Women Entrepreneurs and Celebrating Black History Month

Women have created businesses and impacted history, the economy, and personal lives throughout history.  As a Black woman entrepreneur myself, I am highlighting a few historic, successful and impactful Black female entrepreneur who  paved the way for Black women and all women to become entrepreneurs.  There are 24.9% Black women entrepreneurs (catalyst.org).  Many people have heard of Madam CJ Walker (1867–1919),  a millionaire who built a business on hair-care products. I want to share about the women most have not heard of, except of course Suzanne de Passe, whom most people have heard of.   

Although many details of Mary Ellen Pleasant’s (1814–1904) life are obscure, she lived for a time as a free woman in Boston before coming to San Francisco at the height of the Gold Rush in 1849. Taking advantage of the opportunities available in the booming new city, Pleasant started working as a cook for wealthy clients but soon began opening laundries, boardinghouses, and restaurants, using the $45,000 she inherited upon the death of her first husband. Her establishments were patronized by many of San Francisco’s newly  minted elite, enabling Pleasant to interact with the city’s most powerful businessmen and politicians. An ardent abolitionist and racial advocate, Pleasant employed many African-Americans and used her businesses as a way to promote Black employment throughout San Francisco. 

Elleanor Eldridge (1784–c. 1845) stands out as an impressive success story from the beginning of American history. The youngest of seven daughters born to Hannah Prophet and Robin Eldridge, a slave who won his freedom fighting in the Revolution, Eldridge began working as a laundress at age ten following the death of her mother. Industrious and naturally bright, she quickly became adept at arithmetic, spinning, weaving, cheese making, and all types of housework. Drawing on her skill with numbers, at age nineteen Eldridge took over her deceased father’s estate and quickly opened a business with her sister in Warwick, Rhode Island, weaving, nursing, and making soap. Realizing that investment and versatility were the keys to success, she used their profits to purchase a lot and build a house, which she rented out for forty dollars a year. Eldridge eventually settled in Providence, where she opened a profitable business whitewashing, painting, and wallpapering. Her hard work and enterprising nature enabled her to eventually purchase several houses in Providence for rent income. 

A strong voice for education, Maggie Lena Walker (1867–1934) became the first African American female bank president.  Walker was a member of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an organization founded by a former slave dedicated to the uplifting of African Americans. After becoming leader of the Order when it was on the verge of financial ruin, Walker became the first female bank president in the United States by founding the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903. Succeeding in her twin goals of revitalizing the Order of St. Luke and encouraging economic security for the black community of Richmond, Virginia, Walker grew her business by welcoming small depositors and helping to finance black home ownership. Her success is evidenced by the fact that the bank, now named the Consolidated Bank and Trust Co., remains open today as the oldest continuously black-owned bank in the United States. True to the Order of St Luke’s goal of uplifting African Americans, Walker went on to found other businesses and advocate tirelessly for black rights and women’s suffrage throughout her life. 

Suzanne de Passe (1946 – ) has won numerous awards, including Emmys, Peabodys, and Golden Globes. She is so well known for her managerial abilities that Harvard Business School has conducted two studies of her management style. The twentieth century has seen the slow emergence of Black women in positions of corporate authority, a number of them in the entertainment industry. Suzanne de Passe was one of the first African-American women to become a power player in the music, television, and film industries. Beginning her career as a creative assistant at Motown Records in the 1960s, de Passe rose to become a vice president of the company before turning her attention to screenwriting. After achieving acclaim for works such as “Lady Sings the Blues”, the successful film biography of Billie Holiday, de Passe eventually founded her own entertainment company, de Passe Entertainment, which primarily produces material for television. Her ability to balance her projects’ creative integrity with the bottom line has proven so successful that Harvard Business School has conducted two studies of her managerial style. De Passe’s versatility, creative integrity, and sound business sense has enabled her to become one of the most influential women in the entertainment industry today.  Courtesy the Austin/Thompson Collection, by permission of De Passe Entertainment.

 There were many women to choose from, and it was hard to narrow it down to just a few for this article.  I chose women from diversified fields and eras to give a snapshot of the impact that Black women have made to the business/entrepreneurial world, not just for Black women but for all female entrepreneurs and business owners.  Keep reaching toward your dreams.  Women have sacrificed for us to live our dreams, build our businesses and make an impact. 

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Hello 2014

2013 was a year of change for me and for her dimensions. Change can run the gamete of emotions. Many of you shared your change experiences with me in response to the October newsletter I sent out. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for being part of her dimensions and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your world.

I wish you peace, health and happiness in 2014.

Happy New Year!

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The Spirit of Thanksgiving – At Work


When we were little, we were reminded to always say “please” and “thank you”.  As we got older, we didn’t have someone to remind us and we have gotten away from saying “thank you” as often as we need to.       

If you want to get the best out of an employee, a colleague or even a child, I think that acknowledgement is very powerful. Basically, everyone wants to feel appreciated and wants to be acknowledged for what they have done.

Too often we focus on what someone has not done or what they have done “wrong.” I think to help a person grow into being good at, or even the best at, whatever they are doing, we need to focus on what they have done well; meaning acknowledge and thank them for it. If there are areas of improvement needed, then we can devise a plan-together-on capitalizing on their strengths and extending those strengths into areas that need more work. (I don’t believe in weaknesses, only areas that need a little more attention or development.)

The next time you want to approach an employee or colleague about something they have done, start off with acknowledging. It is important to be specific. “Thank you for stepping in when we were short on help.” “Thank you for catching that error; you saved us a lot of time/money.” You do not want to make a general acknowledgement of “good job.” Be specific!

When we acknowledge someone and they feel valued and appreciated, that is powerful and it inspires them to want to do more and/or better.

During this time of Thanksgiving and beyond this time, let’s remember to acknowledge and thank everybody, both colleagues and family, for what they have done or said.

Happy Thanksgiving!



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A Time for Change

 Change – something most people do not like or are afraid of. There is a saying, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Change is inevitable. So, why don’t people like change?

People want to know what is going to happen. They have a comfort in knowing what was and what they think will be. Often people fight change before they even know what the change is and how it will impact them.

The unfortunate thing is, if one does not get on board with change, you may get left behind, be “left in the cold” or locked out entirely. In the past, people who had manufacturing jobs had a rude awakening when they did not get on board with automation. Those who worked passed their fear or dislike for change retooled themselves, learned the automation and made themselves marketable. Those who didn’t, well, you know what happened to them.

Business is ever-changing. If we are going to stay competitive, we have to get on board with change. This also may mean we need to retool/reinvent ourselves. As employees we always need to continue to enhance our value-added. As employers we need to see what will keep us in the market and the “go to” product or service. As entrepreneurs we have to do both.

Fall is the fourth quarter of business. It is also a time when the earth is changing. Leaves are falling, colors are changing and the temperature is changing. Some people are changing their residency (snowbirds).

How are you embracing change during this fourth quarter, during this earthly change? How are you preparing yourself for change? What are you going to do differently to have value-added, keep yourself marketable, and move your business and/or employees forward?

 There is a time for every season…there is a time for change. Is your time now? Rather than “fall back” I encourage you to fall forward by embracing change.

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Back to Basics: Saying “please” and “thank you”

When we were young, we were taught to always say “please” and “thank you” and were constantly reminded about saying these. But somewhere along the road to adulthood, we seem to have gotten very lax about saying these two simple, but important, phrases.

At work we tell people what to do and believe we can because our job is to “manage” people.  We don’t tend to thank them because, after all, it’s their job and they’re supposed to do “xyz.” Or we do a generic thank you by simply saying “good job.”  At the end of the day, most employees want to feel valued and appreciated.  I’m of the belief that we manage projects and lead people. What harm is it to be a polite and appreciative leader?

If we would take a few moments and simply say, “Thank you for staying late the other night.  I hope you made it to your son/daughter’s game on time” or “Thank you for working through lunch.  We were able to get the shipment to UPS in time.”  Be specific, and even if it is the person’s job, thank them anyway.  I’m sure you have experienced during your working life people who did not do their jobs, or at least not at the level expected.  So when employees do their jobs and do them well, aren’t you thankful?  Well, then, thank them.

Think about a time when your supervisor called you into their office.  Did you get excited about the possibilities or feel a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach thinking “uh-oh, what did I do?”  Usually the latter is the feeling most employees get. Why? Because rarely are employees called in to see their supervisor to be thanked for doing a good job.  It doesn’t take much to change this scenario.

I encourage you, if you are not already doing so or not doing so on a frequent basis, to ask rather than tell and to thank your employees more often.  Show appreciation by maybe buying lunch once a week or once a month, or providing coffee and beverages one Friday, just to say “thank you.”  Small things make big differences.  Think about the productivity of your employees when they feel they are valued and appreciated.

Remember what you learned as a child, because it is still critical to business success…say “please” and “thank you.”


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How To Move On After The Holidays

Now that the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, visiting, stressing and overeating is over, what do you do with yourself?

Are you a person who makes New Year’s resolutions that rarely get fulfilled? Do you have angst over the fact that you overspent for the holidays and now you are facing the bills from all the gifts you bought? Are you already thinking about next Christmas (you know who you are).  Do you have high hopes for a better 2013?

Before we address some specific issues, let’s look at some overall skills that will help you enter 2013 in a good space. First, INHALE/EXHALE. Secondly, be still. Third, reflect.

It is important that you breathe.  Inhale peace and exhale stress. We tend to breathe shallow and breathing is life to our body. So take time to breathe fully and completely. You breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. Let it in slowly. Let it out slowly. You need to be intentional about taking time to breathe daily.  Really!  You want to know how important breathing is, ask someone who is asthmatic or has breathing issues what it feels like not to be able to take a full breath.

We are told to “be still.”  You’ve heard me say this before. We’ve become human doers and we were created as human beings. We need to learn to simply BE. We need to remember to stop and to be still. Yet we feel living is about being in constant motion. Not so. Try this exercise: turn out the lights, light a candle or use a battery-operated candle, and just be still.  Focus on the flame. Listen to your inner voice – your inner spiritual voice. Try this for at least 5 minutes.

Reflect.  Try journaling your thoughts.  How was 2012 for you?  What went well and what would you have liked to have done differently? Did you spend time with the people who are important to you – including YOU? Did you spend your time when and where you wanted?  This is also where you can address the questions above.  Don’t beat up on yourself. Simply listen as you reflect, access and then decide “now what?”

Here’s to a happy, healthy and peaceful 2013! 


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Farewell to 2012


I hope your holidays were full of love, peace and happiness. Even though 2012 had its share of troubling events, there were a lot of wonderful things that happened as well. I hope as you reflect on the past year that you have warm feelings and pleasant memories, and I thank you for being a part of my life.



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What’s Going On?

In the early 70’s the R&B singer, Marvin Gaye sang a song called, “What’s Going On?”   The first two verses say:

“Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, yeah

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today”

I think these words are still relevant today.  We keep asking the question, “what’s going on?”  There are too many tragedies happening and too may tears being shed.   There are wars and rumors of wars.  The weather is out of the norm, fires are raging and too much water is flowing.

With all of this, let’s try to keep our heads up, our hearts and minds open and look at the blessings that we’ve had and the hope that 2013 will be a better year.  Let’s start today doing at least one kind thing to just one person.  Let’s play kind forward.  It only takes one person to touch another person.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing, something small can have a huge impact.  Quoting another song from back in the day, “reach out and touch somebody’s hand. Make this world a better place, if you can.”

Peace and love during this holiday season.  Fridden, Der Frieden,  La Paix,  Achukma, Shalom,  Heiwa,  Salam,  La Paz, A Paz Galician.



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Michelle was on WTNH Good Morning CT – Simplifying Your Life for the Holidays

For those who do not live in CT, here is an opportunity to view Michelle in action and also to gain some tipis on how to simplify your life for the holidays.  Please click on the link to view the segment.  We would love to hear your comments.

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Simplifying Your Life During the Holidays

Life on the East Coast has definitely been interesting to say the least. Our hearts, prayers and best wishes go out to the victims of Sandy, as well as the victims of the floods on the West Coast.

As the holidays are upon us and with our hectic lifestyles these days, people often lament that they don’t know how they are going to get through the holidays. There is so much to do: shopping, meal planning, home decorating and the often dreaded holiday visits.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Is it okay to take my children shopping with me?
  • When is the best time to shop?
  • How do I balance work, family, shopping, holiday traditions, etc?
  • On the holiday we are around so many people, how do I take time for me?

Imagine having a more enjoyable holiday season with less stress AND time to relax and doing something for yourself. I will be featured on WTNH Good Morning CT Weekend this Saturday, December 8th at 7:23 a.m. Tune in to get some tips on simplifying your life during the holidays. I will provide a link for you after the show in case you miss it.

Remember to take at least 15 minutes a day for you!

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