Search Results

  • 16-Year-Old Tech Activist Inspired the Youth to Learn Computer Programming With Virtual Camp

    During the global pandemic, The New Nerd CS+ Personal Development Virtual Summer Camp has created a fun outlet for youth as an alternative for traditional seasonal activities. Participating in the virtual camp allows students to connect with their peers and learn about computer programming as well as be mentored by other youth. Sixteen-year-old “tech activist” Ian Michael Brock oversaw the daily lessons of his virtual computer science summer camp, which was created for the enrichment of countless Black and brown youth. Many young people all over the country have benefitted from his sessions. Brock’s endeavors caught McDonald’s attention, and the restaurant franchise agreed to support his Dream Hustle Code non-profit as the leading sponsor of the Virtual Summer Camp. He felt the timing of McDonald’s sponsorship perfectly coincided with the brand’s Black & Positively Golden movement. Under the guidance of his parents Michael and Dulcevita Brock, he believes the massive support McDonald’s provides will lead to conversations about presenting minority youth with the realization that computer science could become a future career. McDonald’s is onboard with Brock’s inspirational vision. With a focus on students from grades 5th through 9th, Brock’s camp offers informative sessions that combine computer programming and personal development. “The hybrid, the online class introduced JavaScript through Code with Google’s Grasshopper application. The courses will continue through the fall academic semester to support after school virtual programs.” Seasoned in virtual instruction Ian Brock has served as a coach and mentor for youth across 28 U.S. states, Canada, the Philippines, and Africa. He maneuvered around the COVID-19 pandemic and turned a crisis into an opportunity to empower youth through long-distance learning. Impressed with Brock’s entrepreneurial spirit and the message behind the organization he co-founded, Google's headquarters in Mountainview and Los Angeles, California, invited him to speak twice. As a young visionary, he hopes to see a bridge between the gap created by racial, educational, and economic inequality. And that his fellow youth will become creators of new technologies and not remain consumers. Aside from being the co-founder of Dream Hustle Code and New Nerd, Brock is also a computer science activist, speaker, rookie coder, and soon-to-be-published author. For more information, please visit his website, and if you are interested in donating to the Nerd Virtual Programs, click here. Photo Credit: Dreamhustlecode.com

  • OWN Adds "Put A Ring On It" and "Behind Every Man" tv series From Will Packer and Carlos King

    The Oprah Winfrey Network announced two new unscripted series set for Fall from producers Will Packer and Carlos King, in an effort to expand its unscripted programming for two nights beginning in October. “Expanding to two nights with our unscripted shows gives our loyal viewers even more of the programming they’re super passionate about,” said Tina Perry, president OWN. “Over the years, OWN has established Saturday nights as the leading destination for Black women focusing on unscripted programs in the love and relationship space and we look forward to continuing that momentum on Friday nights this fall.” OWN added to its roster Put A Ring On It, created by Packer and Lighthearted Entertainment, and Behind Every Man, a product of King and his production company Kingdom Reign Entertainment. Both producers currently have hit unscripted shows on the network which include Packers’ Ready For Love and King’s Love & Marriage Huntsville. As Packer’s newest unscripted relationship series Put A Ring on It follows three longtime couples, with help from master relationship coach Dr. Nicole LaBeach, who embark on the ultimate relationship test. From week to week the couples are pushed outside their comfort zones to confront the question they’ve been too afraid to ask: is this their happily ever after? For Behind Every Man, King has brought in Love & Marriage: Huntsville's Melody Holt as a host for the series that celebrates the women behind famous men we look up to and admire, focusing on the passions, struggles, and sacrifices they have made to support the men they love, whose lives are lived in the spotlight. The show features couples Tammy and Kirk Franklin, Ne-Yo and his wife Crystal Smith, Big Sean and his mother Myra Anderson, Usher and his mother Jonnetta Patton, and many more. Since 2012, OWN has dedicated Saturday to be its primary day for unscripted programming. The expansion will now include Fridays. The new fall schedule will start on Friday, October 23, with a new season of Ready To Love and the series premiere of Put A Ring On It. The following day will have the Season 7 premiere of Iyanla: Fix My Life and Behind Every Man, both of which will continue to air on Saturdays.

  • OWN Adds "Put A Ring On It" and "Behind Every Man" TV Series From Will Packer and Carlos King

    The Oprah Winfrey Network announced two new unscripted series set for Fall from producers Will Packer and Carlos King, in an effort to expand its unscripted programming for two nights beginning in October. “Expanding to two nights with our unscripted shows gives our loyal viewers even more of the programming they’re super passionate about,” said Tina Perry, president OWN. “Over the years, OWN has established Saturday nights as the leading destination for Black women focusing on unscripted programs in the love and relationship space and we look forward to continuing that momentum on Friday nights this fall.” OWN added to its roster Put A Ring On It, created by Packer and Lighthearted Entertainment, and Behind Every Man, a product of King and his production company Kingdom Reign Entertainment. Both producers currently have hit unscripted shows on the network which include Packers’ Ready For Love and King’s Love & Marriage Huntsville. As Packer’s newest unscripted relationship series Put A Ring on It follows three longtime couples, with help from master relationship coach Dr. Nicole LaBeach, who embark on the ultimate relationship test. From week to week the couples are pushed outside their comfort zones to confront the question they’ve been too afraid to ask: is this their happily ever after? For Behind Every Man, King has brought in Love & Marriage: Huntsville's Melody Holt as a host for the series that celebrates the women behind famous men we look up to and admire, focusing on the passions, struggles, and sacrifices they have made to support the men they love, whose lives are lived in the spotlight. The show features couples Tammy and Kirk Franklin, Ne-Yo and his wife Crystal Smith, Big Sean and his mother Myra Anderson, Usher and his mother Jonnetta Patton, and many more. Since 2012, OWN has dedicated Saturday to be its primary day for unscripted programming. The expansion will now include Fridays. The new fall schedule will start on Friday, October 23, with a new season of Ready To Love and the series premiere of Put A Ring On It. The following day will have the Season 7 premiere of Iyanla: Fix My Life and Behind Every Man, both of which will continue to air on Saturdays.

  • These Black-Owned Restaurants Opened for Business in the Midst of the Pandemic

    When we prepared to usher in the new year, most of us had plans beyond our wildest dreams. We were determined to take our visions, goals, and destiny into our hands and do everything in life that we have ever planned on doing.....but then coronavirus came. To some of us, it seemed like the end of the world but to others, it was an occurrence that would not stop us from walking into the greatness that we promised ourselves. One thing that we all had to do, no matter what was going on in the world, was eat. We have compiled a list of restauranteurs around the country that would not let COVID-19 keep them from opening their doors and serving their community. UJerk - Cleveland, Ohio What was the driving force behind opening UJerk during a global pandemic? The goal was actually to open up the restaurant in March, unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we had to postpone it until July.  At the beginning of the year, my business partners and I set out to open up this restaurant, and pandemic or not, we're getting it done. That was the driving force. Not only stating what I was going to do but more importantly accomplishing what I set out. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Cleveland? The vision is to create something unique and different. We are not your typical Jamaican restaurant. If you are looking for rice and peas, plantains, or oxtail you will be disappointed. We are American dining with a Caribbean twist. We intend on bringing a UJerk to every major city nationally and internationally. For Cleveland, we wanted to bring excellent jerk chicken to downtown. There are no real Caribbean restaurants in the area so we wanted to give everyone that option for dining. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? When people visit downtown Cleveland and walk into Ujerk we want them to feel like for a small moment they are able to "get away" without being away. Sometimes you can't go to the island so we want to bring the island to you. There's always Caribbean music playing, aromas of the best jerk chicken in America in the air, and always a warm welcome from our staff. We want people to leave with a fun experience as well as a full stomach. Jeremiah Perkins, Partner Levi's Grill LLC - Warner Robins, Georgia What was the driving force behind opening Levi's Grill during a global pandemic? The driving force behind opening a physical location during this pandemic is mainly my love for organized chaos. I perform at my highest level when times get rough or seem like there's no positive outcome in sight. Right now is the best time to invest in what people love which is eating out. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Warner Robins? Opening Levi's Grill LLC in Warner Robin, Ga I will be the only black privately owned smoked eats establishment in the city. My vision is too continuously grow my customer base by providing fresh flavorful food with great customer service. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? The Levi's Grill Brand wants to resurface each customer's taste buds, with flavorful food to keep them wanting more. At Levi's even kids finish their veggies, so there's no question about the flavor just know its the best. Also showing young black people that being consistent and humble are some stepping stones of becoming successful. Baron Sibley, Owner Grub Fresh Bowls & Wraps - Hapeville, Georgia What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic? The driving force started once I purchased the commercial property in late 2018 and began construction on my relocation of Smoothie King. Soon after completing the relocation, I started developing Grub in the summer of 2019 with the primary focus to bring another healthy food option to the residents and employees of Hapeville and the surrounding Tri-Cities Airport area. I’m extremely goal-oriented and once I was able to access the trends on my existing businesses during COVID-19 I felt confident in moving forward since I was already 75% complete with construction. Please note that I initially started my first Smoothie King store in Hapeville during the Great Recession in 2008 and I’m still around! What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Hapeville? The vision is to become a staple in the community. Chick-fil-A originally started in Hapeville as well and I’d like to create a solid foundation in the area just like they did and eventually open up additional locations on the south side and franchise the concept. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? My desire is that everyone has a feeling of satisfaction without having the feeling of guilt. I want Grub to be a place where you come to refuel while still being able to meet your goals of eating cleaner, lighter, and healthier options.  I created Grub because I would spend hours looking for something quick and healthy to eat.  The lack of options made it challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working such a busy schedule. After years of frustration, I decided to recruit a classically-trained chef to help me take my passionate idea and create a solution that left me feeling satisfied and recharged. Philip Jones, Founder CZEN - Brooklyn New York What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic? We opened Czen in February 2020 right before the COVID Pandemic halted our thriving business. The joy in physically manifesting a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant or any new establishment is indescribable. To add to that feeling, our patrons not only supported our concept they also enjoy our cuisine. So you could imagine our disappointment when six weeks later, the world shut down.  At first, we were frustrated to have spent so much time and money into the creation of Czen, and then almost overnight, it seemed as if it was over. The idea of re-opening the restaurant was bittersweet. We had to weigh the health risks and new safety guidelines against the level against the standard of service that our customers were used to. One of the things that we were confident about was the relationships that we were able to cultivate with our customers, prior to the shutdown. Our patrons were the driving force to going back to the drawing board to re-envision our presentation with the new governmental-issued requirements surrounding the food industry. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in your city? My business partners and I are successful Event Planners and we felt that it was a natural progression to the experiences in which we have provided throughout the years. In NYC, people love the nightlife experience so in addition to the A- list events that we created, we brought a trendy yet affordable environment to East Flatbush Brooklyn. We took our time and put a lot of thought and love into our restaurant, with the full understanding that we were achieving another goal of creating jobs and employing people from our community. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? The Czen brand is an experience. A Modern, Caribbean-Asian Fusion that is Trendy, chic, and wholesome all at the same time. We are bringing the City vibes right into our local neighborhood. We want all who visit with us to leave with a smile on their face, satisfaction in their belly, and joy in their hearts with excitement to return. We have noticed the increase in the support of black businesses and the community has truly exhibited their support for this group of Young Black Men who are Changing the Food Industry Narrative, one table at a time. Prince Forde, Managing Partner Go Vegan - Philadelphia, Pennslyvania What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic? Go vegan was started on February 16th, 2018, at my home. By 2019 our following was huge and we started selling grab and go items in 4 different markets. By September of 2019, we moved into a restaurant space in Conshohocken, PA, and won best vegan restaurant in PA that year. We now have a restaurant space in Wilmington, Delaware. The pandemic really didn’t hurt business for us, thank God. So we decided to continue business as usual. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Wilmington? The goal is to create some jobs in Wilmington, Delaware, and the vision remains the same to bring healthier options to the community. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? We aim to make transitioning to a vegan lifestyle much easier for people. Shaun Thomas, Chef, and Founder

  • These Black-Owned Restaurants Opened for Business in the Midst of the Pandemic

    When we prepared to usher in the new year, 2020, most of us had plans beyond our wildest dreams. We were determined to take our visions, goals, and destiny into our hands and do everything in life that we have ever planned on doing.....but then coronavirus came. To some of us, it seemed like the end of the world but to others, it was an occurrence that would not stop us from walking into the greatness that we promised ourselves. One thing that we all had to do, no matter what was going on in the world, was eat. We have compiled a list of a few restauranteurs around the country that would not let COVID-19 keep them from opening their doors and serving their community. UJerk - Cleveland, Ohio What was the driving force behind opening UJerk during a global pandemic? The goal was actually to open up the restaurant in March, unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we had to postpone it until July.  At the beginning of the year, my business partners and I set out to open up this restaurant, and pandemic or not, we're getting it done. That was the driving force. Not only stating what I was going to do but more importantly accomplishing what I set out. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Cleveland? The vision is to create something unique and different. We are not your typical Jamaican restaurant. If you are looking for rice and peas, plantains, or oxtail you will be disappointed. We are American dining with a Caribbean twist. We intend on bringing a UJerk to every major city nationally and internationally. For Cleveland, we wanted to bring excellent jerk chicken to downtown. There are no real Caribbean restaurants in the area so we wanted to give everyone that option for dining. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? When people visit downtown Cleveland and walk into Ujerk we want them to feel like for a small moment they are able to "get away" without being away. Sometimes you can't go to the island so we want to bring the island to you. There's always Caribbean music playing, aromas of the best jerk chicken in America in the air, and always a warm welcome from our staff. We want people to leave with a fun experience as well as a full stomach. Jeremiah Perkins, Partner Levi's Grill LLC - Warner Robins, Georgia What was the driving force behind opening Levi's Grill during a global pandemic? The driving force behind opening a physical location during this pandemic is mainly my love for organized chaos. I perform at my highest level when times get rough or seem like there's no positive outcome in sight. Right now is the best time to invest in what people love which is eating out. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Warner Robins? Opening Levi's Grill LLC in Warner Robin, Ga I will be the only black privately owned smoked eats establishment in the city. My vision is too continuously grow my customer base by providing fresh flavorful food with great customer service. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? The Levi's Grill Brand wants to resurface each customer's taste buds, with flavorful food to keep them wanting more. At Levi's even kids finish their veggies, so there's no question about the flavor just know its the best. Also showing young black people that being consistent and humble are some stepping stones of becoming successful. Baron Sibley, Owner Grub Fresh Bowls & Wraps - Hapeville, Georgia What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic? The driving force started once I purchased the commercial property in late 2018 and began construction on my relocation of Smoothie King. Soon after completing the relocation, I started developing Grub in the summer of 2019 with the primary focus to bring another healthy food option to the residents and employees of Hapeville and the surrounding Tri-Cities Airport area. I’m extremely goal-oriented and once I was able to access the trends on my existing businesses during COVID-19 I felt confident in moving forward since I was already 75% complete with construction. Please note that I initially started my first Smoothie King store in Hapeville during the Great Recession in 2008 and I’m still around! What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Hapeville? The vision is to become a staple in the community. Chick-fil-A originally started in Hapeville as well and I’d like to create a solid foundation in the area just like they did and eventually open up additional locations on the south side and franchise the concept. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? My desire is that everyone has a feeling of satisfaction without having the feeling of guilt. I want Grub to be a place where you come to refuel while still being able to meet your goals of eating cleaner, lighter, and healthier options.  I created Grub because I would spend hours looking for something quick and healthy to eat.  The lack of options made it challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working such a busy schedule. After years of frustration, I decided to recruit a classically-trained chef to help me take my passionate idea and create a solution that left me feeling satisfied and recharged. Philip Jones, Founder CZEN - Brooklyn New York What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic? We opened Czen in February 2020 right before the COVID Pandemic halted our thriving business. The joy in physically manifesting a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant or any new establishment is indescribable. To add to that feeling, our patrons not only supported our concept they also enjoy our cuisine. So you could imagine our disappointment when six weeks later, the world shut down.  At first, we were frustrated to have spent so much time and money into the creation of Czen, and then almost overnight, it seemed as if it was over. The idea of re-opening the restaurant was bittersweet. We had to weigh the health risks and new safety guidelines against the level against the standard of service that our customers were used to. One of the things that we were confident about was the relationships that we were able to cultivate with our customers, prior to the shutdown. Our patrons were the driving force to going back to the drawing board to re-envision our presentation with the new governmental-issued requirements surrounding the food industry. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in your city? My business partners and I are successful Event Planners and we felt that it was a natural progression to the experiences in which we have provided throughout the years. In NYC, people love the nightlife experience so in addition to the A- list events that we created, we brought a trendy yet affordable environment to East Flatbush Brooklyn. We took our time and put a lot of thought and love into our restaurant, with the full understanding that we were achieving another goal of creating jobs and employing people from our community. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? The Czen brand is an experience. A Modern, Caribbean-Asian Fusion that is Trendy, chic, and wholesome all at the same time. We are bringing the City vibes right into our local neighborhood. We want all who visit with us to leave with a smile on their face, satisfaction in their belly, and joy in their hearts with excitement to return. We have noticed the increase in the support of black businesses and the community has truly exhibited their support for this group of Young Black Men who are Changing the Food Industry Narrative, one table at a time. Prince Forde, Managing Partner Go Vegan - Philadelphia, Pennslyvania What was the driving force behind opening a physical location during a global pandemic? Go vegan was started on February 16th, 2018, at my home. By 2019 our following was huge and we started selling grab and go items in 4 different markets. By September of 2019, we moved into a restaurant space in Conshohocken, PA, and won best vegan restaurant in PA that year. We now have a restaurant space in Wilmington, Delaware. The pandemic really didn’t hurt business for us, thank God. So we decided to continue business as usual. What is the goal and vision for opening up this establishment in Wilmington? The goal is to create some jobs in Wilmington, Delaware, and the vision remains the same to bring healthier options to the community. What do you hope the brand accomplishes for everyone who visits? We aim to make transitioning to a vegan lifestyle much easier for people. Shaun Thomas, Chef, and Founder

  • The Five Most Influential Black Male Designers in Fashion

    Although the fashion industry continues to struggle with its diversity problem, Black designers are beginning to see increased prominence in the field. Arguably more than womenswear, menswear in particular has experienced an influx of Black male designers. With an incredibly slimmed-down number of fashion shows happening this year, these Black men have stood out amongst the pack as the most influential Black male designers of the moment. Adrien Sauvage: A. Sauvage Adrien Savage, founder of the brand A. Sauavage, is a British-based designer known for his fresh take on classic tailoring. His collections often feature beautiful suiting combinations in unique patterns, mixing in edgier pieces such as impeccably cut leather and suede jackets. His "no-nonsense" approach to dressing has appealed to many famous clients including John Legend, Dwayne Wade and King Beyonce herself. Jerry Lorenzo: Fear of God Jerry Lorenzo is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in men's fashion, thanks to his clothing and accessories brand Fear of God. The brand, known for effortlessly mixing streetwear and tailored pieces, has been highly successful amongst classicists and hypebeasts alike and has paved the way for his more affordable line Fear of God Essentials and an uber-stylish collaboration with storied Italian menswear house Zegna. Kerby Jean-Raymond: Pyer Moss Recently awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America's ("CFDA") award for menswear designer of the year, Kerby Jean-Raymond has created a lane of his own in fashion, often using his Pyer Moss collections to highlight issues impacting the black community, usually before it is "fashionable" to do so. Raymond has collaborated with artists such as Erykah Badu and has dressed everyone from Colin Kaepernick to Swizz Beats. Telfar Clemons: Telfar Telfar Clemons, the man behind his eponymous label Telfar, has been making a name for himself, not only because of his clothing lines for both men and women but also for his highly sought after accessory offerings. In fact, he recently was named accessories designer of the year by the CFDA. Clemons has also landed some high profile partnerships, including his most recent with Ugg, which will surely be a hit with customers once it lands in stores in 2021. Virgil Abloh: Off-White and Louis Vuitton Menswear Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you definitely know the name Virgil Abloh. Not only has he been able to carve out a niche for himself in menswear through the founding of his streetwear behemoth Off-White, he has since taken over the rarified world of French fashion, assuming the title of creative director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collections. Abloh has been the recipient of a number of fashion awards and nominations, and his almost cult following has solidified his place on the list of the world's most influential designers of our time.

  • Todd Belcore Fights for Social Change With the 2020 International Social Change Film Festival

    Todd Belcore has committed his life to making a difference in his community. When you think of the saying "Be the change you want to see", he is truly one who epitomizes that. Todd is an award-winning lawyer with over 20 honors under his belt including ABA's National Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year and the White House's Champion of Change. Todd is also a mediator, advocate, law lecturer, and co-founder of the non-profit Social Change, a national non-profit committed to amplifying community voices and disrupting the legacy of systemic injustice through organizing, legal and technical assistance, empowering communities, policy advocacy, and storytelling. He brings over 20 years of experience and passion for serving communities that desire and deserve change and an equal chance. Social Change is a non-profit that uses organizing, film, litigation, and advocacy to dismantle the new Jim Crow and transform lives, communities, and systems. Born the youngest of four kids on the southside of Chicago, Todd had the opportunity to witness first hand what life was like when the entire system discriminated against people with handicaps, like his older brother, poverty and racism. Despite things that were against them, his mother never stopped fighting to give her children a fighting chance. She encouraged them to fulfill their potential by pushing for educational and extracurricular activities. This inspired Todd to become a lawyer so that he could fight for others who were mostly forgotten and left behind. He aimed to intercede on their behalf against the different systems and barriers that prevented them from fulfilling their purpose. Realizing how important it was for people who looked like him to hold positions of power and make the decisions that actually effected their own communities, he started Social Change in 2012. The goal was to share stories of hardships so that people could understand the pain that people were dealing with. Through the context of storytelling, the organization hoped to disarm people of their prejudices and allow them to walk in someone else shoes. With policy advocacy being a major part of Social Change, Todd has been able to lead and assist in efforts to pass 24 measures in multiple states relating to entrepreneurship, jobs, equity in the cannabis industry, increasing government transparency and accountability, police and community relations, business ownership, housing, and justice, sentencing, prison, and reentry reform. This weekend, Social Change will be hosting its first virtual version of The International Social Change Film Festival that is also called Change Fest. There will be dozens of films, content, and speakers who speak to the truth of whats going on in our nation and the movements you can partner with to make change happen. In addition to storytelling, the Change Fest Film festival aims to equip people with the basic necessities they need in order to continue to fight for change within their community. Purchase your #ChangeFest Tickets here.

  • This Father Invested $30,000 Into His Daughter's Dream of Starting a Business

    National Daugther Day was originated from India and is a day to celebrate the joy a daughter brings to her parents' lives. In particular, the bond between a father and daughter as they experience life together. What better way to highlight the special nature of the day than by showing how a father helps his daughter achieve her goals. Father-daughter team Karmen and Brandon Faulcon are looking to revolutionize your shopping experience with iKon Mall, a new app that is slated to launch in October. The free, interactive app provides a 3D mall excursion that offers customers a new way to enjoy online shopping. With 600 stores and a virtual layout that replicates the traditional brick-and-mortar environment, app users are sure to enjoy the new e-commerce platform. It is also user-friendly and cost-effective for small business owners. Brandon Faulcon took the plunge and invested $30,000 to help bring Karmen's dream to life. In honor of National Daughter Day, Brandon shares what it's like to be business partners with his daughter and how he encouraged Karmen to follow her dreams in a chat with The Quintessential Gentleman. Can you share a bit about the creative journey of iKon Mall and how it went from being a concept to a realized brand? What makes iKon Mall so unique is that it wasn’t this huge idea from the beginning. The concept of iKon Mall was created during an annual father-daughter trip to Disney World. We both take the time to put all electronics down and just have simple conversations. I use it to see where her mind is and do a mental checkup to make sure there isn’t anything she wants to talk about. I asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She replied, “I want to own my own beauty salon, but I want it to be a beauty salon where businesses can sell their products out of, and customers can shop while waiting to get their hair done.” As her father, I took that idea and tried to figure out how I could make this a profitable business that also could evolve into something more. I decided to take her idea and make it an app by creating a virtual shopping mall that customers could shop in before, during, and after their hair service, and also book appointments and initiate payments for services. Every day after that trip, when I woke up, when I was at work, and before I went to sleep, all I could think about was iKon Mall. Going from my daughter’s initial idea to a full concept today was honestly like building a house from scratch. You create a foundation, and every day you lay a brick until it looks like the home you dreamed of, and you move in. How will iKon Mall revolutionize a customer's shopping experience? iKon Mall was built with the simple thought of “giving our guest options”. We want our mall to fit the lifestyle of a person who barely has time to shop and only wants to click a few buttons and place an order. We also want it to fit the lifestyle of a person who has the time to explore all of the features on the app included in our virtual mall. The idea is to create an app that allows our guests to shop and book appointments all in one place. The average guest today uses approximately 5-10 apps to either shop, find a personal service, and/or keep track of things in their daily lives. iKon Mall wants to put that all in one app. To us, it’s about giving our guests their time back by creating a space that answers all of the questions they could ask during their retail or service experience. What advice do you have for someone who might be considering starting their own business? The most cliché statement that even I ignored until we started building iKon Mall, which is “believe in yourself”. When you are building something that only you can feel the joy of in the thought of what the end goal will look like, and the pain of going through the process of building a business, you are all you have to get you through. This may sound strange, but I have found it to be true-“enjoy the pain”. We didn’t become entrepreneurs because we wanted life to be easy. We did it because we know that either we are going to have to fight hard for ourselves or someone else. Your team will be built upon by different ethnicities, age groups, and backgrounds, and they all look up to you to have the answers. I take pride in working with everyone in iKon Mall. I make it my obligation to make sure they feel important and understand that without them, the bricks that they are laying wouldn’t exist, and our house would fall. As a parent, how do you instill an entrepreneurial spirit in your child and encourage them to pursue their dreams? I use the advantages and disadvantages of everyday life to guide my daughter and help her learn lessons. Ever since my daughter was able to walk, I allowed her to make mistakes, teach her why it’s important to go back and clean it up and ask what lesson did she learn. I don’t force thoughts onto my daughter. Instead, I always ask her, “What do you think about this?", “What would you do differently if this was you?" This allows me to see what her thought process is and what I need to do as a parent to put her in front of other things that challenge her mentally and emotionally. I give her the freedom to tell me her thoughts and remind her that nothing that she says is wrong because those are her thoughts. I give her the ability to try and fail. Before iKon Mall was created she wanted to be a professional skater. We went to the closest skating-rink, and she fell a few times and looked at me and said, “Daddy, this isn’t fun.” At that moment, I knew she had a “try and fail” moment. All of these things help build character and can help kids learn early their strengths and weaknesses and what they would like to evolve in. Aside from creating the app, what are some of the unique experiences that come along with being your daughter's business partner? It honestly feels like we have a chance to bond together a lot more. Everything that we do is a conversation. I always ask her what she thinks about something we are getting ready to do or how it looks. The biggest part that I am always taken aback by is the amount of detail in her feedback. She really shares her deep thoughts and feelings with anything iKon Mall related, and I honestly feel like I am in a boardroom talking to her. The most beautiful thing is to see how much she truly, genuinely cares about people. She tells me all the time that no matter what we do, we have to make sure people can afford it. Sometimes we take a trip to a local mall just to walk around, and she gets angry at all of the advertisements that only give you half of the information, and ask you to come in for the other half. It’s almost like watching a young child train to become a CEO in the future, starting at the age of 10. How has your father and daughter dynamic been strengthened by such an extraordinary experience? It just gives us the opportunity to grow together. This is new to both of us, and I have learned some personal weaknesses while standing in front of my daughter. She laughs sometimes but also tells me, “It's okay, keep trying, and you will get it.” Sometimes it becomes slightly emotional to have not only your daughter, and business partner, but someone who is cheering for you every day no matter if you are up or down. She is camera shy right now, and not a big fan of speaking in front of people, but as I remind her, she isn’t alone and that I feel the same way. We both feed off the energy of each other. One thing I also try to make sure of is that she has fun with this process. This is work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Enjoy the feeling of ownership and the fact that you can tell everyone right now, “Let’s take a break, I am tired,” and walk away. It’s just a beautiful thing. What advice do you have for fathers who have children that are interested in starting a business? I would suggest sitting down and having a conversation with them and picking their brain. Have a moment where there are no electronics available, and it's a one on one session. Ask them questions about things that they like, what they want to be when they get older, or how would they execute whatever business they want to own. Our job as parents is to put our kids in the best position within our reach to win. Once again, we built iKon Mall, making sure that we had options, and we're giving our guest options. That’s how I raise my daughter - “know your options”. As a parent, I always ask, “Am I putting my daughter in the best position to have options?" Once you find out what they would like to build, explore options with them, and keep them involved. Make them feel like nothing moves without their work or input because this allows them to see what ownership is like, but also gives them something to look forward to. As parents, we can sometimes box our kids in because we force them to only think at the level of their age. I tell my daughter to open your mind and see as far in the future as possible and follow your path. To learn more about iKon Mall, please visit the website.

  • Alabama State's Orlando Arnold Spearheads Black Sports Agency

    Prospective NFL athletes every year make a decision on agents after their college season has culminated. Enter Orlando Arnold, a business owner of Pyramid Sports Group based in Miami. These days, Arnold is selected by top-notch athletes to lead them in the business of professional sports. And before you know it, it is Arnold who is answering questions pertaining to where predraft training is located. The former Alabama State athlete turned businessman then identifies locations such as Miami or sites in California -- places he had previous athletes frequent in preparation for the draft. Flying to these locations could be the next step for Arnold in an effort to ensure the predraft training process, an eight- to 10-week process at a high-end facility, is running smoothly, yet expeditiously. But Arnold isn't just in the business of football, he's into mostly every other sport. On the amateur's advisement side of things -- this is mostly baseball -- Arnold is working with both the athlete and parents, ensuring athletes know which baseball tournaments will get them in front of the most scouts, as well as fortifying the full process leading up to these tournaments. Arnold is also no stranger to calling companies and organizations for athletes who want to be an ambassador for causes that hit home. One of his clients is an ambassador for the American Cancer Society. "From an athlete's side, it's a lot of communication, it's a lot of daily partnership, daily communication, and really executing their vision off the field," Arnold said. Arnold has been about executing his vision off the field as well. This process, of course, starts with agent Arnold, who cultivates relationships through recruitment. Recently, Arnold promulgated his partnership with Jason Campbell of Brand B Sports. Campbell, a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University graduate, as well as a brander and sports marketer who has experience working with NASCAR, the United States Tennis Association, NFL and the MLB, among other leagues, helps spearhead all of the off-the-field branding and marketing for athletes, including making sure athletes can pursue fruitful endeavors when their time is up playing sports, or even when they are in the middle of their athletic careers. Both Campbell and Arnold are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Representing both coaches and signed professional and collegiate athletes, the collaboration involves not only predraft training, and amateur advisement, but marketing and endorsements, contract negotiation, off-the-field- support, off-season training, media training and financial management. And there is a focal point: professional athletes of color in a world where the majority of Black and brown athletes choose white agencies despite making up the majority of rosters in at least half of the four major sports in America. "Some of that still involves me and Jason collaborating together on some visions I may have for the client, especially depending on what specific sport it is, but then it just lets Jason, let this creative genius go to work," Arnold said. "For example, we may have a client that grew up in an area where kids didn't have access to play in little leagues or a rec center, so now Jason finds the proper community partners and corporate sponsors, in addition to what I have, and kind of puts that on a much bigger scale. "Each client is a client of Sports Pyramid Group, and what we do is allow Jason to maximize and build upon what he has already established for Brand B Sports in his 15 years-plus in the business. It just allows our athletes to be maximized and monetized to an extent in their philanthropic and community endeavors." While Arnold has always been about maximizing and monetizing his business, it's also about being a trailblazer. The disparity between while-owned agencies and black-owned agencies is noticeable, and Arnold said he knows that. "We're a black-owned agency, and there aren't a lot, but there are an adequate amount of black agents, but there are not that many black-owned sports agencies, especially that deal with both baseball and football; you might have some that deal with NFL only or the NBA only or Major League Baseball only, but to be in two sports is rare," Arnold noted. "The goal is really to be one of the top agencies in the world. It's just the cherry on top. Obviously I want to be an example for young African Americans so they can own their own, to see that they can sit at the table with everybody else with these quote-unquote big dogs, or these seasoned and established firms that have been around. But also it's okay to go against the norm, it's okay. If you feel passionate about something, if you feel different about something, and you do your homework, you do the research, you do the necessary professional work and skills, it's okay. And I think crafting this path at this point, it's been a nice journey, but it's been rewarding thus far, seeing the potential impact that we can have." But Arnold didn't know he would have this type of impact at this point in his life. After graduating from Alabama State in 2004, he went into corporate sales and negotiation for a little over 10 years before going into hospitality and the pharmaceutical sales industries. Securing accounts for different organizations, though, wasn't the be-all and end-all for Arnold. He wanted to do something that made a little more impact, and having already garnered the necessary education, Arnold just went after it. "People think being an agent is transactional, well, I don't personally believe that, transactional is a part of it, but to me it's more personal, you know these are people that you are representing their morals, their image, their likeness, you're letting their family know that hey, I'm going to look out for their child's best interest and when you really get down to it, I just felt like it was a need for more of those people." Arnold said. And Arnold will be the first to tell you that it hasn't been all rose petals. When he first started Pyramid Group Sports four years ago, soliciting clients was difficult. But through forging relationships and having the necessary finances and resources, especially after recently partnering, Arnold and Campbell were able to push through, serving professional clients such as Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Ward, NFL free agent cornerback Mandell Ray, NFL free agent wide receiver Qua Searcy and Atlanta Braves farm system player Rusber Estrada, among many other clients. Still, Arnold admits that when things are rolling, he always has to look out for those who may not want him to succeed. Adroit off the field as he was on, Arnold was a Division I baseball player at Alabama State 2001-2004. He also earned an MBA from Alabama State before working in the pharmaceutical and hospitality industries 2007-2017.

  • Dr. Joseph Williams Brings Healing To the Black Community With a 40-Day Holistic Process

    From the racial injustices that continue to pop up in cities around the world to the many that are disproportionately affected by the spread of COVID-19, Black Americans have experienced one of the toughest eye-opening years in a very long time. We got the chance to chat with Dr. Joseph L. Williams who understands that throughout this pandemic our mental health needs to be at the forefront of our minds. Dr. Williams, a mental health advocate has created a 40-day process called The Journey, which he hopes allows people to achieve the mental and spiritual clarity they desire. The Journey is a 40-day holistic process that helps encourage spiritual, emotional, and physical transformation. Dr. Williams discovered spiritual and emotional issues were the culprits of his obesity. When he learned how to “emotionally detoxify” as well as “spiritually re-calibrate,” it resulted in his weight loss. Reversing all medications and health ailments, Dr. Williams has taken what he learned and created a 40-day holistic process to share with others across the country, reaching over 3,000 people. For Black men, what tools can you recommend for maintaining mental, physical, and spiritual wellness during two pandemics? By understanding, we are part of the mind, body, and spirit. In that I mean, as black men, we MUST be intentional about catering to all three parts of ourselves. We must eat clean foods that are nutritionally dense and rich in vitamins and minerals. We must exercise daily. We need to eliminate stress in our lives by living simplistically and riding ourselves from debt and lifestyles we cannot afford. We must reconnect with men and women who enrich us spiritually while getting out of relationships that are toxic (even if they are marriages). When we tend to ourselves, holistically, we are in a better state of mind to deal with the stresses of the world. What do you feel we need to appreciate these times? “War” brings the best out of men. When I say “war” I mean a state of survival whereby it lives or dies. When men are presented with stress, we thrive more than any demographic in the village. For this reason, the men have been the warriors and the protectors of the village. These are the times to find yourself, chase your purpose, and pivot to be the very best version of yourself. How do you feel your process The Journey will help to impact the future of our community? The journey reinstates elements we all need to grow but are absent within our society. They are: discipline, guidance, creating healthy relationships with food, community, accountability, and a collective goal. None of the aforementioned items are things popular culture stresses in music or media. We need to grow as a collective unit. Most of us, including myself have fallen victim to the COVID-19 20-pound gain. How do you think our mental health is responsible for the weight gain? Most people in the west have bad relationships with food. In that, we are overfed and undernourished. Here in the west, eating is greatly connected to our emotions. When we are stressed we eat; when there are celebrations we eat. No matter where we are on the emotional spectrum we eat. The stress of COVID 19, the closures of gyms, and our inability to connect physically with people cause us to be at a heightened state of mental depression. Eating has been a coping mechanism used by many during this season. The byproduct of that has been, unfortunately, the mitigation of our health and unwanted weight gain. Where do you feel we can start in order to have our best mental and physical body? We must start by not liking where we are and what we have become. Until we get to that point we will not change. What advice for protecting your physical and mental health during these times? Former Black McDonald's franchise owners filed a federal lawsuit on September 1, demanding economic justice from McDonald's. reality is what you make it. We don’t have to wait for things to change to be “happy.” We can be happy now, but it requires us to view things differently. The gym may be closed, so let’s go outside! I may not be able to take a trip, so I will learn to speak a new language. Maybe my time at home is more than I’d like, I can perhaps learn a new skill. It’s all about our mindset. "Check on your strong friends" has taken on a whole new meaning this year. What advice would you give for us all when it comes to being accountable for our friends and families well being? “Be the Change you want to be” Mahatma Gandhi The best way to stay in contact is to follow his Instagram.

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