The upcoming CURLS Girls Rule the World: Empowering Entrepreneurs Luncheon aims to jumpstart mentoring of young women of color who are often left out of the mentoring conversation. The event, which is co-sponsored by MadameNoire, will take place on April 1 in Harlem and will host 100 girls of color from Westchester and New York City, ages 12-24, with the hope of helping these young women tap into their entrepreneurial spirit.
One major component of the Empowering Entrepreneurs Luncheon will be the “Mentor Match Up,” created by CURLS founder and CEO Mahisha Dellinger. As part of the program, participating girls will be matched with the program’s “Celebrity Expert Mentors” who will share their personal lessons in business and life.
Among the confirmed mentors are: award-winning novelist Zane; acclaimed R&B singer Vivian Green; Ohio State Representative and President of the Ohio Black Caucus, The Honorable Alicia Reece; Emmy Award-winning Reality/TV Talk Show Producer of the “T.D. Jakes Show” Adriane Hopper Williams; as well as Brande Victorian, Managing Editor of Madamenoire.com. The luncheon will also include several keynote speakers, including Germaine Bolds-Leftridge, CEO, GBL Sales, Inc., a woman-owned hair distributor. Bolds-Leftridge has been in the Health and Beauty Aids industry since 1984, when she started as a merchandiser for Soft Sheen Products.
Karonda Cook, Director of Merchandising, Sally Beauty Supply, will also speak and participate in the promising event. Sally Beauty is considered the largest retailer of professional beauty supplies in the world. Cook, who has held her position with Sally Beauty since November 2013, previously worked at Unilever as the Customer Business Manager. When Cook was approached to take part in the luncheon, she said yes immediately. “I have a passion for anything that empowers young people, we all need a hand up and some inspiration from time to time, so I was on board; it’s worth all the time in the world,” said Cook, who herself did not have a mentor growing up.
“My mom passed away when I was 11 and my dad raised us, and I kind of made my way and helped my sister along the way,” said Cook. “I didn’t have a mentor until I was older.”
According to Cook, there are a variety of reasons why women of color–young and old–are still lacking mentors. “Sometimes the company you work for doesn’t have a system of mentoring, and also sometimes women of color don’t like to humble themselves to ask for help. Then, on the flip side, sometimes people who are enjoying success are like, ‘I am in my lane, I’m staying in my lane’ and they don’t reach out to help others. And I think events such as the CURLS luncheon will start to create the necessary conversation about mentoring in the community.”
Even in her 9-5, Cook’s focus is always on women of color. “I am just really trying to make sure we have products for every woman in the store. I want to make sure my shelves are as diverse as the world and I know the world is not just one curl pattern, not one texture. We need products for the diverse array of hair,” said Cook, who has already thought about the advice she’ll share with her CURLS mentoree.
“I would tell her to humble yourself because you have to crawl before you walk. Sometimes younger people think that they will go straight to the corner office but it doesn’t work that way; this is the lesson I had to learn. You don’t start out on top, you have to work your way up. And work hard.”
Tyesha Vidal, buyer for Ultra Standard Distributors, a multicultural hair care and beauty distributor, agrees that there’s a great need for mentors and mentoring programs for girls of color. “I know it’s not easy for some to get access to needed resources,” said Vidal, who has been with Ultra Standard since 2010. She started with the company as a senior accountant, and in February 2013 she was promoted to a buyer.
“I was honored that I was thought of to participate; I think it’s awesome Mahisha Dellinger is giving back to young girls,” said Vidal, who did have mentors early on in her life and knows the importance of having such support. “I was lucky enough to have someone to look up to in business. I grew up with a single mom and she worked really hard to provide for me and when I started my career, I was lucky enough to work with two women who were instrumental in helping me succeed and helping me go back to school to get my degree.” After graduating high school, Vidal went straight to work since she didn’t have money for college.
“This is where I think I lacked mentoring–in school. I didn’t have anyone to guide me to help me find grants and financing for college, but when I started working I was lucky enough to have the encouragement from two women I worked with. They helped me go back to school and I worked full time and went to school part time. Now, if I can do anything to help another young woman, I am here to do that.”
That’s why Vidal is so excited about the CURLS event April 1. “It is also exciting to see so many women of color in the beauty and hair care business, either in the corporate ranks or as entrepreneurs. And they are not just successful, they are taking over the industry. It’s really inspiring.”