opportunity to brag and put out public notices of achievement, such as a press release. It’s a great recognition to put on a website or use the Best of the Best logo to brand and market across the nation. Some companies go as far as putting the logo on their advertisements, marketing material, and at events and job fairs.

7. Compete by Advantage
With better performance comes stronger revenue. When you’re on that list, it means you’re diverse, which means you’re getting diverse perspectives, ultimately putting out the best product and service because of the different views you have within your company. With a recognition, you also have a wider consumer base, which gives you an advantage over non-diverse competitors. At the end of the day, every company wants to be recognized, but companies are also interested in what other companies in their industry are being recognized for.

8. Increase Innovation
Diversity drives innovation. It’s helpful for managers to establish a culture in which all employees feel free to contribute ideas, implement feedback, and give credit where credit is due. Employees who are given an environment to speak freely, no matter what the feedback is, are more likely to contribute their culture, ethnicity, gender, and work experience to drive innovation. Companies that foster and implement diverse groups for feedback, such as an ERG, help define culturally sensitive products, services, and demographics, and these diverse groups bring the greatest innovation.

9. Increase Profits and Revenue
Recognition keeps employees satisfied, ultimately increasing revenue and profits. The bottom line is that we want our employees to be satisfied at work, because that is what influences company performance. Thus, diversity and inclusion are the keys to a company’s bottom line. As a publisher of six-diversity focused magazines, I know it’s imperative to recognize companies for their achievements in diversity, and we do this through an independent survey. Any company award is a positive marketing strategy. Just as with any survey, do your research. My advice is to never participate in a “pay to play” investment because it’s not an investment. Our reports are never “pay to play.”

By publishing these much-anticipated lists, my goal is to encourage those doing a good job to continue doing a great job, and for those who are not there yet, to entice them to join the bandwagon—to see what their competitors are doing and show the value. Companies that put diversity first, implement it in their policy, and practice it every day from the top down see the fruit of their labor and deserve praise.

Common Name, Uncommon Path

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Common speaking at the Black Caucus meeting

By Jovane Marie

With a career spanning almost three decades, Common’s journey in the spotlight has been anything but.

Along the way, he’s gained an ever-expanding list of titles and credits that run the gamut: rapper, artist, father, actor, activist, model, author, designer, philanthropist, Microsoft ambassador, and Academy Award winner, to name a few.

But if you’re thinking that’s enough to satisfy this modern-day Renaissance Man, you’re wrong. “I revel in the fact that in being all of these things, I don’t have to choose,” said the multi-hyphenate talent. “I want to do and be more…what I’ve accomplished so far is great, but there is always more to achieve.”

Voice of the Future
Common might’ve had his start in the music industry, but he’s no stranger to the world of STEM. In fact, he’s had a long-standing relationship with tech behemoth Microsoft dating all the way back to 2008, when the two partnered to launch Softwear (a play on “software”), a retro clothing line of T-shirts featuring MS-DOS (an operating system) font. Six years later, that partnership was re-birthed as the tech giant searched for a spokesperson to helm its first Super Bowl commercial. Common sent in a tape explaining why he wanted to lend his voice, and the rest—they say—is history. Since the inaugural commercial in 2014, the artist has lent his voice to a multitude of commercials, shorts, and presentations touting the importance of advancing technology and the infinite possibilities created by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

“Technology is possibility, adaptability, and capability,” he muses in one spot. “It’s not about changing what came before—it’s about creating what comes next. Right now, we have more power at our fingertips than entire generations that came before us…the question is, what will we do with it?”

Actor to Activist
Common’s firm footing in the entertainment industry might sound like a full-time endeavor, but he has consciously created the time and space to enrich and advocate for the causes he believes in. “The truth is, you don’t have to be an actor, or an athlete, or an influencer to make a difference,” he said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs. “All you have to do is have a desire the make the world a better place. Every human being can do it, and I have a desire to do my part.”

L to R-Lamar Johnson, Sabrina Carpenter, Russell Hornsby, Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith and Common attend The Hate U Give New York Screening at Paris Theatre
L to R-Lamar Johnson, Sabrina Carpenter, Russell Hornsby, Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith and Common attend “The Hate U Give” New York Screening at Paris Theatre.

This desire has manifested into fervent action focused on increasing and championing diversity and mentoring youth in the inner-cities of his home state, among other things.

In January, he delivered the closing keynote at the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion conference, a gathering of more than 250 Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officers (CDO) from an array of Fortune 500 companies on a mission to provide tangible, ready-to-implement strategies to encourage and increase diversity and inclusion both internally and within their local communities.

“My interest in promoting diversity was rooted in my looking in these communities and seeing certain people not having access to the same opportunities,” said the ardent advocator. “The undeniable fact is that we need to see more women and POC [people of color] in positions of power—same for different beliefs and those in the LGBTQ+ community.” “We have to figure out ways to increase the diversity, and that starts with a conversation. For me, I love being in a position where I can be a part of the paradigm shift and contribute to that conversation.”

Common performs onstage during OZY Fest
Common performs onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park in New York City.

Speaking to C-suite leaders about diversity isn’t the only way Common is lending his voice to the diversity conversation. In 2018, after African-American business partners Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were racially profiled in a Starbucks—causing national outrage—the chain subsequently closed 8,000 stores for a day to conduct anti-bias training. The voice they heard in those videos, stressing the importance of anti-discrimination and inclusivity? Take a guess. The art of the give-back has further manifested into the creation of the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to reach and impact inner-city youth in Chicago through mentorship and college-preparation programs. For more than a decade, the foundation has intimately focused on nutrition, healthy living, financial living, character development, and creative expression—even holding youth leadership conferences and summer camps. With more than $230,000 in scholarships awarded, a 100 percent graduation rate among participants, a 99 percent college attendance rate, and more than 2,500 collective hours of community service provided to the community, the organization has earned the distinction of an impactful labor of love.

Common with classroom full of school children.
Common visits NYC elementary school for Back-To-School fundraising with Burlington Stores and AdoptAClassroom. JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY IMAGES

“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help,” said the philanthropist. “I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose, and I always believed that of we started with the youth, we’d be planting the seeds for our future to blossom.”

A Tale of Common Sense
Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn to an educator mother and youth counselor father, was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood of Chicago, where his foray into the world of music developed and thrived. Talented and precocious, he was writing lyrics by age 12, and at 15, formed a rap trio—C.D.R.—with two high school friends. Far from just an after-school hobby, the group served as an industry incubator, not only building his proficiency in writing, producing and performing, but also aiding in his personal branding as an artist.

“C.D.R. represented so much in my life, and it was the birthplace of a lot of artistic firsts,” remembered Common. “That acronym was a revolving door of different meanings—it mainly stood for Corey, Deon, Rashid [our names], but on other days, it was Compact Disc Recorder, or Recording Def Rhymes. We were learning how to record, making demos, writing songs, performing—just trying to figure ourselves out and do our thing.” Influenced by hip-hop’s titans of the time, including LL Cool J, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, and Rakim, C.D.R. went on to gain a footing in the industry, having their songs played on the University of Chicago’s local radio station and opening concerts for Big Daddy Kane, Eazy-E, and Too Short.

Upon graduation, Common enrolled at Florida A&M University under a scholarship, where he majored in business administration. His artistic streak remained uninterrupted, however, and in 1991, after being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column, he left A&M to sign with Relativity Records. It was under this label that he released his first album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, using the moniker Common Sense. The album was an underground success, and laid the groundwork (as well as a growing fanbase) for his subsequent albums and collaborations. To date, Common has won more than 20 awards from various distinguished award bodies for his lyrics, albums and performances, including a 2015 Academy Award for his and singer John Legend’s original song “Glory” (from the Selma soundtrack), three Grammys, four BET Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. He has also garnered over 40 nominations in the music industry.

More than Music
Had Common been content to produce records, pull awards, and perform his hits for dedicated fans around the world, that might’ve been the end of the story. But, true to his character, he always had his sights set for more—much more. He began making his mark in the film and television industry in the early 2000s, often making cameos as himself and later evolving into more complex roles in well-known films, such as American Gangster (starring Denzel Washington), Wanted, Just Wright, Suicide Squad, Selma (as activist James Bevel), and installments of the John Wick franchise, to name a few. His constantly growing acting portfolio, which currently includes more than 40 films, supports a long-term goal to eventually become one of the great actors of our time.

Common standing posing with his childrens book
Common with his children’s book, “I Like You but I Love Me”.

“I’m still working to get to where I want to be, and I’m always working to get to the next level,” he said. “The majority of roles I want, they’re looking at other actors for. But I’m always going to fight to prove myself.” As he works tirelessly to widen his range and nab multifaceted roles, Common is also focused on another goal: helping amplify the creative voices of others through his nearly five-year-old production company, Freedom Road Productions. To date, he has executive produced Showtime’s popular drama The Chi (created by screenwriter Lena Waithe, the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series), and last year, signed a deal to develop and produce new television series with Lionsgate TV.

On the Horizon
Common’s career in the spotlight has diverged into many paths during its three-decade journey, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Add to that his impactful work in mentorship, advocacy, and diversity, and a bevy of new projects within all of these fields, and it’s safe to say that he may never stop. Next up is his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, a personal anthology exploring the core tenets of love to help others give and receive love to live better lives and build stronger communities. Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, the book is sure to be a page-turner.

On the film front, the actor will feature or star in three upcoming films: The Informer, The Kitchen, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Several TV series in collaboration with Lionsgate are also in the works. Simply put, Common wants to expand his experience, provide opportunities for others, and inspire.

“I want to live my passions, help others do the same, and make the world a better place, as much as I can,” he said. “This—all of this—inspires me to work harder and do more.”

Taraji P. Henson: A Real-Life Heroine

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Taraji P. Henson speaks onstage during the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards. TOMMASO BODDI/GETTY IMAGES

By Lori Denman-Underhill

Not every actor or actress has the privilege of telling a story on screen whose message is completely synergetic with their own. Actress Taraji P. Henson would tell you it’s no accident. Films that cover controversial subjects, female achievements or human rights within the African-American community are exactly her cup of tea.

Much like her role in the acclaimed drama Hidden Figures, where Henson plays the brilliant Katherine Johnson, an African-American female mathematician whose calculations as a NASA employee were critical to the success of one of the greatest space operations in history.

“I feel like it’s my obligation,” Henson explained in an interview with Ebony.com. “I’m an artist. I want to tell stories that matter. I’m always interested in movies that move humanity forward, change perspectives of people you know.”

The Golden Globe winner and Academy Award-nominated Henson, 48, is conscious about picking projects that speak to her heart and further her own message of equality and progress for the African-American community.

She addresses the historic yet still relevant topic of race relations in her latest non-fiction film, The Best of Enemies. Set in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971, the film—based upon the novel by Osha Gray Davidson, The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South—centers around a two-week-long discussion of ordinary citizens on the subject of school integration.

Based on a true story, the film brings together members of the black and white community—most dramatically the two main characters; Ann Atwater, played by Henson, a local firebrand of a Civil Rights activist, and Claiborne Paul “C.P.” Ellis, played by Sam Rockwell, the head of the Durham Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cast: (L-R) Bill Riddick, Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell and Robin Bissell attend a photo call for 'The Best Of Enemies’. DIA DIPASUPIL/GETTY IMAGES FOR STXFILMS
Cast: (L-R) Bill Riddick, Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell and Robin Bissell attend a photo call for ‘The Best Of Enemies’. DIA DIPASUPIL/GETTY IMAGES FOR STXFILMS

Portraying the true-life character of Atwater gave Henson a chance to show the integral part segregation has played within American society. It also gave the actress a platform for her own civil rights advocacy offstage, she explains in an interview with Oprahmag.com.

“What’s happening today is that everyone is doing a lot of talking, but not much listening. We should try listening to understand the other side…Often, we can find better solutions that way,” Henson said. “But if you try to match hate with hate, you’re not going to get anywhere.

“At the end of the day, we just need to have more compassion for each other and unconditional love, no matter our differences or background,” she adds.

Born and raised in southeast Washington, D.C., Henson grew up watching Solid Gold and was inspired by the likes of such acting legends as Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson. She studied acting at the famed Howard University and began her Hollywood career guest starring on several television shows before making her breakthrough in the coming-of-age film Baby Boy in 2001. She received praise for her performance as a sex worker in Hustle & Flow (2005) and as a single mother of a child with a disability in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). She also made noteworthy appearances in the action comedy Date Night and the remake of The Karate Kid.

While she is now happily engaged to former NFL quarterback Kevin Hayden and residing in Chicago—her self-proclaimed dream town where everyone is ‘real’—her own life story has not been without its share of strife.

In a recent interview with Variety, Henson opened up about her personal battle with anxiety and depression following two tragedies in her life in 2003—the death of her father, Boris Henson, and also her son’s father, William Lamar Johnson. “We’re walking around broken, wounded and hurt, and we don’t think it’s okay to talk about it,” Henson told Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister.

She shared that her depression and anxiety escalated during the skyrocketing success of her pivotal role on the hip-hop TV drama Empire. During that time, she says the desire to pull away from the limelight was strong, as was the longing for more privacy and time for self-care, in addition to caring for her son, Marcell, who was also suffering from depression.

It was while looking for a relatable therapist for Marcell that Henson discovered how tough it was to find one of African-American descent. The experience jump-started her effort to get rid of the taboo associated with metal health, specifically within the African-American community.

“People are killing themselves,” Henson said in the Variety interview. “People are numbing out on drugs. Not everything is fixed with a pill.”

Taking her efforts a step further, the actress created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her father, who also suffered from mental issues following his service in the Vietnam War.

Washington DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser (R), honors actress Taraji P. Henson with a Proclamation to the City at the Office of the Mayor. PAUL MORIGI/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Washington DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser (R), honors actress Taraji P. Henson with a Proclamation to the City at the Office of the Mayor. PAUL MORIGI/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Henson explains that there is still a lot of work to be done, but the first step is to lift up the carpet and talk about it. Her personal advice for others who are struggling is to find a professional therapist—someone who has no stakes involved so that “when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off of it,” she explained.

Henson remains true to herself and her work. Her latest project will be released in 2020 and promoted later this year—a Netflix original police drama called Coffee and Kareem. Henson will star as the girlfriend of a Detroit cop who aims to clear his name and take down the city’s most ruthless criminal with the assistance of her 11-year-old son.

Henson’s main message was perhaps best summed up during her recent Glamour interview: “The fight continues,” she said. “Just like so many women before us who fought so that we could sit here. Now’s not the time to drop the torch.”

“We have to continue fighting,” she insists, “so the ones coming behind us—maybe one day this is not their narrative. So we have to keep fighting.”

Living the Dream and Tapping Into Your Potential

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Yes, it’s something people say, but did you know that there are those out there who are truly living their best life? Coriel Taylor is one of them.

And for her it started with a dream job leading the Digital Delivery Studio team for Accenture, where they “create killer experiences for clients in mobile and web applications,” she says.

To really discover how Coriel landed at the company, you have to take a look back at a girl from Detroit who grew up surrounded by a large, close-knit family and suddenly found herself as a black woman on a majority-white college campus. At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the high-school honor student wanted to feel included, valued and respected. This unique perspective—and as a result, her understanding—has become the backbone of her charismatic leadership style. “We need that extra encouragement to feel comfortable,” she says. “That may mean spending a little bit of time to talk about how a person’s day is going or getting to know a person’s background and what their story is.”

At Accenture, Coriel has been given the freedom to tap into her personal potential while building a well-rounded team with her signature family-style approach. Dedicated to diversity and inclusivity, her Digital Delivery crew features a former pipe fitter, a teacher and a group of individuals with a variety of different backgrounds and skills—but together they become truly innovative. “I drive them to deliver transformational results for our clients, and a critical part of this is ensuring that everybody feels valued and appreciated for the role that they play—and is rewarded for it. It’s our home,” she says.

Now she has the opportunity to fulfill another lifelong goal of encouraging diversity in the workforce. After finding her way in college with the help of an on-campus office for under-represented minorities, Coriel was inspired to carry this mission with her to Accenture, where she supports diversity recruiting and mentoring. As one of the co-sponsors and leads for Accenture’s sponsorship of the National Society of Black Engineers, she gets to meet a lot of diverse engineering students whom she hopes will come and work for Accenture. Coriel says, “I can’t really imagine work without diversity. I mean, think about it. It’d be so boring.”

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