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#BlkWomeninBiz: Leah Williams

Originally from Cheltenham, MD, Leah Williams made history when she graduated from Delaware State University (DSU) in 2015 as the first person to ever be awarded both the Presidential Academic Award for her 4.0 GPA all eight semesters, and the Presidential Leadership Award for her leadership throughout campus. Leah returned the following year to pursue her Masters of Business Administration degree, which she completed in just one year.

During her MBA, Leah was selected by the White House to serve as an HBCU All-Star, supporting President Obama’s Initiative to promote the excellence, innovation, and sustainability of HBCU’s. Leah represented DSU at the HBCU Conference where she had the opportunity of introducing Vice President Biden. Leah has also been featured on numerous communication platforms including AspireTV network and the The HBCU Nation Radio Show radio show.

During her time at DSU, she founded two organizations on campus, which are still active today, and served as a supplemental instructor for multiple classes, tutored many students, and mentored freshmen.

Outside of her many academic accomplishments, Leah plays nine instruments and was a dedicated member of the marching, concert, jazz, and pep bands. When available, Leah continues to provide assistance to the band program who still play some of her arrangements.

Leah has always had a business mindset and even created a student-run Christian Organization on the campus of Delaware State University. Alongside her best friend, they created F.O.R.C.E Ministry (Focusing On Renewing Christ-like Existence) in order to provide students with an opportunity to fellowship in Christ. The organization is continuing to grow and flourish on DSU’s campus today.

Leah’s accomplishments did not come easy. In 2015, one month into her MBA, Leah thought she was just sick, but ended up being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Her battle with this disease has been an extremely tough one but she strives to overcome it and be an inspiration to others.

Today, Leah is an employee of Northrop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defense technology company. She has received several company awards, and plans to continue to climb up the corporate ladder in her career, while also making an impact in her community.

Being a minority female in the aerospace defense industry holds a special meaning for Leah. She wants to represent herself and others who look like her, and show the world that race, background, and gender do not determine worth. It is the heart of a person that really makes you who you are.

Leah’s advice for other minority women considering joining the aerospace industry:

Go for it! Don’t hold back, dream big, be true to yourself , and strive to do everything with a spirit of excellence.

Leah has an impeccable work ethic and puts her all into everything she does. She is a humble, hardworking, and ambitious young professional working to leave her mark on the world.

Leah, thank you for continuing to push yourself to be an amazing representation of what a black woman in business looks like. It is because of women like you who push through adversity everyday that inspire others to keep working towards their dreams. Thank you for joining our tribe of #BlkWomeninBiz!

Do you know an amazing black woman in business climbing the corporate ladder? Send her information to info@tjecommunications.com.

Spring Clean Your Website

It’s time to spring clean your website and improve your SEO.

When was the last time you looked at your website? Or did you forget you have a website? It is so important that you keep up with trends in SEO (search engine optimizations), Google’s algorithm, updates within your industry, and transfer that knowledge into updating your website at least once per quarter.

Spring is here and it’s time to clean house! We briefly touched on the significance of updating your website in 3 Things You Can Do Today to Polish Your Digital Presence, but now it’s time to dive deeper. Follow these 5 steps to begin optimizing your website today.

1. Remove or hide unused pages.

If you have pages on your site that no longer fit your brand goals or serve a purpose, remove or hide them from your website navigation. There’s no reason for you to have pages on your website that don’t make sense for your business or that you don’t plan to update.

2. Update your website content.

Make some updates to your homepage or about us content, add more blog posts, put your pictures in your gallery, or add new testimonials. Every page on your website should have a purpose and a clear call to action. Put yourself in the customers shoes and think, “if someone landed on this page, would they understand what I want them to do?” If the answer is no, it’s time to make some changes.

3. Add your favicon.

This may seem trivial, but this simple fix is all about the customer experience. Not only does it help website visitors know they’re in the right place, it allows them to browse the web and easily get back to your site if they have multiple tabs open. Your favicon should be simple – preferably your logo. The space is limited so choose wisely. See below for examples of favicons from Facebook, MailChimp, WordPress, and yours truly.

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4. Make it pretty.

We have all left a website because of aesthetics. If your pictures are blurry, fonts are hard to read, colors too loud, you are increasing your chances to have a low site time and a higher bounce rate. I am a stickler for ugly websites. When I see a website that is not up to par, I assume this person doesn’t care about their brand image. If a business doesn’t I’m trying to work with doesn’t care how about how they look, how can I expect them to care about me?! Whether you’re completely coding your website, or using a platform with built-in templates, pay attention to readability and be mindful of the customer experience.

5. If you can’t do it right, find someone who does.

There are some things we just have to leave to experts; website development should be one of them. If you’re unable to make the necessary updates to your site to make it beautiful, functional, and SEO friendly, then you may want to pay someone who does. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing the work. I always use the example, “would you fix your own roof?” I would hope not! If the changes you want to make are too difficult to make on your own, there’s are tons of people out there who can help.

We put a lot into building our websites and they should return the favor! Shannon Mattern, your WordPress BFF, helps people build their website, build their audience, and build their income. We will have the pleasure of hearing from her on April 26th to discuss how to begin monetizing our websites. Grab your ticket today and visit her website to learn more.

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6 ways to survive the internet as a business owner

The internet can be a scary place if you don’t know how to establish your niche.

Thanks to this great invention called the “world wide web”, anything and everything we want can be accessed within milliseconds. Social media continues to grow and evolve and it’s important that your marketing approach does the same.
There are a few adjustments your business can make to survive the age of the Internet and the evolution of social media.

 

1. Become the industry expert

I’ll admit, I have tried to self-diagnos myself many times on WebMD.
Cough? Headache? Sore throat? I’m dying!

However, I choose to go to my doctors office because she is the industry expert. My doctor has went through the proper schooling and training and has earned the certifications to become a medical doctor. All of that gives her an advantage I don’t have which in turn, forces me to continuously rely on her services.

Whether you’re selling soap or providing a unique service, it is vital that you learn and understand the ins and out of your industry. This means keeping up with trends, attending conferences and webinars, and connecting with others in the field. This allows you to stay ahead of the curve and gives you the knowledge to stay one step above your competitors.

How to utilize the internet: Share a monthly tip for your customers/clients. (i.e. If you’re a doctor create a health tip of the month to share with your patients.)

2. Bring value to your work

This goes back to an old post I wrote about customer retention. Your customers should feel you value their business. How do you show that? First, you have to genuinely care about the customer experience.

From the first time a customer begins to engage with your business, to the time they complete a purchase and receive your product, you should be creating a unique customer experience. Many businesses send an email throughout the purchase process which is what people expect. But have you thought about thinking outside the box? What about personalized text messages? Or Facebook messages from your business page? When you find new innovative ways to engage with your customers, you make your business memorable and it allows you to stand out.

How to utilize the internet: See 3 ways to increase customer retention

3. Support your communities

As exciting as it may be to sit at your desk for 8 hours a day, it is important that you get involved with your local community.

Get out and join a local nonprofit, sit on a board of directors, or volunteer your time with a local organization. This is a great way to get your brand name out there as well as show that you care about the communities you do business in.

It’s one thing to say you care, but getting out there will show your customers that you care about them beyond the products and services they purchase from you.

How to utilize the internet for social good: Send a shout out to your favorite community partners and share photos when you volunteer with them.

4. Find social influencers
Have you ever posted your favorite brand to social media and encouraged your friends to try it out? Then you my friend are what is called a “social media influencer.” From those of us who only have a few hundred followers, to the big time influencers with thousands, essentially you are advertising these brands for free.

If you notice you have a repeat customer, or a person who attends every event, or watches every Facebook Live video, why not ask them to be a brand ambassador? They’re already doing the work, would it kill you to give them free stuff from time to time? Or give them a code for 10-20% off when they shop with you? You can even take it as far as giving them commission for every customer they bring your way.

How to find brand ambassadors: Find out who your repeat customers are and give them incentives for supporting your business.

5. Create better advertisements
I’m sure you remember in my post ‘To Boost or Not to Boost‘ we talked about what you should do before putting dollars behind a Facebook post. We focused on the strategy of boosting, but maybe it’s your content that needs improvement.

Is your post too wordy? Is your picture blurry? Are you taking me to your external website that is still under construction? Remember, we talked about outsourcing before. Don’t hesitate to find an expert before you invest in ads.

6. Be consistent
If you’re only posting once a month, you can’t expect to grow your brand online. Create a content calendar and remain consistent with posting.

How to remain consistent: plan ahead.

Bringing value to your work is all about showing your customer why they need you. Are you the industry expert? Do they always have an exceptional customer experience with you? Do you care about the community you work in? If you can’t answer yes to those questions then it may be time to revisit your business plan and set new goals and objectives.

#BlkWomeninBiz: Laura Kinney

As a young girl, Laura Kinney knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. Her parents and grandparents (both maternal and paternal) were business owners, so it’s safe to say it’s in her DNA.

Before starting her own business, Laura was working mundane desk jobs and cleaning houses in her spare time. This quickly grew old and she decided to attend Full Sail University where she obtained her B.S. in Media Communications.

In 2011, Laura created 3rd Generation Cleaning Service, a janitorial business providing services to office buildings, medical practices, retail stores, fitness studios, religious centers, and multi-unit common areas. Throughout her time in school, she was able to gain an abundance of skills including career development, entrepreneurship, web design, and more. These skills helped Laura to market her business, and communicate with her clients.

Laura’s janitorial career started long before 2011. As a child she would work alongside her maternal grandmother, owner of Crawford’s Cleaning Service. She would help her clean churches, doctor offices, and schools. Her paternal grandparents, Sherman and Mattie Bell Kinney, were owners of the first black-owned janitorial service in the city of Cincinnati, S.K. Janitorial Service. Laura’s parents, John and Pamela, are the owners of The Janitorial Section, continuing the family business.

If you haven’t caught on, the name 3rd Generation Cleaning Service is due to the fact that Laura is continuing the family legacy by being a third generation janitorial business owner. But don’t be fooled! Just because Laura has the natural ability to run a business, doesn’t mean she didn’t take the necessary steps to truly build her brand.

First, she did her research to ensure no one else had her business name. Next, she ordered her business cards and created a website. After that, she began to work on obtaining client and building her network.

Like many of us, it’s hard to not doubt yourself from time to time. Laura is combating this by surrounding herself with like-minded business owners within her industry. Having this network gives her the ability to ask industry specific questions to a group that fully supports one another.

Have you ever heard the quote, “I am my ancestors wildest dreams” — that’s what being a black woman in business means to Laura. She is making waves in a male dominated industry and is proud to honor her family.

Laura’s advice for those curious about starting their own janitorial business is to do your research. There is a lot more that goes into this business than the obvious, and it’s something you should make sure you are truly prepared for.

If you’re looking for a new cleaning service for your business, make sure you keep 3rd Generation Cleaning Service at the top of mind.

Laura, thank you for taking the time to join the #BlkWomeninBiz series. I look forward to your continued success!

Stay in the loop on the next feature. Join the #BlkWomeninBiz mailing list today.

28 Days of Black Women in Business

Black History Month is over, but that does not mean the celebration has to stop.

In February we celebrated 28 black women in business who are paving the way for us all. The month may be over, but we’re still celebrating women business leaders who are climbing the corporate ladder, and those branching out into their own businesses. Some of the daily features included our favorite local ladies, Morgan A. Owens, Kelsea Wiggins, and Adrienne Ruff. In addition to our international players, Valeisha Butterfield, Angela Yee, and Oprah Winfrey.

These past 28 days have allowed me to reflect on my own journey. I’ve started to not only think of ways I can improve, but how I can celebrate and support women like these every day of the year. It has been my pleasure to highlight these women and I am grateful for all of you that followed along every day.

It’s so important that we continue to celebrate and support one another. Representation truly matters and when little black girls see us prevailing, they will know that they, too, can be a top executive at a major corporation, or be asked to speak at conferences across the country.

So, how can we continue the celebration? Simply liking, commenting, sharing, and purchasing from the ladies we love can go a long way! If WE don’t, who will?

With that being said, I challenge you to visit the @blkwomeninbiz Instagram and learn more about these amazing women. As we move right along into Women’s History Month, stay tuned for more full Black Women in Biz features right here! Stay in the loop by joining my mailing list.

Want to be the next Blk Women in Biz feature? Send your resume, website, and supporting documents to info@tjecommunications.com.

Make Your Seat Unique

There’s a seat at the table for all of us, you just have to find out what makes yours different.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about her business idea and she was feeling discouraged because there are so many people doing what she wants to do. I have seen other people have this same complaint.

“I can’t do ____ because _____ is already doing that!”

“I won’t succeed in ____ because there’s too many of those!”

Karl Benz created Mercedes-Benz in 1883, Henry Ford founded Ford in 1903, and Messrs Rolls and Royce came shortly after in 1906.

What if Toyota, Volkswagen, and Honda thought it was too late for them because three companies had already been established? See where I’m going with this?

There’s a seat for all of us at the table, you just have to determine what makes your seat unique. Here’s how to do it:

1. Who is your product for?
Sure, Ralph Lauren sells Sunglasses, and so does Oakley. It’s clear that their target audience is two very different people. Understand the WHO, so you can properly market the WHY!

2. Branding. BRANDING. Branding.
Yes, branding. If you don’t know by now, branding is EVERYTHING! Branding is the difference between something being high-fashion, and sold in your local Wal-Mart. Both can be equally great! However, you have to determine what image you want to put out into the world.

3. Get your marketing together!
The way you market your product, will determine who buys it. If you’re target audience are affluent persons, but you’re marketing is not on point, how can you expect those persons to purchase your product? From packaging, to product placement, and advertising, this all goes into what sets your brand apart from someone else’s.

Paint your seat gold, pink, or throw glitter on it! Whatever you do, make it unique and make it yours. There’s a sit at the table for all us to win!

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#BlkWomeninBiz: Sierra Thomas

The #BlkWomeninBiz series sets out to inspire the worlds future black entrepreneur through stories of triumph and failure. This series features black women from all walks of life as they embark on a sometimes scary, but fulfilling, road of entrepreneurship and professional development.

Sierra was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and has known she wanted to own a business since she was a young girl. Growing up she always had the passion for entrepreneurship and at age 11, worked on the weekends with her grandfather in his network marketing business. In 2010, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Youngstown State University, and obtained her MBA from Franklin University in 2012.

Throughout her time working in Corporate America, she developed her skills in accounting and problem solving, and realized her gift in numbers, was her calling to create her own solution to helping people: Touché Financial Solutions, LLC.

sierraTouché Financial Solutions, LLC helps new and established businesses create accounting systems tailored to the scope of their business needs and operations. Sierra’s business philosophy is to support, educate, and mentor both her personal, and business clients.

Touché Financial Solutions, LLC offers a variety of services including financial assessments, budget analyses, and strategic planning. For individuals, her company will work with you to reach your personal goals, and get your finances back on track.

Sierra makes it a point to continuously provide support and education to her clients through her Tax Tip Tuesday’s and Tax Tip Thursday’s, in addition to hosting in-person events, and speaking engagements – like her upcoming mini training at Respect the Hustle: Taxes and Brunch.

Don’t be fooled by the success Sierra has had. She most certainly put blood, sweat, and tears behind building her business. There were times that she felt “in over her head” and believed that no one supported her vision. Through the power of prayer and trusting God, she was able to push through. Thankfully she also got an accountability partner, and has been able to build a network of entrepreneurs within her field.

When asked if being a black woman in business held any special meaning for her, Sierra responded:

Absolutely! It is a great honor and privilege to not only be an African-American business owner, but an African American Accountant. The business industry has always been a Caucasian- male dominate industry and now women, especially African-American women are breaking through that glass ceiling. I am so proud to be apart of this monumental movement!

Sierra is truly passionate about her business, and the businesses she gets to support on a daily basis. In regards to other African American Accountants considering starting their own business, she encourages you all to “go for it!”

Never limit yourself because someone else has a similar idea. God created you and no one can do what you do, like you do it!

Sierra, thank you for trusting in your purpose and choosing to push through! Thank you for being amongst the resilient #BlkWomeinBiz.

Join Sierra for the first Respect the Hustle event of 2018 for Taxes and Brunch! Tickets are on sale – click here to get your ticket today.