Mastering work life balance with Caroline Clarke, CBO of Black Enterprise

When it comes to legacy building it often can seem like an impossible task to get everything in order in the career that makes your lifestyle possible and to blend in the family priority that makes it all worth it. One family that has certainly excelled in this area is the Graves Family, making the Black Enterprise publishing wheelhouse a force to be reckoned with in the media arena.  Caroline Clarke, a writing powerhouse in her own right, has become a lynchpin at Black Enterprise running projects from the Women of Power Summit to being the Chief Branding Officer and juggling projects of her own including two books and her steadfast priority of her family.  Needless to say when it comes to legacy that balances work and family she knows a thing or two.

The Graves family has long built media as the basis of their enterprise so once she stepped into both the Graves family and Black Enterprise family Caroline was able to share this love. Caroline knew early on that writing would be her love and has weaved this love in throughout her work and her career.  Despite having writing as her first love she has been able to ensure that the tapestry of family was the most critical component of all. A big key to success for Caroline has been the ability to nimbly utilize her often autonomous role at Black Enterprise to allow her to care for her family and children.  The gift to prioritize what is most important to her without having to have this weigh down her career she credits to taking a lot of stress off her mind and the choices she made.  For Caroline a woman being able to have control over how she manages her family frees her mind to be much more productive and effective for her career.  Judging by her successful roles at Black Enterprise and work life balance it is hopefully a model that other companies will begin to see value in.  Especially as many companies are moving into the sandwich generation where women become the caregivers not only for their children but for the aging parents as well.

Outside the passion Carline has for prioritizing her family, Caroline’s career has been based off of two other loves that speak to the core of who she is, her love of writing and her love of serving a greater purpose in whatever way she can. Her love of writing started young and she finished college she sought to have a career based in doing something she loved and somehow find a way to make money from it.  Eventually this made Black Enterprise a perfect fit, however, the true journey of her career has occurred because of her love to serve a higher purpose.  In doing so she has moved around at Black Enterprise based off the desire to ensure the success of the magazine and to fill needs as they arise in serving that greater good.  This has led her from ventures into publishing, television and even as the head of the Women of Power Summit.  While the summit began as a brainchild of her mother in law Barbara Graves, Caroline has become an exceptional leader for the summit.  True to her desire to serve Caroline stepped in at a time of need and continues to serve the Women in Power Summit as the event connects and inspires so many women year after year.  Her reactionary service has cemented not only her legacy as an inspiration leader and writer but also as a mother, wife, and daughter.

Day 3 of BE Women in Power highlights Success, Fashion and Adventure

So yes sitting in seminars can be inspirational, but in Day 3 of the BE Women in Power Summit we were reminded that all work and no play make for a pretty boring conference.   By mixing dynamic speakers with fashion highlights, opportunities to relax and network, fashion therapy and some magical adventures only Disneyworld can provide you take a conference from good to extraordinary.

The day kicked off with something that really got me ready to launch on chasing my dreams. In a conference tailored for women we had our one and only male speaker, none other than Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Shea Moisture and new owner of Essence Magazine.  His harrowing rags to riches tail is a true example of the American dream and a testament to why hard work and perseverance will always be the stepping stones to greatness.  From refugee to street vendor to CEO of a game changer in the beauty market for women of color and now the owner of one of the most impactful magazines for black women, Richelieu’s life has all the makings for any great success story.  But the true awe of the story is how he has managed to travel so high and remain so humble and manifested things in his life many would never dream of all starting.  It all began with the birth of Shea Moisture and first identifying his guiding star.  This foundational principal in which both business operates to not only launch his business to places unknown but also to anchor it to its customer base as he saw his grandmother do as a provider for her family and leader of her village of Sierra Leone. Of course storms always test any philosophy so when its recent branding problems arose they were able to use it as a guiding light back to who made them, them…Black Woman.  It also led them to share just how deep the love for their base was rooted as they spent years reinvesting in communities and the customers that grew the company from a homemade, handmade shea butter production company to a global beauty brand.  Through these decades of struggle Richelieu transformed his love for our culture to appreciate it as an asset.  Not one to be created and driven it only to have others monetize it but to own reclaim our stories from the narrative, to the distribution and capital to lead to economic independence.  Needless to say hearing this story is a true reminder that you can indeed reach to the stars if you chart a path to success and stay determined on your journey.

Outside of a great start from Richelieu and amazing seminars the Women in Power conference made sure to mix in some fun. Work life balance can be a challenge and the seminar took time to remind participants you have to take time to prioritize and appreciate you.  From massages to caricatures to even a full on fashion show put on by Macy’s Day 3 of the summit really was a great celebration of women.   Whether you spent that time in personal business or financial coaching, or checking out a seminar or chatting with a friend that day allowed you to really soak in some gems learned in the seminars and reconnect to some neglected power in you.  To add a magical extra the closing ceremony was a special night at the Animal Kingdom Park at Disney.  From future to fashion to relaxation to magic the conference offered so many little pieces of life that I needed to feed my soul…Well done Black Enterprise, the conference is something you should not miss!!!

5 Powerful takeaways from Day 2 of the BE Women in Power Summit

As day two of the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit began, the conference again picked up the pace of motivating, empowering and connecting women in the powerful and tangible way the conference has become known for.  After an inspirational morning it was hard to imagine how the conference could top the words and insight from Donna Brazile, Edith Cooper and Glenda McNeal but somehow they did.  Here are the top five things I gleamed from Day 2 of the BE Women in Power Summit

Value Genuine Connections: At a certain point in your life there is a renewed excitement about making new friends. At this age the mystery around it is gone so you can make genuine connections without the need to put on airs.  You can just be uniquely you and attract those who find those qualities to be a win.  I was able to meet people who were not just great companions, but were a compliment to the skills I bring to the table.

Hop in on the conversation: While it may seem like nothing ever changes the truth is that honest genuine communication can change the world.  A huge part of the summit was to get the conversation started.  Not just on stage but by presenting information powerful enough it kept guests discussing it between breaks and during dinner.

Encouragement counts: Ever wonder why we love anthems, something like a chorus running through your head pushing you forward to put you in the mood to conquer the world. The same is true in a room full of powerful women using their power to propel you further.  To think harder than you thought, to challenge yourself to do more, to be surer of your steps, even into the unknown.  While it is listed as third this may actually first as it is one of the most powerful bonuses of the Women in Power Summit as even from strangers the chorus of yes you can has an amazing ability to help you see yourself in a new light.

You are the brand: Whether you are an entrepreneur or corporate climber the heart and soul of any career path you set off on is you. By being careful on how you curate the brand of you work to ensure your works speak for you even when your name is unknown.

The Power of Numbers when used to give knowledge: At the Accenture seminar the facts were put on the table about fighting wage discrepancy. What was even better is that not only did they show some astounding numbers as to the current status of wage disparity for women and in particular women of color, it also worked to use this information on what we can do for change.  Yes while the facts still show black women make $0.54 for every dollar a white man makes we also learned that transparency has a direct impact on addressing unconscious bias so you can both identify advocates and most importantly advocate for yourself.  All this knowledge can work to effectuate change in the lives of the participants.

Honoring the legends in our midst at the BE Women in Power Legacy Gala

In its annual celebration of the influence of women, the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit represents all things powerful and beautiful about sisterhood and women and the unique challenges and perspectives that we experience and embrace.  The three day conference offered opportunities to learn, party, cry and challenge yourself in a way that sets a fire to your passions like few conferences have done for me.  To start off the festivities the summit pulls a surprise order, placing their signature event on Day 1: the Women in Power Legacy Awards Gala.  The gala allows women to acknowledge and uplift the greatness, challenges, and ferocity we see in heroines around us and also provides them an opportunity to share their perspective of their success.

As I pulled up in my car on the first day running in fashionably late to the gala it dawned on me I really was not sure what to expect. Going to a conference alone strips you of the option to rely on those you know to provide a good time.  Without the crutch of comfort you are forced to open your mind and heart to the people and experiences that may lie in store.  As I walked in a wee bit anxious as I maneuvered to find a seat at the gala something different happened, the energy of the women in the room began to energize me.  From friendly smiles to compliments to my dress to welcome invitations to join tables I began to understand the potential you can tap into when you have a room full of successful, driven and positive women all in one place.  Just like that this energy quickly removed the newness and new acquaintances quickly began to feel like old friends as we ate, laughed and listened to the phenomenal and inspirational stories of the recipients.

As a high point to the strong and powerful women that filled the room the Gala honored recipients who not only shined in their career but inspired others with their ability not just to succeed but to see the bigger picture of their roles as a connection for others to reach their greatness. From trailblazers in the financial world such as Edith Cooper, who climbed to elite levels in the man’s world of the New York Stock Exchange, to Jayne Kennedy Overton whose beauty only paled in comparison to her agility to spot and seize opportunities as she moved from dancer to actor to one of the first black women sportscasters.  By far, however, my favorites were Carmen Lavallade and Donna Brazille.  Ms. Lavallade has become renowned as a dancer, but in hearing this sprite 87 year old speak you realize that dancing was only the means she used to realize the beautiful spirit bursting from inside her.  As she shared her wisdom of where things had been to where things are you could not help but take a step back and think wow.  From the speakers to your fellow attendees there were so many beautiful stories left untold, to be told, and retold that compiled the history of us.  This history was best closed by Donna Brazile, the feisty political powerhouse who got the house shaking when she share the wisdom of Ms. Lavallade, to pull yourself up by your vagina.  While the comment took some by surprise the message sure should not have.  Instead of hiding behind the depiction of women, especially black women, we have to trust ourselves enough to dig deep, recognize the power blazing inside of us and prepare to unleash it on the world until others can neither dim nor deny that light.  With a fiery speak taking us through history and to the time that we now can claim as our own, the Gala laid an impressive foundation to a conference full of trailblazing.

 

(Photos courtesy of Black Enterprise)

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.

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