With his PlayVS e-sports platform, Delane Parnell is creating a valuable scouting grounds for new tech talent.
Sporting a pair of black Jordan 11 Cap and Gowns that look like they were just unboxed and a dark baseball cap that casts a slight shadow over his baby-cheeked face, Delane Parnell fields questions from the audience at this September’s TechCrunch Disrupt, the annual San Francisco assembly that has become a startup kingmaker of sorts. He shares the stage with Jason Citron, founder and CEO of Discord, a messaging app for video gamers with more than 150 million users, and—after a $50 million fundraising round in April—a valuation of $1.65 billion. Parnell’s PlayVS (pronounced play versus), an e-sports platform for high schools, has yet to even launch. But the 26-year-old Detroit native exudes confidence. “Investors are starting to realize that gaming is the next social paradigm,” says Parnell, answering a question about e-sports’ mainstream popularity. “And they want a piece of it.”
You don’t have to look far for evidence of gaming’s influence. It’s all over YouTube and Twitch in how-to videos and live-streamed sessions of FIFA 19 and Assassin’s Creed. A robust ecosystem of e-sports competitions is rising as well, with game publishers, entertainment companies, and even colleges and universities creating leagues and events for pro gamers and amateurs alike. The largest tournaments, for titles such as Dota 2 and Call of Duty, can fill stadiums and dangle purses of millions of dollars. According to research firm NewZoo, revenue from e-sports-related media, sponsorships, merchandise, tickets, and publisher fees is expected to nearly double from 2014 to reach $1 billion this year. Goldman Sachs projects e-sports viewership to reach 300 million by 2022, putting it on par with the NFL.
For all the organizations rushing into e-sports, a hole remains: high school competitions that engage the estimated 75% of American teens who already play video games. Parnell is filling that void with PlayVS, which lets schools create leagues and host virtual and live competitions. Though he’s diving into an industry full of well-funded sharks, including Amazon (Twitch’s parent company) and Discord, Parnell has an edge. In January, PlayVS signed an exclusive, five-year e-sports partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the organization that oversees varsity sports and activities at nearly 19,500 public and private high schools across the country. The first test season of a PlayVS-powered competition, for the popular multiplayer game League of Legends, commenced this October at high schools across five states, and the company is gearing up for its official inaugural season in February.
Parnell is now on a roll. Last week, just five months after PlayVS closed its $15.5 million Series A, the company announced a $30.5 million round from investors that include Adidas, Samsung, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and the VC arm of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I don’t care if you’re gaming on your phone, on a console, or through a cloud service,” Parnell says. “Gaming in high school, even if it’s tic-tac-toe, will run through us.”
If he succeeds, he could effectively control a pipeline that would feed into the burgeoning pro leagues. It took the NBA two decades after its first draft to start recruiting players from high schools, but e-sports leagues are already tapping young talent. A 13-year-old recently signed with a European pro Fortnite team. Given the venture capital and startups flooding into e-sports today, Parnell could create another, equally valuable conduit: one that enables high schoolers—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—to parlay their interest in gaming into lucrative tech jobs. All he has to do is convince schools that e-sports deserves to be taken as seriously as football and basketball.
It’s an odd juxtaposition to see a 6-foot-4, 257-pound NFL player with a voice deep enough to rival Barry White’s spending his offseason selling cupcakes.
It has been an eye-opening adjustment for Tennessee Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo, the new co-owner of a Gigi’s Cupcakes store located outside Austin, Texas. He has gone from seeking tackles on the field to putting red sugar crystals on strawberry shortcake cupcakes.
“I’m so aggressive at times that you have to tone that down when you’re dealing with everyday people and customers. It’s a different way of life,” Orakpo said. “I have to tone that Rak down. I’ve been more Brian these days.”
Orakpo and one of his two business partners, former Titans safety Michael Griffin, hope their venture will encourage more players to pursue entrepreneurial interests and risks.
This all started in February 2017, when Orakpo, Griffin and their good friend Bryan Hynson were eating lunch in Nashville and plotting possible business ventures. Griffin was out of football after a 10-year NFL career and looking for something to occupy his time. Orakpo, then 30, was looking ahead, eyeing potential interests after football. Hynson worked in banking.
Orakpo and Griffin loved Gigi’s Cupcakes when they were Titans teammates. They took Hynson by a Nashville location to check it out, and he was sold. All three University of Texas graduates decided to start a plan to bring their own Gigi’s Cupcakes store to the Austin area.
“It was a different side of a world that me and Brian Orakpo didn’t know anything about. We can talk football all day. But we had to learn about business,” Griffin said. “Learning how to start up a LLC to getting someone who is going to be working with your account to financing, just a lot of things we take for granted being professional athletes.”
After a year of planning and building a store from the ground up, the three friends opened their Gigi’s Cupcakes in Bee Cave, Texas, less than a month ago.
The celebratory opening was a reward for the long journey. All three partners were hands-on throughout the process. They had their own two-a-day trainings, which involved working from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for three consecutive weeks while learning how to open the shop, decorate, bake every cupcake they sell, be the cashier and close the shop. That didn’t even include the financial side of it.
“It was harder than playing football,” said Griffin, who noted that his wife told him she sees him less now that he is a business owner than she did when he was playing football. “This was like a completely foreign language. Being professional athletes, we’re kind of spoiled. These are things we never worried about because there were large amounts of money coming in every year. It was definitely an awakening.”
Orakpo added: “It was a grueling process. We made some mistakes, but we got the hang of it now.”
Starting a business? Confused about the planning, legal and regulatory steps you should follow?
Did you know that home-based businesses are required to hold permits to operate legally in most states? What about incorporation? Many new businesses assume they need to incorporate or become an LLC from the get-go—but the truth is, more than 70 percent of small businesses are owned by unincorporated sole proprietors (although even this group is required to register their businesses).
So, variables aside, there are still some fundamental steps that any business needs to follow to get started. Below are steps that can help you plan, prepare, and manage your business—while taking care of the startup legalities. Not all these steps will apply to all businesses, but working through them will give you a sense of what needs your attention and what you can check off.
Write a Business Plan
Yeah, yeah, you know you should write a business plan whether you need to secure a business loan or not. The thing is, a business plan doesn’t have to be encyclopedic and it doesn’t have to have all the answers. A well-prepared plan—revisited often—will help you steer your business all along its growth curve. Try to think of your business plan as a living, breathing project, not a one-time document. Break it down into mini-plans—one for marketing, one for pricing, one for operations, and so on.
Get Help and Training
Starting a business can be a lonely endeavor, but there are lots of free in-person and online resources that can help advise you as you get started. Check out what’s offered at your Small Business Development Centers; SCORE (which offers free mentoring services); Women’s Business Centers, your local U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) office, or the US Business Leadership Network® (USBLN®).
Choose Your Business Location
Where you locate your business may be the single most important decision you make. Many factors come into play, such as proximity to suppliers, the competition, transportation access, demographics, and zoning regulations.
Understand Your Financing Options
You may choose to bootstrap, fall back on savings, or even keep a full-time job until your business is profitable, but if you are looking for an external source of financing, these resources explain your options.
Decide on a Business Structure
Going it alone or forming a partnership? Thinking of incorporating? What about an LLC? How you structure your business can reduce your personal liability for business losses and debts. Some choices can give you tax benefits. To help you determine the right structure for your business, the SBA can provide an overview of your options, information on how to file the necessary paperwork in your state, and the tax implications of your decision.
Register Your Business Name (“Doing Business As”)
Registering a “Doing Business As” name or “trade name” is only needed if you name your business something other than your personal name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.
Get a Tax ID
Not every business needs a tax ID from the IRS (also known as an Employer Identification Number or EIN), but if you have employees, run a business partnership, a corporation or meet certain IRS criteria, you must obtain an EIN from the IRS. You’ll also need to start paying estimated taxes to the IRS; visit irs.gov for more about this process.
Register with Tax Authorities
Employment taxes, sales taxes, and state income taxes are handled at the state-level. Visit sba.gov to learn more about your state’s tax requirements and how to comply.
Apply for Permits and Licenses
All businesses, even home-based businesses, need a license or permit to operate. The SBA provides a guide explaining permits and licensing and includes a handy “Permit Me” tool that lets you determine what your permit and licensing needs are, based on your zip code and business type.
Throughout the United States, Siemens partners with more than 20,000 small business suppliers to drive innovation, achieve greater success, and play an active role in the growth of the U.S. market. As an integral part of our supply chain, we continue to celebrate these strategic partnerships like we did recently during our annual Small Business Awards Luncheon, which recognizes small business partners owned by minorities, women, veterans, and other diverse suppliers across Siemens U.S. businesses.
With the theme of “Small Business – Big Impact,” the ceremony took place in Atlanta and honored nine small business partners, selected based their performance, innovation and sustainability. All the winning suppliers contributed to Siemens’ success in fiscal year 2018 and are powerful examples of how partnering with small and diverse suppliers adds value to not only Siemens, but to our customers, the economy and the supplier themselves.
Here’s a look at the award winners.
Congratulations to the USA Small Business Award 2018 Winners
Located in Euless, Texas, Quick-Way Manufacturing is a small business manufacturer of custom fabricated parts and stampings. Quick-Way is the “go-to” vendor when Siemens has an expedited need and is well known for its fast turnaround and great customer service.
BBM-CPG Technology, Inc.
South Carolina-based BBM-CPG Technology is a small business founded in 2004 and has fabrication, offices and warehouses with 34 employees and a main-production facility in Mexicana, Toluca, Mexico with 155 employees.
Located in Aston, Pennsylvania, Shur-Kut is a small business that serves many industries including Power Generation, Aerospace, Medical, Commercial Transportation and Automotive. The company maintains 99 percent on-time delivery and 100 percent quality metrics.
Cynthia Kay & Company
With 8 employees, Cynthia Kay & Company is a woman owned small business based in Michigan that has flown over 250,000 miles this year for Siemens to produce digital communications, developed a capability for 360 video and had two employees certified as pilots to fly drone missions for Siemens.
Logisticus Group is a small disadvantaged business specializing in Innovative Transportation, Project Management, and Technology Solutions. They constantly exhibit superb quality of service and work, strong work ethic, professionalism, transparency and reliability.
Axxis Building Systems, Inc.
Founded in 2011, Axxis is a woman owned and disadvantaged small business that has been committed to providing quality work and true customer service. Axxis’ performance and service was instrumental in achieving Siemen’s strategic objectives.
Alaska Imaging Solutions
Founded by Brian Niver, a veteran and former Siemens Healthineers employee, Alaska Imaging Solutions is a critical business partner for meeting high customer expectations.
OEM Fabricators, Inc.
OEM is a small business manufacturer of custom, high-performance parts. Its high level of welding and metal fabrication competence has established them as a preferred supplier of complex assemblies.
Classified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), PROLIM is a MindSphere IoT partner and leading provider of end-to-end PLM and Engineering Solutions to Global Fortune 1000 companies, with a focus on business processes and technology.
The Siemens small business and supplier diversity program is committed to developing strategic supplier sourcing with small and diverse businesses and businesses located in historically underutilized business zones. To learn more, visit siemens.com/about/supplier-at-siemens.
In a move anticipated within the industry, Dungey is headed to the new home of two other former powerhouse ABCers: Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris.
Channing Dungey, the former head of ABC Entertainment who stepped down in November, is joining Netflix, where she will oversee original TV series alongside Cindy Holland, the company’s longtime head of originals.
The move was anticipated within the industry and reunites Dungey with two of her former showrunners, Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) and Kenya Barris (Black-ish), both of whom decamped from ABC to Netflix earlier this year. At Netflix, Channing will also oversee other high-profile producers, such as the Obamas, who have a producing deal at the company; Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black, Glow) and Marti Noxon; as well half of the originals executive team. The other half will report to Holland.
Interestingly, sources toldThe Hollywood Reporter that Dungey, a TV veteran who had been at ABC since 2004, will also have a direct line of communication with Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos. Like other executives whom Netflix has poached from traditional entertainment companies, such as Scott Stuber, who heads Netflix’s original film division, Dungey brings experience working with talent and nurturing projects as the company invests more heavily in its own content–and begins to operate more like a traditional studio. In contrast, Holland was promoted to oversee originals in 2012, when Netflix first began making its own shows. She started at the company in DVD acquisitions and then took over domestic TV licensing.
Dungey’s exit from ABC came as its parent company, the Walt Disney Company, was preparing to merge with 21st Century Fox. The new arrangement would have united Dungey with her formal rival at Fox, Dana Walden, who was named in October as incoming Disney TV Studios chairman. Her departure also marked the end of a dramatic year at ABC. After green-lighting a remake of Roseanne that became one of the network’s biggest hits, Dungey swiftly fired the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, after she made a racist slur on Twitter. The show continued production as a spin-off (The Conners) without Barr, but has faired less spectacularly in the ratings.
KPMG LLP has appointed Michele Meyer-Shipp, an accomplished executive and attorney with significant experience in inclusion strategy and employment law, as Chief Diversity Officer. She succeeds Sue Townsen, who returns full-time to the firm’s Advisory practice.
Meyer-Shipp, who joins as a principal, will lead the national Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) team and oversee its strategy and objectives, including growing diverse leaders and collaboration; inspiring broad perspectives and innovative client solutions; and fostering an inclusive, accessible, and vibrant workplace. She will work closely with KPMG’s leadership teams to advance its inclusive and diverse culture, which has earned the firm recognition as a top workplace by FORTUNE magazine, DiversityInc, Working Mother, and The Human Rights Campaign.
“Companies with inclusive and diverse cultures are better positioned to adapt, grow, and thrive – and we take great pride in embedding these values into our programs and actions,” said Darren Burton, KPMG’s Vice Chair of Human Resources. “Our national diversity networks engage nearly half of our 30,000 people in professional development, mentoring relationships, and community service activities. Michele’s skills and experience will help us continue to enhance our efforts to recruit, develop, and retain diverse talent.”
Meyer-Shipp comes to KPMG from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, where she served as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. She led the deployment of a firmwide diversity strategy, including building out infrastructure and ensuring that the firm’s foundational principles of inclusiveness and diversity were reflected in all of its policies, work, and practices. She also previously worked at Prudential Financial, initially as Vice President and Counsel and then as Chief Diversity Officer.
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The first female African-American astronaut in space was not cured of curiosity when she whirled about the cosmos as part of NASA’s STS-47 in 1992. Her vision sharpened, like a kid who takes her first plane flight. Wondrous, yes, but still a hint.
Space, for Dr. Mae Jemison, is a wild trip in your bones and a homecoming in your soul. “It’s the one thing that connects us all around the world,” she said, in an interview with Diversity in STEAM Magazine. “And it also connects us to the planet and to the greater universe.”
Jemison is in demand, but she manages telescopic vision when it comes to her current project: 100 Year Starship.
The goal? Human travel to another solar system in the next 100 years. “Creating an extraordinary tomorrow actually creates a better world today,” Jemison said.
Jemison, the principal and leader of the 100 Year Starship program, stated on the organization’s website (100yearss.org): “When we explore space, we garner the greatest benefits here at home. The challenge of traveling to another star system could generate transformative activities, knowledge, and technologies that would dramatically benefit every nation on Earth in the near term and years to come.
“The concept of humans traveling to other star systems may appear fantastical, but no more so than the fantasy of reaching the moon was in the days of H. G. Wells. The First Men in the Moon was published considerably less than 100 years before humans landed on the Moon (1901 vs. 1969), and the rapidity of scientific and technological advances was not nearly as great as it is today. The truth is that the best ideas sound crazy at first. And then there comes a time when we can’t imagine a world without them.”
Jemison was the science mission specialist on STS-47 Spacelab. STS-47 was a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan. The eight-day mission was accomplished in 127 orbits of the Earth, and included 44 Japanese and U.S. life science and materials processing experiments.
She was a co-investigator on the bone cell research experiment that traveled with the mission. In completing her first space flight, Jemison logged more than 190 hours in space. She’d been starstruck all her life; that didn’t change. “I imagined myself on another star, and I was connected to that star because I’m part of the universe,” she said.
Dr. Jemison, the author of Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life and other books, overcame all the obstacles placed on the career course, and life course, of an African-American woman. She negotiated each pothole, each roadblock, moved on, didn’t look back. “You make sure you’re doing the best you can do, but you don’t hang out at stumbling blocks that other people want you to hang around.”
Her advice for those facing similar challenges? “You have to be comfortable with yourself,” she said. “The key issue is to understand criticism. Is it coming because you aren’t doing something right or because someone has a different expectation of you?”
Jemison, who earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 1977 and a doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University in 1981, urges others to focus on education. “There is nothing we can do that is more important in this world than education,” she said. “Here’s the thing: Children don’t get to do 8 years old over again… if we fail to take advantage, then we have lost.”
The astronaut who went on to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame, and the Texas Science Hall of Fame, started off gazing at the night sky as a girl in Chicago and watching the Gemini and Apollo flights on TV.
“I used to be really irritated when I was a little girl that there were no women astronauts,” she said. “And no people of color in the astronaut program. Really irritated.”
She said there’s a difference between role models and inspiration. She’s had many role models, including cats (“They’re so confident; they don’t take nonsense”), but inspiration is another matter. “Life inspired me,” she said.
Jemison, a lover of the arts who dove deeply into dancing, has a background in engineering and medical research. She has worked in the areas of computer programming, printed wiring board materials, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, computer magnetic disc production, and reproductive biology. She completed her internship at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center in June 1982 and worked as a general practitioner with INA/Ross Loos Medical Group in Los Angeles until December of that year.
From January 1983 through June 1985, Jemison was the Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa. On return to the United States, Jemison joined CIGNA Health Plans of California in 1985 and was working as a general practitioner and taking graduate engineering classes in Los Angeles when she was chosen for the astronaut program in 1987.
She worked on the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory and the Science Support Group activities.
Then she was chosen to go to space, and she made history. “We have been in science all along,” she said about women of color. “Even when people didn’t want us involved. I want folks to understand they have the right to be involved. They don’t have to ask.”
Jemison left NASA in 1993—with a new mission. “My path was to include other people,” she said. She formed the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which fosters science literacy. The non-profit, founded in honor of Jemison’s late mother, who was a school teacher, is all about “personal excellence.” The foundation’s main program, developed in 1994, is The Earth We Share international science camp. Students from the United States and around the world work together to solve such global issues as, “How Many People Can the Earth Hold?” and “Predict the Hot Public Stocks for the Year 2030.”
Today, if you visit the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, Jemison will speak directly to you about the contributions women have made to the space program, via a life-size hologram in the exhibit Defying Gravity: Women in Space. She narrates, discussing her career and those of other women involved in the space program while visitors wear Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headsets and walk around the exhibit. Holograms appear, helping to illustrate her points, including a life-size rendering of an spacewalking astronaut that appears to be tethered to the real-life Enterprise that hangs above the installation.
Jemison’s story jumpstarted when, as a girl, she did a simple thing: she looked up.
The story never really ends; the cosmos are infinite; you can never look too closely or far enough. All this is to say Jemison is still looking up, and she wants others—especially generations to come—to do the same.
That’s why she coaxed a sea of people to do just that on September 28, 2018, as part of her Look Up project. “We want to chronicle what happens when you look up at the sky,” she said. “What do you hope, dream, think, fear, wish, plan, love?” Stories of those voyages were posted to the digital world as poems, songs, photos and art. That day and in the days after, Americans, Africans, French, Japanese, girls, boys, old, young and you-name-them connected in strange and soothing ways.
Once a beacon for more minorities to join him in Silicon Valley, the former tech and media darling enters a deal that will help to secure his legacy—and P&G’s.
Procter & Gamble, the consumer packaged goods conglomerate known for such household staples as Tide and Old Spice, will acquire Walker & Company Brands, the health and beauty startup launched by entrepreneur Tristan Walker just five years ago.
While the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, other details were: Within the first half of 2019, Walker and his current team of 15 employees will relocate to Atlanta—not Cincinnati, the home of P&G headquarters—and will continue working on its brands, Bevel and Form, as a wholly owned subsidiary with Walker at the reins as CEO. He’ll report directly to Alex Keith, president of P&G’s global haircare and beauty business.
“We’ve always had the vision to make health and beauty simple for people of color,” Walker says. “But now we get to accelerate that vision with the many capabilities Procter & Gamble has to offer. I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere.”
For those who’ve followed the career of Walker, the merger with P&G might read as the conclusion of a storied journey. Walker, who has cultivated for himself an image as a beacon for more racial diversity in Silicon Valley, is one of the most visible African-American executives in tech, counting among his funders Andreessen Horowitz, in addition to cofounding Code2040, a not-for-profit that connects young minorities to coding jobs. While it’s true that he professed his ambitions to become the “Procter and Gamble for people of color” in my profile of him four years ago, he has largely carved that path guided by Silicon Valley sensibilities, from ingratiating himself with the Bay Area elite to employing a direct-to-consumer model for Bevel—Walker’s flagship brand, a suite of shaving products that reduces skin irritation, common among men of color—just as glitzy startups like Warby Parker, Casper Sleep, and Glossier had done.
“Yes, we happen to be in Silicon Valley and, yes, we happen to do things from a technology perspective to help us accelerate our vision, but we’ve always been a forward-looking consumer packaged goods company,” says Walker. “Our moving from Silicon Valley doesn’t change that.”
The truth is, Walker has only in recent years begun eschewing the label of “tech startup.” He turned a few heads at Recode‘s Code Commerce conference in March of last year when he told Kara Swisher, “When I started, I said we’re a tech company. That’s bullshit.”
He’s moved deeper into the CPG world, inking a deal in 2015 to sell Bevel products in Target stores a la carte—a model which came to comprise nearly half the company’s revenue—and last year launched Form, a 10-product haircare line that Walker & Co. recommends to consumers based on an online survey about hair-affecting factors like geography and exercise habits. Form received rave reviews, but Walker lacked the resources to properly promote the product. Meanwhile, competitors such as Harry’s—which bought a $100 million razor factory less than a year after its founding—delivered on the type of fast-growth metrics that venture capitalists crave, zipping to a nine-figure valuation. (Soon Harry’s even installed giant displays that bookended the very Target aisles where Bevel products were sold.)
While some might consider the deal as simply the latest in a string of black-owned health and beauty companies getting snatched up by non-black-owned multinationals—see Sundial Brands’ sale to Unilever last year—the move means that resources like marketing and distribution are unlikely to be a worry for Walker going forward as a subsidiary of P&G, which today has a $93 billion market cap, and which AdAge recently ranked second (to Samsung) in global ad spend.
“When you consider growth percentages and metrics and that sort of thing, while it’s a good signal for the health of the business, it’s not necessarily the greatest signal for one’s belief that you’re building a beloved brand with staying power,” says Walker. “We’re six years old; Procter & Gamble is 180. There’s so much we can learn from them. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”
Eddie Ndopu wants to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space. MTV will follow a South African activist on his quest to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space.
Eddie Ndopu, 27, was born with spinal muscular atrophy and given a life span of five years. He has obviously exceeded that, going on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Oxford and has spent more than a decade advocating for the rights of disabled young people.
Now Ndopu is hoping to travel to space and deliver a message from above Earth to the U.N. General Assembly, sending “a powerful message on behalf of young people everywhere who have ever felt excluded by society.” MTV cameras will follow him as he enlists an aerospace company to facilitate the mission and chronicle his thoughts and emotions as the launch approaches. The cabler will also document his voyage and message to the United Nations.
The project was announced ahead of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities on Dec. 3.
Through the rest of the year, however, his agency is focused on providing support, including financing and legal services, to the city’s small businesses. Since Mr. Bishop was appointed in November 2015, he has certified a record number of minority- and women-owned businesses, and expanded the department to better serve immigrant entrepreneurs. He is also an adjunct professor at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs and board president of the Red Hook Initiative, a community nonprofit. Mr. Bishop, 43, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Downtown Brooklyn.
PREDAWN SOCIAL I’m an early riser, and Sunday is my catch-up day. So when I get up, typically at 5 or 5:30, I start sending work emails that I didn’t respond to during the week. I also do social media for my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha — I just got initiated into the Alpha Gamma Lambda chapter, based in Harlem, this spring — and for Red Hook Initiative. I’m an info junkie, so I’ll watch TV news while I’m doing that.
HOLY MOTHER I have to be at church by 11, so I’ll start getting ready for that around 10:15. My church, New Life Church of God, just celebrated its 25th anniversary. It started in my mom’s house in East Flatbush, so I grew up in it. My mom, Evette Williams, wasn’t the one who had the idea to start it, but she was part of the team that got it going. Now she’s one of the pastors. The building it’s in used to be an auto-repair shop. I’m very big into fitness, but Sunday is my cheat day, so I might stop at Golden Krust for ackee and saltfish, a Jamaican dish. Or I may just skip breakfast. It depends on how early I leave for church.
SPREAD THE WORD There’s a commercial corridor right near church, so on the way I’ll stop and hand out fliers and knock on doors to let people know about our services. Things like health fairs, connecting people with jobs. A lot of people don’t think to turn to the government for assistance. Any time I’m walking down an avenue, I’m thinking, “What can we do as an agency to help these particular businesses? How can we advocate for them?”
TECHIE IN THE PEWS My background is in technology, and that comes out in church. I flip between being the person who does the sound engineering and the person who does the software displays, so people can see the hymns and Bible verses.
BARBERSHOP After church it’s like clockwork. I go get my hair cut at First Impression Barber and Beauty Salon, which is in what we call the Junction, basically where Flatbush and Nostrand Avenue meet. I actually have lost my hair, it’s thinning, but I refuse to be like those folks who try to hang onto it. So I cut it really low. I’ve been going there almost all my life, since high school, and they’ve seen me grow up. If I want to check the pulse of how we’re doing as a government, the barbershop is my best source. I just sit down and listen to the conversation.
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 2 million businesses in the country that are owned by African Americans.
That statistic dispels a lot of rumors that African Americans are not successful in business. On the contrary, Black-owned businesses are a huge asset to the U.S. economy. But wait there’s more!
Here are 10 more little-known facts about Black businesses:
#1 – The highest ratio of Black-owned businesses is in Washington, DC where 28% percent of ALL businesses there are owned by African Americans.
#2 – The second highest ratio of Black-owned businesses is in the state of Georgia, where 20% of ALL businesses there are Black-owned.
#3 – Although the ratio is only 10.6%, the state of New York actually has the most Black-owned firms at 204,093.
#4 – Of the 2 million Black businesses in the U.S., only about 107,000 of them have actual employees and they employ mo
#5 – Nearly 38% of Black businesses are in health care and social assistance, repair and maintenance, and personal and laundry services.
#6 – Other popular categories among Black businesses include advertising firms, auto dealerships, consulting services, restaurants, barbershops, beauty salons, and more.
#7 – World Wide Technology, a global technology consulting firm based in St Louis, MO, is the LARGEST Black-owned business in the country. Founded by entrepreneur David Steward, they post annual revenues of more than $2 billion.
#8 – There are actually many Black-owned businesses that generate millions in annual revenue. For example, Oprah Winfrey’s Harper Productions and Bob Johnson’s RLJ Companies. There is also GlobalHue, an advertising agency in Detroit, that generates more than $480 million in annual revenue; and many, many others.
WHERE IMPROVEMENT IS NEEDED:
#9 – African Americans make up more than 13% of the U.S. population, but only own 7% of the businesses.
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By 2045, people of color will make up the majority of the U.S. population.
That demographic shift, predicted by the U.S. Census Bureau, is one reason why companies are starting to take workplace diversity, inclusion and equity more seriously.
In corporate America, this has manifested in part through the proliferation of chief diversity officers, who are charged with creating policies and climates supportive of workers from an array of backgrounds.
As of 2012, 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies had diversity executives, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“It’s becoming standard across companies,” says Allison Scott, chief research officer at the Kapor Center, which aims to increase diversity in the technology and entrepreneurship sectors. “I think that’s a promising and important sign.”
However, having a chief diversity officer on the payroll is not a panacea, researchers say.
“That all sounds good and well, but in the past there wasn’t as much accountability for it,” says Kisha Jones, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. “You could get an A for effort for attempting the different practices but not have to show how change happens.”
Still, the presence of a diversity executive in the C-suite is one sign job seekers should look for when assessing whether a company is equipped to hire and retain diverse workers and effectively market to the heterogeneous customer base of the future.
Learn more about what these officers do and other signs to look for when evaluating a company’s commitment to diversity.
Duties and Conditions for Success
The work of diversity officers, also known as equal opportunity professionals, cuts across departmental boundaries. They influence hiring, training and company cultural practices that relate to three “big buckets,” explains Archie Ervin, vice president and chief diversity officer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
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Suburban Detroit may not be the epicenter of interior design, but that’s exactly where Nicole Gibbons, the CEO and founder of Clare, a direct-to-consumer paint line, got her start.
When she was growing up, Gibbons’ mother was a decorator and although Gibbons’ first job out of college was Director of Public Relations for a mass market retailer, she launched a design blog as her creative outlet. “It was truly just a place for me to talk about all the things I loved,” said Gibbons.
For a decade, her nights and weekends were spent pursuing her side hustle: designing for clients. But in 2008 the recession hit, and it wasn’t a good time to leave her day job to take a risk on starting her own full-time business. By 2013, the economy was looking up, though, and inspired by the Martha Stewart model of bringing design to the masses, Gibbons decided to take the leap.
Her first step was to build up her interior design clientele in and around New York City. Simultaneously, Gibbons started positioning herself as a design influencer. She appeared on Rachael Ray, HGTV, and spent three seasons on Home Made Simple on the Oprah Network. “All the while I was thinking about what kind of business I could build,” she added.
By then the first wave of direct-to-consumer brands had launched, with companies like Warby Parker in 2010 and Casper in 2014. “That’s when I had a light bulb moment around paint,” she said. “It’s something that’s really painful to shop for.” So painful in fact that it took one of Gibbons’ friends two months to pick a paint color that she ended up hating in the end.
Gibbons started out by networking in the paint industry to learn as much as she could about the marketing and manufacturing of paint. In the process she learned that the paint industry hasn’t changed the way it operates or sells its products in over a century. One woman she spoke with, who worked in the paint research and development space, even admitted that she hated shopping for paint. “That was a huge vote of confidence that I was onto something,” Gibbons explained. “People kept telling me that they wished someone would figure this out.”
And that’s exactly what Gibbons set out to do when she launched Clare.
Her first goal was to create a shopping experience for paint that was a lot more inspiring than the aisles of your local hardware or big box store, where a single paint brand has more than 3,000 colors to choose from.
The typical journey for someone who wants to paint their house is this: Narrow down from thousands of colors to a handful you want to try on your wall. Buy an eight-ounce jar of paint. Go home. Paint your wall. Wait for paint to dry. All the colors look almost exactly the same. Go back to the store and test more colors until you find the right one. Wait in line to get the paint mixed. If you have a job, which many of us do, you’re probably at the store on the weekend when it’s the busiest. Next you head over to the tool aisle, which is just as confusing as the paint aisle.
Instead, Clare has only 55 of the best colors in the best finishes, Gibbons explained. No more going back and forth to the store each time you want to try a new color. The company offers peel and stick color built with a high-tech color matching system that takes into account how much natural light your space gets, your existing furniture, and the colors you already have in the room. It also eliminates the need for testing multiple paint swatches on your wall.“We’ve created a suite of high quality tools so that even an unskilled painter can achieve high quality results. We bundle together everything from paint to tools. And we also have tons of online content that offer tips and inspiration,” said Gibbons.
In 2017 Gibbons built out the business, focusing on supply chain logistics and market research. “My goal was to get the business to the place where I could raise capital,” she said.
Her first step was to talk to people who had raised capital before. “I didn’t have a physical product or any traction so I had a bigger challenge than most,” Gibbons said. “When you’re raising pre-product you have to sell a vision. You can’t just have a compelling story. You have to give investors the confidence that you can execute on your vision.”
When Gibbons first pitched Clare to investors, she already knew who her suppliers would be and she had all the relationships in place in order to execute. “I spent all year working on it. I ate, breathed and slept paint. When the time came to talk to investors, I had a really clear path forward and a clear plan.”
Gibbons took her first investor meetings in September 2017 and by the end of October she had an oversubscribed round, raising $2 million, exceeding her initial target of $1.6 million.
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