Category: Business/Finance

business and finance

THIS WAY FORWARD: John Legend Teams Up with New Profit to Help Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs Succeed via Unlocked Futures Program

by Dena Crowder

“I care deeply about issues of incarceration and criminal justice reform,” says Tulaine Montgomery, managing partner at New Profit, a philanthropic venture capital fund. It’s a passion she shares with Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter John Legend.  Like Legend, whose mother cycled “in and out of jail for charges related to drug addiction” when he was growing up, Montgomery has seen the impact of prison on families firsthand.

“This idea that there is a group of people we can *other*…that we cannot advocate for – that’s not something I’ve been able to entertain,” she explains. Montgomery believes that when someone who’s been incarcerated faces barriers preventing successful re-entry into society, it doesn’t just damage them alone.  On the contrary, it wreaks havoc on their extended family, community and nation, often for multiple generations. 

In addition, she says that treating entire groups of people as “expendable” and “counting them out” of making productive contributions makes zero economic sense. The USA spends $80 billion a year to keep people behind bars. Once paroled, even non-violent, first-time offenders struggle to find housing, jobs, or chances for further education.  Feeling locked out of opportunity and unable to sustain themselves, many end up right back in prison.  It’s a costly revolving door. Providing a path to success rather than creating a class of “throwaway people” is not only morally redemptive, it’s also economically sound. 

Tulaine Montgomery, New Profit’s Managing Partner (Photo Courtesy of New Profit)

Transforming inequities and imbalances in the criminal justice system is part of the larger mission behind Unlocked Futures, a partnership between New Profit, John Legend’s Free America campaign, and Bank of America. A 16-month accelerator program that supports entrepreneurs who have been previously incarcerated, Unlocked Futures provides funding, leadership training, business skills building, executive coaching, content development and peer support to eight members or cohorts. 

The program identifies innovative entrepreneurs whose businesses solve problems that affect those impacted by the criminal justice system.  They are uniquely qualified to address the “most pressing challenges” and break down barriers, precisely because they’ve been there, Montgomery says.   

It’s her belief that “someone who has served time—one of the most dehumanizing conditions we pay federal dollars to create—and emerged mentally intact and ready to lead a business, that’s a leader I want to know.

Topeka Sam is one of the eight inaugural Unlocked Futures cohorts and a case in point. Her organization, Ladies of Hope Ministries, helps women transition from incarceration back into meaningful participation. She knows the terrain and has insight into how to navigate the road to re-entry because she’s lived it.  

Marcus Bullock, CEO of Flikshop, a mobile app company that delivers postcards to inmates from loved ones, says the idea came to him because it was “connection” with family and his mother in particular that gave him a thread of hope during imprisonment.

Every dollar invested in correctional education returns $19.76 back to society,” according to Dirk Van Velzen, founder of the Prison Scholars Fund. Van Velzen’s organization helps inmates gain degrees and skills that are marketable in the job sector because he knows that if they’re employable, they’re far less likely to commit new crimes. The statistics are staggering: national recidivism stands at 68%. For graduates of the Prison Scholars’ Fund, that rate plummets to 4%. 

When Unlocked Futures kicked off at the end of last year, John Legend joined New Profit and the eight cohorts for a round table discussion. After listening to their stories, Legend remarked “with people like you working tirelessly to change the system and the narrative, I’m optimistic.” Continue reading “THIS WAY FORWARD: John Legend Teams Up with New Profit to Help Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs Succeed via Unlocked Futures Program”

Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289 Million to Dewayne Johnson, 46, as Jury Rules its Weedkiller Roundup Caused His Cancer

DeWayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month. (Photograph: Reuters)

by Sam Levin and Patrick Greenfield via theguardian.com

Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289 million in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

In the extraordinary verdict, which Monsanto said it intends to appeal, the jury ruled that the company was responsible for “negligent failure” and knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”.

“We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that … Roundup could cause cancer,” Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement. The verdict, he added, sent a “message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup is over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits”.

Speaking in San Francisco on Friday, Johnson said that the jury’s verdict is far bigger than his lawsuit. He said he hopes the case bolsters the thousands of similar lawsuits pending against the company and brings national attention to the issue.

Johnson’s case was particularly significant because a judge allowed his team to present scientific arguments. The dispute centered on glyphosate, which is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The verdict came a month after a federal judge ruled that cancer survivors or relatives of the deceased could bring similar claims forward in another trial.

During the lengthy trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys brought forward internal emails from Monsanto executives that they said demonstrated how the corporation repeatedly ignored experts’ warnings, sought favorable scientific analyses and helped to “ghostwrite” research that encouraged continued usage.

Continue reading “Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289 Million to Dewayne Johnson, 46, as Jury Rules its Weedkiller Roundup Caused His Cancer”

Chance The Rapper Buys Media Outlet Chicagoist to Combat Racism and Promote Local Journalism

Chance the Rapper (photo by Santiago Bluguermann / Getty Images)

by Selena Hill via blackenterprise.com

Chance the Rapper dropped a new single on Wednesday boasting about his recent purchase of a news website in order to run “racists b—–s out of business.”

The 25-year-old Chicago native announced in a song titled “I Might Need Security” that he now owns the Chicagoist.com, a local news, food, and culture outlet, rapping:

“I got a hit-list so long I don’t know how to finish, I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist b—-s out of business.”

In the politically charged song, Chance raps over a vocal loop of Jamie Foxx repeatedly singing “f–k you” and calls for the resignation of Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel. The entertainer also accuses Emanuel of granting paid suspensions to police officers who’ve fatally shot unarmed black people.

According to the Chicagoist’s sister site the Gothamist, Chance’s newly formed company, Social Media LLC, purchased the site from New York Public Radio’s WNYC station, which acquired both the Chicagoist and the Gothmaist as well as the other -ist network of sites in February. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“I’m extremely excited to be continuing the work of the Chicagoist, an integral local platform for Chicago news, events and entertainment,” said Chance in a statement. “WNYC’s commitment to finding homes for the -ist brands, including Chicagoist, was an essential part of continuing the legacy and integrity of the site. I look forward to relaunching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content.”

Laura Walker, the president and CEO of New York Public Radio, also released a statement, saying:

“We are delighted that the Chicagoist assets are finding a new home in the hands of a proud Chicagoan. WNYC has a strong commitment to local journalism and building community, and we are pleased that these assets will be used to support local coverage in the great city of Chicago.”

In addition to combatting racism, Chance’s nonprofit SocialWorks has helped the homeless, empowered Chicago public school students learning how to code, and funded college-bound high school students. Now, with Social Media LLC, Chance promises to promote local investigative journalism, diversity, and representation for people of color in the media.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/chance-the-rapper-media-racism/

Natural Hair Care Maven and Curls CEO Mahisha Dellinger to Guide Female Entrepreneurs on Summer Series “Mind Your Business With Mahisha” on OWN

Mahisha Dellinger(image courtesy OWN)

by  via deadline.com

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has greenlighted new unscripted series Mind Your Business with Mahisha, featuring Curls CEO and creator Mahisha Dellinger, for premiere Saturday, August 11 at 10 PM.

In the hour-long series, Dellinger focuses on helping female entrepreneurs take their business to the next level. In each standalone episode, Dellinger meets with entrepreneurs and guides them with inspiration and a little bit of tough love. She tests their passion and determination while demanding that they give it their all – just like she did – in order to reach their goals.

This series will feature successful businesswomen including: Gloria Williams, Founder and CEO of Footnanny pedicure products and known as Oprah’s personal pedicurist; Bad Girls Club star Mehgan James, owner of 800 West clothing line; Lia Diaz, owner of The Girl Cave, a three-store chain of beauty bars and beauty supplies in Southern California; and Chef Shalamar Lane, owner of My Father’s BBQ, a family run BBQ restaurant in Carson, California.

Dellinger of South Sacramento, California, turned a creative idea into the multi-million-dollar hair company, Curls, a family of organic hair care products targeted for women embracing their natural textures.

Mind Your Business with Mahisha will follow Iyanla: Fix My Life, (9 p.m. ET/PT) for an all-female led
Saturday night lineup on OWN, the No. 1 network on Saturday nights for African American women.

Read more: https://deadline.com/2018/07/curls-ceo-mahisha-dellinger-summer-series-own-mind-your-business-with-mahisha-1202423965/

The A.M.E. Church and 19 Black-Owned Banks Team Up to Launch New Partnership for Longterm Black Wealth

Leaders of the AME Church announced the partnership late last month. (Photo by Klarque Garrison/Trice Edney News Wire)

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent Black denomination in the U.S., has teamed up with 19 Black-owned banks across the nation to form a partnership aimed at bettering financial vitality among Black Americans.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson announced the new partnership at the 2018 Council of Bishops and General Board Meeting in Atlanta on June 26, pegging the initiative as an opportunity to “increase Black wealth,” business development and homeownership.

“This initiative will strengthen Black banks across the U.S. and increase their capacity to lend to small businesses, to secure mortgages, to provide personal lines of credit, and to offer other forms of credit to AME churches and our members,” said Jackson, president of the Council of AME Bishops. “This, of course, includes enabling members and their families to become homeowners.”

Jackson explained the partnership was inspired by an initiative formed in Washington, D.C. in 2015, called Black Wealth 2020, which he said “… is providing an economic blueprint for Black America.”

Through the initiative, faith leaders and bank presidents hope to increase deposits and loans with Black-owned banks; up the number of Black businesses from 2.6 million to 4 million; and grow Black homeownership to more than 50 percent nationwide, according to a press release.

Speaking to The Atlanta Voice, General Board Chair Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie said she believes the church-bank collaboration is especially important for African-American youth.

“We want to be able to teach fiscal responsibility before [students] get to high school,” she said. “[It’s important] to learn the value of saving, the value of investing.”

Michael Banks, former head of the National Bankers’ Association, said he sees the partnership as imperative in regards to growing Black homeownership.

“We are educating ourselves and not only teaching our people how to get a home but also how to stay there,” Banks told the newspaper. “We worry about gentrification, but we have more power than we realize. (It’s important) to (buy) a home, and hold on to a home, and then encourage all young people to do the same.”

With over 6,000 AME churches across the U.S., faith leaders say the partnership is a real opportunity to boost wealth among Black Americans if everyone takes part.

Read more: http://atlantablackstar.com/2018/07/08/ame-churches-black-owned-banks-team-up-to-launch-new-partnership-for-longterm-black-wealth/

SheaMoisture Founder Richelieu Dennis Launches $100 Million New Voices Fund For Women Entrepreneurs of Color at 2018 Essence Festival

Richelieu Dennis (photo via blackenterprise.com)

by  via blackenterprise.com

On Thursday, SheaMoisture haircare and skincare products founder Richelieu Dennis announced a $100 million fund for women entrepreneurs of color at the 2018 Essence Festival. The announcement surrounds the New Voices Fund that he’s been prepping for the past year.

“About six months ago, we announced that we were launching the new voices fund,” Dennis told the audience at the press conference during the Essence Festival. “I’m proud to say that we get to officially launch the $100 million New Voices Fund for women of color entrepreneurs here at Essence Festival this weekend. Over the past six months, we have already either invested in or committed to, over $30 million in black women entrepreneurs.”

As reported previously, Dennis sold SheaMoisture to Unilever in 2017. As part of the deal, he vowed to use the capital to create an investment fund for minority entrepreneurs, specifically women of color. Unilever and Sundial Brands, creators of SheaMoisture, agreed to contribute an initial investment of $50 million to the fund.

In addition to creating the fund to provide investment opportunities, Dennis wants to equip entrepreneurs with other resources to help contribute to the success of their companies. “We are going to leverage the businesses that we’ve built—many of you know, Shea Moisture, Nubian Heritage, Madame CJ Walker,” he said.

There has been a push of late to find ways to invest and provide women of color the funding they need to launch businesses. Women founders received less than 3% of VC dollars in 2018. Investment in black female founders—who in recent years have been starting businesses at higher rates than any other group, so they’re not hard to find—was barely discernible, at .02%.

Recently, Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of the venture fund Backstage Capital, announced that her new $36 million fund will invest exclusively in black women-led startups.

“When you talk to a group of white, affluent male investors and tell them you’re investing in women of color, the first thing that comes out is, `Oh, that’s really nice of you. That’s a great mission.’ They immediately correlate us to needing a helping hand,” Hamilton said in an interview with Fortune several months ago. “This is not that.”

Yet, women of color have been making progress in landing business funding. A recent study shows that more black women have gained access to venture capital since 2016. According to the new report, which was conducted in collaboration with digitalundividedJPMorgan Chase, the Case Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the number of black women who have raised upwards of $1 million from VC firms has more than tripled from 11 to 34. The number of startups founded by black women has also increased 2.5 times from 2016 to 2018, jumping from 84 to 227.

The New Voices Fund provides a way for women of color entrepreneurs to approach Dennis for capital infusion. Because of the parameters of the fund, he is likely looking at businesses that are looking to scale and not just an idea on a sheet of paper.

All of the information is located on the site. If you think you’re ready, log on and apply.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/shea-moisture-founder-100-million-fund-essence-festival/

T.I. is Buying Back Center Hill in Atlanta to Beautify and Improve His Old Neighborhood While Keeping it Affordable

T.I. (photo via vibe.com)

by Daryl Nelson via atlantablackstar.com

T.I. is on a mission, and it has to do with rebuilding his old neighborhood in the Center Hill section of Atlanta. In 2017 he started a real estate company called Buy Back the Block, and considering what he’s accomplished already the name couldn’t be any more fitting.

In a recent interview, Tip said that he’s partnered with fellow Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and bought the Bankhead Seafood building, a beloved eatery that closed earlier this year after five decades of being in business.

On top of that, he purchased a number of lots in his old neighborhood and bought six buildings as well. So far Tip has spent over $2 million out of his own pocket, without any outside assistance and it seems he’s just now getting started.

“I grew up in the 1980s and ’90s in the Center Hill section of Atlanta, just off Bankhead Highway,” he told Inc. “Back then that part of town was considered the lower end of the middle class. After the crack era the community stalled, and from 1994 to 2012 it became an extremely desolate area for business. There’s no major grocery store chain, there’s no fresh produce, there’s no CVS, there are liquor stores.”

But the rapper said he doesn’t want to improve the area then make it so expensive that people can’t afford it. He wants to do the opposite, so those who’ve always been there don’t have to move.

“Now, with the BeltLine and Mercedes-Benz Stadium a stone’s throw away, there’s an incentive to redevelop,” T.I. explained. “But I didn’t want it to be one of those situations where luxury condos go up, and people who are native are pushed out to the fringes because they can’t afford to live there. I wanted to provide development that would allow people from the area who love the community to be able to afford to stay.”

Tip also said he’ll turn a lot of the buildings that he purchased into “mixed-use” housing, and it’s possible that two of the properties will be ready by the close of 2019. One building will have over 100 units and the other will have less.

In addition, the Grand Hustle founder is working with veteran real estate agent Krystal Peterson so that housing costs are kept affordable, and he’s doing other things like beautifying the neighborhood.

“Green spaces and gardens are incredibly important,” said T.I. “We want a movie theater, bowling, laser tag, stuff I didn’t have. I’m trying to build a community where the people within it can be proud. If they’re proud they’ll have more of a sense of wanting to maintain it.”

“I’d love to see children walk and play and live in green spaces,” he added. “I want to see senior citizens excited about the next generation. The only way to do that is to invest. Why wait for someone else to come into a community where I went to elementary school, where I rode my bike and played?”

It seems a number of rappers share T.I.’s theory since others are investing in their neighborhoods too. Dr. Dre, for example, gave $10 million to build a performance arts center in his hometown of Compton, Calif.

And Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle invested heavily in his Crenshaw neighborhood and opened Vector 90, a co-working space for young people, entrepreneurs and creatives of all types. The rapper Slim Thug has given back to his Houston community as well by launching Boss Life Construction, a company that builds quality, affordable homes in low-income neighborhoods.

According to T.I, he doesn’t want people in the Black community to equate success with escaping local problems, and he’ll try to be an example.  “So many times our answer to fixing things is ‘I’m gonna make some money and leave all these people behind,’” he stated. “There’s rarely an intent to get rich and make where you came from better for generations to come. It’s extremely ambitious, but I’ve worked myself to a place where I should be the one leading the charge. In my mind, that’s what it means to be king.”

Source: http://atlantablackstar.com/2018/07/03/t-i-explains-why-hes-buying-back-his-old-neighborhood-no-fresh-produce-liquor-stores/

Howard University Alumni Damon Lawrence and Marcus Carey Open The Moor, a Hotel Dedicated to Black Culture

Marcus Carey and Damon Lawrence of Homage Hospitality (Photo credit: Kim Davalos)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to blavity.com, while attending Howard University, Damon Lawrence worked in the hotel industry as a front desk agent, and decided he would own his own hotels one day with one exception–his business would cater exclusively to blackness. “Black culture leads American culture and American culture leads global culture, so [we] think it’s time a hotel property reflected the best of black culture,” Lawrence.

The young entrepreneur, along with his business partner and co-founder of Homage Hospitality, Marcus Carey (also a Howard alum), opened the doors to The Moor in New Orleans, Louisiana, this week. The upscale 10-room hotel pays homage to the Moors of North Africa  through its architecture aesthetic. (You can use the promo code “Launch” through July 4th for 60% off your stay.)

Lawrence and Carey plan to open locations where black “culture is thriving;” such as Washington, D.C., Brooklyn and Detroit. The duo plans to open a 102-room property called The Town Hotel in Downtown Oakland by 2019. Even sooner, they plan to launch another property in the Treme section of New Orleans called The Freeman; it is known as the first place in the U.S. black people could purchase property.

“We want to go everywhere that culture exists and thrives, so there’s plenty on the plate”, Lawrence says.

To learn more about these men and their mission, check out their recent interview with Rolling Out.

Jay Z Reportedly Expands Empire with Launch of Marcy Venture Partners, a New Investment Firm in CA

Jay-Z performs on stage during the “On the Run II” tour opener at Principality Stadium on June 6, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Parkwood Entertainment)

by Michelle Darrisaw via essence.com

Jay Z is adding venture capitalist to his burgeoning resumé.

The rapper-entrepreneur, who is currently on a global tour with his wife, Beyoncé, reportedly filed paperwork in the state of California last month to launch an investment firm. The news of the venture fund comes just one week after the legendary rapper and  Beyoncé surprised fans with a joint album called Everything Is Love.

According to Business Insider, Jay Z is creating a fund called Marcy Venture Partners, which could be an ode to Marcy Houses, the Brooklyn housing projects he grew up in as a kid. In addition to Jay Z, Walden Venture Capital’s managing director, Lawrence Marcus, and Roc Nation’s president, Jay Brown, will also spearhead the founding venture capital firm.

However, this isn’t the first time the “Marcy Me” rapper hedged his bets in Silicon Valley. In 2017, he immersed himself in the venture capital world by launching investment platform Arrive to aid start-ups and businesses with branding support.

Notably, Jay Z’s angel investments also include funding for luggage company Away, premium sock company Stance, the stock-trading app Robinhood and private-jet company JetSmarter.

By adding more investment opportunities to his business repertoire, it looks like the hip-hop mogul, who, per Forbes, has a net worth of $900 million, is well on his way to becoming “the next Black Bill Gates in the making.”

Source: https://www.essence.com/celebrity/jay-z-launches-new-investment-firm-marcy-venture-partners

Oprah Winfrey, Apple Sign Multi-Year Content Partnership

by Joe Otterton via variety.com

Apple and Oprah Winfrey have a signed a multi-year content partnership. Under the deal, Winfrey and Apple will create programs that will be released as part of Apple’s original content lineup.

The deal marks one of the first such agreements struck between Apple and a content creator. This is also the latest addition to Winfrey’s media empire. The former hit talk show host formed her own cable network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications. The channel has become one of the fastest-growing cable networks among women and has produced hit shows like “Queen Sugar,” which boasts Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay as showrunner.

Winfrey recently extended her contract with Discovery through 2025. Sources tell Variety that Apple’s deal with Winfrey does not conflict with the Discovery agreement. Winfrey remains exclusive in an on-screen capacity to OWN with limited carve-outs, such as her role as a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes” and her recent acting work for HBO.

Via her Harpo Productions banner, Winfrey has also developed several long-running hit syndicated shows including “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Through her Harpo Films, she has produced several Academy Award-winning features including “Selma,” which was directed by DuVernay. Winfrey also had a featured role in that film, and recently starred in other films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

Winfrey also runs O, The Oprah Magazine and published the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Food, Health and Happiness” last year. As a noted philanthropist, Winfrey has contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017.

Even before the Oprah deal, Apple has a robust slate of originals prepared to launch. In addition to the previously mentioned morning show drama, the streamer is prepping shows like a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” a psychological thriller series from executive producer M. Night Shyamalan, the true crime podcast drama series “Are You Sleeping?” starring Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul, and an Emily Dickinson series starring Hailee Steinfeld among many others.

To read more: https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/oprah-winfrey-apple-content-partnership-1202848061/