All Articles Tagged "african-american entrepreneur"
MEET Denise Conley: Headquartered in the San Francisco area, Denise Conley is a business owner who not only graduated from Harvard University cum laude, but who is also leaving big footprints in the male dominated real estate industry. Conley is also a real estate economist specializing in structuring public-private development partnerships and economic development strategies. She heads Conley Consulting Group, headquartered in Oakland, California. Since 1979, she has assisted more than 150 clients with real estate matters, development and revitalization strategies, as well as forming public-private partnerships in development. Before founding Conley Consulting Group, she served as a principal in charge of real estate and economic development consulting assignments at a San Francisco-based economics firm, often directing multi-disciplinary teams of consultants.
MN: What business ventures were you involved with before you launched the Conley Consulting Group?
DC: Before I started the Conley Consulting Group, I worked for a larger consulting firm for 20 years, the last 13 as a principal (partner).
MN: Tell us about two mind shifts you had to make during your transition from employee to employer?
DC: First, I had to go from being basically a builder to being an engineer. As an employee, even by the time I was a principal, I could always rely on someone to take care of the mechanics of keeping the business running. Now, everything is fundamentally my job. Even with strong employee support, I’m still ultimately responsible for it all.
Second, as an employee, you are focused on your own work product, and less focused on the bottom line of the business overall. You have to earn the income (billable hours or accrual), but as a business owner you have to pay a lot of attention to managing contracts and collections. In a down economy, more clients seemed to have ‘lost those invoices’ or just paid them slowly than in the boom years.
MN: When did you start the Conley Consulting Group and what specific business need does your company fill for its clients?
DC: Conley Consulting was started in 2001. We are economists and economic planners, most often serving as a bridge between the public and private partners in development. Our clients are 75% public sector.
MN: Businesses cannot succeed without capital. What resources did you use to finance your business and how much did you initially invest in Conley Consulting Group?
DC: Initially, I used the money from my own savings and a home equity loan. The business was started in my home office. After three years, our success earned us a business credit line, which we used primarily to finance receivables.
Amber Knowles is almost positive that her fascination with photography came about shortly after graduating from New York University in 2005. Though when asked if there was a specific experience that sparked her interest, she eventually goes back to being a little girl flipping through the book still lying on her parents’ dining room table.
“I’ve always been fascinated with relationships and marriage. My parents have been married for 28 years now. I think that’s cool to able to pick their album up 28 years later,” said Knowles.
A Fly on the Wall
Intrigued by the poofy wedding dresses, tuxedoes with cummerbunds and joyous people exuding good energy through a pile of still pictures; it’s no surprise that Knowles’ destiny would involve wedding photography. Through her Dallas based business, The Amber Studio, she works toward creating similar memories that she is reminded of when looking back at her parents’ wedding photo album. Shooting weddings documentary style, Knowles says her work differs from most matrimonial snapshots.
“I capture the memories and moments. Sort of like being a fly on the wall and capturing things as they are — as opposed to restyling, posing and moving things around,” Knowles added. “Some photographers change the setting of a room, but my thing is to take photos of what’s happening as it’s happening.”
Although generally a wedding is thought to be an extravaganza, to her advantage, Knowles’ first clients were reserved. Exchanging vows at a New York courthouse then holding a small ceremony in Central Park was enough for the couple and Knowles whose self-belief was boosted because of their encouragement and simplicity.
“I got lucky because it was very low maintenance and really easy. Doing that wedding probably gave me the most confidence, because people were complimenting me. The couple loved the pictures and invited me to come to Trinidad when they have a formal wedding,” Knowles said.
by Andrea Williams
By numerous reported accounts, the average dress size of American women is a size 14 and, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, the self-reported weight of women is up 20 pounds from 1990. But despite greater numbers of larger waistlines, there are still segments of American business and society that seemingly turn a blind eye to the unique needs of full-figured women – including the bridal industry.
Enter Shafonne Myers, founder and owner of Pretty Pear Brides Magazine, the online and print source of “bridal inspiration for plus-sized brides.”
Myers fell in love with all things matrimony as a wedding and event planner when she began coordinating events while studying biology at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Though a full-time career in event planning beckoned after her 2001 graduation, she took the “safe” route and went to work in medicine.
It was until Myers planned her own 2004 wedding to her high school sweetheart that she decided to start her own business, with a blog thrown in for good measure. But despite the success of her site, the wedding blog market was becoming more and more saturated, leaving Myers in search of a niche.
“I was a plus-sized bride, so I knew the trials and tribulations that a plus-sized bridge goes through from personal experience,” Myers says. She soon discovered that many of her clients were sharing the same struggles and, in February 2011, the Pretty Pear Brides website was born.
So how did Myers transition from blog to full-blown magazine? She credits a close-knit group of friends that encouraged her to push well beyond her comfort zone. “I have four or five girlfriends that I talk to at least three times a week,” she says. “I didn’t have any publishing experience, but they kept telling me that I could do it.”
What Myers lacks in experience, she makes up for with first-hand knowledge of the subject area and a true commitment to bringing awareness to the plus-sized bridal market. Pretty Pear Brides is full of candid talk about body image and the full-figured experience – a welcome sight for other women who can relate to Myers’ similar story.
Over the last few years, women the world over have been trading in their relaxers for a more natural look. And with any change in taste, comes opportunity.
Carol’s Daughter, the natural hair and beauty product company, estimates that the market for relaxers has gone from bringing in $100 million a year in sales to just $35 million. Taking advantage of such a steep decline in market share, Carol’s Daughter and other companies have created products that cater to more diverse hair textures and styles.
But while beauty store shelves were being flooded with natural hair care products, no one seemed to be thinking about educating women on how to discover and use these products. No one besides Myleik Teele, that is.
Teele, 32 is the founder and chief experience officer of curlBOX, the monthly subscription service she launched that sends members up to seven natural hair care products that have been vetted for women with multi-textured hair.
Here, Teele talks about how she launched curlBOX (her second business!), beauty industry obstacles and provides advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
MN: Let’s get this out of the way first. Are you natural? If not, do you think you have to have natural hair to understand this sector of the beauty industry?
Teele: Yes, I’ve been “natural” or without a chemical relaxer for a little over a decade. I think it’s important , although not necessary, that one be natural to really understand what the subscribers are experiencing and having my finger on the pulse of what they want and need. I’m “pre-pooing,” and finger-detangling right along with my VIP members.
MN: In a recent interview with UPTOWN magazine you said that you noticed a void in the beauty industry. Can you talk more about your epiphany moment and how you knew it was the right time for this type of product?
Teele: After working with my beauty clients and going to the World Natural Hair Show and other shows and hair “meet ups” I had an epiphany moment. How would it be possible to package or “BOX” this experience (products & information) and send it to someone’s doorstep? The idea hit me and wouldn’t leave. I couldn’t even sleep at night with the thought on my mind. I took one step and the rest is history.
MN: curlBOX seems to have been modeled after other beauty related mail-order subscription services. What made you go this route instead of launching your own natural hair product?
Teele: My expertise lends itself to this business model. Mail-order subscription services have been around for years – remember Columbia House CD Clubs? I’m a “what’s the latest and greatest” kind of girl and I genuinely believe that I can better serve the hair community with a sampling service as opposed to another product … I’ll leave that to the experts!
MN: How did you decide which companies to partner with for curlBOX?
Teele: [Member feedback and research]. I am a product junkie at my core and beauty obsessed so I’m always on the blogs and watching YouTube videos. I also read the emails and take a look at the survey results and work from there. You won’t see any products in curlBOX that aren’t personally endorsed by me.
MN: When you first made your pitch, were product companies receptive? Or, did you experience resistance?
Teele: Some brands like Karen’s Body Beautiful, Frizoff Curly Hair Solutions and Hair Rules got it right away and there were some that wanted to watch the brand for awhile which is completely understandable.
Putting one title on Abiola Abrams is simply impossible. The proud Caribbean and Harlem-based owner of AbiolaTV.com does it all. What started off as an online hub for interview and opinion videos developed into a multi-platform mini-empire that includes books, TV appearances and product lines. What drives her? Passion. That mission statement is embodied in her site tagline: “Life is not a passive experience. It’s a passionate one.”
Abrams’ motivation is to encourage women to live their best lives everyday. Her “passion” has also lead her to publish two books (one of which, The Official Bombshell Handbook, hits stores soon), be a lifestyle expert on the CW’s Bill Cunningham talk show, pen regular advice columns for Yahoo Shine and contribute to the teen site Gurl.com. Despite having monthly traffic of 30,000, over one million YouTube hits and 14,000+ Twitter followers, Abrams is still humbled about her success. Now, as part of BlackEnterprise.com’s Black Blogger Month, she discusses the business of running a passion-focused site, the importance branding and what drives her passion everyday.
Read the rest at Black Enterprise
More on Madame Noire Business!
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- How She Made It: Alia Jones-Harvey, Producer of A Streetcar Named Desire
- Why African Philanthropists Are Calling For Africapitalism
- Will Scandal’s Success Pave the Way for More Diverse Images of Black Women?
- How She Made It: Jeri Lynne Johnson, Founder of Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
- Entrepreneur Spotlight: A Sister-Run Business Brings High-End Tea Stateside
By Makula Dunbar
Jack of all trades in the arena of marketing and branding, entertainment lawyer Marshawn Evans is dedicated to encouraging a less traveled avenue in marketing; empowerment. As Miss District of Columbia 2001 and founder of life-enrichment consulting firm ME Unlimited — Evans has combined her public speaking, brand reinvention, legal and consulting background creating a powerhouse company that aids large corporations and individuals in employee, brand and lifestyle development.
Log-on to Marshawnevans.com and you’ll find a tightly branded and information packed website inviting dreamers and business pursuers to live up to their full potential. Evans’ most visible venture — ME University — serves as a platform for teaching individuals the basics of branding, ultimately preparing them to kick a business movement into high gear.
What motivated you to start ME Unlimited?
I started the company because I loved the study of how people maximize their abilities in life and I like being able to help people with that. I started doing a lot of corporate leadership executive training and really wanted to create a platform for women to learn how to lead in the marketplace by launching and being their own brands.
What was it that made you want to base your company on helping others?
There are a lot of people who have dreams and they don’t know how to get them going. A dream should be lived and not just longed for. I just really felt like that I had a unique gift and ability to help people. Before ME Unlimited I had a consulting firm called Communication Counts where I worked with Miss America and Miss USA contestants on their platforms. I also ran a sports agency where I managed and developed brands for professional athletes. It’s interesting because the things you’re most gifted at you don’t see as a business.
(BlackEnterprise.com) — For over a decade Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd has helped launch the acting careers of countless Hollywood hopefuls, making her the first casting director to successfully shift from music videos to major motion pictures. The New York native has an eagle eye for raw talent that has allowed her to discover actors such as Michael Kenneth Williams[Boardwalk Empire], Naturi Naughton [Notorious,The Playboy Club], Columbus Short [Scandal, Stomp the Yard] and Laz Alonso [Jumping the Broom,Avatar], to name a few. Most recently Byrd has been credited with casting the late Whitney Houston’s final film, Sparkle, which also introducesAmerican Idol star, Jordin Sparks, in her acting debut.
With an infectious personality and ambition that is matched by her foresight, the veteran casting director sat down with BlackEnterprise.com to talk about the slick moves that boosted her early career, how she chooses leads, and just how closely art and life can intermingle.
Read the rest at Black Enterprise.com
Art Meets Fashion, and Creates Entrepreneurial Success
By Hannah Molette
Some say fashion is the “sophisticates” way of communicating their grandiose ambitions to the world. President and CEO Sharene “Shay” Wood of 5001 FLAVORS states that the company “is the fusion of fashion, sports and popular entertainment culture.” Along with her business partners, husband Guy Wood and Bernard Barnett, they have been influencing the entertainment world with their custom-made designs.
5001 Flavors has uniquely designed clothes to fit entertainment wonders such as Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Foxx, Lebron James, Queen Latifah, and Jay Z with finesse and couture. With a client-centered focus fit to lifestyle, the 5001 Flavors clothing brand adds the element of luminosity to an artist’s reputation. Success was built on the brands ability to match personality to evolutionary appeal. Beyond the exclusive entertainment industry 5001 Flavors caters to clientele from all walks of life.
It all began in 1990, while still attending Columbia University, “Shay” as she is known by with her keen business sense and love of fashion teamed-up with talented designer Guy Wood to create 5001 FLAVORS. Madame Noire spoke exclusively with Mrs. Wood to get her insight on the fashion industry, working with A-list clients, which to note can be some of the hardest to please, and still finding business success.
MN: How did you know that you wanted to go into business for yourself?
SW: I have always known that I wanted to work for myself. I have always felt that being a business owner would give me the most control over what type of life that I and my family would have.
MS: What do you mean when you speak about freedom? In your own words, how would you define it?
SW: The freedom of working for yourself to me is the right to control your own destiny, make your own economy and set your own hours. You works so much harder when you work for yourself but, the reward is all yours. What you put in …you will surely get out. I knew that I would never be paid as much as I felt my services would be worth if I worked for someone else. I knew that the best life that I could have or my family could have would come when I created it. You can decide when and how hard you are going to work.
MN: How did you come up with the name for your business?
SW: My business partner and now my husband, Guy Wood, came up with the name. In the nineties we used to say Audi 5000… it was a cool catchy phrase. Guy just put a spin on it …added a one to 5000 to indicate the unlimited diversity of our style, designs, and flavors. We wanted a name that would speak to the versatility of our creativity and diverse customer base.
MN: What’s in the 5001 Flavors brand?
SW: I feel our brand is just as much about the exclusive image consulting service we provide as well as the actual custom made clothing we produce. Helping our artists, athletes and other clients to define, redefine and update their look is an extremely important job. So yes we create custom clothing but I also feel like we help our clients create a legacy that will live forever. Ultimately our custom clothing becomes part of history … caught in all the great images used for album covers, movie posters, billboards, book covers, magazines…etc.
MN: What were you doing before you got in the fashion business?
SW: When we started the business in 1992. I was a junior in college at Columbia University. We started it out of my dorm room. I was working as an Administrative Asst at a management consultant firm in midtown putting myself through college.
MN: What do you love about fashion the most?
SW: I love that fashion is an expression of who you are and even who you just want to be. I love that fashion is constantly evolving as we all are.
MN: What would you say has been the “success” factor in growing your business?
SW: The exclusive clothing apparel that we design and manufacture for our various celeb clients is so important to our client’s image and branding. We take great pride that our clothing becomes part of pop culture influencing trends and motivating markets. Our clothing will forever appear in images of our iconic clients that appear in every type of medium possible. On Chris Tucker as he danced to a MJ tune in Rush hour… On the cover of Newsweek on The Rev. Al Sharpton for a cover story … On the first CD cover of Missy Elliott, the most prolific female producer ever … On the many characters portrayed by Lebron James in his award-winning Nike ad campaign The Lebrons … In The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in an exhibit that illustrates the cultural importance and influence of Hip Hop on Main Stream American fashion… I think our success factor is that our services help define our clients…the never-ending personalities of our celebrity clients always need someone to help tell their story. We have done it so well and are referred to other clients that need that same, dependable, reliable and quality service. Our business is strictly referral based so a great job on set means referrals from all of the industry professionals there for their own future upcoming projects. For us, that has always meant every photographer, label art director, artist management, assistant; even the intern on set is a potential referral. For instance, Interns easily become the next mogul! We meet Sean “Puffy” Combs (now P. Diddy) when he was an intern working for Andre Harrell at Uptown Records. He soon left and started his own label – Bad Boy Entertainment. And a new roster of clients emerged from that existing relationship.
by Hannah Molette
Finding “The Perfect Bartender” isn’t always easy but once you find her (or him) you will definitely want more, more, and more (just kidding). One of Atlanta’s very own, ReShanda Seymour she is true to her craft and can be found mixing it up at some of the hottest premier events. We spoke with Ms. ReShanda Seymour owner of “The Perfect Bartender” to get some of her expert advice on business and a few tips on serving-up the perfect drink.
MN: How did you come up with your business concept?
RS: I was working as a bartender at a local hot spot when I started getting requests to do private parties…from there The Perfect Bartender was born.
MN: What set’s you apart from others in your industry?
RS: Customer Service is key and taking pride in our work.
MN: How long have you been bar-tending? What were you doing before?
RS: I have been bartending for about 6yrs now. I have done a little bit of everything …I was a Business Builder for Aveda, a server, a salon Manager and now The Perfect Bartender
MN: What your company’s mission/vision?
RS: Our mission is to provide quality service at every event…from baby showers/ house parties/pool parties to now having hosted two events with The President of the United States. Every client deserves to have a quality event.
MN: What’s behind the “Perfect Bartender” Brand?”
RS: Quality service. That’s what I want us to be known for, we do a lot of high end events but if it wasn’t for the level of service we provided we wouldn’t have gotten this far. It doesn’t hurt that I have a good looking staff either, but we know how to have a good time and make the guest feel comfortable. Also the host knowing we care 100% about the safety of their guest and making sure no one is over-served is a top priority for TPB.
MN: Did you do a formal business plan when you started?
RS: No. It was an idea that started based upon request so this was never a part of my life’s plan but I guess the man above had this in his life’s plans for me. As it started to grow I continue to jot things down as I go. It’s a work in progress.
MN: How much did it cost? Did you get any loans?
RS: Mum a few hundred dollars in the beginning. I was still working at the time so as I made money I would go get little things here and there and when TPB started making money I would re-invest it back into the business. No loans…this came straight out of my pocket. Honestly that’s the way I like it, I make all my own rules and it makes me work even harder since it has my name on it and my sweat and tears to make this work.
30-year-old Jenile Brooks may have majored in broadcasting at Howard University, but her commitment to her city and her entrepreneurial nature steered her towards founding Harvest Express,an online grocery focused on Michigan-grown food. Brooks made it happen with the help of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, a non-profit foundation that offers grants and business mentoring to young entrepreneurs.
Read More about Brooks’ story at Black Enterprise.com.