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Afrocentric Empowerment Dolls Changing the Way Black Girls See Beauty



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At just 4 years old, Zara Kimotho had an identity crisis. As the only African American girl in her preschool, she intrinsically knew that her blackness made her different and she didn’t feel pretty. Feeling like the girls in her class with long, straight hair were superior, she asked her mother to transform her natural curls and kinks into bone straight tresses like that of her Asian best friend. Zara also criticized her black baby doll’s hair, which signaled to her mother that she had a problem that stemmed deeper than her hair.

“I couldn’t understand why at 4 years old, [Zara would] be that concerned about a specific component of her physicality. And why would that make her feel so much less than?” says Múkami Kinoti Kimotho, a 43-year-old Wall-Street-executive-turned-entrepreneur. She was “the only girl in her class who had curly, kinky hair. And so that was something that became an issue for her,” Kimotho says.

But that was just one factor that impacted Zara’s self-esteem. Kimotho says that living in a predominantly white neighborhood and internalizing social constructs that systematically glorify and normalize white beauty also hurt her daughter’s confidence.

 

girls (Image courtesy of Royelles)

 

Being a good mom, Kimotho reaffirmed for Zara that she was created to perfection and even explained the allure of black hair. She then spoke to other mothers about how their little girls were being affected by societal norms about beauty. Kimotho also took a survey and was flabbergasted when she found hundreds of mothers who shared her same concerns about their daughters. Some even revealed that their daughters have tried to starve or hurt themselves in order to meet unrealistic beauty standards.

“Realizing that this was a much bigger problem,” said Kimotho, I was determine “to figure out how to solve it.”

In August 2017 she launched Royelles, a collection of Afrocentric avatars to empower girls to be authentic, ambitious, and embrace their originality. Kimotho designed and hand-crafted 13 different prototypes in the collection. Each one comes with an interesting backstory.

“In a world with exclusive, unrealistic beauty ideals, our girls are barraged with messages that negatively influence their self-image, self-value, and aspirations. Royelles offers something disruptively different!” reads the website.

“Rather than tell girls who they are not, Royelles avatars give girls, ages 4 to 12, an immersive and holistic play experience centered around a collection of avatars that remind them that they are ENOUGH.”

 

girls (Image: courtesy of Royelles)

 

 

Ultimately, she wants to the collection to inspire girls into using their originality as a source of strength. “Whatever that makes you feel different, that is actually your superpower. That is where the opportunity lies for you to truly have an impact and make a special and unique difference in the world,” said Kimotho.

Kimotho added that she is on a mission to empower 1 million girls, but she needs your help.

With your help, we have a chance to make a difference in the hearts and minds of all girls, everywhere. We’re on Kickstarter to raise funds for our first production run of Royelles avatars. $100K will allow us to produce the first avatar from our collection of 13! While we’re starting off by producing MARA—our warrior princess, as backers, you’ll have the opportunity to vote for the Royelles avatar we’ll produce next! The more we raise over $100K, the more we can produce, and the more choices you’ll have.

 



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Echoing Katrina, Harvey Threatens to Devastate Houston’s Black-Owned Businesses



It was just last May that Black Enterprise held its annual Entrepreneurs Summit in Houston. The city earned the reputation of the “next black business mecca,” and with good reason. The March/April edition of Black Enterprise magazine featured a quote from Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, citing the reasons Houston is so opportune for black entrepreneurship:

“Our thriving black business community, the multitude of professionals in corporate positions, and the dozen ELC (Executive Leadership Council) members who have presence in Houston,” were just some of the reason Turner gave.

Now, a furious and unforgiving storm, Hurricane Harvey, threatens to derail the incredible progress made by African American entrepreneurs in that town—and in the other devastated areas of southeast Texas. Can black businesses bounce back?

(U.S Border Patrol agents Mario Fuentes, left, and Marc Gonzales search a totally destroyed mobile home for survivors in the wake of Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Image: Glenn Fawcett)

 

Everyone Suffers But People of Color Even More So

 

Of course, the hurricane is not particular about whom it wreaks its havoc. TV cameras bear witness to people of all ethnicities struggling to survive a watery nightmare. Images of children on house doors serving as makeshift rafts floating down flooded streets are jarring. Most feel heartbreak at watching people in tears tell news reporters that everything they ever owned has been swept away by turbulent waters.

Yet, as is so often the case, it’s the poorest, most vulnerable in society who fare the absolute worst in a natural disaster. The Atlantic reports, “Like in the case of previous disasters like Katrina and Sandy, the heaviest cost of Harvey’s destruction is likely going to be borne by the most vulnerable communities in its path.” The article also states that many of the poor, disabled, and otherwise disenfranchised did not have the means to voluntarily evacuate as did those in wealthier communities.

Painful Lessons from Katrina

 

The echoes of Hurricane Katrina are obvious. Over 60,000 black-owned businesses were walloped then and many never recovered. In Louisiana alone, Katrina impacted 20,000 black-owned businesses that generated over $800 million.

(Image: Wikimedia)

 

The cruel irony is that scores of entrepreneurs moved their businesses from New Orleans post-Katrina to Texan cities including Houston and Dallas. Almost a quarter of a million fled New Orleans to resettle in Houston in the aftermath of Katrina, reports CNN.

Recovery doesn’t bode well for many of the storm-ravaged black-owned small business in Houston. Yet, even after Katrina’s fury (and subsequent government mismanagement) shocked the world, the city did re-emerge. It remains to be seen with the current federal leadership and the extent of Harvey’s damage if the city of Houston and its thousands of black-owned businesses will fare the same.

 

 



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Is Your LinkedIn Profile Helping or Hurting You?



A few years back, I was in a Women In Technology (WIT) Executive Coaching program. One of my biggest leadership takeaways from the program was the importance of a well-crafted social network. My executive coach shared a true story of two equally qualified candidates competing for a sales job. The candidate with the stronger LinkedIn profile got the job.

(Image: iStock/hocus-focus)

 

While a solid résumé is still needed to land a professional position, job seekers should not underestimate the importance of a solid LinkedIn profile—doing so could be detrimental to a great career. Last year, I had the honor of being on the planning team for an invitation-only corporate career day. A LinkedIn profile was one of the main criteria for attendees. That may sound a little absurd to some, but keep in mind that all companies have a vetting process for managing the influx of job applicants.  

Having a superstar LinkedIn profile is important because studies show that 87% of recruiters use the tool, over 106 million users are on the site per month, and for sure, decision makers are sizing up candidates based on information found on LinkedIn. So, if you have a LinkedIn profile, good. But that’s just the start. The tips below will help you to stand out among other candidates and could make the difference between you landing a great job or losing the opportunity.   

Here are five tips that will make LinkedIn your advocate: 

Photography

 

Profiles with photographs get 21 times more views than profiles without a photograph according to LinkedIn’s data. Make sure your photo is professional, has good lighting, and does not include other images; i.e., your spouse, pets, or children.  

Headline

 

The description under your photo should highlight what you do or the services and skills you provide. Do not make the mistake of putting ‘between jobs or currently seeking new opportunities’ in the headline. Being unemployed does not give you an edge for gaining new employment; presenting yourself well does.   

Summary Section 

 

Think of the summary section as an executive summary where you highlight your unique value and not the attributes of the companies where you gained your experience. Add key words that are relevant to your industry in this section so recruiters can find you. Key words alone will get you 13 times more views than profiles with less specific statements, according to LinkedIn research. Make sure your summary is 40 words or more because the word count in this section increases the likelihood of your profile showing up in searches.

Experience 

 

This section should match the work experience outlined on your résumé and it should always be current. Do not make the mistake of only updating your profile when you’re in the job market. I landed my first six-figure position when I wasn’t looking to leave my current company. I updated my LinkedIn profile with every major event (promotion, award, education), and a recruiter found me!  

One tip for boosting the experience section is to upload copies of shareable work documents you created, video, and other media that relates to your work.

Featured Skills and Endorsements

 

Go through the entire skill list provided by LinkedIn and select the ones that relate to your skill set. Then ask your colleagues, friends and associates to endorse you on LinkedIn for those skills.

Do not be shy about asking for endorsements and keep in mind that the best time to ask is while you are currently working with the individual.

Ready to move your career to the next level? Make sure you embrace social networking by creating a superstar LinkedIn profile. You will be amazed by how this professional network platform could help enhance your career.  

 

 



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11 Ways to Boost Your Small Business’ Cash Flow



Smart small business owners stay on top of their cash flow, monitoring their financial statements regularly. These owners can tell you just how much money is coming in and going out of their business.

(Image: iStock/andresr)

 

If you’ve been less than diligent about monitoring your business’s money, these tips can help you boost your business’s cash flow:

1. Choose a Good Tool to Monitor Cash Flow

 

Online accounting software such as QuickBooks Online makes it simple to reconcile your accounts, generate reports, and more. Information is secure in the cloud, making it easy for you to stay on top of your cash flow wherever you are.

2. See Where You Can Cut Costs

 

Focus on recurring monthly, quarterly, or annual expenses. Can you cut back on utilities, rent, or payroll? Are you spending money on subscriptions or services you’re not using or insurance you no longer need? Can you renegotiate the terms of outstanding loans or leases?

3. Cash in on Assets

 

Do you have equipment you no longer use or inventory that’s becoming obsolete? Consider selling it to generate quick cash. 

4. Open a Business Line of Credit

 

A business line of credit is a good insurance policy against cash flow problems. You may be able to get a line of credit for a percentage of your accounts receivable or inventory if you use them as collateral. 

Also, look for business credit cards with rewards such as points you can use toward travel or business purchases. In addition to providing a cushion for lean times, business credit cards also categorize your purchases, so it’s easier to track expenses.

For more information, check out, “5 Signs Your Business Is Ready for a Credit Card.” 

5. Lease Equipment Instead of Buying

 

By leasing vehicles, computers, and other business equipment, you get access to the latest features and avoid tying up cash—but you still get to expense the lease costs on your business taxes.

6. Issue Invoices Promptly

 

Send invoices when the work is completed or products are delivered. Why wait? Find out the specific person, job title, and address to send your invoices to so they don’t get lost in a shuffle from department to department. Design your invoices so they’re straightforward and easy to read, with key areas like due date, amount due, where to send payment and payment methods highlighted. Speed things up further by emailing invoices instead of mailing them. Establish a process for following up with late or delinquent payers:

  • An initial form letter 10 days following receipt asking for payment.
  • A second follow-up letter—more aggressive—in 20 days demanding payment.
  • A third letter in 30 days and a phone call from your collections clerk seeking payment.

If you’re on the road and in a pinch, try the free instant invoice creators Invoice-o-matic and invoiceto.me. They’re so simple, you don’t even have to register—just input your info into a template, then generate a PDF you can email to your customers.

7. Use Mobile Payment Solutions

 

If you sell products or provide services at customers’ homes or offices, get paid on the spot with mobile apps that use your smartphone or tablet to accept payment by credit and debit card. Square is a widely-used small business mobile payment solution. 

8. Offer Customer Deals

 

Consider offering your customers incentives, such as a percentage off the total, for early payments. Do the math beforehand to ensure the tradeoff (getting paid early) is worth the loss (less money in the long run).

9. Ask for Deposits or Partial Payments on Large Orders or Long-Term Contracts

 

For example, a building contractor or website developer might charge a 10% deposit upfront before beginning to draw up plans for the project, then charge half the remaining amount when work begins, and the balance upon completion. Charging this way, the company generates enough cash to finance the materials and pay the workers needed for the job.

10. Delay Payments to Vendors

 

Unless there’s a worthwhile incentive for you to pay early, figure out how late you can pay your vendors without risking late fees or harming your relationship. This keeps the cash in your account and out of your vendor’s until it absolutely has to be there.

11. Require Credit Checks on All New Non-Cash Customers

 

 

 

 



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Kirston Pittman’s Startup, Get Rich in The Struggle (GRITS), Inspires Through Clothing



STEVE HARVEY’S FUNDERDOME - "Episode 104" - Aspiring inventors hoping to win over a live studio audience to fund their ideas, products or companies include: swimsuit pieces that can be used as either a top or a bottom, weighted pompoms, and a plate that converts into a container to store the uneaten portion of kids' meals, on an all-new episode of the seed-funding competition reality series, "Steve Harvey's FUNDERDOME," airing on SUNDAY, JULY 9 (9:00-10:00 p.m.), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Lisa Rose) KIRSTON J. PITTMAN (GRITS CLOTHING)

On Episode 4 of Steve Harvey’s Funderdome, Kirston J. Pittman pitched his company, Get Rich in The Struggle (GRITS). On the show, entrepreneurs pitch in a head-to-head competition to “The Funderdome” (a live studio audience) for the chance to win up to $100K in capital. The pitch that gets the most votes wins the money. Before the winner is announced, both competitors get the chance to “cash out” for a lower sum of money.

STEVE HARVEY’S FUNDERDOME - "Episode 104" - Aspiring inventors hoping to win over a live studio audience to fund their ideas, products or companies include: swimsuit pieces that can be used as either a top or a bottom, weighted pompoms, and a plate that converts into a container to store the uneaten portion of kids' meals, on an all-new episode of the seed-funding competition reality series, "Steve Harvey's FUNDERDOME," airing on SUNDAY, JULY 9 (9:00-10:00 p.m.), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Lisa Rose) KIRSTON J. PITTMAN (GRITS CLOTHING) (Kirston J. Pittman on Funderdome. Image: The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Lisa Rose))

 

Brandon Andrews of Values Partnerships sat down with Pittman after the show for a one-on-one interview about his startup and his appearance on the show.

Brandon Andrews: Get Rich In the Struggle (GRITS). Everyone struggles, how do we get rich while going through challenging times?   

Kirston Pittman: I believe that the way to get through any struggle is to first admit that there is one. Once you’ve come to terms with that, then you seek God for direction and guidance and to reveal to you the truth behind whatever that struggle is. Then one must look deep inside and make a decision to become the best being that you can become.

Steps have to be taken to combat the things of the flesh so that the spirit can be fed and you can grow into the being that you were put on earth to become. By you seeking out your truth to become your best, your light will begin to shine for the whole world to see. Others will start to take notice and ask you about what they see; which is you living your truth.

Once you share your story and journey with them, most times they will feel compelled to do the same. And if that cycles repeats itself, we become a better people, which in turn creates a better society, which then creates a better world.

How does clothing impact the way we feel?

 

The clothing serves as a conduit to the message of Get Rich In The Struggle. We hope that as you wear GRITS Brand that you are reminded of something personal to you that you must become better at or overcome something that you are facing. With expansion of the brand we hope to create bumper stickers and coffee mugs, picture frames with quotes and backpacks for kids so that the GRITS message will always be within eyes view.

We hope to inspire, encourage, and embolden consumers by taking the challenge of becoming their best. By providing the best quality clothing with a great message, we want you to wear it proudly as a symbol of someone that has answered the call to want more than what they have spiritually, mentally, and physically. It’s a call of action.

 

How did you feel pitching your business in the Funderdome?

 

I was truly grateful and humbled by the opportunity to pitch the GRITS “Get Rich In The Struggle” message to a national audience. The vision has always been to be on a platform to share my story and encourage others with the message. The response thus far has been humbling and refreshing to say the least. Having people reach out to share their life’s stories about their current life situations and how hearing me on Funderdome has given them fuel to not give up but take on their own personal issues head on. I can truly say that God answers prayers because what I once visualized, materialized by not giving up, keeping the faith, and believing.

GRITS Sweatshirt (GRITS Red Hoodie Sweat Shirt. Image: http://www.gogrits.com)

 

 

What did you learn from your experience on the show?  

 

I’ve learned from my experience on the show that whenever you have a chance to share your story and journey with others that you should. You never know what someone is going through and when you meet people on your journey, you should always look for ways to be positive and upbeat and sow a good seed into the soul of your fellow man. During the audition phase, I had an opportunity to speak with one of the producers of the show and she cried once hearing my story and went on to tell me how inspired she was by my passion and courage to keep going forward despite the circumstances that I’d faced up to that moment. The show taught me to keep pressing. Don’t look back. Forward march at all cost.

(Image: facebook.com/gritsclothingbrand)

 

 

Andrews: Give us a post-show update. How do you plan to grow your business in 2017? 

 

Pittman: We plan to expand the business going forward through viral marketing online, and providing care packages to some athletes and entertainers that we have relationships with. We plan to provide the best inspirational and motivational slogans on clothing and other products, as well as the best designs that capture the eye of the culture. Trade shows and gifting suites at big entertainment events is another avenue that has been afforded to us currently and those opportunities can put us in front of some heavy hitters in the fashion and entertainment arena. We are going to continue moving forward with the vision to capture the minds and souls of the consumers and provide a positive means to become the best being that we can all become. We want to change the people of the world so that the people can change the world.

 

Andrews: What do entrepreneurs like you need to succeed?

 

Pittman: The thing that entrepreneurs like myself need to succeed is simple. Belief in oneself. Once you believe, your mind travels a path that leads directly to the destination that is inspired by your most innate desires. Belief in oneself. That’s what entrepreneurs like myself need to succeed.

 

 

 

 



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Houston Black Chamber Establishes Relief Fund for Harvey-Ravaged Black Businesses



The Greater Houston Black Chamber is setting up the GHBC Foundation 501(c)3 Relief Fund to assist black-owned businesses in jeopardy from Hurricane Harvey.

 

 

GHBC is issuing a call-to-arms via an online campaign requesting funds for the relief effort. Within the next 24 hours, the GHBC website will have short applications for Houston business owners to complete to request access to the funds.

 

“We anticipate the requests to pours in and want to be in a position with funds to help,” said a representative from the GHBC via an emailed statement.

 

For more information go to: http://ghbcc.com/hurricane-harvey-relief

 

Houston is ranked the No. 1 city in America for fostering minority-owned businesses. A report revealed that 17.5% of the city’s businesses were minority-owned. Reasons cited for Houston being a fertile ground for black businesses include its relatively low startup costs; access to financial resources; and its diverse population.

 

If Hurricane Katrina is an indicator, recovery doesn’t bode well for many of the storm-ravaged black-owned small business in Houston. Over 60,000 black-owned businesses were walloped by Katrina and many never recovered. In Louisiana alone, Katrina impacted 20,000 black-owned businesses that generated over $800 million.

 

Founded in 1935, the GHBC was Houston’s first African American civic organization. It is dedicated to developing black-owned businesses in that city as well as creating outreach partnership opportunities in Houston’s black community.

 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

 

 

 



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45 Great Moments in Black Business – No. 30: Earl Graves Sr. and Magic Johnson Close $60 Million Deal to Create Largest Black Pepsi Franchise



For the 45th Anniversary of the BE 100s—the nation’s largest black-owned businesses—we share 45 milestone events that have had widespread impact on black economic development and American industry across four decades. This tribute salutes the iconic companies and CEOs found on BE‘s annual list of the largest black-owned companies.

Today we reveal No. 30 in the web series “Great Moments in Black Business.” 

1990: BE Publisher Graves and Earvin “Magic” Johnson partner with Pepsi-Cola to establish Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C. L.P., creating the nation’s largest minority-controlled Pepsi bottling franchise.

(Earl Graves Sr. and “Magic” Johnson. Image: Black Enterprise Magazine, October 1990)

 

It was an all-star joint venture between the founder and publisher of the nation’s pre-eminent black business publication; an NBA superstar with entrepreneurial aspirations; and one of the world’s largest beverage giants. When BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s Earl G. Graves Sr. and Magic Johnson completed the $60 million transaction to own a Pepsi franchise in July 1990, their achievement became the deal-making choice of a new generation; growth through partnership and acquisition. For good reason: Graves and Johnson’s milestone added some new fizz to the BE 100s as the new entity, Pepsi-Cola of Washington, DC L.P., ranked No. 19 with $44 million in revenues upon its debut on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 in June 1992. (To make the BE 100s rankings, a new company with at least 51% black ownership must be in operation for a full calendar year.)

As you would expect, BE had the inside scoop on the evolution of this sweet deal. Here’s the edited October 1990 account as reported by writer Fred Martin:

For Earl G. Graves, Sr. the road to acquiring a soft drink franchise began not in a plush corner office but 35,000 feet in the air.

In January 1988, the 53-year-old Graves was traveling by plane en route to a speaking engagement when he struck up a conversation with his seatmate, a senior-level Pepsi-Cola executive, After both men exchanged routine pleasantries, Graves showed him a copy of BE. After familiarizing himself with the magazine, the soft drink manager told Graves that Pepsi had been looking to do business with a prominent black businessman. Two years later, Craig E. Weatherup, then-president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola Co.—not the executive on the plane—announced creation of the largest-minority-controlled Pepsi-Cola franchise in the country.

In a move exemplifying the growth of African American business at the time, Graves and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers veteran, officially entered the $40 billion soft drink business by teaming up to purchase Pepsi-Cola of Washington D.C., a Forestville, Maryland sales distribution facility serving the District of Columbia and a small area of Prince Georges County, Maryland. The $60 million deal marked only the second time in 20 years that Pepsi had brought new ownership to its franchise network. At the time, the only other black-owned Pepsi franchise was a Houghton, Michigan-based enterprise owned by Dr. William Harvey, president of Hampton University.

 

 

This is a unique venture,” said Weatherup, “one that we’ve been discussing and evaluating over two years. Earl and Earvin bring more to it than just their knowledge and their expertise. They bring their experience. Their stature and the unique position they occupy as role models for the black community.”

Graves and Johnson, CEO and executive vice president, respectively, were responsible for the new company’s operations, strategic planning and general management. Pepsi-Cola was a limited partner in the venture. Graves remained BE‘s publisher while he spent a significant amount of time in the Washington metro running his franchise. In terms of the partnership, Graves owned more than 65% while Johnson held more than a 30% stake and both had the right of first refusal for other purchases. Pepsi remained a limited partner and its equity stake could change, opening up possibility for a greater share of the operation for Graves and Johnson.

The plant, which sat on a 6.1-acre plot, had about 160 employees, its own sales staff and a fleet of trucks. It distributed soft drink brands such as Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mandarin Orange Slice and Mug Root. Key accounts included the White House, the U.S. Capitol and Air Force One.

(Graves to the left of Sen. Bill Bradley. Image: Black Enterprise Magazine, October 1990)

 

The idea of buying a franchise was nothing new to Graves. For several years he investigated several potential candidates and chose the Pepsi franchise, which sold 4.3 million cans of soda annually, because the company had market presence, solid leadership and spent $325 million with minority vendors between 1982 and 1992.

Sealing the deal was not easy. The “tough but fair” negotiations, which began in 1988, continued right up until the announcement in July 1992. During the lengthy talks, the principals got to know each other well. “When I would receive telephone calls at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays,” recalls Weatherup. “My wife would say, ‘It must be Earl.’  

Finding the right partner is also key to any successful joint venture. Graves knew he had his man in Magic Johnson, the 30-year-old three-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Johnson was a man with resources of his own and a stellar reputation o—and off—the court. Johnson’s association with the Pepsi trademark was a major plus since he had great appeal in black and white communities.

Graves and Johnson met in 1988 at New York City’s 21 Club to talk business. “I was looking for someone who was mature and committed to making this business venture a success,” Graves said. The two hit it off and shook hands on the deal. Two years later the franchise deal was done. For Johnson, he was eager to work with the publisher: “This is an opportunity to learn some business magic from Earl Graves.” 

(Image: Black Enterprise Magazine, January 1992)

 

Pepsi-Cola of Washington, DC was BE 100s leader for several years until Pepsi-Cola engaged in buybacks of its bottling operations. In 1999, Graves sold a majority stake in the franchise. But he still maintained a strong relationship with the soft drink giant, which served as a title sponsor for the popular Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge—an event that brought African American movers and shakers together for recreation and power networking—over two decades. Graves held a prominent position on the company’s minority business advisory board and served as general partner of Egoli Beverages L. P., a short-lived Pepsi-Cola franchise in South Africa.

As for Johnson, he often cites Graves as one of his mentors. Since the franchise’s formation, his business career has been effervescent. Through partnerships with powerful brands such as AMC Theaters, Starbucks, TGI Friday’s and L.A. Dodgers, the prolific entrepreneur he has built a diversified commercial empire over the past 25 years. These successful ventures, in turn, have made Johnson an MVP in business.



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How Becoming a Beautiful, Bald Bella Gave Life to a New Business



On Episode 2 of Steve Harvey’s Funderdome, Ehdra – the “Beautiful Bald Bella” Frazier from Atlanta, pitched her product, Dome Essentials. Brandon Andrews of Values Partnerships sat down with Frazier after the show for an exclusive one-on-one conversation.

 

(Image: Facebook/Ehdra Beautifulbaldbella Frazier)

 

Brandon Andrews: Tell us the Dome Essentials story.

Ehdra “The Beautiful Bald Bella” Frazier:  My experience is in marketing, small business development and business administration. I’ve worked alongside pastors, CEO’s and visionary leaders in the corporate and nonprofit communities for over 25 years. In 2012, I decided it was time to stop helping everyone else achieve their visions and dreams and start a new journey of my own.

I had just turned 50 and felt it was time to do some new things in my “Round 2.” So I made the big chop (cut off all my hair) gave myself a big 50th birthday celebration, recorded a single, and started packing in preparation to relocate to a big city. The decision to move to Atlanta to be near my oldest daughter and two grandchildren seemed like a great fit. While living in Atlanta, I began to notice that wearing my bald head was not an issue as it was up north. It was welcomed and I was admired. I felt comfortable sporting my bald head and was surprised at how many women and men began to acknowledge my look; commenting on the confidence and boldness I exuded.

I wore hair pieces, wigs, hats, and scarves since middle school. Many could not tell the difference between my hair and the “doos” I sported. No one ever told me, but I now believe I had female pattern baldness (or alopecia) around the edges of my head. My hair was so thin and fine that I could not wear many popular styles most of my life. So when India Aire’s song, “I am not my hair,” first came out, my response was, “I am not my hair, but it sure helps!”

 

I began to notice that the things which used to stress me were no longer issues like: going swimming, riding in a car with the windows down, sitting comfortably on the couch and having my hair push up, doing modern dance with a scarf to hold my hair on tight, and the worst, riding a roller coaster (which I loved the most).  I began to notice that my stress levels were reduced significantly as a result of not looking over my shoulder or being concerned about my hair.  I never realized how much stress I was under until then.  I felt a new calling emerge. I was already encouraging by nature; but even more so now. It became my mission to stop every person I met to proclaim: “You are rocking that beautiful dome!” So I began calling women, Beautiful Bald Bellas, and men, Beautiful Bald Beaus. The name stuck so I was branded the original, Beautiful Bald Bella.

Unsuccessful in locating a natural shave system, void of toxins and damaging chemicals, God gave me the blueprint to create my own. In the spring of 2015, while living in the lower level of my daughter’s home, and unable to find work, I had a dream (a Noah experience, I call it). I saw a complete business model for an all-natural shave system, the manufacturing, reselling, marketing, branding, packaging, shipping and delivering processes and all the people involved in the entire process. I even saw Mr. Steve Harvey in this dream, along with some other dome centered items; and in the late summer of 2016, Dome Essentials Inc. was born. I had found my new purpose.

A prototype for The Dome Essentials natural shave system was completed in less than a month. Many men and women in Ohio and Georgia sampled and tested the product. I was ecstatic at the results. The system includes: The Shave Oil—which softens stubble and prepares the scalp for the shave; The Astringent—nourishes the scalp and deposits essential nutrients into the skin, as well as soothes, repairs, and cleans the pores after the shave; and the After Shave Cream—which conditions and protects the scalp.

The key natural ingredients include: Aloe Vera, Tea Tree, Shea Butter 100% pure, natural oils, organic essential oils (which are used to clean the skin, control irritation, and improve circulation are among a few of their benefits); vitamins E and D for healthier skin, and other good stuff. The Dome Essentials natural shave system is a faster, cleaner, healthier shave experience!

 

Does your scalp need special care? How does it differ from other parts of the body?  

 

Yes, all scalp skin is thick, has several layers to protect the brain, and unlike the rest of the body, the scalp has extra oil glands. Additionally, most people have an abundance of hair for added protection, but it can create a problem for the scalp when we add chemical overload, shampoo goo, conditioners with little or no healthy ingredients, and other products that can clog the pores and cause dandruff and disease to the skin. Many people neglect the scalp all together and focus solely on the hair.

 

How was your experience pitching on Funderdome? How did you prepare for your pitch?

 

My experience being on the set of Steve Harvey’s Funderdome was amazing.  The staff treated me like a rock star!  Mr. Harvey was such a gentleman and is a hoot on stage.  He kept the dialogue entertaining and intriguing. A bit too intriguing in my case.  I laughed so hard during my segment, trying not to blush, that I couldn’t complete my product pitch.

(Ehdra – the Beautiful Bald Bella and Steve Harvey on Steve Harvey’s Funderdome. Image: ABC/Lisa Rose)

 

For me, this was my opportunity to jump head first into deep waters. To win or lose was not the top focus for me. Just being showcased on national television and given the opportunity to share my product was a blessing. Then to have it re-run two weeks later was more than I could have asked for. It gave me a double boost of sales!

 

STEVE HARVEY’S FUNDERDOME - "Episode 106" - Aspiring inventors hoping to win over a live studio audience to fund their ideas, products or companies include: a drying system for wet dogs, a natural shave system for bald heads and a convenient cup holder that's also a throw pillow, on an all-new episode of the seed-funding competition reality series, "Steve Harvey's FUNDERDOME," airing on SUNDAY, JUNE 18 (9:00-10:00 p.m.), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Lisa Rose) EHDRA FRAZIER (DOME ESSENTIALS), STEVE HARVEY, MARLON RHODEMAN (TRI BOW TIE) (L-R: Frazier, Steve Harvey, and Marlon Rhodeman. Image: ABC)

 

 

 

What role has faith played in starting and growing your business? 

 

Have you heard Ericka Campbell’s song: I love God, you don’t love God? What’s wrong wit chu? I really do love Jesus and trust God to fulfill every promise in His Word to us.  So I pray and thank God every day for this new vision and for using me to carry it out for Him. He provides every resource. He opens every door. I try to pray before every major decision and step I take. God’s way is so much better than mine. He knows what’s ahead and I try to listen closely for cues and notes from Him to get everything done.

 

Give us a post-show update. How do you plan to grow your business in 2017?    

Since the show aired, business has done well! Dome Essentials was invited to be listed on Amazon Exclusives, one of the largest retailers on the planet. Having Dome Essentials highlighted under the Funderdome banner gave us the extra push we needed.

I believe in the philosophy, if you build it, they will come! So, I have established a customer service call center in preparation for the ABUNDANCE of business we will receive, and have a blue print for our manufacturing and production facility already in the works. I’m getting my team ready!

Next steps are to manufacture the Dome Essentials natural shave system in volume, create inventory to expand, present to select resellers, and begin production on the additional items in the line. I have a special addition to the line coming in 2018, which is very exciting and I can’t wait to launch it.

What do entrepreneurs like you need to be successful? How can shows like Funderdome help?   

 

I encourage every entrepreneur to pay attention to every connection. Every person you meet has a purpose. Every conversation or meeting is not by chance, it has a purpose. You need a team or a TRIBE to manage a business and be successful in creating a legacy. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to do anything meaningful in life! Every one of us has a gift or gifts to make a positive impact on the world; and each of us needs the other’s gift or gifts to make it work. We need each other.  So, find your tribe!

 

 



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Perks Abound For Black Credit Cardholders As Issuers Battle For New Customers



There are fabulous sign-up bonuses for credit cards that can potentially add several hundreds of dollars to your pocket.

 

(Image: iStock/AndreyPopov)

 

For customers who travel on a specific airline, there are perks including free checked baggage, priority boarding, and free companion tickets. These perks can easily offset the annual fee plus more if the cardholder flies a few times annually.

For annual fee cards, there are issuers who may waive the fee in the first year. Users with an existing balance on another card may be able to get a low-interest rate, or no-interest for 12 to 18 months.

Welcome to the nation’s credit card industry, where black credit card users can now benefit greatly from increased competition among credit card providers. Forces such as rising interest rates and strong consumer spending are prompting credit companies and banks to offer more incentives to sign up new customers. An incentive fueling the high levels of overall satisfaction among credit card customers is cash-back rewards, based on the J.D. Power 2017 Credit Card Satisfaction Study.

A  ‘Great Time’ To Be A Credit Cardholder

 

“It’s a really good time to be a credit card customer. Overall satisfaction is up across the board, and growing numbers of card companies and regional banks are coming to the market with new products that offer rich sign-up bonuses, increased cash-back rewards and new benefits,” says Jim Miller, senior director of the banking practice at J.D. Power.

“The key for issuers in this highly competitive marketplace is to develop strategies that increase customer satisfaction, which, in turn, decrease attrition and promote higher levels of credit card spend.”

Takeaways From the J.D. Power Study Cardholders Should Know

 

  • Overall customer satisfaction with credit card issuers this year reached its highest level in the study’s 11-year history (802 on a 1,000-point scale). Scores were highest for cards that offer cash-back rewards programs. Conversely, airline cards and store-branded Visa/MasterCard reward credit cards ranked lower for satisfaction among reward cards.

 

  • Credit issuer websites and mobile offerings are becoming more prevalent on the cardholder satisfaction front. Satisfaction is only 780 when customers don’t use those channels. Satisfaction grows to 807 when folks use online only and rise to 827 among those who use mobile only. Satisfaction reaches its peak (834) when customers use both online and mobile.

 

  • Customers over 40 are becoming more satisfied, while satisfaction scores for customers under that age is dropping. Younger customers are more apt to use many cards for spending and more likely to switch from their main credit card. Better rewards is a reason older customers (44%) are likely to switch cards, while greater benefits is a factor why younger customers (38%) are most likely to change.

 

  • When it comes to credit card issuers, American Express (835) ranks first in customer satisfaction, Discover (827) and Capital One (808). This year’s study includes responses from 22,896 credit card customers, including 1,246 African Americans.

Blacks Most Satisfied With Credit Card Companies

 

Interestingly, black cardholders are the most satisfied with their credit company for several reasons, including customer service and perks offered. They are followed by Latino/Hispanic 816, White/Caucasian 803 and Asian/Asian American 781.

Miller says credit card issuers are also focusing on increasing their benefits, including most offering a free credit score, travel-related insurance, and other services. Some cards offer discounts at specific retailers. Miller added mobile apps are making it very easy for cardholders to see their transactions and balances in real time.

“There have never been more credit card choices so there is likely a good card that fits each customer’s needs,” Miller says.

 

 



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4 Things to Do Before You Hire a Freelancer



design

On one hand, hiring a freelancer can be an inexpensive way to get work done quickly as well as a much-needed stress relief. But on the other hand, freelance staffing can be a headache especially when it comes to finding reliable people or managing remote workers.

design (Image: iStock/JGalione)

 

Here are four things to do before you hire a freelancer:

Determine IRS reporting obligations

 

Does your business have withholding and reporting obligations to the IRS? According to the IRS, if a business hires an independent contractor based in the United States, it is required to report payment over $600 yearly using Form 1099-MISC.

 

Request a portfolio of work, testimonials, or recommendations from former clients

 

Even if a freelancer comes highly recommended from a friend, you should conduct your own review of their past work and check for recommendations. For instance, if you’re hiring a web designer, review at least 3 LIVE websites, search Google or another forum for customers reviews or ask for another recommendation as it relates to their quality of work and timeliness.

 

Be clear on your goals and set expectations up front

 

To avoid miscommunication with freelancers, conduct a kick off meeting to set expectations. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What’s your preferred means of communications for status updates—face to face, email, video conference or phone meetings?
  • Do you prefer weekly or bi-weekly updates?
  • What’s the project timeline?
  • What’s the format for the final deliverable?
  • Is the project an hourly or fixed rate project?
  • How many revisions are allowed?
  • What is the number of hours designated for the work?
  • What’s the invoicing process?

Create a legally binding contract

 

To avoid work disputes, create a contract and make it official by having each party sign and date the document. Contracts may include project specifications including the scope of work, compensation, a description of services and grounds for either party to terminate the contract, such as missed deadlines and payments.



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