All Articles Tagged "female"
Urban professionals nationwide face a similar dilemma when they clock out after a day’s work – what to do with their few hours of freedom. Big cities offer plenty of options; but it can be hard for young, Black professionals to find the right fit.
This is especially true in Chicago, where the nightlife scene is marked by venues that shy away from encouraging diversity. One group of socialites decided to turn their weekend headache into a business opportunity. And they chose the biggest party night of the year to put their idea to the test.
Kisha Keeney, Diamond Ingram, Paris Tyler, and Lesley Martin met the way most young professionals working in the city do: through work, college, and mutual friends. They decided to try organizing events when they couldn’t find a personal, affordable party option to ring in 2012. They pooled their resources and respective networks. If their New Year’s Eve loft party was a success, it would be a sign to move forward with their business idea.
A success it was, and Posh Entertainment was born with Keeny as director of event coordination, Ingram as director of new business development, Tyler as director of operations, and Martin as creative director. The quartet hasn’t looked back since, planning events at top venues in the Chicago area that expose their clientele of African-American young professionals to new places, and show venues.
I caught up with the ladies to find out how year one of entrepreneurship was treating them, and what lessons they are learning along the way.
Madame Noire (MN): What made you take the risk of launching this business?
Lesley Martin (LM): So many times we let haters dominate the social scene. We are not open to supporting one another and building a foundation of positive interaction in our city, which leads people to have cliquish behavior. We really wanted to launch Posh because it was what Chicago was missing. We all believe Chicago is filled with a ton of amazing talented people and is an amazing city which so much our demographic has not discovered yet!
Kisha Keeney (KK): We all have a different reason for starting Posh, more than anything it’s the desire to work for ourselves that drives us. We each have our own individual goals and skills that really help us continue to evolve as a group.
MN: What is Posh’s current focus?
Diamond Ingram (DI): We focus more now on individual events and helping clients bring their ideas to life while creating a lifestyle and experience for all people.
KK: Our focus is to continue to get more clients; we want to gain enough profit so we can do this full time. The only way we’ll be able to do that is if we have enough clientele to support that goal.
MN: Where do you want to take Posh?
Paris Tyler (PT): We enjoy hosting our own events but want to work with businesses and individuals to make their ideas come to life. We currently have our website being built, which will include a blog where we will talk about Posh Picks around the city. We want native Chicagoans and even people who are new to the city or visiting the city to see this as the hub of what’s happening in Chicago. We also are planning a couple of events so that we can finish out 2012 strong.
We have an opportunity to expand into Atlanta next year. We’re making sure that we have home base in a good place so that we can move forward with expansion, but we want to also have hubs in NYC and LA.
KK: Long term, the sky is the limit. We definitely see this developing into a boutique agency that provides a variety of services to include but not limiting talent management, corporate event development, and media provisions.
DI: We would love to get more into corporate events, conferences, and fundraisers. We want to expand our philanthropic efforts and volunteerism.
MN: What separates you from your competition?
KK: We focus on our brand, and we don’t offer events on a weekly basis. Our goal is to keep it fresh and creative, and most of all keep our customers wanting more!
PT: We want to create the Posh lifestyle that we think that our peers are living or folks will want to live. We’re learning and researching new ways to stand out from the competition. Not just through the venue and the DJ, but what guests can walk away with or experience while there. The industry is so saturated and we want to have long-term success.
MN: How long did you plan before launching?
PT: We thought long and hard about the name and what it would mean. We made sure that it would be a reflection of our own personalities and the events that we wished to create. From there we began the LLC process, writing of the business plan, and implementing operations and procedures that we may have learned on our individual jobs to help with how we operated.
What surprised us was the number of resources we each bring to the table. We know so many people in different industries and fields that we knew we could tap to help our launch and growth. Their response was so positive, and it definitely reassured us that we were making the right move.
Although the fashion industry continues to be dominated by Anglo-Saxon ideals of beauty, these seven black fashionistas turned the industry on its head. Displaying the splendor of diversity in color and size, they broke racial barriers and used their modeling and fashion platforms to pursue other business opportunities, support their favorite causes and open the world’s eyes to the beauty of black women.
Donyale Luna was the first black cover girl. Born Peggy Ann Freeman in 1945, this Detroit native enjoyed success in front of both still and motion cameras. In 1965, her sketch was featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. The following year, Luna became the first black model to be featured on the cover of Vogue; it was the British version of the magazine.
The New York Times proclaimed 1966 “The Luna Year” and stated that at the age of 20, she was the hottest model in Europe. She appeared in several Andy Warhol movies, starred in an Otto Preminger movie alongside Groucho Marx, and was the title character in Salome, an Italian movie made in 1972. The Sunday Times Magazine of London, described Luna as “the completely new image of the Negro woman. Fashion finds itself in an instrumental position for changing history, however slightly, for it is about to bring out into the open the veneration, the adoration, the idolization of the Negro.”
Entrepreneurs quickly become comfortable with the word “no.” They may hear it about a thousand times before they get the “yes” that takes their business to the next level. This rings truer for minority and women entrepreneurs who have the added hurdle of wooing investors who are unfamiliar with the communities they serve.
A New York magazine writer, Kevin Roose, recently came under fire when he deemed the website NaturallyCurly, a leading social network and community for people with wavy, curly and kinky hair, as a dumb investment with “no redeeming qualities whatsoever.” Many felt that Roose ignored evidence that supported investment in the site including the potential market of over 80 million women in the US with textured hair. Roose later updated his article to say he only took issue with the social network component of the idea, but his generalizations underscore an issue many women and minority entrepreneurs face.
Gatekeepers to the business world – investors, manufacturers and the like – aren’t known for their diversity. Largely white, male and upperclass, there is a myopic mindset that makes it all to easy for them to miss the potential and profitability of businesses that target consumers outside of the mainstream. It also creates an additional hurdle of shortsightedness for minority- and women-fronted businesses to overcome.
Kevin McFall, Senior Vice President of NewME Accelerator, an incubator for technology start-ups in the competitive industry of Silicon Valley, traces the root of the issue to a lack of ability to pattern match. “Patterns exist in Silicon Valley of Ivy League dropouts being the ones identified as having all of the big successes associated with their ventures, so some investors look to match that pattern and find others like that to invest in,” said McFall.
“Because there has not historically been a lot of female and multi-cultural entrepreneur success stories, those patterns aren’t as visible or as plentiful as there are of other patterns.” Fair or not, the onus is on entrepreneurs to educate investors on the potential of their ideas and to have the tenacity to not let hearing “no” stop their pursuit of success.
There is no shortage of stories of entrepreneurs who went on to success after major players passed on their ideas. Sara Blakely, the founder of SPANX met opposition from patent lawyers and manufacturers who told her, her idea for spandex-type undergarments to slim and smooth your figure was crazy. She went on to become the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.
Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, has been vocal about major liquor brands passing on her idea because they thought women wouldn’t buy low-calorie spirits. Skinnygirl Cocktails is now the fastest-growing spirit brand in the industry.
These women overcame initial opposition because not only did they have a good idea, but they were able to demonstrate success on a small scale. An idea is only worth something if a sustainable business can be built around it. Seth Godin, author and entrepreneurship guru, offers five basic components of a good business model:
- Profitable – Do the revenues from sales exceed the cost of supplies and labor?
- Protectable – Is it difficult for a competitor to enter your market? Have you accounted for potential rip offs of your idea?
- Self-priming – Can your business sustain itself? Will product sales generate enough profit for you to develop more products to sell?
- Adjustable – Is your business model flexible enough to adjust its strategy in response to unexpected challenges?
- Exitable – Have you developed a strategy that will allow your business to function without you?
If you answered yes to the questions above, you’re ready to take your idea to the next level. Tech blogger Paul Graham’s guide to presenting to investors is a good resource. He underscores the importance of being specific and narrow in your description of your idea, having data with specific numbers, and telling stories about your consumers that illustrate how you solve a problem.
The business world is becoming increasingly niche. Every day we are seeing individuals and companies tapping into the passions and needs of special groups. Investors that want to make money are opening their minds to new markets and ideas. The burden of proof is on entrepreneurs to show their potential and profitability.
As elite members of human space programs, or one of the select few pilots working for the military, black women have been soaring above fruited plains and far-flung planets for the cause of space exploration and freedom since 1922. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, they have battled gender and racial biases to demonstrate – once again – the unstoppable power of a determined sister.
An avid student, Mae Jemison earned dual degrees in chemical engineering and African-American studies at Stanford University, while becoming fluent in Japanese, Russian and Swahili. She received a doctor of medicine degree from Cornell University and then served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Upon her return to the United States, Jemison applied to the astronaut program at NASA.
Her original application was rejected, but the second time around, she was one of 15 candidates selected from a field of 2,000. When Jemison concluded her training in 1988, she was the fifth black astronaut, and the first black female astronaut in the history of NASA. She completed her first flight in 1992. It was an eight-day mission, and she logged 190 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds on the space shuttle Endeavor as a mission specialist – making her the first black woman to go into space.
Black women have a long and proud history of advancing the cause of education in America. Their groundbreaking accomplishments – particularly in higher education –inspire, encourage, and challenge not only black women, but people of every race, age, gender, and economic background to pursue their dreams. From the first black female PhD graduates to the first black female presidents of prestigious universities, the 7 women on this list are game changers in the world of education and beyond.
Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander
In 1921, when Dr. Sadie T. M. Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, she became the first black person in America to earn a doctorate in economics, and only the second black female to earn a doctorate in any area. Following graduation, Alexander enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and helped found the National Bar Association. In 1927, she was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Adding to this impressive list, Alexander was the first black woman to pass the bar exam, and when she went to work for her husband’s law firm, Alexander became the first black woman to practice law in Pennsylvania. In 1948, President Harry Truman appointed her to his Committee on Civil Rights, where she coauthored the Commission’s report, “To Secure These Rights,” which laid the foundation for Truman’s civil rights policy.
Since the country’s inception, black women have been working tirelessly to advance the cause of medicine and eradicate sickness and disease. From the first black nurse to the first black female neurosurgeon, African-American women have solidified their place in medical history and left a legacy of firm determination, selfless compassion, and academic excellence.
Dr. Alexa Canady
In 1976, at age 26, Alexa Canady became the first black female neurosurgeon in the United States when she was accepted as a resident at the University of Minnesota. In 1986, after four years at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Canady became chief of the hospital’s neurosurgery department. In 1993, she received the American Women’s Medical Association President’s Award. Canady’s research in neurosurgical techniques resulted in the invention of a programmable antisiphon shunt, which is used to treat excess fluid in the brain. She shares a U.S. patent for the device with two other neurosurgeons.
I’m sure you’ve seen just enough stories about today’s female lyricists waging war on each through rap beefs, or ones telling you to pick your favorites from the slim pickings of talented female fire spitters we have available to us these days. All of ‘em at this point are caricatures of other people, white women saying the N-word, straight up haters, or they haven’t been able to break into the mainstream. But back in the day, things were different. Where are the female rappers from yesteryear? We know where Lauryn, Lil Kim, Queen La, Missy, Foxy and more are, but what about the Roxanne Shantes? The Heather Bs? The Monie Loves? We’ve figured a thing or two out for you.
Yolanda Whittaker, girl, what have you been up to? The lady best known for her time spitting with Ice Cube, playing Keylolo on “Martin” and rocking those blonde braids hasn’t been one of the bad misses of rap for a while. Her last album was Total Control in ’96, and while she did try and release her fifth album, Ebony, some years later it never made it into stores. Since then, we’ve seen her perform at the BET Hip Hop Awards in ’08, and doing more television appearances than anything else. Her credits include the documentary, “My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop” and co-host of the female rap competition, “Miss Rap Supreme.” She’s been working on an EP that she wanted to drop in ’09 called, My Journey to Fearless: The Black Butterfly, but it still hasn’t been released. But if you’re still thirsty for anything from her, she has been featured on tracks with Kurupt, Brooke Valentine and DJ Quik. Come back Yo!
My mother is not an entrepreneur. She is not a self-made millionaire with her own company. She does not own a home with a vacation property on the side. She is not rich or has any inheritance to her name.
She did not discover a new product for consumers, invest in any stocks or networked her way to the top. My mother is a normal African-American woman born and raised by a single mother in one of the country’s most dangerous cities. She has been your average blue collar worker for as long as I can remember, and now because of the economy and job market, she is in between careers. And yet, she is the wisest, wealthiest person I know.
I know this because I have always had high standards for my mother. As an only child of a single mother, I knew her worth, I felt her struggle firsthand, and through her struggle came wisdom, something I knew to cherish.
I am appreciative to reflect on this Mother’s Day from a new angle: in my early twenties with a college degree, no children and a successful, growing career in the media industry in New York City. These are all manifestations of my mother’s hopes for me, since she did not have the same. She became a mother at my age and knows the importance of youth, especially when it comes to achieving your professional goals.
As the wisest, most business-savvy person I know, my mother has imparted many lessons that I still remember in my everyday life, especially in the corporate workplace. Although I still remain like a deer in headlights sometimes when it comes to being an African-American female professional in the workplace, I revert back to her teachings and never stray far. Some of my favorite quotes remind me of her lessons and past experiences…
Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – the document that expresses the want, will, and hopes of the people – the country’s political system has reflected a disproportionately low number of women. Black females are even scarcer. However, some black women have been trailblazers in the political arena, shaping history and leaving a legacy that cannot be erased.
Patricia Roberts Harris
Patricia Roberts Harris broke several racial and gender barriers throughout her distinguished political career. In 1965, she became the first black female ambassador when President Lyndon Johnson appointed her as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Two years later, she returned to her alma mater, Howard University, where she became the law school dean, making her the first black female law school dean in the country. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Harris to serve in his cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development. She was the first black female in a presidential cabinet.
Current Occupation: Director, Technology Business Operations
Favorite Website: learnvest.com
Recent Read: Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
2012′s ultimate goal: Finding ways to better integrate my work life and personal life
Quote that inspires you:: Just Do It – Nike, The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. – Albert Einstein.
Ready for another installment of the largest building profile archive of African-American women in technology? I’m bringing it to you straight, with no chaser! This time, the focus is Ebony Frelix, who is a colleague of mine in the tech realm. More specifically, she is the the Director of IT Business Operations at Salesforce.com a company that provides solutions for businesses wishing to better utilize the power of cloud computing as well as CRM (customer relationship management). Ebony also gives back to the young, Black female demo in a very special way too. Read on to find out more….
LDC: Ebony, what was it like growing up in San Francisco and earning your computer degree there? In fact, what led to your initial interest in computers or is it almost obligatory living so close to Silicon Valley?
EF: I’ve always loved the rapid pace and constant speed of innovation in technology organizations. Prior to starting my career in technology, I found myself drawn to techie’s in my company – I wanted to understand what they were doing. So I worked with my manager to create a career path leading to tech. At the same time, I shifted my degree to CIS so I could have the credentials to back me up in my new endeavor.
LDC: How did you obtain the position you have now?
EF: Through my social network. I was at my previous company for 11 years and I wanted to take my career in a different direction. While still focusing on technology, I wanted to spend more time driving strategic initiatives and programs on a larger scale. When a friend forwarded the job description at salesforce.com, I knew the job was the perfect match for my skill set and career goals. Before I was called in for interviews, I used my social network to research the role, hiring manager, and company. I knew before my first interview that I wanted to work at salesforce.com.
LDC: So given that, describe exactly what you do and what a typical day is like for you?
EF: Typical day? There is no typical day. That’s what I love about my job at salesforce.com. My focus is on finding ways to increase the bandwidth and velocity of our leadership team, and creating a framework that enables the organization to evolve and mature. Every day is something new and exciting, giving me an opportunity to work with various internal and external partners for the success of the company. It’s a blast.
LDC: So you’re company focuses on cloud computing (a lot of people say they don’t understand what clouds are, but in fact, if they have ever used Gmail; they’ve accessed a cloud. It’s being able to pull massive data from an independent storage area, so to speak). Why you think cloud computing is so important and what its future impact will be on general consumers.
EF: Cloud computing is important because it’s mobile, it’s social, and because it changes with you. Cloud computing brings real-time collaboration to the enterprise using concepts we already know from services we use in our consumer lives. And as an IT executive or CIO, you don’t have to buy any hardware, software or infrastructure, so you’ll never need to budget for an upgrade or buy another server; it just makes sense.
I think we’re seeing the future of cloud computing happening now. We call this next phase the social enterprise, where companies are transforming how they engage with their customers and employees. We live in the cloud already, working there just feels natural.
LDC: So true! But talk to me a little about the philanthropic organization Year Up and why you feel that program is so important.
EF: I’ve worked with Year Up since the Bay Area site opened in 2008. To date, salesforce.com has hosted 47 interns. The program is important because it introduces youth and more diversity into our offices. There is a divide that exists in this country that prohibits talented young adults from accessing opportunities in technology – this is even more challenging for young African-American women. Year Up Bay Area is not a hand-out but a hand-up for young, talented adults to access the skills, education and networks so critical to be successful in today’s corporate environment. For many of these women, this is their path to college success and it’s possible only through the support Year Up Bay Area provides. I feel the work Year Up Bay Area is doing is crucial because it increases the opportunities available to African-American women, opening the doors to management roles, increasing annual earnings, and creating further opportunities for minorities in the future – ending cycles of poverty and dependence. The Year Up program provides the platform and opportunity for young women of all ethnicities to attain success for themselves.
LDC: Do you see Year Up also assisting with encouraging more African-American females to get involved in science & technology?
EF: Yes. Year Up clearly works hard to reach that specific demographic, enabling them to become self-sufficient. I’ve worked first-hand with quite a few talented young women from the program and am thrilled to see doors opening for them. The overall goal of Year Up is to connect skilled talent with corporations looking to hire talented workers, and that is not limited to any specific demographic. In fact, one of the Bay Area classes was the first in the program to have more female students than male!
LDC: Understanding what hurdles these girls might have to overcome, what hurdles have you had, if any, that you feel may have been a bit race/gender related and how did you move past them?
EF: Before salesforce.com, I recall a time early on in my tech career where a co-worker commented ‘Why are YOU here?’ I was a junior computer operator working the graveyard shift and had been on the job less than a month. Instead of letting him discourage me, that comment acted as a motivator. It became my goal to show him and others like him why I was qualified. Not in a sense to prove anything to them – instead, I was proving to myself that I had what it takes to go wherever I wanted to go. As a rule, I don’t let hurdles distract me; I use them as a launching point (turn a hurdle to a step) and move past it. In a few years, I went from junior computer operator to First Vice President.
LDC: Speaking of hurdles, race and all; What are your thoughts on this recent Infographic regarding diversity and Silicon Valley which is causing some controversy?
EF: I believe the gap is in education. If we want more minorities in technology, we need to focus on providing education and training programs that reach them. As a child, I was never discouraged from considering technology, management, or other high-level career tracks. So as both a woman and a minority, I don’t focus on barriers. I believe it has more to do with education and mindset than a deliberate attempt to exclude minorities from entering into technical professions.
LDC: What’s your greatest hope for your career and the tech industry for 2012?
EF: Personally, I will look for ways to continue to learn, grow, and drive change. As an industry, we must continue to look for opportunities to hire from a diverse candidate pool when applicable. It’s not about handouts, it’s about a hand up. I was certainly given opportunities in my career, and I look for ways to pay it forward.
Don’t miss the next profile. In the meantime, keep up with the intersection of tech and lifestyle via my site www.ldcoleman.com and follow me on Twitter @mediaempress.