Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Night out with MBE magazine: Celebrating 30 Years of Success

It’s not every day that a magazine gets to celebrate 30 years of publication.  In fact, it’s quite a feat for any business to thrive in today’s ever-changing, technology-driven society.  Despite these challenges, MBE magazine has proven that it can be done.  Serving as a vessel of light for minority- and women-owned businesses, MBE magazine celebrated their success on November 1st with a 30th Anniversary Experience at SeaWorld Orlando.  Sisters in the Cities was on the scene to take it all in!

The Hollywood-themed event began in SeaWorld’s beautiful Ports of Call.  Although it was an unusually cold and windy evening, everyone arrived looking fabulous!  Guests checked in and received their survival kit (we’ll come back to this later).  Many were able to experience the “lights, camera, action,” effect as Dawn Marchand of Helenistic Enterprises, Inc. briefly interviewed guests upon their arrival.   My sister Sabrina and I were busy live tweeting about all of the excitement that was occurring around us. 

First stop, the VIP area.  Located on the spacious patio outside of the Ports of Call ballroom, we were all serenaded by the soulful tunes of the naturally gifted and classically trained violinist, Lee England, Jr.   This was the first of many surprises.  The crowd was in an ebullient mood as England captivated us all with melodies from recognizable artists such as Alicia Keys and Music Soulchild.  This was definitely a tweetable moment!

I was definitely not expecting the next surprise.  Just as Sabrina and I began mingling with the crowd, I turned around to witness a live seal sitting in a cart right behind me.  He was big, brown and wet.  However, if the founder of MBE magazine, Ginger Conrad could pose with the seal, so could we.  Not quite sure how it would respond, we cautiously proceeded to take our picture with Mr. Seal.  As it turns out, he was quite friendly.  Another tweetable moment!

As the doors opened to the main ballroom, we were treated to a performance by the Florida Steppers International that had us all wanting to “Step in the Name of Love.” 

The spacious venue, decorated with gold accents and filled with several “diversity” stations did not disappoint.  My favorite happened to be the dessert stations where two perfectly decorated MBE 30th Anniversary cakes were on display.  A video featuring corporate sponsors opened the ceremony followed by a heartwarming welcome from Mistress of Ceremony, Robin Billups.  Next, MBE’s Publisher and President of Enterprise Publishing Inc., Barbara Oliver, thanked sponsors for their commitment to supplier diversity and MBE magazine.  “Let’s go out and make the next 30 years even better!” she declared.  Tweet, tweet, and tweet!
After another stellar performance from Lee England, Jr.,  it was time for guests to experience the “Walk of Fame” to Antarctica.  This experience would include a DJ and dancing as well as a performance by Kenny Latimore. The catch?  We were told that it would be a ten-minute walk from the Ports of Call.  This is where the survival kit came into play!  It was time for us to take off our shoes and replace them with the flats from our kits.  Thankfully, the event planners thought of everything! 

Having arrived in Antarctica, Sabrina and I immediately jumped in line for the ride, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.   Surrounded by a vista of rock and ice with outdoor temperatures hovering in the 40s I literally felt like a penguin.  Kenny Latimore closed out the night with performances of some of his most recent songs including the single, “Heart Stops” as well as an impromptu collaboration with Lee England, Jr. 

What an incredible night!  MBE magazine truly outdid themselves.  I look forward to the next big celebration… #Happy30MBE

-  Charmain Lewis

Charmain Lewis is a writer for the blog Sisters in the Cities. Keep up with Charmain and Sabrina at, and follow them on  and on


Charmain is the founder of Sisters in the Cities.  Having a fondness for exploring cities and a unique bond with her sister, Sabrina, Charmain thought it would be fun to highlight places off the beaten path or  “nuggets” one can discover within a city from a family oriented and single person’s point of view.  Her goal is to bring about joy and happiness into the lives of others by focusing on all of the good that exists in your very own back yard.  Charmain’s passion for bringing out the best in others and exploring new places supports her mission to share what is good in the world, while at the same time, honoring her family and loved ones.

Charmain obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Queens University of Charlotte.  She currently resides with her husband and three sons in Tampa, Florida. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SBA Announce 21 New Partners of the SupplierPay Initiative

As a part of his Year of Action, President Obama and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet launched SupplierPay, a partnership with the private sector to strengthen small businesses by increasing their access to working capital.

In July, I stood alongside President Obama and announced SupplierPay to fuel growth for both small and large businesses. As the advocate for our nations entrepreneurs, I know that supply chain growth is a priority as I work to improve resources for our nations economic engines small businesses. That is why today I am proud to join with the White House in announcing more corporations, which have joined this partnership, to ensure access to affordable working capital, which is often the greatest challenge faced by Americas small suppliers, said Administrator Contreras-Sweet. When small business suppliers wait 120 days to get paid, thats four months without the revenue to compete for and to fulfill new contracts, making it more difficult to add more employees to the payroll. The companies which have taken the SupplierPay pledge have made a powerful collective statement about the leadership role of large buying organizations in supporting the health and vitality of Americas supply chains, and the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that comprise it.

For private sector leaders, joining SupplierPay demonstrates recognition that a healthy supply chain is essential for good business. For their small business suppliers, the initiative means having more working capital to invest in new opportunities, equipment, and hiring. Americas small businesses provide nearly half of all private sector jobs and play an outsized role in innovating new products, services, and business processes. Initiatives like SupplierPay, which promotes timely payment to small suppliers, enables small businesses to devote more of their resources to innovation, quality, and growth.

National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients and Administrator Contreras-Sweet hosted a meeting at the White House on November 17 with pledge adoptees for SupplierPay updates and its implementation. The session included pledgees sharing their experiences, lessons, and best practices with their SupplierPay peers. This event follows a July 2014 launch, at which time 26 companies had pledged SupplierPay.

As of November 2014, the following companies have taken the SupplierPay pledge:






Cardinal Health

Chenega Corporation

Chugach Alaska


Cook Inlet Region, Inc.


Dominion Resources

Dun & Bradstreet








Johnson & Johnson

Kaiser Permanente

Kelly Services

Lockheed Martin

McGraw Hill Financial


Molina Healthcare


Nova Corp.




Rolls Royce

Rothschild North America

Sacramento Municipal Utility District



Sempra Energy Utilities


Southern California Edison




Westinghouse Electric Company



Monday, October 6, 2014

MBE magazine Gets Ready for 30th Anniversary Experience…big event planned on November 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida

The kickoff event for MBE's 30th Anniversary Experience was held in June at Philadelphia's
Convention Center during the WBENC...

It’s time to get ready for the long-anticipated celebration of MBE magazine’s 30th anniversary. The kick-off event was recently held in Philadelphia, PA at the WBENC National Business Fair & Conference, and the culmination takes place the evening before the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC)’s annual conference. On November 1, 2014, 500 guests and dignitaries are expected to converge in Orlando, FL to help celebrate 30 years of success for the magazine, which represents a nationwide forum for minority and women business owners. Founded in 1984 by Ginger Conrad, MBE magazine has been the flagship publication for supplier diversity in business, and continues to do so with its current Publisher, Barbara Oliver.

“I cannot tell you how excited we are that the big day is close at hand. The response from our readership and supplier diversity community has been beyond expectations and we want to thank them, along with our sponsors and supporters, in Orlando for being there for us these past 30 years,” said Oliver. The venue is offered by the title sponsor of the event, SeaWorld Orlando. The party begins in Ports of Call, with ethnic cuisines and live entertainment.

The party begins in Ports of Call, with ethnic cuisines and live entertainment. The event’s grand finale will wrap up at Sea World’s Antarctica, the largest in-park attraction expansion ever for SeaWorld. Guests can keep warm in the chill of Antarctica by dancing to music by Smith Entertainment prior to the appearance of a special guest artist.

In addition, the magazine’s “How Do You MBE” photo contest is well on its way. Photo submissions are still being accepted and the deadline has been extended to May 2015. The photo campaign asks those interested to submit a creative photo of themselves with an issue of the magazine and a brief caption of how and where they MBE. The winner and a guest will receive a trip to Austin, TX to attend the 30th Anniversary wrap reception during 2015 WBENC National Conference and Business Fair. Details are available at

And finally, a special cover for the magazine’s anniversary publication is being planned, with some special editorial surprises in store. Watch for its drop date on October 1, 2014.

Along with SeaWorld Orlando as the title sponsor, additional sponsors include: Macy’s, Shanklin and Sons Carpet Inc, The Walt Disney Company, General Motors Company, EventMover, Gray, Greer, Shelby & Vaughn LLC, American Honda Motor Company, HELENISTIC Enterprises, NestlĂ©, Urban Lending Solutions, Mosaic Global Transportation, GSD&M, CVS Caremark, Women’s Business Enterprise Council – West, Dayton Mailing Services, Inc., Mortgage Staffing Solutions, Southern California Edison, Grady Health System, Southern California Gas Company, ICE Safety Solutions, Nielsen, Cargill, Save-a-Lot, Travertine Spa, WBENC and AKRAYA. Oliver stated, “We can’t wait to share what we have in store for our 30th Anniversary, and hope all of our supporters can join us. We have limited space so please let us know as soon as possible if you plan to attend so we can reserve your place at the celebration.”

About MBE: Minority Business Entrepreneur (MBE) magazine is published bi-monthly by Enterprise Publishing Inc. and serves as a nationwide forum for minority and women business owners, corporations and government agencies concerned with minority and women business enterprise development. Founded in 1984 by Ginger Conrad, MBE magazine maintains a strong commitment to economic parity as a lasting solution to the ills of poverty and discrimination.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Conscious Venture Lab Extends Call for Applications

September 17 New Deadline for Enrollment of Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurs COLUMBIA, MD. September 2, 2014 Conscious Venture Lab (CVLab), the Accelerator of the David B. Wolfe Institute for Conscious Entrepreneurship, is extending its deadline for applications for entrepreneurs interested in joining the next cohort.
 As we near the end of our first cohort the CVLab is poised to become one of the leading business accelerators in the United States focused on purpose driven companies, said Jeff Cherry, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner of the Porter Group, the private investment firm that operates the program and provides funding to the companies.

Five companies will be selected for the new cohort. The CVLab will invest between $25,000 and $50,000 in each of the businesses. Applications are being accepted via the Conscious Venture Lab website September 17, 2014. The new class will commence in October 2014 and run through March 2015.

We firmly believe initiatives like the Conscious Venture Lab represent the future of innovative economic development, said Lawrence F. Twele, Chief Executive Officer of the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA). We partnered with the Porter Group because Howard County is the kind of forward thinking community where purpose driven entrepreneurs can flourish and thrive.

The CVLab has a co-working space at the HCEDAs Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship. The CVLab runs an intense consultative program that supports companies and leaders who embrace the power of capitalism as a force for good in society. Cherry was an early adopter of the move towards investing in companies operating a multi-stakeholder management system.

We are extremely pleased with the outcome of our first cohort and look forward to presenting our first five companies Self Spark, Spend Consciously, Shea Radiance, Shenami and Just Good to venture investors from around the country this coming September, said Cherry.  We know that well have an equally accomplished and exciting set of companies applying for inclusion in the next cohort as well.

The mentor and curriculum driven program provides entrepreneurs a foundation for building a company based on purpose, while also focusing on the tools and skills needed to build highly sustainable business models and high-performance cultures.

"The best thing for me has honestly been the emphasis on purpose. CVL has used this to teach us how to pitch from the heart. We can now put the why behind everything we're doing and make our story clear, said James Norris, CEO of Self Spark a behavioral research lab that is one of the graduating class companies of the CVLab. The CVLab team has also been extremely helpful in connecting us to high value contacts.

The CVLab has teamed with some of the best thinkers and entrepreneurs from around the country to provide coaching and mentorship. They include: Ed Freeman, Academic Director of the Institute for Business in Society at the Darden School, University of Virginia; Professor Raj Sisodia, TEDx speaker and author of Firms of Endearment and Conscious Capitalism; and CEOs like Tom Gardner of the Motley Fool!

In keeping with the multi-stakeholder ethos the CVLab will also be working with the HCEDA to once again include one not-for profit organization in the new cohort.

The Porter Group is dedicating this endeavor to the late David B. Wolfe, a friend and mentor. David was co-author of Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose.

 About HCEDA: The Howard County Economic Development Authority is a public-private partnership whose primary goal is to promote economic growth and stability by supporting existing businesses, targeting new businesses, and attracting corporate/regional headquarters. The Authority also maintains several programs aimed at the special needs of small and agricultural businesses. Additionally, the Authority strives to preserve the distinctive quality of life in Howard County. The Authority can be reached at

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Local Businesses, Don’t get Knocked out of the Game by Poor Planning

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
― Mike Tyson

Do you have a plan for your business’s growth or are you winging it day by day? While living spontaneously might be fun on a personal level, it doesn’t bode well for the level of stress one will endure when a lack of planning rears its ugly head.

I lived across the street from a very popular gym that has since moved to a larger, fancier location. It has been replaced by a new gym. It was very hard to park on our street because the old gym had an abundance of patrons and the new gym hardly ever has cars parked in its own parking lot let alone the street. What are the differences in the two gyms? Here are a few key differences.

  •         Advertised to the community and neighboring businesses
  •         Gave special discounts to first time clients
  •         Had clear, visible signage outside of the building 
  •         Informative website which furnished pertinent information; company, classes, pricing packages and testimonials

  •         No community advertising
  •         No special pricing to try out the gym
  •         They do have clear signage however, with no activity, they appear to be closed during normal business hours
  •         No website

A business cannot survive on slow or no business so you must be aggressive in building a strategy to reach your target market. It is important for every business to first know its target market. No two businesses are alike so your approach must represent your potential customers. Below are tips to help neighborhood businesses grow their visibility.

TIP #1
Set up your website so that those that are interested can familiarize themselves with your business.

TIP #2
Sign up for a LocalTabs, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Yelp and CitySearch accounts. Set up a business account on Facebook and suggest to your friends and people that you encounter that they "Like" your account.

TIP #3
Join the area Chamber of Commerce or community organizations and become active in your community.

TIP #4
Create flyers and disperse throughout the neighborhood with specials. This would be a great time to advertise your grand opening.

TIP #5

Throw a festive grand opening open and create an inviting environment from the street that says , WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS and we want you to visit us. 


The Gift Girl

Dana Hali moved to Los Angeles in 1999 from Houston, Texas to pursue a career in writing and eventually landed an internship at the Steve Harvey show.  During the holiday, Dana devised a plan to sell gifts to the cast and crew of the show.  Eventually she saved enough money to focus full time on her dream and formed her company now known as GiftsCetera, gained clients such as BET Networks, Universal Music Group, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutica, American Federation of Television and Radio Artist (AFTRA). Due to demand Dana later formed a second company. CeteraMarketing is a marketing company which strictly caters to corporate clients requiring promotional products, service award programs, e-stores, fulfillment and marketing material. CeteraMarketing has now added Verizon, Kaiser Permanente, Caesars Entertainment, Toyota, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Gas, AEG, Metropolitan Water and many others to its roster.   

Armed with a marketing degree from Texas Southern University, Dana and her team offer a top-notch professional approach to their clients and are marketing specialists with a knack for matching unique gifts/promotional products for every occasion with the right consumers.

Dana’s Twitter

Cetera Marketing
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