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.

Conversations that matter with Day 2 of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit

No need to stop with just one day of fabulousness as the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit.  And to kick off the first full day of the summit they found the perfect way to continue on the tremendous energy of night one.  Yes, they brought back the speaker responsible for the fire at the end of the night of course!  Day 2 of the Black Enterprise summit started off early with can’t miss segment with the phenomenal Donna Brazile.  Yes we were again pulling ourselves up by our vaginas and getting ready for a big dose of real with Ms. Donna.  With a pinpointed focus on where we can go and grow to next as a community Donna Brazile offered strong words in where we go from where we are now.  Simply put she works both in the present and in the future, wanting the community to learn from leaders of today while also looking for the leaders of the future.  That often means learning the game over and over again to avoid being left behind.  Issues like being smart about cyber hygiene perfectly demonstrated her strong warning of taking lessons of today proactively instead of reactively.

To follow up on all that fire early in the morning, the Summit brought out some real heavy hitters for up close and personal conversation about success with Edith Cooper, Executive Vice President for Goldman Sachs, and Glenda McNeal, President of Enterprise Strategic Partnerships with American Express. Both women have rose to astronomical levels in corporate America, but still took time to share some of the gems of their experience.  Ms. Cooper, steady, consistent, and driven at for Goldman Sachs proved that indeed risk can be some the best advancement advice, even in a very conservative environment.  Her ultimate success had several critical pivot points including the decision to make an international move with her family in tow.  Throughout it all she kept her personal internal growth at the heart of her decisions, ensuring departure choices she made worked to inspire and develop her.  The process left a lasting impact on how she prioritizes being present and intentional in her work and pairing that intention with preparation and engagement made sure her mark.  As tables were filled with other woman who supported her and were supported by her at Goldman it was clear her mark would be left not just in her company but also in the people who rose with her and even after her.  This focus allowed her to build a legacy that took the time to pay attention to people, trusting in how empowering these true and honest interactions can be in building extraordinary greatness in others.

Mrs. Glenda McNeal showcased a true “I am woman, Hear me Roar” philosophy based in action not words. This passion assisted in moving her away from the typical step up to role at American Express and instead propelling her all the way to the top in an untraditional matriculation through the credit powerhouse.  She offered the advice she has garnered in moving to success from the inside out.  Her guide to moving up and moving out of your own way starts with believing in you.  By centering who you are you can set a pace to move forward and not blocking off the potential of the future by setting boundaries of just how far you can go.  Next she advised to choose courage.  Ultimately balancing the demands of being a brave, daring, risk taker with having humility and being vulnerable provide lessons on both sides of the coin that are critical to conquering uncharted territory.  Her final words were of encouragement to strive for intentional living where you can be deliberate not just in how you what you do but in your time.  Being present in these fleeing moments in time as that is the most valuable resource of all.  By women in living to their best authentic self that not just makes for personal development, but for a legacy you can fill proud of.  Donna Brazile, Edith Cooper, and Glenda McNeal shined a path for not just hope and inspiration but to light a fire under us that any goal is possible when you do the work required to get there.

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)

Keys to naming your business

Your business is your baby so it deserves some time and energy when it comes to choosing a name. While it may seem easy at the onset there are a lot of important considerations when choosing a name for a business as it is the first line of communication on who your business is and what it does.  In my experience starting with a big list and winding it down is the best way to explore all possible name choices and set the pace for how you define your business.   Here are the steps I go through when naming a business:

1.Brainstorm with a list of who your business is. This is just words that you use to define your business. It could include things like your name but as you are just beginning so also include words that describe what you want to communicate about your business. If you are a plumber for instance you may have Johnson Plumbing in mind but should also write down words like experienced, professional, timely, or honest if that is important to your targeted client.  I find a great trick is to you the thesaurus to drum up other words that may be more unique or catch to add to your list.

2. Take a look at your competition. Chances are that whatever you want to do there is someone out there also doing it. Taking a look at your competition may give you some inspiration but it also gives you an idea of brands that are already out there as a way to make sure your brand is distinguished from the pack. It will also tell you if your idea is already taken.

3. Get input from those whose opinion you value. Finding a trusted business advisors is important to have a clean space to bounce ideas off of in a positive way. Try to find someone who you both trust and respect their business opinion. It can be a great way to find flaws in names you like that you did not previously consider and work through reworking names you previously discarded.

4. Take a pause and use your imagination. If it was easy everyone would do it. Your business is your baby so even if you start off with a name you want to consider and reconsider it to see if it will stand the test of time when it comes to operating your business.  This is one instance where rushing is a no-no in business as your marketing efforts will stem from your name so reselecting can hit you big in your pocket and your brand image.

5. Do your research. You have to put some energy into if your name is taken both on the World Wide Web and with the secretary of state when you file your name as an entity. The Secretary of State should allow you to search names to see if yours is taken for a minimum cost and even reserve the name if you want to hold it but are not ready to file for your entity. While you may have never heard of a company with the name you are interested in, it does not mean that it does not exist.  You can use any domain resource like GoDaddy to search domains for your name.  This quick search lets you know if the name you want is already taken and to see how much brand confusion would be caused if you used the same name.  Doing the work on the front end prevents you from falling in love with a name you cannot register or does not make sense from a branding perspective.

Preparing for opening your business banking account

Opening a bank account for your business entity is imperative to begin to establish a footprint and path to success for your business. While the state defines the birth of a legal entity with filing, you begin to give it life by acting in the name of the entity. So taking baby steps to define just who your business is often begins with establishing a bank account.  This is a great tool for you to begin to separate your personal finances from your business and to have an active record of the activities of your business.  This record can later be taken to banks and other businesses as proof of your profitability and cash flow.  It is a critical consideration when applying for loans, credit and even when bidding for projects that want to ensure the information you provide can be backed up by your numbers.  Financials will usually be square one in considering who your business is so getting in line with a great bank begins to lay a foundation for your business.  Here are the important things you want to gather up when preparing to go to a bank to start a business account.

Articles of Formation: This is essentially a receipt from the Secretary of State you filed with as to the formation of your entity, the start date, the important members and any other details provided when filing. Think of it as a birth certificate for your business and tells who the parents are and date of birth and who was in charge of what when initially formed.

Operating Agreement: The articles of formation do not have to provide detailed information on your business as the operating agreement gives more information on who is in charge of what. In this agreement you will provide who owns the business and in what percentage and who manages the business and in what capacity. This will be critical information for the bank as it also sets the guidelines on who can access the funds in the account and to what extent.

EIN: The Employer Identification Number is like the social security number for your business. It is filed with the IRS to give them an idea of who to expect a tax return from and provides basic information on the type of business and who will be in charge. If your business is an LLC it will also ask how you elect to file your taxes between the members.

Banking Resolution: For those who have opted for a Corporation a banking resolution will speak on behalf of the corporation to provide authority to a member of the board to start a bank account, for instance the President or Treasurer. As the owners of the corporation may or may not be involved in the day to day operations it works to provide definition to who should access what.

Gather all members. Frequently a bank signature card requires simultaneous signing so there is one easily accessible go to point to verify signatures at the bank. Even if you do not go to the same location it is possible you will have to coordinate a time to allow these wet signatures to happen all at the same time.

Don’t forget to shop around. Different banks offer different relationships. As access to capital will probably be a consideration at some point to allow your business to grow choosing a bank that prioritizes the type of business you have can give you an important leg up in accessing cash or credit. With fees, procedures and features being drastically different for each bank make sure you do some research to connect with the bank that will work best for your unique needs.

Girl Power: Super charging your business by teaming up

When you are an entrepreneur the thought of teaming up with someone else can seem pretty daunting. You have to open yourself and your business to criticism, change, new perspectives and new attitudes.  But in the ever changing world of business, and especially in our recent economy finding likeminded go getters to brainstorm ideas with and share some of the ways you have weathered the storm is one of the best ways to sharpen your business knife in preparation for the fights ahead.

So why are women not teaming up in drowns, trying to do the best to reinforce their business principals and ensure their business is on solid ground?

While some may say its pettiness, or competitiveness or part of a refusal to reach back I think the answer could be found in something as simple so people not knowing how. Where we first learn to work together begins in school but forced collaboration often ends in disappointment.  Especially for the type A personality you normally find in entrepreneurs.  While you press forward others lag behind forcing you to pull them in order to get the results you desire.  But in a grown up version, with likeminded peers the result can be much different.  You just have to be prepared to learn or relearn how successful collaboration works.

By no means is this easy. Whether this is someone in a similar business or someone where there is potential for business synergy you have to learn to put trust and active listening first.  This happens at its best when both parties realize there is a boundless field for potential and income when you are tuned into the needs of your audience and how you can best uniquely serve those needs.  Yes this simple fact means that for my business, although I am a business law attorney, I am not competing with another business law attorney I may choose to collaborate with.  While it seems like we are geared towards the same audience my true goal is to find clients that I can service best given my skills set.  So the old saying “you are your own competition” proves tried and true.  When both people accept this then the sharing can begin and that is where the power is.  Having someone similarly situated to bounce ideas, wins and losses off of can change the game for your business, assuring you that you are not alone in the fight for success and others are praying for and supporting your successes, not your downfalls.  It is a comforting breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle of entrepreneurialship.

Your operating agreement: Plotting out your business relationship

When it comes to starting a business entity there is a lot to decide and like any relationship the more people the more problems that come up in the birth of your business. Regardless of the type of entity you decide to form it is critical to start an open dialogue when it comes to deciding how the important business matters of your business will be handled.  Businesses ebb and flow so while every important matter may not be a priority for your operating agreement there are a couple that are key.

Money – Like it or not money will be a running theme in your business so deciding how it should be handled is crucial.  As you start off contributions take center stage.  While the state default is that your ownership rights are determined by your percentage of contribution you can decide to split it in different ways to reflect experience, sweat equity or other resources being donated by a partner.  It is also important to decide once money or losses begins to flow how it will be divided.  Again it can just be a reflection of initial contributions but it can also work to compensate members for management or even repay initial heavy contributions.

 

Management – Just because you start a business does not mean your main skill set will be to run the business.  In a partnership hopefully each partner will bring their own wining expertise to make your team as well rounded as possible.  So if one person is the money and one is the brains you want this discussed and to be reflected in your operating agreement. You can also decide that appointed managers will be responsible for managing the entity all together.  The decision you make early on can have important repercussions especially if changes is needed so discussing it early helps sort out problems before they start.

 

Changes down the road – If nothing else is guaranteed in business change definitely is.  How your business will roll with the punches called entrepreneurship is key to long term success.  Thinking about what happens if a partner gets sick, dies, or no longer wants to retain their shares in the business give everyone a leg up instead of having to fight in the case of disaster or discord.  Note that the default to some agreements is if that if one member rescinds the entity will cease to exist to read and proceed carefully when planning for the future.

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!