More Than Music – Akon

His name is Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam but the world knows him plainly as Akon. He’s an American-Senegalese based singer and producer introduced to us through pop culture by way of some pretty huge hits, yet little has been said about his impact as an entrepreneur. If anyone is wondering why Akon somewhat disappeared from the public eye, at least on the U.S. music scene that is, it’s because he’s been building businesses and investing smartly.

With an estimated net worth of over $80 million, there’s honestly no way to keep up with his many business ventures. He’s gone from music to real estate and tech, to agriculture and energy – yes, energy.

In 2014, he launched Akon Lighting Africa in effort to provide energy throughout his home continent.  The company provides environment-friendly and cost-effective solutions to address concerns in more than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa that are without electricity, and to reach more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lacking access.

With a billon dollar credit line from a Chinese partner, Akon is leading a movement to illuminate Africa with more than 100,000 solar street lamps installed across 480 communities in 15 countries, along with 1,200 solar micro-grids and 5,500 jobs created.

This year, his company will begin developing utility scale renewable energy projects throughout U.S. and constructing renewable energy solutions for rural and low income housing communities.

Meanwhile, he’s launched his own cryptocurrency called Akoin and will use the currency to support the Akon’s Lighting Africa Initiative and position it to be the de facto currency in a Senegalese city he’s constructing on 2,000 acres of land gifted to him by the President of Senegal – a futuristic city he describes as “a real Wakanda.”

Never moving too far away from music, he has also purchased 50 percent stake in a music download service based in Senegal called Musik Bi that features over 200 internationally recognized artists. 

So if you’re wondering what happened to Akon, you’re out of the loop and have some catching up to do.

His unique perspective as an African born in American is cradled in a heart for his homeland – a perspective grounded in the belief that the only way to build the continent of Africa is with less charity and more revenue-generating businesses that create opportunities for local people.

This bag collector is not only coming up with market-driven solutions that impact the globe, he’s proving that he’s more than music.

 

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact.

The Million-Dollar Mother – Mary Ellen Pleasant

In a time where women were seen as less than men, and black people weren’t seen as human, you’d think it would be remotely impossible to be a successful black businesswoman.

Her story is complicated but abolitionist, financier, real estate magnate and Gold Rush entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant was a free black woman who dedicated her life to equality for African Americans shattering racial and gender barriers.

Born into slavery, Mary Ellen was the illegitimate daughter of the son of then-Virginia governor and a Haitian voodoo priestess. She was sold from Georgia to New Orleans, then later bought and freed as an indentured servant in Rhode Island. She eventually made Philadelphia home, married an abolitionist and became a conductor of the Underground Railroad in Canada. ⁠

Around 1848, Mary and her husband heard about the Gold Rush and saw it as an opportunity to move west to California. She came to San Francisco fleeing prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act while continuing her work leading people from slavery to freedom and finding them employment. Arriving in San Francisco with a considerable sum of money left to her by her first husband, Mary Ellen invested it wisely. She established several businesses included laundries, dairies and restaurants — all of which became quite lucrative in a city filled with gold miners, politicians and businessmen.

By 1875, she had earned a great deal of money from her businesses and investments and used it to help establish the Bank of California. Mary Ellen continued the fight for civil rights and challenged Jim Crow laws ⁠in suing the North Beach Railroad Co. for not letting African Americans ride streetcars in San Francisco.

Today the Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park in San Francisco lives on the property that once occupied a 30-room Italianate mansion she owned on Octavia Street.

Searching her history you may find so much more about this woman. Mary Ellen was relentless and sometimes controversial yet she died known as “the Mother of Civil Rights in California.”

She amassed a fortune worth over $30 million and used much of that fortune to challenge the white supremacist status quo marking her million-dollar legacy in civil rights and black entrepreneurship.

 

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact.

A Martyr for the People – Thomas Moss

Kroger and Publix, Wal-Mart and Target, every successful business has its competition. There’s inspired competition – the kind that motivates you, challenges you, and makes you chase after success. And then there’s competition that only wants to see you lose and drive you out of business. The story of Thomas Moss is one that undeniably captures the trauma of competition that black entrepreneurs faced while working to acquire wealth post-slavery.

In 1889, Thomas Moss and 11 prominent black investors, opened The People’s Grocery. The store was located just outside Memphis in a neighborhood called the “Curve.” News of this black owned business spread quickly and black people in the community began to feel empowered. 

Moss was motivated to attain wealth and invest into his community. A postman by day, he used earnings delivering mail to invest in his start-up idea of a community grocery store. He delivered mail by day and ran People’s Grocery by night. And, as family man in the community, his popularity lent great success to his entrepreneurial pursuits. 

With this cooperative venture for the store, a unique structure of its kind in those days, he ran along corporate lines and made his store the 5th largest wholesale grocery market in the country. Moss was an instant success. His store brought capital to the black community while also instilling a sense of pride. 

Sadly, his social nor economic status was able to save him from the racial hostility of the South. Across from Moss’ store was another store owned by a white man, and many white people in the community were not pleased. Many felt as if they shouldn’t compete for the black dollar and the People’s Grocery quickly became an enemy of their white competitors. Moss was confident. He ignored the animosity and persisted to thrive in business. He knew the blacks in the community loved him and would support his grocery store.

In March 1892, a series of racially charged fights broke out outside of the store. Two of Moss’ workers went outside to ease the tension. Moss along with his two workers were arrested and later dragged out of jail by an angry mob of 75 white men. They all were publicly lynched while in police custody. ⁠

Moss was asked if he had any last words and he stated, “Tell my people to go west. There is no justice here.” This lynching became known as the Lynchings at the Curve. ⁠Ida B. Wells, a famed anti-lynching journalist and a dear friend to Moss, was set to show through media that lynching had become a tool of economic terrorism and disenfranchisement and became a vocal champion to broadcast the lynchings as they spread especially among black male business owners.

Many black entrepreneurs lynched across the South were people who dared to be their own boss or were perceived as having too much ambition, property or talent. Moss’ lynching, like many others, was framed as an organized act of extralegal violence and a punishment for becoming an economic competitor to whites.

The success and sacrifice of Thomas Moss has major takeaways for us today. The idea that discrimination is alive and well is true but the promise that opportunities are endless for those who fearlessly pursue entrepreneurship is even greater.

For that, we have martyrs like Thomas Moss to thank.

 

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 

She’s The One – Nichelle McCall Browne

Less than 1 percent of black women founders get VC funding.

Nichelle McCall Browne, CEO of Bold Startups, is one of 1 percent. She raised $1/2 million within a year as a non-technical founder of her own software company.

She’s been helping entrepreneurs boldly launch and grow businesses since 2007 and has managed two business accelerators, where entrepreneurs have made collectively over $3.6M in revenue within a few years.

Here’s her story:

How did you get started on your journey to entrepreneurship?

My entrepreneurial journey started with me being unemployed in 2010. I had just completed my master’s degree and was recruited for a position back home, when at the last minute the organization went another direction. So I found myself unemployed. At that moment, I decided to never leave my financial future in the hands of someone else. That was when I started working on my first consulting business.

What is your definition of a serial entrepreneur?

I define a serial entrepreneur as someone who frequently sees new opportunities or challenges and starts new businesses to address them.

How many business ventures have you been involved (as owner, investor, partner, etc) and what has been your process for managing them all?

I have started four businesses of my own in consulting, tech, real estate investment and startup coaching. I have also managed two business accelerators helping individuals launch and grow their businesses. Our entrepreneurs collectively have made over $3.6 million in a few years.

When starting my business ventures, I usually focus on launching one at a time, so I can learn what works and what can be tweaked. Once it’s steady, I hand it over to others to manage so I can focus on the next business.

In general, what would you say has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?

My biggest challenge was definitely starting a tech company as a non-technical founder. I had an idea for leveraging software to help students navigate the college application process, but I did not have a background in coding. Fortunately, I ended up finding advisors who taught me how to build an investment-ready business, find the right paying customer, and create revenue-generation milestones. This led me to raising $½ million in a year and I have used these principles in my businesses since.

How satisfied are you with your success thus far? What area of business do you want to tackle next?

I’m content with the progress that has been made thus far and excited for what’s next.

Right now, I’m focused on growing my Money Milestones program that teaches consultants and service-based businesses to build six-figure businesses, so they can be full-time and financially-free. The entrepreneurs I’ve served have seen great success so far, so I’m putting more systems and teams in place to scale my reach. As the business grows, I’ll use more of the profits to continue to invest in businesses, missions, and real estate.

Share a quick example of a time you collected the “bag” and circulated it throughout a segment of your community to give back and make greater impact.

I once had a nonprofit client I was working with to raise money for a new multipurpose complex. I ended up donating half of the money from my contract back to the nonprofit as I truly believed in the mission.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who fear they may be doing “too much” at once?

When your business services are aligned and you have a team to help with management, it’s easier to focus on successfully growing them.

In this situation, you will not always have to create something from scratch, but rather leverage what you already created in order to multiply revenue.

Website: https://www.nichellemccall.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nichelle-n-mccall/

 

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 

The Magical Annie Malone – Madame C.J. Walker’s First Mentor

Many have heard of hair/beauty pioneer Madame CJ Walker, but not many people know about the woman she credits a great deal of her knowledge to; a woman that influenced her path of success—Annie Malone.

Annie Malone - Aerial Ellis Blog SeriesBefore Shea Moisture, Miss Jessie’s or The Mane Choice, Poro Beauty Products was one of the first haircare and beauty lines developed in the 1890s for black women. Recognized as an African American business woman, inventor, and philanthropist, Annie created products not only for straightening black hair, but she wanted to ensure that her product would not damage it in the process.

Her school Poro College was the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study and teaching of black cosmetology. By 1926, the college employed 175 people, and franchised outlets in North and South America, Africa, and the Philippines employing some 75,000 women.

Annie developed a network of franchised agent-operators who operated salons under Malone’s guidelines using Poro products.

A star student she helped and became rather fond of was Madame C.J. Walker. Although much of Annie’s success has been overshadowed by her, it is a known fact that Madame C.J. Walker got her start by selling Annie’s hair care products.

One of the first African American millionaires to be a serial entrepreneur, Annie owned her hair care college and company, a secretarial school, a hotel, and a number a real estate properties (she even owned a whole entire city block in Chicago). She became one of the wealthiest women in the world accumulating a worth $14 million during the 1920s.

However, despite her wealth, Malone lived conservatively and gave away much of her fortune to help other African Americans. Malone donated large sums to countless charities including giving thousands of dollars to HBCUs counting record-breaking gifts in large amounts to Howard University and Tuskegee Institute.

Throughout the years, Annie perfected her craft, continued building her brand, and created many opportunities for other black entrepreneurs.  Her manufactured line of beauty products for black women created a unique distribution system that helped tens of thousands of black women become entrepreneurial while gaining self-respect and economic independence, and birthed the legendary career of our beloved Madame C.J. Walker.

This post is the part of The Bag Collector series – a spotlight posts that feature serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact. 

 

Introducing My New Blog Series: The Bag Collector

This year, I celebrate 15 years of entrepreneurship, and after starting several ventures with a few more planned to launch soon, I want to share the stories of entrepreneurs of color who’ve done the same thing in the most impactful and profound ways.

The Bag Collector is a spotlight series that features 15 serial entrepreneurs of color each recognized for their ability to diversify in business, wealth and investments. These individuals exemplify what it means to be creative and unapologetic in pursuit of entrepreneurial excellence, and ultimately collect the “bag” then use it to make greater community impact and establish a cultural legacy.

I will be featuring present-day game changers alongside a few unsung giants in black history whose shoulders the rest of us stand upon.

You are going to love their stories, and I’ll even share mine with you too.

Subscribe to my blog here to get notifications when each post goes live, and share, please share this awesome profiles with your network.

More to come…

How Inmate Cyntoia Brown Became a Scholar

At this time of year, most college students have completed final exams and term papers in anticipation of a nice winter break. As I read the senior capstone paper of one student, I am profoundly impressed by her scholarly work. The paper’s empirical research, theoretical context, and succinct flow – all elements are brilliantly done. I am soon reminded though that the chance to come home from college at the end of a semester or the hope of entering the world of work after obtaining a degree does not belong to her.

I’m reading a paper by Cyntoia Brown – an inmate in the Tennessee State Prison for Women whose case has been the center of attention lately reemerging from a news story and leading to the social media outcry insisting her freedom. She’s serving life in prison after being tried as an adult for killing her 43 year-old abuser at the age of 16.

Amid the demands for sexual predators to be called out and the persistent push for systemic change, Cyntoia’s 2004 case as a teen sentenced to 60 years has reappeared in news feeds and caught the eye of celebs like Rihanna, Lebron James and Kim Kardashian West. With a history of being trafficked into sex slavery, many are questioning why Cyntoia wasn’t seen as the victim in this case.

Despite her circumstances, Cyntoia has dedicated her time in prison to scholarly inquiry and intellectual rigor as a student in the Lipscomb University Initiative for Education (LIFE) program – one of only a handful of programs in the U.S. to offer a college degree to prison inmates. She was selected by the Tennessee Department of Correction to be admitted as a student at Lipscomb University, a private Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee, and took courses from the university curriculum alongside fellow inmates and other traditional students onsite at the prison. A rich, life-changing educational experience, it led her to earn an associate’s degree in 2015.

cyntoia+brown.jpg

Photo Credit: Associated Press

In May 2019, she will complete her bachelor’s degree.

Cyntoia has been studying literature on domestic minor sex trafficking and researching the correlation between societal perceptions of trafficked and exploited teens, and the effectiveness of eradication efforts. Her research explores the maturity factor of minors having the competence to distinguish consent from sexual abuse. She combats the notion that minors welcome exploitation by voluntarily prostituting themselves and challenges the social phenomena of shunning and shaming exploited teenagers.

In her capstone paper, she proposes a grassroots community based approach that reshapes the cultural norms surrounding the teen sex epidemic. She names it The GLITTER Project (Grassroots, Learning Initiative on Teen Trafficking, Exploitation and Rape) – an online awareness campaign with blogs, narratives, hashtags and photos aimed at fostering dialogue among community members through education and empowerment.

More often than not, young women struggle with histories of substance abuse, rape, violence, childhood trauma, domestic violence, mental illness, and poverty. Often times, these traumas span back generations in families, as they do with Cyntoia. However, she has gained the self-esteem to invest in her own education and the confidence to transcend the systemic ills that have haunted her.

Cyntoia now embodies the qualities of a scholar.

Her intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, communication skills, thought leadership and commitment to community all reveal the academic professionalism of any high-achieving student.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Though Cyntoia will graduate with a bachelor’s degree, she will not enter the real world and the job market like most college students. That’s what many are fighting for – a chance to win clemency from the Tennessee Board of Parole and Governor Bill Haslam granting her a new life.

Cyntoia was sexually exploited and lured into a lifestyle of abuse, and now her education has become an outlet for halting the spiral of shame, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Not only is she battling her life sentence, she’s fighting the lack of awareness and acceptance around this problem. Through education, she has used her academic experience to highlight the domestic minor sex trafficking that she’s witnessed firsthand and is ready to devote her future life to creating solutions.

Becoming a scholar is a worthy pursuit. Cyntoia can now look beyond prison walls to see what could be and to know that her life is forever transformed. Full of promise, she’s now an agent for change and an influential voice in the fight for exploited teens.

Her story is a testament of proof that making an investment the best minds of our society can create cultural change and set them on the road to redemption.

Why Your Diversity Training Won’t Work

Earlier this year, Starbucks paused it operations of 8,000 stores for unconscious bias training. Soon after the announcement, I landed three new clients desiring to facilitate conversations and launch initiatives around issues of diversity and inclusion for their organization. The majority of my work, like others who work in this area, is spent customizing content for the trainings and crafting a strategy to support them. I predict more of these trainings will be a priority for organizations, and recommend that consumers hold them accountable for doing the work.

But there’s a major issue with diversity trainings. Many of them won’t work.

Even if you offer multiple trainings, or a series of events and workshops, the experience will have no impact if you have overlooked the most important element any organization must implement – a strategy.

Aerial Ellis Training Diversity Inclusion Intergenerational

Any training or learning event should be tactic inside a larger diversity strategy because most times when training is treated like an activity, the learning experience is much less effective and not seen as a deliberate part of the organizational culture. Without a strategic plan to support your diversity and inclusion initiatives, your trainings are merely an exercise.

Because corporate America has historically struggled to communicate the value of employees and consumers who represent cultural differences, the atmosphere or climate of an organization can have varying effects on employee outcomes and organizational effectiveness. In order for your trainings to work, they must be supported by a strategic plan that advances a dedication to diversity and internalizes a culture of inclusion.

A plan establishes diversity and inclusion as a strategic imperative. It means your organization is committed to the practice of diversity and inclusion and is not simply having a conversation. If your trainings are an attempt to develop core competencies for your employees that will enable them to work more effectively inside a diverse workforce and approach consumer audiences with greater cultural awareness, then a strategic plan should include a focus to examine trainings to determine their effectiveness.

Developing a plan can be based on a competency-based framework for practicing diversity and inclusion. A few proven models that can support your plan include Darla Deardorff’s Process Model of Intercultural Competence (2006), The Conference Board’s Report on Global Competencies (2008) and UNC’s Diversity Competencies for Leadership Development (2016). These examples offer competencies that organizations can strategically use as metrics for regular analysis and data collection.

Implementing a strategic plan ensures that diversity and inclusion will be:

• embedded throughout the organization

• engaged across functions and departments

• executed through communication with consumers and communities

• evaluated for effectiveness through business outcomes.

Aerial Ellis Training Diversity Inclusion Intergenerational

To value diversity is to be expected but to have measurable knowledge and skills on how cultural differences can work best inside the organization, and how to communicate effectively about those similarities and differences, is to be strategic.

Your employees may be relieved to know that your organization is attempting to have a conversation around issues of diversity and inclusion – trainings increase one’s cultural knowledge, ability to empathize, understanding of cultural differences and willingness to face challenges.

Unfortunately, if treated like an exercise, your employees can suffer from pressure to participate, resentment of false commitment and the likelihood of losing interest. Trainings should be not a “check the box” exercise.

Organizations cannot trade tactics for strategies. Conducting trainings for diversity is a wasted effort without a strategic plan in place to activate inclusion.

One of Nashville’s 40 Under 40

My 40 Under 40 interview was released in the Nashville Business Journal earlier this month. The content was exclusive so here’s a sneak peek of the feature. Enjoy!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received, and what did you learn from it? 

Most recently, the worst advice I received was not to pursue a doctoral degree. Last spring, I enrolled in the University of Southern California’s Global Executive Doctor of Education program, and since, I believe its one the best decisions I’ve ever made. Initially, there were many people who highly endorsed the idea as a possible waste of time and money. With a master’s degree, a few businesses and a job as a professor, they felt the credentials I had were enough to carry me as far I wanted to go. I see some merit in that notion but I also saw this as a chance to deepen the connection between my entrepreneurial background and my role as an educator. I relish the opportunity to tackle intellectual problems and explore new areas of knowledge through global trends from around the world. Making this decision gave greater affirmation in knowing that not everyone will understand your vision. I have come to learn with this and past situations that the more you love your decisions, the less you will need others to love them.

What is the greatest potential that comes from Nashville’s growth?

I am both optimistic and concerned about the growth this city is experiencing. While we’ve seen amazing progress in significant areas, we’ve also seen issues like crime, gentrification, housing and transit become more prevalent as a result of our rising population. I believe that the greatest potential from this expansion is the opportunity to make Nashville an exemplar for diverse communities – a place where resources are allocated and room is made for residents of various socioeconomic levels to thrive.

What fictional character do you most relate to or empathize with, and why?

Not a fictional character but a biblical character, Lydia – a woman from the Bible whose story found in Acts 16 – is one with which I identify. Lydia was an intelligent entrepreneur who loved community and understood the value of relationships. She was humble, perceptive, assertive and generous.

What is your least favorite assumption about millennials?

I write in detail about millennials in my book, The Original Millennial: Lessons in Leadership, and address the many stereotypes and assumptions of my generation. I think there’s enough conversation about what millennials are and are not in contrast to other generations so I don’t speak to the stereotypes or assumption that could support common issues. I think those are rehearsed and, quite frankly, rather old. I believe the driving force behind the potential greatness within the millennial generation is our originality. Millennials always look for ways to make things greater, bigger, better, stronger and more practical. The best parts of millennials are found in the choice to change and evolve. The original qualities of past generations use commonly understood behavior patterns, which make them far easier to define, whereas millennials have the ability to defy category. We, and other generations, have to accept that and embrace it to overcome issues that could create barriers to leadership and collaboration.

What is your favorite social media platform, and why? 

I love YouTube. I am a creative at heart so I love the storytelling aspect of videos as well as the ability to research, find information, and be informed and entertained. I also love Instagram and WhatsApp.

Quote

Why #BlackGirlMagic Is More Relevant Than Ever

The gap in management, representation and compensation leaves room for the PR industry to champion African-American women leaders

BlackGirlMagic in PR - Aerial Ellis ColorComm Nielsen AWFAW PRSA

The evidence is real. #BlackGirlMagic isn’t just a trending hashtag or catchphrase, it’s a real-time, quantifiable illustration of how the consumer preferences and brand affinities of African-American women are resonating across the U.S. According to African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic, a new report by Nielsen, African-American women are driving total Black spending power toward a record $1.5 trillion by 2021. Insights reveal that we have enjoyed steady growth in population, incomes, and educational attainment. This rise in influence and buying power as consumers is a result of our increased success in business and our careers.

But, another stat is much less impressive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) reported that below 4 percent of women employed in public relations were African American (women overall make up about 70 percent of the industry). With all of our magical abilities to drive product categories and shift culture as trendsetters, brand loyalists and early adopters, there’s no reason more of us shouldn’t be leading in brands and agencies as decision makers. Make no mistake – we are here, and have been here for decades – but the gap in management, representation and compensation for African-American women leaders in the public relations industry must lessen as we’ve further proven our power and influence.

Here’s how we champion “Black Girl Magic” in the PR industry:

African-American women are best at creating and cultivating community.

Our magic is made tangible when we establish opportunities for dialogue and work to make industry diversity actionable and accountable. Such efforts like the E3 Task Force, a nationwide agency diversity effort led by Edelman’s DC President Lisa Osborne Ross, empower diverse candidates to elevate their voices and emerge as leaders.

BlackGirlMagic Aerial Ellis Nielsen PRSA ColorComm

Credit: ColorComm 2016 C2 Conference

With the ColorComm (C2) Conference in Miami as the catalyst for the conversation, the task force went to work forming a quantitative study and hosting listening sessions, with mostly women of color in the communications industry across eight U.S. markets, to assess the barriers and dismantle the roadblocks to leadership. Similarly in advertising and marketing, there are still very few women of color in creative leadership roles.

BlackGirlMagic Aerial Ellis PRSA ColorComm AWFAW Nielsen

Credit: bohan Advertising

Ad Women For All Women, a program created and hosted by bohan, an independent, full-service advertising and marketing agency, introduces young women in high school and college to the opportunities available in advertising. The AWFAW program focuses on women and women of color specifically, but is part of a commitment to diversity and inclusion in a broad sense as well. Each effort, and so many others, indicates where we want to be and how we are willing to help one other get there.

 African-American women show a desire to lead and an ability to drive revenue.

Our magic is obvious as the Nielsen study reveals that 64 percent of black women agree their goal is to make it to the top of their profession. The study also reports that Black female entrepreneurs have grown by 67 percent within five years, totaling more than 1.5 million businesses with over $42 billion in sales and $7.7 billion in payroll. This kind of ingenuity is worth acknowledging and forces a response by placing more African-American women in PR leadership roles. Yet, in a survey of 51 agencies in North America, the Holmes Report and Ketchum Global Research & Analytics reported that women of color made $10,000 less than white women in public relations. This leads to the progression of African-American women opting out of agency life to create their own businesses or to leave the industry altogether. This is a clear sign of industry leadership passing on the untapped potential of ambitious African-American women, lagging on developing an organizational culture of inclusion and equity, and overlooking the intrinsic value we hold for leveraging business savvy for greater profits.

African-American women maintain a unique cultural capital.

Our magic is limitless as mainstream culture looks to us for trends and patterns. In most product categories, African-American women over-index against non-Hispanic white women for dollars per buyer and buying power, according to Nielsen. Also, 86 percent admitted to spending 5 or more hours each day on online/mobile platforms for consumer engagement activities and social media movements. As African-American women, our spending, watching, and listening habits are mirrored by other women and shape the way women of all ethnicities see themselves, states the report. While the behaviors, values and purchasing patters of African-American women have been long studied by corporations, our recent influence is proving that the cultural capital we embody has the power to extend beyond contributing a consumer point of view to now reaching leadership with a seat at the table in order to meet industry demands and address PR’s diversity deficit.

It’s confirmed. We are magic.

BlackGirlMagic in PR - Aerial Ellis ColorComm Nielsen AWFAW PRSA

 

We are an undeniable force as women influencers in public relations, as well as marketing, advertising and digital. Our position as creators, decision makers and game changers is indefinite, and will secure our presence as levelers in the future.

If the rest of the world is taking notice and recognizing “Black Girl Magic,” the public relations industry should be our greatest advocate.