Business Spotlight!


Read how three different DOBE’s pursued a career in their respective fields. Each one has brought their own vision and narrative to their businesses and are ready to give insight as to what entrepreneurship, certification, investment and what standing apart from the competition means to them.

Why did you go into business for yourself?

Ray: I believe entrepreneurship is the gateway to freedom, ever since I was a young teenager I was fascinate with commercials, promotions and how businesses created cool campaigns or slogans to attract customers to buy their products or services. I truly began to admire the processes between the customer and business and how the relationship was cultivated. I love to called it a WIN/WIN !

Keel: To create amazing rain gear products like no other!

Willie: I founded All About Technology because I saw an opportunity in a niche market and a great way to turn my love for helping people with computer problems into a full time profession.

What was your thought behind the industry/niche you chose?

Willie: I have always been fascinated by computers, electronics and the Internet. Computer programming and computer hacking were hobbies at first, but then I sharpened my skills and made a conscious decision that I would make a living doing it. I was amazed when I took my first look inside a computer and was determined to learn how every piece operated. It wasn’t long before I started to actually start building my own line of custom computers. Later, I stumbled on the term “open source” and fell in love with the concept of ultimate freedom.

Keel: Umbrellas have around for hundreds of years and no one was really innovating in the space. I wanted to tackle that aspect of the market.

Ray: One day I had a tee shirt with an inspirational message on it and a total stranger said “cool shirt”, where did you get it? I reply I designed it and gave my card and let him know he can order one online. In that moment I knew we all had a time where we want to wear our inspiration, whether you are fighting cancer with someone or believing in something bigger than yourself and you want the world to know it! So why not wear a tee shirt that represents that! Whether you are company or individual Ray Grand Apparel’s delivery a shirt that expresses that emotion.

What is your company’s mission?

Keel: To become the most recognized fashion-forward rain gear company that produces stunning, high fashion and durable rain gear products; while impacting the lives of veterans and nonprofit organizations alike.

Ray: Ray Grand Apparel’s mission is to design a company or individual message that expresses desired emotion through apparel.

Willie: Our mission is to bridge the digital divide and make technology affordable and accessible for all.

What is your motivation–gets you up every morning and keeps you focused as a business owner?

Willie: My motivation stems from a burning desire to succeed against all odds while pursuing my passion for serving the community and helping others.

Ray: It’s all about perspective, keep doing new things, creating, innovating and approaching business in a new way until we get it right! That’s the motivation of it all, it’s not easy! It’s hard, very hard and not everyone can make it happen and create a successful profitable business. Once this is accomplished, I can create 10 more businesses with ease and pass the baton to the next hungry entrepreneur.

Keel: That one day I will run a fortune 500 company with thousands of employees while impacting millions of lives through our product and company.

What has been your biggest challenge/risk? And did it work out?

Willie: My biggest risk was when I decided to dedicate myself to starting and nurturing All About Technology and leaving the career I prepared my entire life for which was my only source of income. There have been ups and downs since I started in 2001, but it all worked out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Today, All About Technology is profitable and is staffed by great employees. Best of all, we get to know and do what’s best for our customers.

Keel: That one day I will run a fortune 500 company with thousands of employees while impacting millions of lives through our product and company.

Ray: The greatest challenge was the physical part of being disable paralyzed from the waist down and using a wheelchair. This was very frustrating, especially with my energy depleted with so much do and there are so many processes for everything I do in a wheelchair, for example getting out the car, finding a ramp, elevator, not able to reach something in a store, etc So I learn to work smarter and build mental toughness to complete a task without using so much energy.

What has been your biggest investment in your business- and was it worth it?

Ray: The biggest investment is commitment, when sales are not great, friends and family expressing their opinion that can be discouraging but there is this great feeling in my belly that won’t let me quit! Every entrepreneur knows this feeling very well but the commitment to the business growth and change until the end! Time tells all truths and it is truly a great asset when used properly. The value in hard work and learning life lessons through business is invaluable!

Keel: I invested all of my savings from my tour in the Middle East.

Willie: My biggest investment in the business was forgetting everything that I thought I knew and starting over from scratch. I thought like a startup company and completed several minority business enterprise training programs offered by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. As a result, my passion was renewed as I reassessed and refined our business plan to reposition it for massive organic growth. I created more jobs and delegated more tasks that I used to complete on a daily basis. I streamlined our service offering, redefined our unique value proposition and executed a strategy that would leverage a wide array of digital technologies for business growth. As a result of being able to launch effective marketing campaigns and create immediate value for our clients, All About Technology continues to be an operational force in the marketplace.

Why was it important to apply for and maintain national certification through USBLN?

Keel: To explore and leverage my certification to gain more opportunities to build my resume.

Willie: Certification through USBLN is important for a disability owned business enterprise, like All About Technology because it provided me with exposure and access to corporate contacts. In addition, it is the preeminent organization consistently working for the advancement of the disabled population by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and the marketplace.

Ray: A national certification from USBLN gives us credibility and most importantly the opportunity to engage with corporations and other disability own businesses to do business on a larger scale. In business and life, relationships are crucial for success at any capacity. The essence of maintaining certification is building the relationships to ensure quality, rapport and delivery on everything we do!

What is the single most important bit of advice you would give to a disability entrepreneur who is just starting out?

Ray: Health is Everything! Operating, managing, and growing any business it is lots of work. Whether its physically, mentally and emotionally, there has to be a balance, which is imperative to truly realize your company goals and most importantly to be healthy and have fun doing it! “Don’t be afraid to fail”

Willie: Learn everything there is to know about your targeted customer, and serve them better than anyone else. Go above and beyond the call of duty and network, and you’ll have no problem in business.

Keel: Persistent, don’t let anyone tell you NO!

What makes you stand apart from your competition?

Willie: I give clients more than they would ever expect and stand behind our products and services. More importantly, rather than just make a transaction, I connect with my clients on a personal level. I have discovered that people are a little tighter with their money when there’s not much of it to go around, but if you serve your client well, the referrals will be endless, doors will open and opportunities will appear.

Ray: Our culture sets us apart and our creative approach to designing with purpose!

Keel: We are making a better quality umbrella. We also offer our corporate client full customization of their umbrellas significantly less than our competitors.

Did you have a mentor or someone you leaned on for advice? If so, who?

Keel: No but I would like a mentor. Preferably with knowledge of raising VC or someone with experience in product placement with big box retailers.

Willie: My certification as a disability owned business enterprise through USBLN has afforded me access to senior level corporate mentors. Cassondra Devine (Wells Fargo) and Kathleen Castore (Sanofi) both have offered encouragement and support in addition to sharing their experiences and knowledge to succeed in business. I am also thankful for my mentors that I met in grade school, Shirley Williams, James Maxwell and Jim Pierson because I developed a shared sense of caring, respect, trust and consequently belief that I could achieve! Most importantly, their collective energies inspired a lifelong passion for learning and serving others.

Ray: Yes, I had a mentor in my earlier stages in business and he helped guide me through the processes with business planning, book keeping, and price structures. Joseph Mahoney, a teacher from the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship, a non profit that teaches disadvantage youth from the inner city and persons with disabilities.

What are three words that best describes you?

Ray: Integrity, Inspiration, Handsome

Keel: Driven, Open-minded, Optimistic

Willie: Authentic, Capable, and Reliable.

About the Interviewees

Ray Grand, Owner, Ray Grand Apparel
Ray Grand Apparel is selling “celebration” through creative apparel design.  The goal is to create an identity such that when members of the public come in contact with the Ray Grand logo, they immediately recognize the power in what it represents; the ability to overcome any obstacle set before them.  The Ray Grand Apparel brand is all about fostering a movement that represents strength, hard work, and determination to impact the world. Consumer benefits include creativity, freedom of self-expression, and empowerment.Ray Grand Apparel strives to convey motivation and style through durable clothing. The company will offer several lines of apparel to fit key message themes, which include “GRAND STYLE”. “ADVERSITY” and “GRAND”!  Through a mix of products that include both standardized and customized items, the company will serve the needs of a range of market segments.Ray Grand Apparel is based in Stillwater, OK and is a USBLN Certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE®). To learn more about Ray Grand Apparel, click here:

Keel Russell, CEO, Icy Talent Group dba Umbree Rain Gear

Umbree Rain Gear is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned umbrella and outerwear manufacturing company, known for its durable and fashionable umbrellas. The company manufactures and markets umbrellas, accessories and outwear in the USA.Keel Russell, the CEO and Founder, has worked tirelessly since 2013 to build Umbree from a fledgling startup to an inspiring, industry-disrupting force. As a retired military veteran, supporting veterans and socially conscious capitalism are issues central to Keel’s heart.We sell rain gear products with a socially conscious business strategy. Umbree Rain Gear was founded on the premise that we would produce rain gear products that are high quality, super durable and fashionable. With this in mind, we aspire to introduce creative fashion to the rain gear industry.Icy Talent Group is located in Coconut Creek, FL. To learn more, click here:

Willie Brake, President, All About Technology

Willie E. Brake is an employee of All About Technology and the author of a published Personal Technology column. He is committed to building a bridge to the digital divide by providing computer sales and service for the community.Prior to All About Technology, Willie spent more than 12 years holding increasingly responsible positions at Fortune 100 companies in the automobile, consulting, education and manufacturing industries in locations around the world, where he developed a passion and skill for solving problems. Willie is simultaneously the Executive Director and a board member for a local nonprofit and an adjunct faculty member at Wayne State University and The University of Phoenix.Willie has been recognized by Corp! and Business Magazine for his achievements. He also serves as an employment partner and provides insight from a marketplace perspective to help youth, through internships and job shadows gain meaningful work experience.Willie is a duly initiated member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and earned a bachelor degree from Wayne State University and a MBA degree from The University of Phoenix and completed executive education programs at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.A native of Detroit, Michigan, Willie is the proud father of one daughter, Olivia Madison.

NMSDC Affiliate Councils and MBES to Take Up the Challenge!



National Minority Supplier Development Council, Celebrating 45 Years, Kicks Off Campaign to Showcase Its Network’s Achievements and Impact

This week the National Minority Supplier Development Council (, the global leader in advocacy for minority business enterprises (MBEs), launches a campaign — “WE ARE NMSDC” — to commemorate its 45th Anniversary. This inspirational campaign is the first of its kind and will engage the entire NMSDC network. Working with its corporate members, NMSDC and its network of certified MBEs and regional affiliate MSDCs will challenge one another to celebrate the successes and economic impact of minority supplier diversity.

MBEs have many great stories to tell about their achievements in starting up and expanding business, and the support they create for minority communities. Likewise, corporations will share their stories of successful mentorships and partnerships with certified MBEs, and regional councils will offer their stories of advocating, connecting and developing lasting relationships among corporate members and MBEs. Their stories, shared on social media platforms — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like — will highlight NMSDC’s impressive accomplishments in diversifying the nation’s supply chains since 1972.

Each month, NMSDC will spotlight different industry groups through widely distributed video presentations by corporations, and MBEs and MSDC diversity professionals will challenge each other to prove the exceptional value of their NMSDC affiliation. In March, kicking off the campaign, healthcare will be in focus, with video acknowledgements of the role of NMSDC in advocating for and connecting minority businesses with corporate procurement departments. Succeeding months will focus on new industry groups: in April, Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Sports; May, Utilities; June, Technology; July, Petrochemical and Energy; August, Financial Services; September, Consumer Products; and October, Automotive. The campaign culminates with the NMSDC’s annual Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange, to be held this year October 22-25 at Detroit’s Cobo Center.*

The first short videos to be unfurled by NMSDC and its partners on their websites and social media platforms will be messages from NMSDC’s president, Joset Wright-Lacy, and from Kendra Burris-Austin, Director of Supplier Diversity for Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit management service provider from St. Louis, MO. Ms. Wright-Lacy notes, “Doing business with minority business is good for America. In our 2014 Impact Study, we learned that our MBEs deliver one billion dollars of economic output to our economy every day!” Says Ms. Burris-Austin, “Diverse suppliers promote creativity, innovation, and they increase competition. And it allows us to be good stewards in the community in which we live and work. We’re committed to advancing the economic growth in our communities […] Happy 45th Anniversary!” New videos will be posted on a regular basis.

*The NMSDC Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange is the nation’s premier forum for minority supplier development. For four days, more than 6,000 corporate CEOs, procurement executives and supplier diversity professionals from the top multinational companies, as well as leading Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business owners and international organizations will convene in Detroit, Michigan to re-energize their collective efforts to Certify > Develop > Connect > and Advocate for solid minority firms in the global corporate supply chain.

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


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 or contact Wilbur Pack, Jr. by phone at 917 520 4615.

Ten Tips to Help African American Women Succeed in Entrepreneurship


By Dr. Lisa Newton, Ph.D. Graduate of Union Institute & University

1. Know Thy Self. Have honest on-going evaluations of yourself that focuses on your needs, skills, goals and expectations.

Are you willing to consistently and persistently take the necessary steps to become an entrepreneur or to grow your business as an entrepreneur? Will you develop a business plan (that includes 1, 2 and 5 year activities as well as day to day activities), work the plan and if need be make the necessary adjustments along the way? Will you find experts to manage areas that you are not as strong in as others, areas that are necessary for successful business achievement? Briefly analyze your life patterns and experiences to see if you can apply your awareness of self to future growth and business solutions.

2. Plan regular business meetings with your family, friends, partners, sponsors, team players and mentors all of whom are willing in some way to take part in the creation of a business legacy not just for you or themselves but also for future generations.

Wealth and the knowledge of how to create wealth is often passed through the generations. Rarely does someone create business success overnight. Business success is often based on the knowledge and a repertoire of skills and talents. Therefore, when our youth grow up learning about business growth and success from their parents or mentors they are more likely to become entrepreneurs.

3. Know your Business Market.

Unless you have extensive resources, starting a new business may be more challenging than finding your niche in markets that have already begun to flourish. Identifying flaws and/or inconsistencies to fulfill unmet and untapped needs in the market place provides a great formula for success. Take the well needed time to study your market before starting your business and continue to provide ongoing data analysis once you are in business.

4. Don’t Just Talk About Your Passion and Life’s Purpose, Live It.

You are passionate about something for a reason and only you can live out your desire and enthusiasm for life. Ask yourself am I fulfilling my dreams and desires and/or am I doing my life’s work? If not, why or why not? How can I align my business plans with my visions and wishes? Even if you have done something totally opposite in your past, knowledge and experience are transferrable, use them in some way to follow your life dreams.

5. Access All Tools Available to You.

There are many funding sources, and support organizations for both startup and current businesses. They often require business plans, financial, banking and tax statements. These records are in many ways like money in the bank so treat them as such. You can also host several fund raiser and business campaigns to drive additional income. Consider using your online forums to create passive income streams with e-commerce and/or affiliate marketing. Once your business begins to grow you should highly consider becoming a public corporation by openly trading the stock of your business in the market place.

6. Know Your Business Processes and Health.

Understand your customers, services and operations. What are costs of doing business and the returns on your investments? What is your break-even point? Usually if your expenses are more than a third of your total return than you may decide to reconsider your profit loss strategy. Always collect potential customer and customer/sales data as often as possible. The information gathered will eventually fuel your business intelligence used to project sales/income and market strategies.

7. Your Word is as Good as Gold.

Be a business woman of your word. If you announce an opening date or operating hour do your best to fulfill your verbal obligation. If you give one price to your customer do your best to honor your word. If you say that a product is this or that make sure that you have determined that that is so. If you make a mistake or need to retract your word, try to do so in a professional manner without blaming others for your responsibilities.

8. Do not live out of the Gross Earnings.

Add your salary to the budget, save for the future and plan beyond month to month. Pay your taxes and expenses as you go. All the money made is not your profit. You cannot determine your profit before you have paid all your bills which must include your savings and salaries.

9. Take good care of yourself with good planning and follow through, you don’t have to sweat the small stuff.

If you are going into business be sure to add Exit and Contingency procedures as part of your business plan especially if you have partners or associates. If you are in business and you don’t have such plans make sure you develop them. This will minimize all kinds of stress in your business life. You want to make sure you take good care of yourself and that means always having a reserve. Therefore you should never use all your personal resources because when we begin to, we run on over load. When we encounter stressful situations never act unprofessionally, document your issues and give that information to the necessary people or organizations to handle.

10. Don’t limit Your Success!

The best time to start a business is when you are working and the best time to grow the business is when you have achieved some business success. Always look for opportunities to make passive and residual income while you are doing business. It is also a great idea to have some non-profit or heartfelt cause that you are passionate about to support and grow with. The relationship will incentivize your relationships, life goals and associations while helping others. Believe that you can be extremely successful in your business. Don’t think that because you are an African American woman people won’t do business with you. Go into each business situation and relationship with the mindset that most people are all in some way generally good. If you find they are otherwise make note of the experience, sometimes the reason is not always what we may perceive. Find joy and inspiration as you move forward to find your next customer and take good care of the customers you already have! The sky does not have to be your limit.

About Dr. Newton

Dr. Newton’s goal is for more African American women to soar and prosper as entrepreneurs. She is a 2016 Union Institute & University graduate with a Ph.D. in Ethical and Creative Leadership and a native of Cincinnati. Her dissertation, “An Investigation of Cultural Intergenerational Trauma or Collective Traumatic Memory as a Social, Economic Barrier for African American Women Entrepreneurs in Cincinnati, Ohio” examined the social cultural behaviors that may keep some African American women from the entrepreneur path. She is hopeful that her work may become one of the tracks that will improve the poverty rates in Cincinnati and around the country. Dr. Newton is the CEO of Illume Business Development.



Top Government and Law Enforcement Agencies; Top Insurance Companies; Top Financial & Banking Companies; Top Healthcare, Pharmaceutical & Biotech Companies and Top Utilities, Energy, Gas & Oil Companies
(Irvine, California) – February 2, 2017 – Black EOE Journal (BEOEJ) today released the early results of its review of the nation’s Best of the Best Government and Law Enforcement Agencies; Insurance Companies; Financial & Banking Companies; Healthcare, Pharmaceutical & Biotech Companies and Utilities, Energy, Gas & Oil Companies.
Black EOE Journal, now celebrating its 26th year of diversity, polled hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies for its 2017 Best of the Best evaluations. BEOEJ is one of the nation’s fastest-growing magazines, promoting the advancement of African Americans in all aspects of business and employment to ensure equal opportunity. The outstanding efforts toward this promotion make these companies leaders in the quest for true diversity, and we commend them all.
The annual review is an evaluation of the nation’s employers, initiatives and government agencies. It provides non-biased results that are valuable resources for job-seekers, business owners, students, consumers, senior management, business associations, employment agencies and consumer groups.
This year’s winners include the following, in alphabetical order:

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Air Force Civilian Service (AFCS)
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)
Army Corps of Engineers
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Military Sealift Command
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)
National Security Agency (NSA)
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA)
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Sandia National Laboratories
Strategic Systems Programs
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard and Civilian Careers (USCG)
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
U.S. Marines
U.S. Navy
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
U.S. Secret Service (USSS)
United States Postal Service (USPS)

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Allstate Insurance Company
Auto-Owners Insurance
Erie Insurance
Liberty Mutual
MetLife, Inc.
Progressive Insurance
State Farm Insurance Company
The Hartford
Travelers Insurance Company

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American Express Company
Bank of America
BMO Harris Bank
Capital One Financial Corporation
Charles Schwab
Edward Jones
Federal Reserve
Freddie Mac
Goldman Sachs
John Hancock Financial
JPMorgan Chase
Lincoln Financial
MUFG Union Bank
National Credit Union Administration
Navy Federal Credit Union
Northern Trust
PNC Financial Services Group
Principal Financial Group
Quicken Loans
Raymond James Financial
Regions Financial Corporation
Synchrony Financial
T Rowe Price
TD Bank
The Huntington National Bank
U.S. Bancorp
Vanguard Group
Visa, Inc.
Wells Fargo
Western Union
World Bank Group

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Abbott Laboratories
Astellas Pharma US, Inc.
Baxter International
Biogen Idec Inc.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Eisai Pharmaceuticals
Eli Lilly & Company
Genzyme Corporation
GSK – GlaxoSmithKline
Highmark Health
Johnson & Johnson
PAREXEL International
Takeda Pharmaceutical
Thermo Fisher Scientific

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Ameren Corporation
Arizona Public Service (APS)
Baker Hughes
Con Edison
Conoco Phillips
Consolidated Edison
Dominion Resources
DTE Energy
Duke Energy
Edison International
EOG Resources, Inc.
Eversource Energy
ExxonMobil Corporation
Hess Corporation
National Grid
NextEra Energy Resources
NRG Energy
Occidental Petroleum
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PGE)
Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW)
PPL Corporation
Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG)
Sempra Energy
Southern Company
Valero Energy

The goal of the annual evaluations is to not only bring the latest information and guidance to our readers, but also encourage active outreach and diversity policies among corporations and government agencies. The lists were compiled from market research, independent research, diversity conference participation and survey responses that were performed by DiversityComm’s agents and/or affiliates. This year, hundreds of companies and institutions participated.

The results are published in the spring issue of Black EOE Journal and available on newsstands mid-April. Published by DiversityComm, Black EOE Journal is dedicated to promoting the advancement of African-Americans in all aspects of business and employment to ensure equal opportunity. Part 2 of our Best of the Best series, featuring Top Diversity Employers, Top Supplier Diversity Programs, Top MBA Schools, Top Disability-Friendly Companies and Top LGBT-Friendly Companies will be published in the summer issue, available mid-July. The fall issue will feature its Top HBCUs and Colleges & Universities published mid-October. DiversityComm also publishes HISPANIC Network Magazine, Professional Woman’s Magazine, U.S. Veterans Magazine, Diversity in STEAM Magazine and DIVERSEability Magazine.

For more information about the annual Best of the Best survey or Black EOE Journal, please contact the research department at (800) 487-5099 or e-email .

About Black EOE Journal (BEOEJ)
The Black EOE Journal (BEOEJ) is the African American career and business connection. Our mission is to be the epicenter of information utilizing our channels of distribution in print and digital media. As one of the strongest growing African American publications in the nation, our mission is to inform, educate, employ and provide equal opportunity to corporate America in order to create a more diverse workplace. We provide the latest, most important diversity news, covering virtually every industry, business and profession. This includes up-to-date statistics on workforce diversity as well as business-to-business trends. We offer both recruitment and business opportunities, along with accurate, timely conferences and event calendars. And, just as important, we spotlight inspiring role models and notable mentors. BEOEJ is a WBENC-certified company.

Fund Your Business Without Sharing It


Whether it’s a new idea that needs money to start, or an existing business that needs money to grow, there are a lot of funding options that don’t require sharing ownership with investors.

Don’t get me wrong; I am an angel investor, a member of a group of us in Oregon. I’m not saying anything against the investors. But the fact is that taking in investment means sharing ownership and having new co-owners. You no longer own the business yourself. Even if you manage to bring in investors without losing majority control, all shareholders have rights. Your decisions are no longer your own.

Crowdfunding has finally, after years of delay, started. It was allowed by the JOBS Act of 2012, but required detailed regulations that are still coming slowly. If it goes well—the results aren’t in yet—it may offer another way to get investment for a business to start or grow. But it is still investment, which means shared ownership.

Funding from family and friends is also investment, and means distributed ownership amongst those parties. Friends and family funding normally means smaller amounts, contributed by individuals or groups a business owner or entrepreneur already knows.

But what are the other options? There are a lot of other ways to get some working capital and fund your business, without sharing the ownership.

Not All Businesses Need Funding

The common assumption that all businesses need funding is simply wrong. Millions of service businesses don’t require expensive assets and startup expenses to get going. The consultant, graphic artist, bookkeeper, and freelance writer, to name a few, can start a business without anything but expertise and a first client.

A variety of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants, need years of schooling, licenses, and certifications prior to launching and seeking funding for their business. Oftentimes, these professionals spend money on office space, office equipment, logos, websites, and branding—but they don’t have to initially.

For a lot of these businesses, what they need to start is a first client. Additional money is nice, but not needed.

The best financing is early sales.

I know of several people who turned to Kickstarter to successfully raise money from pre-sales. Where I live, there’s a healthy yoghurt business that raised $20,000 for startup equipment by offering bundles of future purchases at an attractive discount through Kickstarter. There’s also a healthy juice food cart that gave cloth shopping bags and pre-paid collections of juices (to be redeemed later, after the cart opened) to customers, before opening, to get funds to buy and outfit the cart. I even prepaid a book over Kickstarter to get an autographed copy when it finally came out.

I mention Kickstarter because it’s the biggest and most well-known crowdfunding platform, but it’s not the only site providing ways to let people pre-buy product or services to facilitate early capital. You can also research Indiegogo, Rockethub, and many more that are cropping up. The idea is giving people incentives in order that they buy products and services that aren’t yet available. Then startups can borrow money based on the commitments made over these sites.

Pre-ordering or pre-sales aren’t confined to such platforms. Even before the web, it was possible for a startup to get early money from a future customer, sometimes, by offering the right deal. For example, I know of a deal between a software company and a magazine, in which the magazine committed to buying 1,000 units of a software product before they were available. And sometimes a pre-order or pre-sale will help finance the development of a product or service. That’s unusual, but it happens.

And some businesses can focus on the low-hanging fruit in the business to get revenues quickly, and use the early revenues to fund later growth. The most obvious example is the person who rents a food cart and starts serving customers, then uses the money from successful food cart sales to eventually contract a location and open the full restaurant.

Bank Loans

Banks don’t invest in business plans. Banking law prohibits banks risking depositors’ money on a business plan.

Still, banks are nonetheless one of the most common sources of business financing. How can that be? Because small business owners borrow from banks, using personal assets like home equity, to finance their businesses. My wife and I had liens on our house for years because we were using a bank credit line to finance our software business. A business that has been around for a few years generates enough stability and assets to serve as collateral. Banks commonly make loans to small businesses backed by the company’s inventory or accounts receivable. Normally there are formulas that determine how much can be loaned, depending on how much is in inventory and in accounts receivable.

One of the most popular functions of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is to help fill the financing gaps for small businesses by guaranteeing loans that a lender makes to small businesses that they would otherwise not be able to finance. The SBA guarantees up to 85 percent of a business loan to support the business and offset risk to the bank. The majority of SBA loans are applied for and administered by local banks; however credit unions, non-profit lenders, and other lenders may also participate to provide SBA guaranteed loans. Your primary point of contact will be with a local lender throughout the process.

For startup loans, lenders participating in SBA’s programs will normally require an equity injection (investment) from the applicant small business in addition to any financing that the bank would provide. SBA does not have a minimum requirement for equity, and participating lenders apply reasonable and prudent standards based on the business’s ability to repay the proposed loan. Depending on the size of the loan, the lender must consider collateral such as any asset being financed with proceeds, other business and personal assets for collateral. Delegated Lenders participating in SBA programs can take as little as three days to approve an SBA-guaranteed loan to an eligible small business. If your own bank isn’t an approved SBA lender, you may contact your local SBA District Office (in every state) to request a list of participating lenders, or access additional information at

Non-Bank Business Loans

Aside from standard bank loans, an established small business can also turn to accounts receivable specialists to borrow against its accounts receivables.

The most common accounts receivable financing is used to support cash flow when working capital is hung up in accounts receivable. For example, if your business sells to distributors that take 60 days to pay, and the outstanding invoices waiting for payment (but not late) come to $100,000, your company can probably borrow more than $50,000. Interest rates and fees may be relatively high, but this is still often a good source of small business financing. In most cases, the lender doesn’t take the risk of payment—if your customer doesn’t pay you, you have to pay the money back anyhow. These lenders will often review your debtors, and choose to finance some or all of the invoices outstanding.

Another related business practice is called factoring. So-called factors actually purchase obligations, so if a customer owes you $100,000 you can sell the related paperwork to the factor for some percentage of the total amount. In this case, the factor takes the risk of payment, so discounts are obviously quite steep. Ask your banker for additional information about factoring.

In addition, equipment manufacturers often offer their own financing for major purchases. This is similar to a car loan to fund the purchase of a business van. It’s also common with equipment for restaurant kitchens, shrink wrapping, and other businesses.

Words of Warning 

Never, never spend somebody else’s money without first doing the legal work properly. Have the papers done by professionals, and make sure they’re signed.

Never, never spend money that has been promised but not delivered. Often companies get investment commitments and contract for expenses, and then the investment falls through. Avoid turning to friends and family for investment. The worst possible time to not have the support of friends and family is when your business is in trouble. You risk losing friends, family, and your business at the same time.


Most businesses are financed by home equity or savings as they start. Only a few can attract outside investment. Investor deals are extremely rare. Borrowing will always depend on collateral and guarantees, not on business plans or ideas.

Source: SBA

Starbucks Set to Add Three to Board, Making It More Diverse


Corporate executives often talk about the need for boardroom diversity, but few do much about it. Women still hold slightly less than 20 percent of public corporate board seats. African-Americans hold less than 9 percent, Asians even less, about 5 percent, and Hispanics only about 4 percent.

On Wednesday, Starbucks, the coffee giant, plans to announce it is adding three new directors to its board and in doing so will create what will be among the nation’s most diverse corporate boards.

The new directors, who will require shareholder approval, will be Rosalind Brewer, an African-American woman who is president and chief executive of Sam’s Club and vice president of Walmart Stores; Satya Nadella, an Indian-American who is chief executive of Microsoft Corporation; and Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, the Denmark-born executive chairman of the Lego Brand Group.

With the additions, the Starbuck’s board would grow to 14 people; would be 29 percent female and 36 percent ethnic minority; and would include a range of ages from millennials to baby boomers.

“I’ve tried to create an environment within the board that would be culturally similar to that of the company,” Howard Schultz, the company’s founder and chairman, said. “People with like-minded values, domain expertise, diverse and deeply committed to transparency with a comprehensive understanding of our aspirations to create a great enduring company balancing profit with conscience.”

Read the complete article on the New York Times.

Asia Newson has a business that’s literally lit


This 13-year-old entrepreneur from Detroit is the co-founder and CEO of Super Business Girl.

Asia Newson was just 5 years old when she watched her father Michael sell candles door to door in Detroit. She decided she wanted to learn the trade. She learned, she trained and she conquered and developed a sales pitch that people just couldn’t resist.

“Hi, my name is Asia Newson, and I’m known as Detroit’s youngest entrepreneur.” That’s her sales pitch. In 2014, she told ABC News’20/20 that sometimes she can be a little scripted but she’s learned to put her own personality into her pitch and approach. As a young entrepreneur, she has a great understanding of business concepts. Her goal was to have stores all over the country.

Eight years later, Asia makes and sells her candles, and she’s expanded her business into a training model — Super Business Girl. The company, of which she is co-founder and CEO, teaches children how to become entrepreneurs and make money for themselves. With the proceeds from sales, she buys clothes and food for needy children, as well as her own school and business supplies.

Asia runs the business with her parents. Her mother, LaTasha Thomas, is president of Super Business Girl and her father is director of sales. Her signature candle is a three-layered pink, yellow and light blue candle in a jar that sells for $14.99. She has four other candles (white tea, southern apple, sweet mango and cotton candy) that are sold on her website for $9.99 each. Her online store includes T-shirts, mugs, bags, jewelry and more.

Asia said she realizes that youth fades and her cute sales pitch may not withstand the passage of time, but she’s working hard to teach other young children to follow in her footsteps and live their dreams.

Super Business Girl Youth entrepreneurship workshops are geared toward middle- and high school students with a goal of encouraging entrepreneurship to those who have ever thought about starting their own business or cultivating a business idea. The workshop is a hands-on class with a curriculum that includes business techniques, entrepreneurship, merchandising, candle-making and innovation. The purpose of the class is to “empower students with tools to create their own opportunities, manage their finances and have funds for college while having fun.”

Continue onto The Undefeated to read the complete article and to watch an interview with Ellen DeGeneres.

Here are 6 Reasons Why You Need the Disability Equality Index (DEI)


As a person with a visible disability who has spent most of my professional career in HR leading diversity and inclusion, I’m frequently asked to offer an opinion on the merits of completing the DEI.  Knowing how precious resources are to fill out any kind of survey or assessment tool, it’s an important question, where do companies get the greatest return on investment?

Here are 6 reasons why I encourage companies to register for the DEI by January 13, 2017 and complete it by April 21, 2017:

1.)   The DEI is a joint initiative of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It was developed by a 20-person DEI Advisory Committee made up of equal numbers of business leaders and disability inclusion advocates.

2.)   The DEI is a transparent, comprehensive assessment of disability inclusion, with all questions visible from the outset (rather than appearing depending on how you answer a question) that recognizes companies that score an 80 or above.  Note:  The names of companies scoring less than 80 are kept confidential.

3.)   While it’s often desirable to seek validation for hard won diversity and inclusion accomplishments, and there may be leaders in your company who seem to have an insatiable appetite for positive PR, it’s necessary to be selective and only choose those that will resonate  with your employees, customers and suppliers as authentically earned.  The DEI will help your company make real progress and provide acknowledgement that the disability community views as sincere and meaningful.

4.)   Unfortunately, it’s rare to attend a disability event that includes leaders from the business community where the speakers talk about the significant market opportunity ($220 Billion in U.S. $3 Trillion globally), and brand loyalty of people with disabilities and their stakeholders; how to include disability-owned businesses in supplier diversity efforts; and where to find top talent who also happens to have a disability. This is puzzling because with any other event focused on under-represented groups, typically you would see all aspects described included.  The DEI is a tool that will help business advance disability inclusion across the business and will continue to raise the bar over time.

5.)    Business leaders have found the DEI to be #morethanascore. Here are some quotes from my D&I colleagues who have participated in the DEI:

“The DEI requires a higher level of thoughtfulness, and many pairs of eyes to understand and address the questions. When various stakeholders across the company review the questions, the questions tell them the story of what disability inclusion really entails. This allowed us to engage in conversations with individuals who might not have thought about these topics as deeply prior to seeing the DEI questions. The process is as valuable as the result.” 

“The DEI is not just a prize for participation, but for doing the real work. The scored outcome is something tangible you can show leadership to demonstrate the fruits of the organization’s labor.  Meaningful outcomes, not just an award, but accomplishments.”

“To score 80+ on DEI is to be in rarified company with organizations who have made this investment.  As a business to business organization, this also shows our clients who have made an investment that is similar to the one we have made with regards to true disability inclusion that we take this seriously.  If you give everybody a prize for participation, you lose the value and meaningfulness of this. 

“Some of the questions were truly eye opening and challenged us to make some important changes like adding hearing aids to our covered benefits, and designating and training someone in our technology department to focus on accessibility.”

“Questions are thought provoking and cause you to examine and review policies and practices.”

6.)   Beyond all of this, there’s an even more important factor in making the decision to complete the DEI. In my experience as a D&I practitioner, all diverse communities subscribe to the mantra, “Nothing about us without us.” African Americans, Women, LGBTQ, Asia Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Veterans all want to be involved in decisions that are made and strategies that are developed that impact them at work and in the community.

The DEI was co-created by business leaders and disability inclusion advocates. The results of this collaboration is an instrument that presents a reasonable and achievable bar for companies. It’s not all the disability community would have liked to see included, but it’s a great start that has resulted in meaningful improvements in businesses who aspire to be disability inclusive. If a company achieves a score of 80 or more on the DEI, you can be assured that they have made great strides.

Full disclosure, I was on the founding DEI Advisory Committee and continue to serve.  Below are some quotes from some of my colleagues on this Committee who are both business leaders and disability inclusion champions:

“What’s invisible can’t be counted. What’s uncounted doesn’t really matter. The Disability Equality Index is one of the most effective ways to understand how people with disabilities can be visible and respected in the workplace – and for employers to make them count. By taking part in the DEI, corporations signal to all Americans that their doors, their markets and their minds include everyone.”

     Bob Witeck
President, Witeck Communications, Inc.

“If we want to accelerate progress in disability equality, we need to know how to measure success.  The DEI, developed jointly by business leaders and disability advocates, is a great tool that is helping companies learn and grow in this space.”

     Andrew Imparato,
Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities

“CVS Health is honored to be one of the DEI top scoring companies for the second consecutive year. The DEI is not just a great benchmarking tool, it also provides a holistic framework for any company looking to develop a comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of the disabilities community in the workforce, workplace and marketplace.”

     David L. Casey
VP, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health

“We are a technology, media, and entertainment company that provides products and services to very diverse communities around the world.  The only way to truly succeed as a competitive and innovative company is to hire and employ a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities.  Inclusion drives innovation.  The questions posed in the DEI force you to take a hard look at your hiring and employment practices and really help you to become better – to be more inclusive, so you can be more innovative and, therefore, more successful as a company.”

     Fred Maahs, Senior Director of National Partnerships,
Community Investment Comcast Corporation

To view the DEI go to:

Questions? Comments? Please, let’s hear your views.

For more information, and to register by 1/13/17 go to:

10 Reasons to Consider a Career in the STEM Fields


Thinking about going for a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics? Now is the perfect time. STEM is a quickly growing and high paying area that is a great direction for new or graduating students to take. But is it really right for you? Check out these 10 reasons why you should consider making STEM your future career.

1). Cross-Marketability of Skills
It’s not like if you’re a biologist than you can suddenly go into theoretical physics, but the basic skills you learn are useful in many different professions. By studying to follow a field in science or technology you’ll be learning math, research methods, problem solving, and how to fill out mountains of paperwork. Many different jobs across all fields need that, which means you’re already qualified. If you decide to change jobs or have trouble finding one right away, you won’t be left out in the cold.

2). High Pay
Going into STEM isn’t just a great way to get a job. It’s also a way to get a high paying job. Studies have shown that 63 percent of people with a degree in STEM-related work get paid more than someone with a bachelor’s degree in anything else. More than that, 47 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field make more than people with a Ph.D. in other areas. Basically, you’ll be more likely to make lots of money than someone who majors in another field of study.

3). Job Availability
With this economy, you might be worried about how you’re going to get a job. Are there really that many jobs available to you? The short answer is yes. There are STEM jobs in numerous different fields ranging from research assistant to physics educator. More jobs are added all the time, so you’re never going to find a scarcity of positions for someone with your qualifications.

4). Less Competition
Even though there are plenty of jobs, there are still probably hundreds of people clamoring to get at them, right? Wrong. Every year 3.2 million jobs in the STEM fields go unfilled, mostly because there is no one qualified to fill them. By educating yourself and preparing to go into one of those jobs, you’ll be a head above the rest who don’t have what it takes to qualify.

5). Less of a Gender Gap
Ok, so maybe you’re a woman and are worried about that huge pay gap determined by gender. This is yet another way STEM can help with your life. Studies have shown that there is a much smaller salary gap between men and women in the STEM fields. It’s also got plenty of racial and gender diversity, so if you’re looking for equality in the workplace then look no further.

6). Basic Skills Won’t Get Obsolete
It’s true that technology is ever progressing, but the basics stay the same. The world will still need math and still need research. Because you have a basic knowledge of the scientific method, computers, essays or report writing and much more, you’ll be valuable no matter how things innovate. You’ll be more ready to adapt to the changes than people who have no experience in the field at all.

7). Innovation
All that innovation doesn’t just help you get a nice paycheck. It also helps others. You have the chance to work on the cutting edge of fields like medicine, computer technology, robotics, and more. If you have a humanitarian streak, what better way to show it than by gifting the world with your ability to innovate?

8). Better Classes
Right now the government is making a big push to get classes funded and available for STEM students. There are more varied classes in different areas and the funding in most states is better for STEM related classes. Given that half of high school students say they’re not going to go into STEM majors, you may also find that your classes are smaller, which gives you better access to professors and resources.

9). Everyday Critical Thinking
Being a problem solver in the classroom and at work can lead to you being a problem solver in life as well. Being trained in a STEM field can assist you in your everyday world and can even save you money. If you have a better grasp of computer engineering, maybe you won’t have to take your computer to the IT guys so often. If you’re a math wiz, doing your taxes might not be as big a bother. Besides, who else do your friends know that can make a potato cannon out of office supplies or a fighting robot from car parts?

10). Love
There is no better reason to go into a field than this. For some people, science, math, and technology are not just jobs. They’re a passion. If your career is something you enjoy doing, you’ll lead a happier and more productive life. You’ll be one of the few who doesn’t dread going to work every day and is able to brag about your job. Even if your grades weren’t the best, even if your pay isn’t as high as you’d like, pursuing what you love is a reward all its own.


Ever Thought About Owning Your Own Franchise?


Nothing lasts forever. Hot brands in franchising don’t stay hot forever. New brands are always entering the marketplace. New ideas for products and services are introduced every year. Some of these new franchise concepts end up succeeding–exploding even. Some of them fade away soon after they’re launched. But, even the hot ones eventually lose their fire. Keep that fact in mind as you’re searching for a franchise you’d like to own.

Picking the Winners
Too bad crystal balls don’t really work. If they did, you could choose franchise concepts that were getting ready to go big. But, they don’t, so you’re left with doing good old-fashioned detective work to find then research franchise opportunities you hope will be a good fit and that you can be successful owning.

Before you begin taking a serious look at franchise opportunities, it’s important to set some goals. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself clicking from one franchise opportunity website to another for hours on end-with nothing to show for your efforts except a sore wrist and tired eyes.

Ideas for Goals
I want you to decide on your own goals for a franchise you’d like to own. It’s your life and your money. But, allow me to prime the pump a bit. Check out these 5 possible goals.
1.    I want to own a franchise that allows me to have a lot of flexibility in my day.
2.    I don’t want to invest more than $200k in a franchise.
3.    I want to own a franchise with a well-known brand.
4.    I only want to buy a newer franchise concept so I can get in on the ground floor
5.    I want a franchise that can serve as a family business-for my family.

Did I get you thinking?

Deciding When
Number #3 and #4 above may not be goals you had planned on having, but, they’re important ones to consider. That’s because you need to decide when you want to get in. In other words, would you like to have first dibs on a franchise location in your area? If so, you should look into younger franchise brands … franchise businesses that are up and running in other parts of the country-just not in yours.

Or, would you like to be the second or third franchisee in your local area? If so, that could mean that the “best” locations may already be spoken for. It may also mean that the residents living in your area already know of the brand; that could make it easier for you to get your new business up and running.

The Ebbs and Flows
If you know going in that all franchise brands experience ebbs and flows, you’re already ahead of the game. You may end up buying a franchise that’s considered an up and comer. Your timing could turn out to be perfect. If so, take advantage of your brand’s popularity. Earn as much money as you can. But, make sure you put aside some of your earnings if possible, because business may not always be good.

Tip: Choose a franchise opportunity with an innovative executive team. A team that’s not afraid of introducing new products/services to the marketplace. It’s one way to try to limit the inevitable ebbs and flows that all brands experience.

Source: SBA

Uber challenged on diversity by Jesse Jackson


The civil-rights leader calls on the ride-hailing company to release diversity figures on its workforce, as Apple, Facebook and others have done.
A long list of big-name tech companies have released statistics on the racial and gender makeup of their workforces, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Uber isn’t on that list. And on Thursday, civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson wrote a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick pushing the ride-hailing company to make its diversity figures public.

“As we enter the new year…we urge Uber to ‘lean in’ and join the ranks of technology companies that are reporting your diversity and inclusion data,” Jackson wrote, referencing the title of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book about women in the workplace.

Over the last few years, diversity in tech has gotten a lot of attention, with a slew of news stories focusing on the largely white and male composition of staffs and boards of directors. One especially high profile conflict involved former venture capitalist and ex-Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, who lost her sexual discrimination lawsuit against VC firm Kleiner Perkins in March 2015.

With his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Jackson has been at the forefront of activism regarding diversity in Silicon Valley. In 2014 he called on Google to release its statistics, and shortly thereafter the company complied. Several other major tech firms quickly followed suit. Popular startups like Airbnb and Pinterest have released their diversity numbers, and Uber rival Lyft has pledged to do so this year.

Continue onto CNet to read the complete article.

Why Hiring Disabled People is Smart for Business Owners


by Belo Miguel Cipriani

Hiring a person with a disability can seem like a big risk, especially as a small business owner with limited resources.

Many businesses still hold misconceptions about employing the disabled, including the cost of accommodations and employees’ ability to add value.

The perceived risks of hiring employees with disabilities often overshadow business owners’ good intentions to make fair hiring decisions. Employees taking more time off for health problems, the prohibitive costs of adaptive equipment, potential legal issues, and accessibility could make any small business owner concerned about his company’s bottom line.

The fact is that the 56.7 million people with disabilities in the U.S. have a large part to play in the economic health of the country. Hiring the disabled should not stem from guilt or societal pressure; rather, hiring them can provide a measurable return on investment to the businesses that employ them.

The Gap Between Perception and Reality

In the United States, only 17.8 percent of people with a disability are employed. Recently, the National Industries for the Blind polled hiring managers at a variety of different-sized companies to gauge their attitudes toward hiring a person who is blind. According to the study, “Twenty-three percent of hiring managers said blind employees are not as productive as their colleagues, and 19 percent believe these employees have a higher absentee rate.”

Yet a 2007 study by DePaul University found that disabled and non-disabled employees actually had similar performance ratings, and disabled employees needed no more supervision than any other group. This data confirms an earlier study by DuPont.

Besides being comparable in work performance, those with disabilities tend to stay with a company for a longer period of time, making the investment more valuable. And, because employees with disabilities have unique needs, companies that employ them often reassess how and why they perform certain tasks, leading to the incorporation of new technology, more efficient processes, and productive changes in workflow.

The Benefits Outweigh the Costs of Accessibility

Since most businesses ignore people with disabilities, a company can gain a real advantage by being able to reach, engage, and cater to this growing subset of the population. The disabled and their families and friends hold an estimated $269 billion in buying power, and consumers in general (87 percent) prefer organizations that employ those with disabilities.

While the benefit of reaching these customers is impressive, there is still the question of cost. Those with disabilities have unique needs that require time, effort, and an initial investment on the part of the business, but the costs of accommodation are much lower than most employers think.

Pointing to the DePaul University study, the average cost of accommodations for a new hire amounted to $313. Many people need different arrangements to be effective in their work environments, such as a change in monitor height or a desk with easier access. For those who require specialized equipment (such as a screen reader or a chair for someone with a degenerative disc disease), the cost is typically less than $500.

Many business owners aren’t aware of the substantial tax benefits and programs—which can reach more than $20,000—that offset the costs of accessibility and provide businesses with incentives to hire, train, and retain those with disabilities.

  • The U.S. Social Security Ticket to Work Program enables employers to generate more than $4,800 within the first nine months of an employee’s hire.
  • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, depending on the number of hours worked by the employee, can enable a company to claim a certain percentage of wages earned.

Companies taking advantage of this system are reaping rewards not only from the government, but also through decreased internal costs. A Walgreens distribution center saved more than $17,000 in workers’ compensation costs after making an effort to hire those with disabilities.

Hiring for diversity—especially those with a disability—shouldn’t be done because of a social or emotional obligation. Similar to any other recruitment effort, you need to find a candidate who has the necessary skills, is a long-term fit for the organization, and can provide real value to your company—all the qualifications that many disabled people possess. Hiring people with disabilities isn’t tokenism: It’s an investment in your business.

Belo Cipriani is the award-winning author of Blind: A Memoir and Midday Dreams. He is a disability advocate, and is currently the national spokesman for 100 Percent Wine—a premium winery that donates 100 percent of proceeds to nonprofits that help people with disabilities find work. Learn more at

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