Small Business Spotlight: Johnny Dang & Co.

With a healthy mix of income levels, demographics and tons and tons of space Houston is a prime breeding ground for small business success. Companies that can properly transverse through all these factors have the opportunity to move their small business dreams to entrepreneurial powerhouses.  One outstanding example of a Houston local business growth story is Johnny Dang & Co.  By branding himself as the grill king he has been able to take a leap in branding from a jeweler to make him a local powerhouse.

What I love most about success stories like these is all the hard work that goes in that most people are tune deaf too.  In these stories you can see the struggle, growth, ups and downs and failures of taking on your dream, being humble enough to start small and thinking big enough to seize opportunities.  For Johnny the passion began as a watch repair tech at a flea market.  Proof positive that the root is in the dream not how grand you start.  Once the seed was planted Johnny moved to a location in Sharpstown.  If you saw the store you both knew it and remembered it as the bling was definitely the theme.  In this his brand was born but it was his tenacity for building that brand that make his growth unstoppable.  By identifying a need in custom jewelry creation in Houston he was able to attract deep pockets and big names to his shop.

So with the King of Grillz on TV and at a store near you what pearls can we gather in our own businesses?

Where you start is no indication of where you will end up. Taking the leap from flea market to three stores is a huge leap but completely possible with a dream to big enough to lift your sites high and the hard work and perseverance to move your engine along.

When you have a relationship with the customer you are half way there. When he first opened in Sharpstown it would be hard to imagine the jeweler becoming a national go to for jewelry. Instead of just targeting a high end client Johnny took the population he worked in, got to know them and see what would interest them. By focusing on their response Johnny Dang was able to build a broad audience in a wide range of quality and prices.

Team work makes the dream work. Where I think Johnny Dang truly shines in his ability to collaborate. From watches to his powerhouse alliance with Paul Wall his associations have been not just strong but lasting and given him the momentum to make a name for himself not just in Houston but in the world of Hip Hop.

With Johnny Dang & Co. recently celebrating their one year anniversary at a flagship store that is over 14,000 the power of these lessons is self-evident!

The Texas Black Expo delivered on Texas size fun!

The Texas Black Expo is just what you may expect, but sooo much more.  The expo is a great opportunity not only to support black owned businesses, but also offers some great showcases and seminars from everything from entertainment, to health and wellness to real talk from successful professionals.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to not only check out some of the great vendors at the expo but also get a little insight in the age old question, what are the differences between men and women?  In the Diva Dialogues Entertainment Attorney Jalene Mack brought together a power packed panel to take on the challenge of “The Great Divide” and see just how different do many and women feel about things from business to love and relationships.

This Texas Black Expo seminar was a great look into the differences, sometimes subtle, sometime distinct, between how men and women see the world. This type of conversation can either be lots of fun or down right argumentative so it was an extra bonus that Jalene was not just an entertainment attorney but an actor as well, and able to keep everyone both on task and having fun.  With a feisty panel of professionals you who are enjoying themselves and openly sharing you almost cannot help yourself but get wrapped up in the fun.  The panelists ranging from philanthropist, to attorneys, to radio station owners, to successful entrepreneurs and even a special guest Golden Brooks, a successful actress and business owner most known for her role on Girlfriends.

So what is the take on the great divide? Actually in listening to the responses you begin to understand women and men are looking at the same side of the different coin.  Although initially it may seem like two completely different approaches, the more you communicate and open your mind the more clarity you see on the differences.  Whether big or small, however, the panel offered some great insight on how they take on the challenges of being a business owner.  Here are a couple of pearls that most of us know, but often forget to apply and use in the way to approach both business and life:

  • Jalene Mack – Entertainment Attorney and founder of MPAC: On networking Jalene recommends entering into it with purpose. When you are focused in on finding opportunities you make sure networking actually enhances your business.
  • Golden Brooks – Actress and Entrepreneur: When faced with the challenge of being an African American woman in business Golden found strength by walking in her own light. By knowing herself she is not diminished by others but can use it as a basis of celebration for the unique person she is and the distinctive gifts she brings to the table
  • CleRenda McGrady – Author and Philanthropist – in referencing her favorite movie scene in The Wizard of Oz CleRenda draws strength from the idea that the power is within you all along, you just have to believe it for yourself.
  • Velma Trayham – PR Expert recommends business owners really invest the time and energy to know their market. When you don’t waste time and money focusing on being everything to everyone you can focus on making real connections with your target audience
  • Keisha Nicole – DJ for 97.9 The Box: In speaking to purpose Keisha is inspired by knowing that if God gave her a purpose, he also blesses with the gifts and capacity to carry it out if you are willing to put in the work.
  • Al Rucker – owner of Midtown Bail Bonds – For those who do not network Al recommends using the energy to focus on building their brand. After time a strong enough brand gets people searching for them instead of the other way around.
  • Danny Norris – Attorney with Norris & Norris Attorneys Essential tips for starting a business are to work out a business plan, a mentor, and the capital needed to get the business off the ground
  • Marcus Bowers – Owner of She’s Happy Hair – In his journey to hair mogul Marcus made a commitment to himself to just try to be better every day than he was the day before
  • Oscar Hines – Owner of KYND Radio shared his favorite quote that captured his life philosophy – “It’s not the number of breaths you have in life, it is the number or moments that take your breath away”

All in all the Texas Black Expo is a great way to support your community with businesses you love and others you have yet to fall in love with. Most importantly it is a great opportunity to have more breath taking moments and learn something along the way.

Building your Personal Brand with the BE Summit

No matter what you do, there are usually other businesses or people who do the exact same thing, so how do you show your brand is different to the audience that matters to you? This is a question that entrepreneurs wrestle on a daily and at my final seminar at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit we received some great insight from a master in his field, Raymon Ray.  In the seminar “How to Build Your Personal Brand” Ramon Ray provided some simple but essential strategies for separating yourself from your competition to becoming the “go to” person in your area and for your target market.

This seminar created an unmatched energy as within the first minutes the audience was excited for what was to come. Raymon Ray delivered on all counts in this seminar.  As I walked in room everyone was connecting and volunteers were sharing their brand information.  This is the type of energy that gets you excited to not just listen but also participate and dare to push yourself further than you would normally go.  While quite out of the ordinary for a seminar, it paired perfectly with the enthusiasm and mastery displayed by Mr. Ray.  The very best thing is that Raymond Ray preaches what he teaches.  You can catch him in areas from AT&T to his own magazine Smart Hustle.  The four personal traits of personal branding to Be Happy, Be Excited, Be Patient, and Be Focused were displayed masterfully as he shared five gems in personal branding

1 – Be a Rock Star: People want to rock with rock stars so make sure your presentation isn’t a no frills water downed version of what makes you different. If you have attributes you think are special then share them and don’t skimp on the razzle dazzle

2 – Make a Personal Connection: Networking should be strategic so that you are also building relationships and connections with people. When done properly you can really cultivate a circle of personal influence that can carry your brand a lot further a lot faster than you can yoursel

3 – Get your personal branding toolbox in order. Things like a personal website, blog, and active social engagement are a requirement in this day and age so don’t slack on sharing the story of you and what makes you different,

4 – Just Do It: It is easy to get so busy working on small things you forget to add some big things into your larger vision. Whether it is an event or sizzle video there are some great ways to tout your talents and increase your audience.

5 – Maximize Media Exposure: Even small business in this day of connectivity can get some major media exposure if they work at it. Take some time to get to know journalist in your area so when a topic comes up that applies to you, they have you on special for an experts input. By working to not pitch yourself but educate on a topic you can easily build a reputation as an authority. Even something as simple as creating a regular show can help catapult your media exposure.

This was a great seminar that showed you how to immediately put some ideas into action while leaving attendees feeling both motivated and empowered. With just 5 easy steps to get you on your way to becoming local celebrity in your field what’s stopping you?!!

Resources that leverage your business at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit

On Day 2 of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit I hesitantly walked into the seminar entitled “How to Use Technology to Protect and Grow Your Business“ and to my surprise I was quickly realized I was getting a lot more than I bargained for.

The panelist of Claire Sulmers with Fashion Bomb Daily, LaShonda Johnson with the Houston Housewives of Finance and Everette Taylor of Skurt were a fierce compilation of business savvy, opportunity spotting business superstars all ready and willing to share their experience and knowledge with the crowd.  Each in their own way were innovators, finding opportunity and pushing through to success when many others would have only seen despair.  Everett, for instance, when from being homeless, unable to get  a call back on job applications due to stereotyping, to starting, running, selling and restarting some powerhouse marketing and IT companies.  Other panelists, like LaShonda Johnson, left lucrative businesses to take a risk to uncharted territory in pursuit of their passion.  All, however, were able to share powerful messages in utilizing the things around you and inside you to leverage your mindset and your business.

While I came in the seminar expecting a full-fledged jump into the world of technology, the talk took on technology more as any knowledge you could apply for advancement. Yes, technology encompasses the gadgets and devices that have become a part of our lives, but the perspective that was really valuable is that these things are only beneficial if you use them to evolve in reaching your customer base.  A great example of this came from Claire with Fashion Bomb Daily.  While she is known for her phenomenal fashion blog, she noticed that readers to the blog were transitioning to Instagram.  As technology transitioned she also transitioned her delivery method to Instagram and now has more than 1 million followers along with the base she developed in readers to the actual blog.  She was able to harness the resource to make an impact and increase her audience.

The focus to again use resources to connect with your audience was applied to branding by the panel. Everette was able to provide some great way use technology as a connection to building authentic relationships.  Data today can be overwhelming and in and of itself mean little to nothing.  It becomes important when you can utilize data and talking to people to see where your audience is and how you can better serve them.  By focusing on his business before worrying about all the press and accolades Everette was able to build a model and later use his success to replicate market growth for other companies.  His keys to growth included:

Making a Product Market fit: Focusing in on creation of products that stick with the market

Determining Ideal Customer Profile

Establishing growth processes so there is structure as the idea and company grows.   Everett uses the ICE test (Impact, Confidence, and Ease) to determine if structure and projects are really a good fit looking for the ideal of High confidence and ease of implementation

Getting the right people: By surrounding himself with a team members who are resilient to failure and have strong mindsets he ensures what he envisions his team can then work to implement.

The seminar was a great reminder that technology is not just having the newest idea or process, but it the using these innovations to make more informed decisions and deeper relationships with your customers. The seminar was a gold mind of ideas that you can apply quickly to make big changes to your bottom-line.

Black Enterprise BE Summit Day 2 Delivers motivation and major connections

Day 2 of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit was jammed pack with information and motivation that could really catapult your career and business to the next level. Before the conference I heard several entrepreneurs express all the reasons why doing a conference like this was a waste of their time.  Perhaps it was money or time or just the thought of what could they teach you.  The truth is we always can continue to learn and when you have an opportunity to learn from someone who has gained success you have a great opportunity to make real life applications to your own situation.

So what makes the potential of the conference life altering? Well for one there is access. The speakers gathered at event represented the gems in their field all with powerful information to share.  Take the “Why it Pays to Swim with the Sharks” seminar for instance.  On one stage you had Brandon Andrews, a producer for Shark Tank as well as Benjamin Young and Lydia Evans, founders of Sworkit and SW&G Essentials respectively, who have both had the experience of pitching for Shark Tank.  Now talk about a realistic push to move forward with your idea as their stories were not success fairy tales.  Quite the opposite the stories gave the full gambit of challenges faced by an entrepreneur, from starting, long nights and early mornings, the bitter defeats and the triumphs that define owning your own business. Through it all the conference offered a great reminder that even with failure there is no end of the road.  After the no there is still a fork in the road between quitting and continuing on that could determine success.

Access to really power players did not stop at the seminars. During the luncheon the discussion was joined by Charles Koch, Chairman  & CEO of Koch Industries.  Known not just for his million dollar businesses, but also as a prime political contribution the inclusion was initially surprising.  But as with many things in the conference some of the best benefits came from the most unexpected directions.  During this discussion we were reminded that making it for ourselves is not the only goal, but also in building a legacy for those who come behind us.  In the discussion surrounding building sustainable paths for our youth to follow it was a great reminder of where real change happens:  In your mind. By changing the mindset, understanding our innate abilities, and pairing rising above with giving back we can become a partner with the youth.

Between all the events and programs the other priceless part was the filling in between. Meeting those motivated, dedicated entrepreneurs in your city and from far and beyond is a great connector.  The foundation is already laid as attendance shows a commitment to their business and to get better.  Outside of the some of the great seminars I had the real opportunity to meet others on their own path but with a similar goal as mine.  From other attorneys, to college classmates, to inventors to CEOs I got a chance to connect on the start of the work to do better and get better which is reason enough to attend an event like the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit.

Professional development at its best at the BE Entrepreneur Summit

Many people ask why they should invest in professional development and at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit Wednesday’s opening festivities made a bold answer as to some of the fruitful reasons why.  Professional development is about more than sitting through conferences and hoarding business cards.  It’s about opening yourself up to the possibility to do better, work harder, make more money, and learning to enjoy yourself through the process.  The opening night was a wonderful emulsion of all these reasons with a great lesson in working hard and playing harder.

The first day of the conference showcased how to best take on professional development, from the inside out. A big part of really evolving professionally is evolving personally.  By making it a priority to master new techniques and challenge yourself to step out of y our comfort zone you also make strides in becoming the best you can be for your business.  The sessions for Wednesday started with a frequent nail bitter for many professionals, business presentations.  In the Mastering Business Presentations session you had the chance to hear from some great including Alfred Edmond, the Executive Editor at Large for Black Enterprise, on honing your skills to present in ways that moves and motivates your listeners.  With that session pushing you from within you quickly moved to how to take that motivation and make it work for your business.

With a conference focused on moving you from internal development to external development the session on business in Houston was a cornucopia of business ideas on how to expand to Houston. With key insights from none other than Houston mayor Sylvester Turner you got some invaluable insight on seizing on the wealth of opportunities found within the Houston market.  Now this is already what a good business conference is made of, a meeting of opportunity and growth and the networking potential that allows you to connect all of the dots.  To add some ice cream on the top of what is already shaping up to be an amazing treat in your personal development, Wednesdays kick off mixer was the perfect welcome present.  From delicious food including some Houston specialties to fun entertainment to a room full of eager entrepreneurs the summit was kicked off with a bang.  As I joined in on the fun in the lip syncing contest I was reminded of something that stayed with me the entire conference, in the world of business learning to enjoy yourself draws  others to you and in a game you have to play to win you need all the help you can rising to the top.

Leveraging Learning to jump start your business

“If you are not learning, you are dying”.

As a business owner continuously refining your business by constantly learning is an integral part of sustaining long term viability. Within business nothing stays the same for long, so relying on past wins as a game plan builds in boobie traps to your foundation that can quickly take you under.  Markets change, audiences change and competition changes and that is a guarantee.  Preparation to avoid the pitfalls of this ever changing market should also be a guarantee as you plot your own path to success.  Investing in learning and growth can ensure your company is responsive to these changing environments, instead of reacting to problems and obstacles the unknown future almost certainly holds in its cards.

A focus on continual learning in your professional life doesn’t have to be as defined as a commitment to go back for a degree or a formal certificate program. If you can assess, research, and pull together others adding to your professional education can be as simple as 1, 2, 3:

Access: This requires an honest assessment of where you are in skills and knowledge. If you are able to do this or poll respected colleagues or co-workers for their opinion you will be able to start first with where you are to determine where you want to go.   This understanding is key as it gives you the focus not to just reach out for general information but to sort through the learning environment for what specifically can apply to advance your business.

Research: I think general seminars and books are a great start to keep you motivated as well as give you a general sense of up to date information. These sources have already been cultivated to deliver a specific message and the research and sources are on point with current issues.  For me seeing the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit I quickly reviewed the agenda and signed on.  It is not just a quick opportunity to cover lapses in knowledge that I am aware of, but also to learn something from issues that may not have been on my radar in my normal practice of expecting the best but preparing for the worst I my business.

Pulling together others: An additional resource you can pull from educational seminars is knowledge from your peers that can ultimately be invaluable. Making connections with a range of people, some who may have a similar mission and others whose goals are diverse give you a broad awareness of issues that can impact your business and a heads up on key areas of improvement.  An educational seminar pulls together people who at least have a base of pushing for common information and this base can be a spring board to shared interest and later collaborations.  Next time you are at a seminar or luncheon really put on your listening hat for the knowledge just immediately around you.  When your mind is open you will always be surprised what new you can learn.

Using good feelings to stay focused

Thought Bubbles of Money

Good things in life easily motivate you to get things done. When you are craving that piece of chocolate or new electronic you have been dreaming about nothing and the world can stop you.  When you compare this driven mentality to other areas of your life, however, there can be a dramatic turnaround with your ability to want something and put in the work to get it done.  At least one reason this can happen is how your mind focuses on things that you want to actually get you moving in the ride direction.  Take this example.  First think of going out for dinner for your favorite meal.  Instantly you start to think about how delicious it is and how good you feel when the aroma whiffs your way and just how great the first bite will be.  Next up pick a different goal in your life, let’s just say you may also want to make $20,000 more at work.  Instead of imagining just how great it will be once that gets done, you automatically start to think of all the work, obstacles and hassles that lie in your way before you get to what you want.

Adding some of the reward and benefits to your goals that aren’t as appealing as your favorite meal is a good way to jump start the process of easing the mental blocks you are throwing up to get things done. If you want to make more begin to associate that with how your life will improve.  Perhaps you will have more time with the kids or the flexibility to take the vacation you want.  Of course your mind throws up interference at first but the more you challenge yourself to make the association with a different, more enjoyable goal, the strong the association becomes.  Working harder just to work harder does not come easy for a lot of people but working harder focusing on the carrot instead of the stick can help you self-motivate and get in gear for chasing your dreams.

Once you get in autopilot then little steps come faster and before you have a chance to stop yourself progress is being made. I like to spend time every Monday just imagining so I can associate things I love with the work it takes to the get them.  I love to travel so I browse for destinations I would love to visit.  Then I think of the small, manageable steps I could take to get there.  While $20,000 increase in sales sounds overwhelming, making an extra $1,500 a month does not and making an extra 3 phone calls a day sounds even better.  I stop thinking about all the work and just take the work as a cost of the reward and my engines get revved up!

Building support by showing support

Building support by showing supportAs children we learn the Golden Rule to treat others how we would like to be treated, but somehow the “me first” attitude often creeps back in as adults. This attitude demands to first receive the benefit of support from others, while our own commitment to support those around us can be questionable at best and damn near non-existent at its worst. In a business environment where you want a strong network being present to support the successes and accomplishments of those around you is a necessary part of your own longevity.

Too often the notion of supporting someone else comes with a reciprocation tie. You show up to those you feel may show up for you instead of showing up to support and leaving the strings at the door. I am not for pouring energy into those who cannot understand how to return the favor but if your goal is to support someone then do it. Leave the questions and strings at the door and do it because you want to. With that as the goal then no matter what happens next you have accomplished what you set out to do. The benefits after making that selfless commitment begin to roll in without you even asking for more. When you go into an event with a positive and encouraging spirit it is contagious. You are showing yourself as a supportive colleague and believe it or not that will attract others. This energy can serve as a pick me up of what could typically be a boring networking event and provide some purpose to a happening you would otherwise miss. In business opportunities are often hiding in the place you least expect, but as with winning at the casino, you have to play to win. Whether or not the generosity of your time and energy is ever returned by who you showed up to support you begin to plant the seeds of unselfish support which are essential to harvesting a bounty of support in your own ventures and successes.

Lighting the fire to your personal success with Hip Hop Preacher Eric Thomas

Hip Hop Preacher Eric Thomas and founder of Universal Elite Aerospace Kenneth Morris

Hip Hop Preacher Eric Thomas and founder of Universal Elite Aerospace Kenneth Morris

Success in life is not truly measured in just achieving a goal, it is in the daily push you make to take the small steps closer and closer to your goal.  Without question this a tedious process, and the daily grind and setbacks is one of the major reasons small detours can become permanent stopping places for those working towards success.  In order to get back on track or light a fire to make you run, not walk, towards the future you feel destined for it is good to seek out those whose moving works and uplifting spirits can remind you of the prize and the sacrifices you must make to get there.  One of the most vibrant voices in this spirit is Hip Hop Preacher Eric Thomas with his inspiring message to push towards your dreams and to not accept no as an answer.

I had an opportunity to feel the powerful message myself in Eric Thomas’s private engagement at the Universal Elite Aerospace program.  The Universal Elite Aerospace program is in itself a wonderful source of inspiration geared towards educating and stimulating on a career in Aviation.  Coordinating an event with Eric Thomas is so powerful because it is a great reminder that no matter how good our personal present is, it will can all dwindle away without making the necessary investment into our future…the youth.  Its founder, Kenneth Morris, is a living demonstration of what personal motivation paired with powerful inspiration can achieve.

As Eric Thomas walked in the room the excited and energy of the room became electric.  Each person who was a fan of him from his website or social media presence realized the distinct difference in listening to a great speaker and listening to them in a room of likeminded individuals ready to make changes in their lives and their perspectives.  Eric Thomas, like most great speakers, carries such a punch not in the words he says but the strength and experiences that have made him the man he is and developed the message he was set to deliver.  As he shared his struggles and made the connection to the life stories of the various listeners in the room four universal reminders became clear:

  • Be courageous enough to start your own: With the world waiting to peg us into a predetermined assumption of who we are and how far we will go, it is important to remember that the only person who can truly decide this outcome is us. In choosing your future you don’t have to accept what the society and fate the world gives you.
  • Read books, get connected with history: With the internet and TV making so much information available it easy to confuse what you read and hear with the truth. By investing time into reading, history and autobiographies you get an intimate glimpse into how others faced and conquered defeat.
  • Excel at everything you do: In facing the continuous test life throws at you, the possibility for victory in the war come daily. The ultimate war is won with a commitment to do your best, with or without others watching or recognition. The formula is simple: first you find out what the expectations are, then you meet the expectations and then you beat the expectations. There is no better preparation for your biggest challenges in life than this daily commitment. With making a daily decision to be phenomenal in all you do you ensure you will be forgotten.
  • Know your why: All the hard work and dedication to reach your dreams there has to be a basic connection to the why that motivates you to press on. Whether it is your family or community or heritage having a connection to why you work so hard to preserver will be the life persevere when life becomes overwhelming and threats and early defeat.

In all it was a great event that lit a fire under my goals to put in the work to make them become a reality!  Check out Eric Thomas and get in on the success movement today.

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