BLAACC Magazine - Leadership Issue (2022, Issue 1)

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Serving Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

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The past two years of the pandemic have shined a light on racial and ethnic health disparities. The Center for Closing the Health Gap continues its mission to reach tens of thousands of residents with powerful, life-saving information and resources. grassroots, one-on-one connections to multimedia outreach, we work to empower our neighbors to take control of their own health and help their friends and families do the same. build a culture of health in this region!

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Table of Contents BLAACC Page 5Spring 2022 African American Chamber of Commerce PRESIDENT & CEO Eric H. Kearney, Esq. DIR. OF INITIATIVESTRANSFORMATIVE&RELATIONSHIPS Briston Mitchell DIR. OF MEMBERSHIP SERVICES Gregory Parker SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Cheniece Wilson CONTACT AACC 2303 Gilbert Ave. Cincinnati, OH 513-751-990045206 info@ © 2022 Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce. The contents of this magazine, and any related materials, may not be reproduced, republished, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission of the AACC. FROM THE PUBLISHERS OF The Cincinnati Herald PUBLISHER Walter L. White EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Briston Mitchell CREATIVE DIRECTOR Brittany Love Fletcher DIGITAL ART COORDINATOR Cheniece Wilson PROMOTIONS COORDINATOR Gregory Parker REPORTERS Laura A. Carr, Andria Y. Carter, Larissa England, Mac Lewis, Valencia Moses, Vicki Prichard, Skip Tate, Nahamani D. Yisrael PHOTOGRAPHER Pete Coleman CONTACT THE HERALD thecincinnatiherald.com513-961-3331 Photographs by Cherie Arvae and Pete Coleman (Cover), ArtWorks (TLDR), Pete Coleman (BM), Carol Ruffins (PO). P18 Cincinnati’sFeeding Soul Carolyn Wallace shares her passion for food and music with Cincinnati. P6 Letter from Eric H. Kearney, AACC President & CEO P38 FWIW Directory Looking to increase your visibility or find a minority-owned business? The AACC directory supports entrepreneurs in our region for specific products and services. P34 Blossoms Florist Growth spurred by ability to adapt and remain flexible in uncertain times. Photo Essay: P10 Women empowerment Self-care is important to creating business longevity. P11 Leadership through art Creativity sparks joy in creating art that works. P12 Cultivate the HERO HERO worship begins within. P13 La Soupe to the rescue Food insecurity addressed one meal at a time. P14 NKY & AACC partner Partners build bridges focusing on business empowerment. P15 Up the culture Employees prioritize needs to benefit company. P29 If you build it, they will come Rico Grant finds success with every business venture he takes on. P21 On the rise with Zaire Sims Resilience is the key to a long, successful career. P24 Envisioning a better world for children Creating opportunities for Cincinnati’s youngest learners. P26 Reimagine recruiting young talent Peerro helps young adults become the qualified talent employers are seeking.

Our Mission is to establish, cultivate, and strengthen consumer and business relationships; provide access to major corporate and govern ment markets for our members to help increase business opportunities; aid in the professional development of our members; and assist in devel oping strategic partnerships and alliances for the purpose of strengthen ing and growing the African American business community. We will honor entrepreneurs, public and private business owners, and corporate insiders who are creating opportunities for others. BLAACC will also highlight the achievements of African American business owners who are lesser-known contributors to building a more vibrant business ecosys tem. You will discover stories of determination, inspiration, and leadership.

A Tribute of Black Businesses

The Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce is launching BLAACC Magazine to celebrate change agents who are making an extraordinary impact in our region. BLAACC connects you with business leaders and pioneers who are helping trans form Cincinnati. In addition, each issue will highlight visionaries in South western Ohio and Northern Kentucky who can offer thoughtful insights into the varying needs of growing businesses.

Eric H. Kearney President & CEO

The African American Chamber aligns the magazine’s content with relevant topics to facilitate ongoing business discussions around equity, diversity, and inclusion. We believe every capable business should have a chance to move the conversations forward. Our Vision is to be the #1 Chamber in the United States advocating for Afri can American businesses in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. You can be part of a unique conversation driving business opportunities in Greater Cincinnati. Join us in celebrating the achievements of Black businesses and help us identify and grow this vital ecosystem.

Welcome Letter BLAACCPage 6 Spring 2022 creates immersive digital experiences for brands and non-profit organizations. Contact today by visiting or @ManageCincy across all social media platforms. Ready to take your business to #LevelNext?

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BLAACC Page 9Spring 2022 P10 P11 P12 empowermentWomen Leadershipthroughart theCultivateHERO P13 P14 P15 La Soupe to the rescue Northern Kentucky & AACC partnership Up culturethe

Garri Davis photographed by Pete Coleman

By Andria Y. Carter

On May 14, 2022, the H.E.R. Conference will be held at the Summit Hotel, Davis with her co-founder Katrina Brown, want to empower female busi ness owners while sharing a vision of providing female entrepreneurs with resources to improve their business, in crease profits, and reduce busi ness-related stress. The confer ence is a chance to network with fellow entrepreneurs and have a deeper understanding of the importance “It’s a lot of work,” Davis said smiling. She noted that even though there are only two of them planning the H.E.R. conference they hope to take it to several cities to help and empower women. Davis said as a follow-up to the confer ence in Cincinnati she wants to hold a retreat to help women implement what they learn at the conference. Davis explained the best way to help empower women is to teach them what to expect as business owners, the pitfalls and how to prepare or react to a crisis when you least expect it.

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“You need free time. I try to mediate as much as possible, even if I get two minutes before I jump out of bed to start my day. You really must make time for yourself,” Davis said. Now, Davis wants to help fe male entrepreneurs or businessowners develop their strengths, expand their footprint and network and how to deal with competitors in their industry. It is important for business own ers to have their heart and eth ics be in alignment with how to do business. Having a healthy mindset and be self-motivated will ultimately create revenue streams and healthy profits.

As business owners, you need to take time to shut out the noise of life, she explained.

For example, as owner of Water Lily Learning Centers, Davis said the pandemic im pacted her as a business owner, you never expected. Safety is your number one priority, and that pushes you to work hard to make sure your staff is safe, your clients are safe, and you provide the neces sary equipment to ensure that safety. It was hard, she said. Davis said she pushed herself to be resourceful, espe cially searching for personal protection equipment (PPE). Davis said she and her staff were scared and nervous trying to understand what CO VID is and keep the business open. She noted that if the centers close, she would have had a hard time reopening them. They had to stay open because the kids needed us, The COVID-19 pan demic stretched Davis business skillsets in ways she didn’t think it was possible. Operating her two daycare centers – Water Lily Learning Center – during a pandemic was not easy. Keep ing her clients and staff safe while seeking person protection equipment or PPE is not easy. She like other small business owners applied and received a Paycheck Protection Program helped to ease the financial stress Davis experi enced as she strived to keep her staff employed. The many stresses that Davis experi enced at the height of pan demic stretched her skillset as a leader, a manager, as a business owner, but also as a consultant and coach. This got her think ing about how female business owners develop and grow their business skillsets.

Garri Davis stays busy. As an enterprising entrepreneur She continually tries to find ways to incorporate her interests into business opportunities. As Davis works to empower her self, she is striving to empower other female business owners and entrepreneurs. The busy entrepreneur is the owner of Water Lily Learn ing Center with two locations in Pendleton and Eastgate, and the Garri Davis Agency, a consulting firm. Davis knows first-hand the stress of run ning several business, but the COVID-19 pandemic added extra stress and moments of

Theopportunity.truetest of a leader is how you survive a crisis. That means your skillset, emotional state and reaction to the situa tion can make or break you. For Davis, the pandemic stretched her business skillset, but it also forced her to take some downtime and allowed her think, find clarity and then developledtunity.opporThathertothe 2022 Lead

The Lead (Heart,H.E.R.

En ergy, and Rev enue) Conference is an embodiment of a comment Davis heard Oprah Winfrey said many years ago, “Surround yourself with people who uplift you and call forth your best.” These inspiring words helped Davis get through the pandemic.

Garri Davis strives to empower women

ArtWorks is an award-winning Greater Cincinnati nonprofit that transforms people and places through investment in creativ ity. The organization collaborates with community organizations and residents, businesses, governments, foundations and nonprofits to build creative works of art that bolster the region’s global reputation as an arts destination.

ArtWorks’ recent move from downtown Cincinnati to their current location in Wal nut Hills was the result of listening to what her team needed in terms of creative space and finding a neighborhood that could house them. ArtWorks is now located in a building that sits near the corner of Gilbert Avenue and E. McMillan Street at a cross road into the community. The organization also has a public gallery to display art and host community events.

Colleen Houston opens doors for others. As CEO and Artistic Director of ArtWorks she knows the importance of providing access. Her personal journey has enhanced her leadership style. Houston now leads the organization where she started as an 18year old youth apprentice creating public art and community impact projects.

Houston became an ArtWorks Teaching Artist and Lead Artist after earning her degree in Public and Social Art at Warren Wilson College just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Later, as Chief Program ming Officer, she helped launch ArtWorks’ award-winning mural program producing 200 permanent outdoor public murals in 37 Cincinnati neighborhoods and seven nearby cities. In 2020, she became Art Works ArtWorksCEO.employs professional artists who inspire and mentor diverse teams of youth, ages 14-21, helping them build 21st century career-readiness skills. In addition to the murals, these teams have completed more than 14,000 public and private art projects in its 25 years. Houston leads by listening intently to oth ers. She is genuinely interested in what people have to say, especially young artists. She conducts neighborhood ‘listening tours’ to guide her and her team in planning ArtWorks community outreach programs.

“We have internal conversations that lead to engaging the community in discussions about what and where they would like to see a mural placed,” Houston says. “We do our research before selecting an artist to design a mural and work with youth apprentices on completing it.” A recently completed mural in Walnut Hills is on one side of the former Manse Hotel. Designed by Cedric Michael Cox and completed by Teaching Artist Adoria Maxberry of Most

The most visible outcomes are the murals located throughout Cincinnati and neigh boring communities.

Continual listening and learning fosters partnerships and community respect. Ac cording to Houston, no voice is too small to be heard. For some, the ArtWorks murals are vibrant pops of color in growing neighborhoods. For others, it is their first exposure to artists who have successfully built creative careers.

By Laura A. Carr

(ABOVE) ArtWorks student iterns.. (RIGHT) Manse Hotel in Walnut Hills. (BELOW) Colleen Houston. Photos provided

BLAACC Page 11Spring 2022

OutGrowing with seven Youth Apprentices, this historic hotel location was chosen for its significance as a safe lodging for Afri can American travelers in Victor Green’s, Negro Motorists Green Book.

“My goal is to share best practices and create safe spaces for learning,” states Houston. “ArtWorks can continue its posi tive impact by empowering and encourag ing others to lead. Remaining open to the diverse voices in our communities can only strengthen our work. Call us or stop by, we’re listening.”

Leadership through art

Efficacy is about your confidence in your capacity to control what you can in order to move forward. You have skills and abilities that you have activated to be where you are today. Do not let luck get all the credit! Acknowledge your exper tise, your experience, and your education. Reflect upon the last time you experienced success. What helped you to succeed? What things could you do again? Whose success do you admire and how can you make moves like them in the ways that fit with your situation? What things are within your control that you could arrange to position yourself to be success ful? Resilience is more than a trendy word.

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Historically, African Americans have been resilient out of necessity. Yet as a leader, you can choose resilience as a strategy. Resilience is rooted in reality. You face the facts but can choose to grow through what you go through. You may get knocked down, but you decide to get back up again. You live and learn. A “no” right now is could teach you a powerful lesson that equips you for the “yes” you have been waiting and working to receive.

By Dr. Valencia Moses Who are you? Who can you become?

Dr. Valencia Moses:

These two questions form the basis of PsyCap or Psychological Capital. Cultivat ing and growing PsyCap, includes these four areas that spell out HERO: Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, & Optimism. HERO is not about saving yourself or others. In stead, it is all about how you show up and how you can be more satisfied. Investing in people is one of the top ways to grow the success you see in life and in business. You are a leader. You have influence. You can unleash the HERO within and influence others to HERO. Hope is about having an expectation about future positive outcomes happening for you and those you lead. Hope is not an “I hope it will work out attitude”. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope. To put it another way, when challenges arise on your way to meeting a goal, do you activate hope that you will find a path that leads to goal completion? What are the smaller steps you can take along the way that will position you to succeed? Hope provides motivating energy. Developing SMART goals can help you chart out your hope journey as you celebrate the progress you make along the way to the desired outcome.

Cultivate the HERO yourselfwithinandothers

Dr. Valencia Moses is the Founder of Vibrant Coaching, that provides encouraging accountability to help clients move from where they are to where they want to be personally and/or professionally. Clients who choose Vibrant Coaching gain in creased clarity, decreased stress, greater confidence, and more hope for the future. Dr. V is a Brand Ambassador for the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce. Be the BEST you on purpose! Visit today to learn more and schedule your free consultation today.

Optimism is believing that good things will happen for you and to you in the future. You enjoy the good right now and know more opportunities await in the days ahead. Can you see your current suc cesses? Can you envision what succeeding next month, next quarter, in 6 months from now, or next year looks like? As Zig Ziglar used to say, “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win”!

The process begins with La Soupe coordi nating 300 volunteers to rescue food from different retail, wholesale, packaging, and distribution partners across the region. The food is brought back to La Soupe where it is weighed and sorted based on condition and transformability (i.e., some items do not need processing to be shared with the community, like boxes of cereal, yogurt cartons, etc.).

In 2020, La Soupe moved into a 10,000 square-foot facility in Walnut Hills to ex pand its community partnerships and serve the growing number of people suffering from food insecurity. Today, the organiza tion partners with more than 135 local civic and social-service agencies across 41 zip codes in the Greater Cincinnati and North ern Kentucky area who help distribute food to those in need. On average, 20,000 pounds of food is rescued per week, and over 15,000 servings are produced by the kitchen team. More growth is expected for La Soupe in the near future. Ohio Governor Mike DeW ine believes that the organization’s chefdriven model is a solution to food insecu rity in the state. Suzy feels that the passion and commitment of La Soupe’s staff and volunteers are what earned the organization notice from DeWine.

La Soupe to the rescue: Local nonprofit tackles food waste and hunger

Fresh food, such as produce and meat, is used by La Soupe’s chef team to create restaurant-quality “soupes” and meals to share with those experiencing hunger. This step is key in the process, as not everyone knows what to do when they are left alone in the kitchen with, for instance, an egg plant, a pound of dried lentils, or a whole frozen chicken. Other times, individu als may not have access to a functioning kitchen or even the equipment to prepare these ingredients.

TL ; DR BLAACC Page 13Spring 2022 Story and photos by Mac Lewis, Social Media Manager, La Soupe Chef Suzy DeYoung was born with what she refers to as her ‘family genetic disor der’ of loving to cook. She was destined to become a chef. Suzy’s father, Chef Pierre Adrian, was the Executive Chef at the Maisonette in Down town Cincinnati, the first and only Mobil five-star restaurant in the city’s history. Both of her grandfathers were renowned chefs in New York City, as well. In addition to her cooking credentials, Suzy has always desired to help others. Dur ing the 25 years she spent as a successful restaurateur and caterer, she was haunted by two specific issues: food waste and food insecurity.

“I owned a restaurant with my sister that was located adjacent to a Kroger building, and I saw food being thrown away often that was in good condition,” says Suzy. “It was just heartbreaking to see such good food go to waste when there was a need for it Foodelsewhere.”insecurity and food waste plague Cin cinnati; the city has the fifth-highest child poverty rate in the nation. In addition, more than 40% of all food is either lost or wasted every year across the country. Armed with these stats and her fire to feed those experiencing hunger, Suzy left the restaurant industry in 2014 to start La Soupe. She established the organization as the only chef-led operation in Cincin nati that transforms rescued food into nourishing and delicious restaurant-quality meals. Chef-driven leadership guarantees a thoughtful and creative approach to rescued food.

“Our chefs do the hard work so those experiencing food insecurity do not need to worry about preparing something they do not know how to cook,” says Suzy. “This method ensures that every last piece of food they receive can be eaten and en joyed.”

“The La Soupe Team is truly united behind our ‘Rescue, Transform, Share, Inspire, Educate, Nourish’ mission,” says Suzy. “ Their love for helping others is affectionate and contagious.” Food rescue is a team effort, and La Soupe is grateful to its partners and donors who make what they do possible. For more in formation on how you can help La Soupe, visit

The collaborative works on a shared-services model that allows businesses and entrepreneurs to benefit from the expertise of a va riety of agencies as well as NKU’s specialized programs, co-located in a central hub.

New Kentucky partnership will nurture creation, growth of Black-owned businesses

Resources at the ready The AACC will have use of the Collabora tive for Economic Engagement space in Covington to meet with potential entrepre neurs and existing business owners. For the AACC, the physical space establishes a visible presence to implement the resources it will bring to Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses in the region.

“These partnerships help stabilize the resilience of existing busi nesses, and allow resources, education, and mentorship to launch new ones,” said Meg Stephenson, Innovation Office director for the Collaborative. By facilitating connections, Stephenson said, the Collaborative helps increase entre preneurship and innovation in the region, including among minorities and other un derserved entrepreneurs and investors, with the goal of driving job creation.

An ‘entrepreneurial ecosys tem’

“This will be our first physical presence in Northern Kentucky,” Kearney said. “We’ve done events here but nothing where we’ve put down roots, so to speak. I’m excited about this, it’s an expansion of our pres ence here and we want to continue to develop that relationship.”

Among the range of resources the AACC will provide is Pivot, a program created during the pandemic to help shift busi nesses toward recovery. The program continues to provide help and tools for established businesses as well as entrepreneurs.

Partners include the City of Cov ington, the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), and the Northern Kentucky University Collaborative for Economic Engage ment, which operates out of 112 Pike St. in Covington’s “Innovation Alley.”

TL ; DR BLAACCPage 14 Spring 2022

A new partnership in Covington will help nurture the creation and growth of Black-owned businesses by making available meeting space for free, consulting services, and other resources needed by entrepreneurs.

Right now, the City doesn’t track the exact number of minority-owned businesses in Covington, but it wants to encourage more. One tangible way it does that is to award “bonus points” to minorities, women, and veterans who apply for grants or loans through the City’s Small Business Pro gram, which helps with rent in a business’s critical first year or with exterior improve ments to a building. This new partnership – which grew from discussions initiated by the City – will provide even more help, officials “ a diverse place, and we want to make sure that that diversity extends to our business community, with opportunities and support for all,” said Susan Smith, the City’s business attraction manager. “This partnership is new, but you can already sense the energy and excitement surround ing it. The African American Chamber is already doing a lot of strong work in and around Cincinnati, and we think Covington and its innovation hub is the perfect place to expand that work into Northern Ken tucky.”

By Vicki Prichard City of Covington

“I’m excited about this partnership as it involves a lot of different people with a lot of different perspectives,” said Eric Kear ney, the AACC’s president and CEO. “My experience has been (that) when you have people with different ideas, and different perspectives, it creates a synergy and stron ger ideas and better ideas. I think it’s going to be explosive for Northern Kentucky.”

Eric Kearney said he thinks entrepreneur ship is at an all-time high, both because of COVID-19 and because he believes young people are willing to take chances now. He’s excited to establish new connections with entrepreneurs south of the Ohio River.

Members of a new partnership in Covington pose in the space it will use in “Innovation Alley.” Crouching in front is Cheniece Wilson (AACC). In back from left to right, are James Pullins (AACC); Meg Stephenson (NKU Collabor ative for Economic Engagement); Henrietta Sheppard, Annette Smith-Tarver, Jill McCauley, and Gregory Parker (AACC); Susan Smith (City of Covington); Briston Mitchell (AACC); Covington Commissioner Ron Washington; and Eric Kearney (president/CEO of the AACC).

“This is another win for our city – a chance for people to understand what’s involved in opening a busi ness,” said Mayor Pro Tem/City Commissioner Ron Washington. “One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is being able to control your destiny.”

“Not everyone can complete an ap plication, or is tech savvy, and we can offer our assistance, whether it’s helping develop business nar ratives, navigate Zoom, or offer our copier,” said Jill McCauley, business counselor for the Pivot team. “We’re so excited to bring our resources here. The impetus for coming here is to learn what is going on in Northern Kentucky and what resources we can connect people to.”

By Larissa England, Chief Culture Creator, Diversity Flow

The great resignation is leaders make decisions, they think about innova tive ways to do things and they take employees and the business needs

Photos provided Larissa England explains how leadership involves listening to employees and fostering a positive work environ ment.

Up the culture

Leaders must take time to acknowledge leave a company is their manager, along with lack of trust and respect. If companies spend workingtime ence, they will start to see a reduction in their turnover rate.

In the wake of the great resignation where employees are asking themselves if their job is a good fit for them anymore, if the way they were treated is even possible to return to, companies are asking themselves some tough questions as well. How is our employees work life balance? How flex ible is our remote work location policy? How is our leadership contribut ing to this great exit? The way companies look at leadership is more critical now than ever before. With this great Are they prepared to lead a team, have they had any leadership train ing, have they only been an individual contribu tor? For some people leadership qualities are innate, it’s just in them. For others, it must be learned. For those lead ers who do not have it in them, they may need to learn empathy and how to inspire a team to do their best work. They will also need to foster a culture of trust and appreciation for those who work for them. These things are just as important as celebrating the team’s success.


Larissa England discusses the culture of the “great resigna tion” and conscious leadership.

Serving the African American community of Greater Cincinnati for decades, CommunicationsSeshprovidesquality news that you need to know.Sesh Family of Products: The Cincinnati Herald The Northern Kentucky Herald The Dayton Defender TheCincinnatiHerald.comChocolateNewsPodcastUrbanReportNewsletter News & ArtsLifestyleHealthPoliticsBeautySportsEvents&Culture @CinciHerald News You Can’t Get Anywhere Else

BLAACC Page 17Spring 2022 P18 Cincinnati’sFeedingsoul On the rise with Zaire Sims P21 P24 A better world for children P26 Reimagine recruiting young talent P29 If you build it, they will come

The quiet respect that she commands is the reflection of the inner peace that she has in her life, in her business and what she offers to the Cincinnati community each August with “It’s Commonly Jazz.”

Carolyn Wallace feeds Cincinnati’s soul

By Andria Y. Carter

Cincinnati first met Wallace’s leadershipinnovativestylewhen

Her induction recog nizes the success she has had operating her catering company, The Perfect Brew, and her innovative leadership that led to creating and producing “It’s Com monly WallaceJazz.”will tell you that she does nothing special, but everything she does is done with love. She loves the Cincinnati community, she loves helping people, cooking for them, and wants to share the love music in a unique way that has be come an end of summer Cincinnati tradition.

Carolyn Wallace feeds the soul of Cincinnati through food and music. The business-owner and jazz lover commands a quiet respect within the catering and arts com munities. The culmina tion of this respect is proven with her induc tion into the Black Busi ness Hall of Fame by the Greater Cincinnati and Northern lastChamberAfrican-AmericanKentuckyofCommerceNovember.

BLAACC visited with Wallace at her Pad dock Hills home on a quiet and sunny Sunday afternoon to find out what are her secrets to her success. Entering her home, you automatically feel a comfortable vibe that relaxes you. For our conversation we don’t stay long in her living but move to her dining room because Wallace says she feels the need to feed people when vis iting. So, I get to sample her red beans and rice dish with warmly toasted bread and a nice cup of tea. Prior to moving to the dining room table, Wal lace shows me a chair that sits right next to her front window. There, each morning she looks out over her street, examines the beginning of her day and prays. This spiritual morning meditation allows her to turn her troubles over to God, refine her thoughts and seek direction. Every day she asks God, “What do you want me to do today?”

BLAACCPage 18 Spring 2022 Boss Moves

Carolyn Wallace photographed by Pete Coleman

Social distancing, touch less service and small gatherings were frowned upon, but a few clients wanted to provide some thing special to a few people who normally gathered for one event or another. Wallace didn’t want to just provide box lunches or dinners but offer something signifi cant to make the boxed item special for the cli ent and the recipient. So, she worked with a local artist to create special lunch boxes for The Perfect Brew that depict scenes from Black His tory. Wallace said the pan demic forced the food and restaurant industry to take a look at their business model, how it operates their facil ity, the impact on their customers and what services their customers are now asking for that they didn’t ask before. She said lunch boxes are not new, but what services you offer with them is new. Lunch boxes are part of the future of The Perfect Brew, Wallace said. Even when things return to some normalcy, the changes forced by the pandemic will remain in place as customers demands continue to dictate how we serve them.


BLAACC Page 19Spring 2022 Boss Moves she became general manager of Swifton Commons Mall in the mid-1980s. The former Ohio-based DeBartolo Corporation had bought the mall and hired Wal lace from the Bond Hill Redevelopment Corpo ration to help revitalize the mall. DeBartolo was considered at that time one of the largest shopping mall devel opers in the country. Wallace became their only heremployee.African-AmericanTheygavethefreedomtorevi talize the property. “It’s Commonly Jazz” was born. By hosting jazz musicians at the mall, this provided a weekly venue in July and August for residents to enjoy the mall in a unique way and when the concert was over, audience became instant customers to the stores in the mall. Economic times would hit the mall again in 1995. Swif ton Commons would be bought by Jordon Crossing Church and she stayed with the mall until 1997. She would later be asked back to reinstate the Jazz series because the community loved the musical sum mer ThirditsJazz”Today,tradition.“It’sCommonlyiscelebratingisin36thyearandFifthBankremainsits top sponsor for over 31 years. The musical tradition is co-produced by the Cincinnati Parks Department and features local jazz artists. Also, a new feature of the sum mer tradition is Final Fridays held at Findlay Market. It is part of the Music at the Market Series. As the economic times caused Swifton Com mons transition, Wallace was also going through a transition having lis tened and helped people fulfill their dreams and never fully realized hers, which was launching her own catering company. She eventually realized her dream by opening The Perfect Brew in Present2001. day, the CO VID-19 pandemic is another outside influ ence forcing her to expand her business model with The Perfect Brew. The food and restaurant industry in the Greater Cincinnati area and around the country was severely affected by the pandemic. Busi nesses, especially restau rants and caterers, were forced to change how they conducted business and possibly their busi ness model because of the health crisis. The pandemic caught Wallace off guard, but as business slowed it allowed her the time to stop and think about the future of her business. Although business slowed, Wallace didn’t stop feeding people. She helped neighbors, friends, family, anyone who was affected by the pandemic she helped. But as she helped those in need her lunch boxes were born.

Minority Business Assistance Center • Technical Assistance • Professional Consulting • Access to Capital • 1:1, Team, & Workshop Trainings • Assistance Obtaining Contract Opportunities • In-Depth, Client Specific Coaching MBACCINCY.COM MBAC working tirelessly to deliver solutions to strengthen Cincinnati’s business community. The Center provides: • Business plan assistance • Contract procurement assistance • Marketing plan development • MBE/EDGE/VBE Certifications • Loan and bonding services @MBACCincinnatiMBAC MinorityCincinnatiBusiness Assistance Center–Cincinnati Deborah R. Davis | she/her/hers Cincinnati MBAC Regional deborah@african-americanchamber.comDirector 2303 Gilbert Avenue • Cincinnati, Ohio 45206 • 513.751.9900 • To find information or services, please complete the MBAC online application

The MBAC looks to aid small, minority, and disadvantaged local businesses through these programs and encourages eligible businesses to seek assistance. Given how challenging and demanding the COVID-19 pandemic has been on small businesses, the MBAC will work tirelessly to create a plan fitting for whatever state the client’s organization is in, ensuring the client the opportunity to cross any barrier and unlock their full potential.

More than 120 people applied for the fel lowship nationally. Zaire was one of only 30 who were selected.

“High school was a pretty bad time for me,” she says. “Although I may not have realized it at the time, I was learning resil ience, that no matter what happens things will eventually get better. I also learned that you can literally have nothing and still serve others.”

Being a teenager is tough. The hormones. The physical and emotional changes. The peer pressure and drama of high school. Good grief. It’s stressful just thinking about it. Just ask Zaire Sims. She knows. She went through the struggles just like everyone else, but with an added challenge weighing her down. A big challenge. Her family was homeless.

On the rise

Story by Skip Tate

Zaire Sims (right) with Meals on Wheels CEO Jennifer Steele share a moment at the podium during this year’s Taste of Soul lunch at New Prospect Baptist Church. Sims organized the lunch and served as its emcee. Photos by Skip Tate

Buoyed by an inner knack for perseverance and a wide range of knowledge gained from hard life lessons, she applied for a scholarship to The Ohio State University through its Young Scholars Program. The program helps propel first-generation col lege students with a high financial need by giving them coaching, mentoring and advising support, as well as other tools and resources. She thrived in the environ ment, graduating in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and the honor of being the program’s inaugural Outstanding Senior Award winner. “That program changed my life,” she says. “It changed my trajectory.”

It’s a trajectory that eventually led her to Meals on Wheels Southwest Ohio & Northern Kentucky, where she began as a representative payee social worker and is now a building coordinator at Hillcrest Elderly, a senior apartment community in Roselawn where she oversees the activi ties, programs and support of the commu nity’s 205 residents. It’s also a trajectory that helped her land a national fellowship in the American Society of Aging’s Rise

“This is a big, big deal,” says Cheryl Bo lender, senior manager of case management services who oversees the social work team and first hired Zaire as an intern. “When I saw the program application, I immedi ately thought of her. She’s just a perfect

BLAACC Page 21Spring 2022 Boss Moves

TheProgram.Rise Program is a launching pad for the next generation of aging leadership, according to the ASA’s website, whose goal is to create a pool of leaders who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color who can improve the policies and programs at the local, state and national levels, thereby improving the well-being across an increas ingly diverse aging population. For Zaire, the ASA program will “allow me to work toward my ultimate goal of providing older adults with an optimal quality of life and promoting a positive perception of aging.”

Throughout most of her four years at West ern Hills University High School in Cincin nati, her family bounced around, finding shelter where they could. Sometimes they stayed with friends. Sometimes they stayed in a hotel room. Zaire ended up moving in with an aunt during her senior year just for a little bit of stability. While the weight would crush most people, Zaire somehow survived.

“When Cheryl talked to me about it, it defi nitely seemed like something I would be interested in,” Zaire says. “She has always believed in me, and because of her I was able to find my passion of helping seniors.”

Her passion for seniors actually has its roots in those difficult days of her youth. Her grandfather had schizophrenia, and she got to witness the unfortunate and unkind ways he was treated.

As a student at OSU, she secured an intern ship with the Ohio State University Department of Social Change at the Isabell Ridgeway Care Center, which was a nurs ing home, where she got to see another difficult aspect of senior living: social isolation.

The Rise Program is 20 weeks long, requir ing daily work, two-hour meetings each week and attending the national ASA con ference on aging in New Orleans in April.

Bolender smiles at Zaire’s convictions and determination. “I keep telling her that when I retire I will be able to say I knew her when.”

“But I would always run into his social workers,” she says, “and I was able to see that no matter what someone was going through, you can treat people with respect.”

After working a year in Columbus, she moved back to Cincinnati with the intent of earning a master’s degree in social work at the University of Cincinnati. While earning her MSW during the day, she spent her nights working in the neural behavior unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which was for children on the autistic spectrum.

“There were some days I would only get two or three hours of sleep,” she says. “[The energy drink] Bang was my best friend.”

“I saw that outside hand ful of people, most of the residents there didn’t have anyone to sit and talk with them,” she says.

“There were times I was sure I was not go ing to make it, when I had self-doubt,” she says. “But I worked hard to get where I am, and my goal is to be and do better. I want to develop skills to help more people.”


Boss Moves fit. When she came to us, her experience was mostly with children who were living with severe with mental illnesses, but she embraced working with seniors. And her having worked with other age groups has really brought a lot to the table and im pacted the way we deal with seniors.”

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As a graduate student, she was continu ally drawn to the issue of social isolation among seniors that she witnessed as an undergraduate. “Study after study shows that social isolation increases abuse, exploitation and neglect,” she says. “It was difficult enough, and now COVID has brought social isola tion to the forefront. It’s further isolating seniors.” Which is why she works hard at creat ing activities and events for the seniors at Hillcrest, whether it’s bingo or ice cream socials or bringing in a food truck. As she knows all-too-well, there’s nothing that anyone can do about their past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t impact their present or—with the help of the ASA Rise Pro gram—change their future.

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“My path is clear. Everything I have done brings me to my present moment. I know that children who start behind are at-risk to stay behind. Educa tional gaps can emerge early and widen year after year,” she continues. However, decades of research affirm that qual ity child care and preschool programs hold the promise to close these gaps. “Helping Chara Fisher Jackson, Executive Director & CEO of Cincinnati Preschool Promise.

Exploration and curiosity are supported in CPP preschools.

Jackson fully understands that her educational journey is not necessarily every child’s expe rience. “Every aspect of leader ship is important in ensuring all children have a strong and fair start on their educational journey,” comments Jackson. “We must give children safe places for learning and the tools needed to develop to their full potential.” She is deter mined that every Cincinnati preschooler has equitable ac cess to high-quality education that encourages creativity and expands their thinking.

By Laura A. Carr

Chara Fisher Jackson is a visionary leader. She can look back at her childhood experi ences and look forward to the leaders she admires who influence her leadership jour ney. Jackson is a negotiator, influencer, convener, fearless champion, and advocate for young learners. She serves as the Executive Director and CEO of Cincin nati Preschool Promise. Before leading Cincinnati Preschool Promise, Jackson was the Interim President and CEO of The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. She led the organization through the launch of the Social Innovation Center and the execution of the 2020 strategic plan. She received her BA in Interna tional Affairs from Oglethorpe University, an MS in Criminal

“My work with the Civil Liberties Union of Georgia gave me insight into precarious situations for some children. I represented mothers who were separated from their families and children and at risk of losing their parental rights. As a result, I know how circum stances can feed the school to prison pipeline,” she empha sizes. Supporting the whole child “In supporting the whole child, Cincinnati Preschool Promise emphasizes making sure every child is ready and equipped for kindergarten,” Jackson states. “As we work with others to prepare the leaders and work force of the future, I want us to make a positive difference dur ing a child’s formative years.”

“I know what can happen if children are not supported and do not see a future for themselves,” she states. “I understand the importance of engaging children early to enable them to navigate issues that will help them to be suc cessful.”

Chara Fisher Jackson envisions a better world for children

Justice from The University of Cincinnati, and a JD from the College of William and Mary. Jackson’s biography gives in sight into her determination to succeed and lead by example. Giving back Jackson knows first-hand the value and impact of early education. “My parents, Martin Jackson and Dr. Cennette Fisher Jackson, encouraged my curiosity and consistently provided opportunities for me to learn in a myriad of ways,” she says. “I was raised with a strong sense of self. I grew up believing if I worked hard, everything is possible.”


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Jackson served as the Execu tive Director of the Georgia Supreme Courts Commission on Equality garnering vast ex perience in creating instruction al programs to address racial, ethnic, and gender bias in the justice system and courts. During her tenure at the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, she led advocacy campaigns and litigation on voting rights, the school to prison pipeline, and religious freedom issues. Her passion for equal justice under the law for youth, parents’ rights, and equity are evident in everything she does at Cincinnati Pre school Promise.

Jackson is determined that the impact of Cincinnati Preschool Promise’s involvement is felt by community educators and families alike. To help address wage inequities, Cincinnati Preschool Promise Teacher Promise Grants award up to $4,000 to fulltime, eligible lead teachers employed at Cincinnati Preschool Promise preschools. Tuition support is also available to families to help alleviate the cost of obtain ing a Cincinnatiforpreschoolhigh-qualityeducationtheirchildren.Pre school Promise preschools are supported minginnovativewithprogramdeveloped

It is under Jackson’s leadership that preschoolers have been able to flourish. “I value the work we do and the partner ships we’ve been able to forge with other leaders focused on early childhood education,” Jackson states. “Fortunately, the City, region and nation have all acknowledged the importance of a creative, innovative and supportive educational system.” When the pandemic turned the world upside down, Cincin nati Preschool Promise worked even harder to ensure preschool educators had resources to maintain a safe learning envi ronment for children. Jackson and her team worked with other community leaders to assist family child care programs and centers in obtaining PPE equip ment. They also found other resources essential to main taining a high-quality learning environment.

or researched by Cincinnati Preschool Promise’s passion ate team. As an example, to help fill the education gap, Cincinnati Preschool Promise implemented Early Learning Sessions (ELS) to help slow any losses in learning due to the pandemic. The success of ELS is a bridge in Cincinnati Preschool Promise’s education model, enabling preschoolers to continue their educational journey beyond the traditional school Educationyear.issues resonate deep ly with Jackson because she has personally seen the outcomes of children being marginalized and undereducated. She also knows first-hand the difference involved leadership can make. Notably, the Cincinnati com munity came together twice to pass school levies to provide equitable access and meet the needs of all children for highquality education. “As leaders, we must insist on investing in our children and inspire them to want to learn more because their future is limitless,” she concludes.

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“As leaders, we cannot ignore the youngest learners who will eventually become the future workforce,” she adds. Voters speak In 2016, a school levy was passed by Cincinnati vot ers, enabling a high-quality education for the city’s pre schoolers to make sure they are kindergarten-ready. The levy was renewed in 2021, thereby continuing the support the city’s youngest learners need in gaining an early start on their educational journey.

Cincinnati Preschool Promise enhances preschoolers exposure to new educational experiences in preparation for kindergarten. Nearly 900 students attend family-centered preschools.

Chara as a preschooler.

Effect on educationpreschool

vulnerable children develop the social and emotional skills necessary to succeed in school, career, and life is important.

Jackson is very aware that broader access is needed. “Our mission is to provide a more equitable solution in neigh borhoods that do not have a quality-rated preschool. We are working hard with other leaders to address this inequity,” she states. In addition to education al support, Cincinnati Preschool Promise helps provide enrich ment opportunities for families. Vision shared Jackson works with a small team of dedicated individuals who embrace her philoso phy that every child deserves a chance to be all they can be. For a startup and grow ing organization, Cincinnati Preschool Promise has been a game-changer for Cincinnati children and their families, preschool educators, and neigh borhoods. The unique learning experiences of each Cincin nati Preschool Promise team member, inform their ability to lead in opening doors for young learners.

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Dr. Angel and her team even work within the school system to educate and empower young workers and provide additional sup port. Dr. Angel recently spoke at a local high school where she reassured educators that “As a technology company we are the tool that allows you [the educator] to help these young people get a job, figure out what college they are attending or both.” In addition to helping young people find and secure job opportunities, Peerro helps employers by ensuring that new hires are well-trained, readily prepared, and can per form their assigned job duties. Anexis, the company responsible for creating Peerro, partners with local organizations that provide job training, career development, and soft skills building. Before Peerro,

Photos provided by Rachel Angel and Cherie Arvae

A true leader uses their position to cre ate pathways for others. Dr. Rachel Angel began her career as a pharmacist and many would say that with her six-figure income, she was set for life, however, for Dr. An gel, her story was just beginning. Instead of focusing on her career trajectory, she found it necessary to use her influence to change the mindset of future generations and help them navigate the job market so they too could find the right opportunities to fulfill their career aspirations.

Boss Moves By Nahamani D. Yisrael

After graduating with her doctorate and landing what she thought was her dream job, Dr. Angel began volunteering through her IREACH pro gram, a non-profit organization she formed to help identify and understandinggainas to why younger adults did not ap pear to be pro gressing, even with an abundance of resources and op portunities before them. She soon learned that many youngsters did not see the value of higher education and had little to no desire to enter the workforce through hadThoughentry-leveltraditionalcareers.theyallaspirational desires, many did not know how to prepare themselves for opportunities that would lead to their dream job. The younger gen eration of workers needed someone who looked like them and spoke their language to help guide Inthem.2018, Dr. Angel founded Anexis and be gan working on creating a career manage ment system that focused on the needs of younger adults. A platform that addressed their specific barriers and could serve as a roadmap for their ultimate success. Thus, Peerro was created. Peerro is an online career management system that incorporates job training and readiness, as well as the support that younger adults entering the workforce so desperately need. Unlike other job repositories, Peerro pro vides built-in career development and has incorporated training for various roles. Job opportunities are easy to access through Peerro’s mobile application and its simple user interface conveys pertinent informa tion in a format that is easily digestible for younger adults. Peerro’s service offerings extend beyond the mobile application, their representatives work closely with young job seekers to help foster the development of basic skills (such as making eye contact) as well as life skills that employers seek.

Dr. Rachel Angel urges employers to reimagine the way they recruit young talent

As young as 16 years old, Dr. Angel decided she wanted to become a pharma cist. Born into a lower-middle-class family with limited resources, Dr. Angel knew she wanted more for herself. When she learned that a career in Pharmacology would afford her the lifestyle she desired, she was all in.

Dr. Angel’s goal is to help young adults land entry-level positions and then work their way up the corporate ladder to senior man agement positions. When utiliz ing Peero’s platform to source employees, employers must be ready to think differently about how they attract top talent. In to day’s employee-driven job market there are more job openings than there are individuals actively seeking employment opportuni ties; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 10 openings per 6 unemployed individuals in February 2022. As a result of this higher-thannormal demand for quali fied workers, employers must be intentional about creating a workplace culture that is inviting to a younger

Page 27

employers had to sift through hundreds of job applications to find only a handful of qualified applicants, of those applicants, few showed up for interviews and even fewer accepted employment offers. Today, those employers can focus their efforts lead to a more productive and engaged workforce.

Furthermore,workforce.employersneedtobewillingtohireworkerswith less experience and invest in on-the-job training that will further develop their internal workforce unlike the more tra ditional hiring model wherein employers expect jobseekers to have extensive experience, education, and various creden tials before they can be hired on.

The extra time and resources invested in young workers is but one way to help fill the gap between open ings and applicants. Dr. Angel has enlisted the support of high-profile entertainers such as D.C. Young Fly, is an actor, television host, co median, singer, and songwriter that is popular among Peerro’s core target audience, young adults. Having someone with whom the young workers can easily relate helps gain their attention and earn their trust. Dr. Angel and her team have done a phenomenal job of leverag ing the relationship with the entertainer by using him in some of Peerro’s in-app training videos. At the end of each training video, the young workers are asked a few questions to ensure that they are retaining the information that is necessary to help elevate their careers. According to Dr. Angel, the great reces sion of 2008 led to a disinvestment in the younger workforce, some 14 years later we are still seeing the impact as many of these individuals have not been engaged in employment, education, or training activi ties for more than a decade. Understand ing these hurdles and finding unique ways to engage and motivate young workers is imperative to the success of Genera tion Z and younger Millennials. Preparing these groups for long-term success will take deliberate effort, strategic action, and dedicated focus on the root causes that limit a young person’s success in finding a career path that works for them. Employers seeking to hire from this vast workforce are encouraged to visit ployers/. Working with Peerro makes hir ing and onboarding young workers simple, straightforward and mutually beneficial.

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“Black & Brown Faces: Paying Homage

Ray Ball, co-founder of Paloozanoire, de scribed the exhibit as a chance to celebrate both leaders and the artists. “It’s exciting to honor these individuals of color who are driving change in their Cincinnati com munities, disrupting the norm, and lifting others through their work,” Ball said.

“We have a retention issue in Cincinnati. Cincinnati has a hard time retaining young black emerging leaders,” Grant said. To “THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE WHAT IS TIMELESS. AND THAT IS WHAT I AM CREATING.” -RICO GRANT

If you build it, they will come

The argument that young Cincinnati will not throw its support behind a good idea or business is no longer true. Rico Grant will not allow you to say differently after expe riencing the success he has had launching several businesses or exhibits celebrating the black community. The native Cincinnatian lives by the motto, “If you build it, they will come.” So far, everything that he launched or created has found success. Last summer, Grant received the Community Advocate Award from the Cincinnati Reds. The ball club recognized the entrepreneur for his work advising several startups and foundations in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. For example, his events company, Paloo zanoire, just opened an exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum entitled “Black and Brown Faces: Paying Homage To…”, which recognizes 15 Cincinnati leaders of color, with portrait interpretations created by 15 Midwestern artists of color. The 90day exhibit will end on Juneteenth (June 19, 2022). “Black and Brown Faces” exhibits honor Damon Jones, Karla Boldry, Gee Hor ton, Dora Anim, Roula Allouch, Jasmine Coaston, Adrienne Wiley, Lydia Morgan, Alandes Powell, Tyran Stallings, Tyra Patternson, Lynn Watts, Black Owned founders Annie Timmons, and Barry Larkin. Artist featured in the exhibit include Javarri Lewis, Blake Lenoir, Keenan Litman, Kandice Odister, Frank Young, Nytaya Babbitt, Torri Shaaron, Francesca Mill er, Christian Drye, Kevin Nance-West, Natalie Orr, Magnus Juliano, Rashad Orlando, Wyze, and Crystal Miller.

By Andria Y. Carter Photos by Pete Coleman

Grant, 36, said the beauty of the exhibit that showcases leaders and artists from the greater Cincinnati area and the Midwest that you didn’t see before in an art mu seum. He explained that this work is very intentional and as young person in Cincin nati I am now engaged and feel that there is something for me here.

To” was built on the structure of the inau gural 2020 show, which commissioned 10 Black artists who depicted the emotional extremes of 2020, with the goal of facilitat ing a process of community healing from the upheaval of the year using art and con nection as a catalyst.

Grant wants people to attend the block par ty and experience true freedom on Freedom Way while honoring the abolishment of slavery. Over 15,000 people are expected to attend the 2022 celebration.

Operating an events company is just one aspect of local entrepreneurs’ life, Grant owns Gallery at Gumbo, a barbershop/art gallery on Main Street, he serves as the executive director of SoCap, an accelera tor based at Northern Kentucky University, and he just launched Fundnoire.

Once fully funded, Fundnoire will distrib ute up to $50,000 grants to Black-owned, non-tech related businesses, such as coffee houses, tire shops or tailers, etc. Grants hopes to have the organization fully funded by the end of the year.

In a press release, Kroger Co. Foundation said the investment into Fundnoire is part of the company’s commitment to invest not only in new and innovative strategies to build and sustain Black wealth, but also strengthen long-standing partnerships with local institutions to advance health and so cial equity. “Kroger is proud to support the work these organizations are doing to uplift and inspire true change throughout Ohio,”

Describing Cinema OTR, Grant said pa trons walking into the bar lounge you will feel the atmosphere of classic films. Walk

If he could do life over again, Grant said at 18 he would have moved to New York and made his first independent film by 19 and a half. He believes by now he would have won several Oscars. “I am a black film junkie. I am a trivia master,” Grant said.

Keith Dailey, president of The Kroger Co. Foundation and group vice president of corporate affairs for Kroger.

BLAACCPage 30 Spring 2022

Boss Moves stem the tide and help to enhance the lives of young black Cincinnatians and across the Midwest, Grant co-founded Palooza noire in 2019. The company seeks to enrich young lives, 24 to 45, through creativity, corporate leadership, entrepreneurship.

In addition to the fund, Grant is working to open Cinema OTR on Vine Street. The bar is dedicated to everything Grant loves. He explained that he doesn’t consume any thing new. “I watch old movies, I listen to old music, I watch old sitcoms, that’s me. The best things in life are what is timeless. And that is what I am creating.”

The Black and Brown Faces 90-day exhibit is just one example of the organization’s work to attract people of color to Cincin nati to come to work, live, play, and feel engaged. “We want Cincinnati to be a destination place,” Grant said. By working to change the narrative for young black Cincinnatians, Grant is serv ing as a bridge between the past and the future. As an entrepreneur, Grant says he is creating things that I know I like and finds people enjoy them as well. The Juneteenth Block Party is slowly becoming a staple event in the Cincinnati area. Grant said he would like to grow the block party to the same caliber that the Cincinnati Music Festival experiences. He wants to pull people from across the Midwest to come and celebrate Juneteenth. Grant noted that it was a movement that has become a holiday.

Grant is in the process of raising mon ies for the $1.5 million fund to help black entrepreneurs grow their business. An nounced of the fund’s creation occurred in March and has received $100,000 in seed money from the Kroger Co. Foundation.

When asks what advice he would give a new entrepreneur he describes a conver sation he had with his friend and fellow entrprenuer, Means Cameron, owner of

Rico Grant with the Debbie Karle Project Manager from Jostin Construction, construction manager for Cinema OTR.

“We’re excited to bring something revolu tionary to Cincinnati,” Grant said. Grant credits his success to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the statewide shut down in Ohio, Grant did not have any of the ideas that he has now. The pandemic forced him to stop and take account of himself. It forced him to slow down, exercise, stop and breath fresh air. But by taking time for himself, caring for himself put him in what describes as a childish creative state that has uplifted him. “It is a place a I have never experienced before. I am floating at times with the ideas that I have,” Grant said.

Cinema OTR is dedicated to people who love the 90s culture, 90s R&B, classic HipHop and classic black films. “Think about the golden era of 1990s,” he added.

Grant compared the pandemic as being benched at a football game. Taking a step back allows you to sit on the bench, analy sis the defense in a way that one you are back in the game you have a more analyti cal focus. That downtime helped Grant focus on what he wants to accomplish as a business own er, as a bridge to help new black business owners and but also what other businesses he wants to create. Knowledge is power and for Rico Grant sharing that knowledge is one way of help ing fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed. The serial entrepreneur wants to do his part to uplift everyone so he started a podcast on Apple Podcast platform entitled “Gumbo Talks.” The podcast is designed to engage, inform, and uplift the human race from a variety of perspectives.

BLAACC Page 31Spring 2022 Boss Moves ing you will look up at the screen and see “Mo Better Blues” playing on the screen. When you order your cocktail, it will be based upon what a character from a film would drink. “You will feel the ambiance,” Grant said.

Boss Moves Black Owned. The conversation discussed the attitude one must have to be a success ful entrepreneur. Grant said he agrees with Cameron on whenever you are building something you have to build with a certain level of arrogance.

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The best example of this is the Kanye West documentary entitled “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” streaming on Netflix. Grant said this documentary was not filmed over the last two years, but over the last 20 years. The filming began in 1998 and his first album “College Drop Out” wasn’t released until 2004, which is a favorite of Grants.

“We don’t mean it in a negative way, but in a positive way that you are so sure in what you are doing that you can make naysayers, sayers. Nonbelievers, believers. You have to be that persuasive there are so many influencers that can shift us left or right by a loved one saying that doesn’t make any sense or that someone has already done that. We hear that all the time. Or the fund ing not coming through the first five times but meeting sixth only an arrogant bull headed person are gonna take meeting six or sixty. It takes time, if you want to raise outside capital there are challenges there. As my grandmother would say, if it was easy everyone would do it., “Grant said re garding certain traits business owners must have to succeed.

“This documentary started being filmed six years before his rookie album even dropped. No record deal, nothing and he says this in the documentary. He said the filming was manifesting some twenty plus years this content would be important. Grant explained that West commented people may think I am narcissist for walk ing around with a camera crew who am I. I am Kanye West. I don’t have a record deal. I don’t have a car. I don’t have anything. I am guy who produces the biggest music for rappers and my name is the smallest print on the back of the album. People may think I am a narcissist but I don’t care because I am sure about what I am doing. But Grant found Kanye West’s comments inspirational. He said that after watch ing each episode of the documentary he couldn’t go to sleep and wanted to open-up his laptop and get to work. I found it that inspirational. It amazed him watching West walk to the train to get to his part-time job and practicing his Grammy speech. “He was broke, no car, almost homeless and he was practicing his Grammy speech,” an amazed Grant said.

“When I talk about arrogance, of some one believing in themselves. You have to be naïve, so blocked off to influence themselves,” Grant said to stop the nega tive influences. He added if you have the passion that is enough to be successful. He believes passion trumps qualifications on a job description to be successful.

Overall, for Grant, if you build it, they will come. That is the best success one can have when you develop a business from concept to reality. “You build it, they will come,” he said.

A New Day, A New Look, Same Legacy Cincinnati’s own BLACK&BOSSIE NATURAL HAIR CARE PRODUCTS is celebrating our 40th anniversary on Friday, June 17th (Juneteenth Weekend) from 4-8 pm at Esoteric Brewing Company, 918 E.McMillan Ave. All customers, friends, family, beauty supply stores, stylists, barbers, and organizations are welcome! The event is FREE, and we just want to say “thank you” for all your support in the past; now come see what’s in our future! We put vending machines in your building! • Serviced Weekly • Snacks & Soda Machines • Commissions back to you from every item sold Vending513-421-4666Division A Division of Eastern Personnel Services, Inc. Servicing the Community for 35 years VENDING SERVICES

Photos provided by Carol Ruffin

By Laura A. Carr

Daughters Nadia and Nici were Blossoms’ first employees. “My husband, Chuck, built out the garage space and encouraged me to follow my passion. He is a steady force and an integral part of my business growth.” Today, Blossom’s has a large workspace. Several corporate clients, nonprofits, and local banks consider her their preferred vendor. Ruffin says the late Vivian Green was an early mentor who enabled her to soar as a businesswoman. “Ms. Green led by example; she was generous and invested in my dream to own a flower shop. She told me she would pay for my education as long as I didn’t waste her money. I remember her generosity. She gave me an opportunity to learn and grow. If there is one leadership trait I learned from her, it’s to make a way for others to be successful.”

During the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic, Carol Ruffin exhibited a calmness that resonated with her customers. The owner of Blossoms Florist continued to make beautiful flower arrangements celebrating life. Her tenacity as a business owner enabled her to keep her doors open when many small businesses were closing.

A floral academy is next on Ruffin’s list of business goals. “I want to take everything I’ve learned about business success and teach others how to do something they love while making a difference for others.”

Feature Photo: Carol Ruffin (inset) creates unique floral displays for birthday, anniversary or business events, such as the stage arrangements at the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce 25th Anniversary Legacy Gala.

Ruffin’s success comes from deeply held beliefs of compassionate caring and allowing others to participate in decision-making. This leadership point of view resulted from having accepted the responsibility of assisting her family in caring for a bed-ridden mother as a teenager while her father worked.

“When I work with a client, my job is to allow them to be part of the process. I want my customers to know that they can trust me to follow through and deliver.” Brides and families know that Ruffin’s thoughtful planning will result in a transformational experience. Business clients get the same level of care. Adaptability is a leadership trait she values. “You don’t stay in business for 42 years without learning how to embrace change. As a result, I have a different company than the one I started in my garage, providing flowers and arrangements for weddings and funerals. Her faith is a large part of Ruffin’s interaction with others. “I believe in treating others as I want to be treated.”

Leadership through beauty: Carol Ruffin, Blossoms Florist

BLAACCPage 34 Spring 2022 Photo Op

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BLAACCPage 36 Spring 2022 Photo Op Pretty in pink The shades of pink in this bouquet create a complimentary bouquet for the pink-loving hosts’ event. This ain’t no run of the mill table runner! An elegant table arrangement can run the length of a head table for weddings or business events. Wedding day wonders Blossoms has the perfect arrangements for your perfect day.

Colorful bouquet arrangements are a great way to brighten up work spaces or lounge areas in your home. Accent your memories Carol Ruffin received the Black Business Hall of Fame Award from the 25th Anniversary Legacy Gala. Table settings to amaze Centerpieces of stunning flowers can transform any standard table into a work of art sure to be a show stopper. Make work spaces pop!

BLAACCPage 38 Spring 2022 FWIW For What It’s Worth: Business Directory To be considered for a feature in our business directory, join the African American Chamber of Commerce by visiting Designwerks 2632 Briarcliff Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45212 (513) designwerksbeta.com314-5207 Cultural Impact LLC 8172 Misty Shore Dr. West Chester, OH 45069 (513) 525-6259 info@ Orchestrate Technologies 6 Pike Cincinnati,StreetOH 45215 (513) support400-4553 @ Chozen 4 U Boutique 2401 W North Bend Road Cincinnati, OH 45239 (513) Chozen4UBoutique207-1259@ Inspired Fashion 827 Madison Ave. Covington, KY 41011 (859) Inspiredfashion40.com817-1908 Mile 2 Mile Scooter Rental 5 East 6th St. Newport, KY 41071 (513) nicole510-3915 @ Me&She Doula Services 7374 Reading Road, STE 113 Cincinnati, OH 45205 (513) meandshedoula828-0530@ The Cookie Jar Spa LLC 214 W Benson Street Cincinnati, OH 45215 (513) 832-0660 hello@ Transitions Care Concierge, LLC 151 W. 4th Street Box 71 Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513) erdula800-9528 @ Veronica’s Victory Vacations 8817 Preakness Dr. Florence, KY 41051 (513) veronicawilliams788991-2220@ http://veronica/ Ohio Premier Painting 7846 Bridgewater Lane Hamilton, OH 45011 (513) Ohiopaints545-0519 @ We Shop Healthy 4910 Hunt Road #2217 Cincinnati, OH 45242 (713) 823-7075 jill@ Technology Tailor Made 115 W. Kemper Road Cincinnati, OH 45246 (513) rwalker377-1679 @ Pope Financial Planning, LLC 4555 Lake Forest Dr. Suite 650 Cincinnati, OH 45242 (513) Apryl.Pope202-3485 @ Magnificent Morsels Catering 1719 Elm crystalrender(513)Cincinnati,StreetOH45202652-5531 @

Looking for High-QualityaPreschool?

Cincinnati Preschool Promise’s 3-, 4- and 5-star Step Up to Quality-rated Preschools which are enrolling new students are available in the following neighborhoods. Check out website for a complete list.

Visit the

OR call us for assistance or more information at:www.cincy-promise.org513-447-4277(4CPP)

Cincinnati Preschool Promise has over 100 high-quality 3-, 4- and 5-star preschools. We are now enrolling children who are 3- and 4-years-old. Cincinnati Preschool Promise website at:


Cincinnati Preschool Promise Eligibility and Income Requirements: Child must be 3 years of age by Sept. 30. Families must live within the Cincinnati Publi Schools District. Households must meet income guidelines. Preschool Promise accepts applications year-round!

Central Neighborhoods: Avondale, Clifton, Corryville, Downtown, Evanston, Mt. Auburn, Over-the-Rhine (OTR), Walnut Hills and the West End North Neighborhoods: Bond Hill, College Hill, Kennedy Heights, Madisonville, Pleasant Ridge, Roselawn and North Avondale West Side Neighborhoods: East Price Hill, East Westwood, Mt. Airy, West Price Hill, Westwood, Winton Hills, Millvale and Lower Price Hill

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