The Black Professional Magazine, Summer 2023

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Fighting for Social Equity and Justice

Ariane Kirkpatrick Black Professional of the Year

Airica Steed


When Dr. Airica Steed became MetroHealth’s President and CEO on December 5, 2022, she dedicated herself to listening: through 40 listening sessions, 91 leadership meetings, serving on 8 national panels, hosting 18 town hall discussions, and nearly 150 conversations with Cleveland’s community leaders.

What she heard during her rst 100 days of listening and connecting with the community was not surprising: Cleveland needs a hospital capable of caring for those who need care the most. And, Cleveland needs a healthcare leader dedicated to reaching out into our community to address our health equity problem.

MetroHealth—and Dr. Steed—is eager to be part of the solution.

As a fourth-generation nurse and the rst Black woman to be named CEO and President of a safety-net hospital in the United States, Dr. Steed is well-positioned to address the health equity problem in our community. Named in 2023 by Becker’s Healthcare Review as one of “Becker’s Women Hospital CEOs to Know,” Cleveland—and MetroHealth—has found a leader committed to listening to what our community needs and nding innovative solutions to our healthcare problems in a way each person feels seen, heard, and has equitable access to healthier outcomes.

Dr. Steed wakes up every morning motivated by her own personal story, one that reminds her to ght for equity, healthier outcomes, and innovation. Learn more at

2 | SUMMER 2023 | 3 CONTENTS SUMMER 2023 • VOL. 3 • ISSUE 2 A New Home for Placed-based Impact and Community Partnership by Terri Bradford Eason 14 BPACF News: Celebrating BPACF Scholars 22 12 8 Board Spotlight: Paris Lampkins Your Finances Deserve Cleaning by Meltrice Sharp, CPA COVER STORY 35 by
DigitalC: Taking Cleveland Tech to the Next Level by Kimberly St. John-Stevenson 37 The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of Homeowner Associations by Andrea Wilson, MBA 40 The Cannabis Industry is Booming – But the Barriers to Entry Are Steep by Marcia Pledger 32 Ariane Kirkpatrick: Right Where She Needs to Be 24 BPACF Professional Profiles 42 BPACF News: 2023 Soft Skills Boot Camp 16 Welcome to 21 9 We Love Our Volunteers by Andrea Wilson, MBA What Small Businesses Need to Know Before Applying for a Loan by Romona J. Davis 10 Embrace Elegance and Ease When Attending Summer Weddings by Charron Leeper 18 Creating Opportunities for Black Generational Wealth Q&A with Nicholas Perry President/CEO of The Presidents’ Council
Montrie Rucker Adams, APR, PRSA Fellow

The Black Professional


Michele Scott Taylor


Black Professionals Association

Charitable Foundation (BPACF)


Meltrice D. Sharp


Montrie Rucker Adams

Visibility Marketing, Inc.


Alexandria Johnson Boone

GAP Communications Group


Jennifer Coiley Dial

Coy Lee Media, LLC


Alvin Smith


Charron Leeper


Laurie Murphy, MBA, MPH, MS



Adrianne Sims



James W. Wade, III


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Celebrating Black Excellence

In this issue of the Black Professional Magazine, we are thrilled to feature our 2023 Black Professional of the Year- the incredibly talented and accomplished Ariane B. Kirkpatrick, President and CEO of The AKA Team, Harvest of OH, and Jabali Development Group. At the BPACF, we believe in celebrating Black excellence every day of the year, and we are delighted to showcase Ariane's many achievements and contributions to multiple industries. From her groundbreaking work to her tireless community advocacy.

My admiration for Ariane goes back to 2017, when I first formally met her at a Women of Color Foundation, C-Suite Executive Summit where we were both faculty members. She spoke with authenticity, honesty and a keen sense of self that felt so familiar to me—like we belonged to the same club or something. AND THEN... when she said she was a Tiger for Life, I knew! Her spirit reminds me of the Warrensville Heights community that nurtured both of us. This is the community that instilled in many of us the idea that you can be whatever you want and be unapologetically you!

Ariane represents the best my community offers. Ariane is a true leader and role model for all of us. When she talks about our community, her mantra is “Exposure, Engagement, Empowerment!” She is always looking for how she can share her knowledge and support others as they move through their professional journey.

Join us in applauding Ariane and all the Black professionals who inspire us every day.

Also featured in this issue are ten of our BPACF Scholars who graduated and are moving on to the next phase of their emerging professional journey. I know from personal experience the resilience necessary to cross that stage. Some of them will move forward into graduate school full time, some will step into their first professional position, and some will do both. It is with extraordinary pride that we congratulate these exceptional individuals for their hard work, dedication, and outstanding achievements. They have not only made their families proud, but they have also made the BPACF community proud. Their success is a testament to the power of education and the importance of investing in our youth.

At the BPACF, we believe that education is a vital tool for personal and professional development. These graduates have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in both their academic pursuits and their personal lives. We are honored to have supported them along the way. The BPACF community is a family, and we are always here to help in any way we can, as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. We know that they will continue to make an impact in their communities and beyond. We are excited to see what the future holds for each of them—especially with leaders like Ariane showing them and us the way!

Best, | 5


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Terri Bradford Eason Senior Director, Advancement Equity Initiatives The Cleveland Foundation Kimberly St. John-Stevenson Writer/Advocate/Innovator Andrea Wilson, MBA Broker Brick House Realty
Interested in writing for The Black Professional? Contact
Meltrice D. Sharp Managing Partner CLE Consulting Firm & Immediate Past President, BPACF Board of Trustees
Connect with us!
Romona J. Davis Vice President and Sr. SBA Product Development Officer Huntington National Bank Charron Leeper Fashion Entrepreneur Marcia Pledger Freelance Journalist/ Communications Specialist

Risks & Rewards

“If you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed,” said Richard Stockton Rush III in an interview last year. He was the founder and CEO of the deepsea exploration company OceanGate. “Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk-reward question,” he said.

By now, most of us have heard about OceanGate. The Tuesday after Father’s Day, the world learned that five people aboard a submersible, the Titan, were missing. They were in the North Atlantic Ocean on an exploration journey to visit the Titanic shipwreck.

Two days later, it was reported that British businessman Hamish Harding, Pakistani investor Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Rush perished when the Titan imploded.

Rush founded OceanGate in 2009. He is said to have been a passionate explorer who wanted to provide crewed submersibles for tourism, industry, research, and exploration.

Most people are not extreme explorers who take lifethreatening risks like Rush and others like him. However, you must take some risks to move beyond your situation. Wikipedia describes risk as “uncertainty about the effects or implications of an activity with respect to something that we value, often focusing on negative, undesirable consequences.” For instance, you may not quit your job, even though you don’t enjoy it, because you fear you won’t find a better one.

If it weren’t for risk takers, we’d still visit our friends and family in a horse and buggy (Ford), walk around with candles and lanterns to see where we’re going (Edison) and communicate long distances only by letter (Bell).

Black explorers included Matthew Henson, the first to reach the North Pole. Jean Baptiste Point DuSable was a Haitian-born explorer and trader who helped found Chicago, and Esteban Dorantes was a Black explorer who led expeditions in the southern United States and Mexico.

It was risky when I helped a friend in 1995 with her art event. She asked me to assist with marketing. It was the first time we journeyed into the unknown. The event was successful, and I knew then that I wanted to one day own a business.

I asked my graphic designer friend, who designed for national publications Emerge and Black Enterprise, to create business cards. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so he designed one for my passions: Writing, sewing, physical fitness and graphics design. Five years later, after “dibbling and dabbling,” I founded Visibility Marketing Inc. which incorporated my love of writing and creativity.

Like Rush, our Black Professional of the Year is a visionary and risk taker. The founder of three highly successful business enterprises, Ariane Kirkpatrick shares her drive and passion to make her community better (page 24).

In every issue we keep you apprised of BPACF’s mission and vision. Check out the photos of our Soft Skills Boot Camp (page 18) and help us thank the Motons, our valuable volunteers (page 9).

We’re happy to welcome new Clevelanders (page 21) and what would the summer be without weddings (page 16)?

Though we mourn the deaths of Rush and the others aboard the Titan, his risk taking, and exploratory spirit will have an impact on the oceanic world for many years.

NOTE: We’re always looking for good writers. If interested, please contact me at | 7

Each issue we will introduce a member of the BPACF’s Board of Directors. Our directors volunteer their time to ensure the organization meets its goals and objectives to serve Black professionals and students of color.

Board Spotlight: Paris Lampkins

With a profound dedication to positively impact the lives of individuals in our community, Paris Lampkins brings nearly two decades of experience in education administration and adult learning and development. Throughout her career, her passion and focus have centered on community development and empowering urban centers by enriching nontraditional students and adult learners.

Serving as the Director of Learning and Development at AM Higley, Paris oversees the implementation of training education operations across multiple offices. In addition to her professional endeavors, she is actively involved in various community initiatives. Lampkins serves on Heart-to-Heart Leadership's board of directors and trustees of the Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation and Teach for America. Paris is also a dedicated member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and the NAACP. She continues to contribute to community empowerment, education, and advocacy through these affiliations.

What does serving on the BPACF Board mean to you?

Serving on the Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation (BPACF) Board means the world to me. It allows me to contribute to my community by providing invaluable professional development opportunities. Additionally, being part of the Board enables me to offer much-needed assistance to individuals striving for higher education. It's a privilege to serve in a capacity where I can positively impact and empower others in their educational pursuits

How does your BPACF Board service help the community?

My service on the BPACF Board has significantly impacted the community. Through our Board initiatives and programs, we strive to address the needs of and uplift the local community in various ways. Firstly, we provide crucial resources and support to individuals pursuing higher education. This includes scholarships, mentorship programs, and guidance to help them overcome barriers and achieve their academic goals. By investing in education, we contribute to individuals' personal growth and professional development, ultimately strengthening our community's workforce.

Additionally, the BPACF Board actively promotes professional development opportunities. We organize workshops, seminars, and networking events to enhance the skills and knowledge of professionals within the community. By fostering growth and advancement, we contribute to a more thriving and competitive job market, benefiting individuals and the local economy. Moreover, as a Board, we advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We strive to create a more inclusive environment where everyone has equal opportunities to succeed. By promoting these values and raising awareness, we contribute to a more equitable society, helping to break down barriers and foster understanding.

Overall, my service on the BPACF Board allows me to make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals in our community. Through our collective efforts, we work towards empowering individuals, fostering educational opportunities, promoting professional growth, and advocating for a more inclusive society in Greater Cleveland.

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Paris Lampkins Chairperson Engage Committee The Albert M. Higley Co.

We Love Our


Raymond and Delores Moton

Raymond and Delores Moton are two of the BPACF’s most valued volunteers. They met while working at General Motors. They are members of Mt. Zion Church of Oakwood Village.

Delores describes herself, “First and foremost,” as a “Prayer Warrior for the Lord!” She is a people person who enjoys helping where she can. She has served as Pageant Judge and neighborhood Cookie Mother for the Scouts. She answered the phone and prayed for people all over the world for the TCT Television network. Delores visits hospitals and nursing homes to spend time with, encourage, and pray for the sick.

Raymond is a retired Senior Supervisor for General Motors Corporation where he worked for 37 years. He is an Armor Bearer for Bishops Larry L. Macon Sr. and Larry L. Macon Jr. He also serves as a ‘Dad’s on Duty’ volunteer for the Cleveland Schools and helps with the community’s soup kitchen.

They describe themselves as on a ‘Journey for the Lord, His Faithful Servants!’ “We are blessed to be a part of this amazing organization and are proud to serve.

What is your Volunteer Role at BPACF?


Gala registration table for two years (2021 & 2022)


COVID-19 Security (2021)

VIP Reception Area and Security (2022)

Why do you volunteer?

We volunteer because we are people persons and enjoy helping out wherever we can. This is an organization that demonstrates excellence and acknowledges those that are working and achieving greatness and opening doors for our future generations! These Black professionals have worked hard to accomplish their life goals. Many have opened and created their own businesses, showing that we as Black people can achieve anything

that we put our minds to. We are proud to be a part of such an outstanding organization. We have a passion to serve!

Who inspires you? Who are your volunteer role models?

Ms. Adrianne Sims, (longtime BPACF volunteer), inspires us. She is a go-getter and a very positive role model. Other positive volunteer role models have been our parents, who volunteered in their community.

What advice do you have for others who want to volunteer?

“Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask questions, and step in to give a helping hand,” offers Delores.

“Be a positive role model for our young men of the future,” said Raymond. “It’s okay to volunteer to give your time to different organizations that need volunteers.” | 9

What Small Business Owners Need to Know

Before Applying for a Loan

Accessing capital can be challenging as a small business owner. It is important that small business owners understand their business financial needs; become application ready; interview their prospective bank; and determine the best source of capital for their company. Business owners should begin with a process to determine how money will benefit their business by focusing on revenue generation and applicable expenses. Additionally, they must determine what kind of loan is needed to properly align the financing need to the best loan product. For example, a long-term equipment need should use a long-term loan while a short-term

Here are some things to consider:

1. Have a business plan! This is your chance to communicate the story about your business. What is your value proposition? What differentiates you from others? It is critical that you have a clearly defined business plan that outlines how your operations and financial position align with goals and objectives in a logical, readable format.

2. Understand your personal financial “health.” Complete a personal financial statement to assist in understanding your personal financial position. Under

3. Ensure you have a keen understanding of your company’s financial standing, current financing needs and potential future needs. To properly assess a loan request, a bank will typically require the following: Most recent three years of financial statements and year-to-date (YTD) interims (if existing business), projections with detailed assumptions (especially if a start-up), personal tax returns for the last three years, personal financial statement, accounts receivable aging, accounts payable aging, and work in progress report (if applicable).

4. Demonstrate the ability to repay debt (adequate cash flow coverage). An especially important metric a bank will review when assessing a loan application is the ability of the company to pay back debt. Understanding your financial statements and assembling cash flow projections will allow you to share with the bank the ability of your business to repay debt.

5. Know what collateral and/or equity you will be injecting into the deal. Most banks will look to “secure” their loan by having the business or its owners pledge collateral. The type of collateral pledged, and how much is needed, varies based upon the loan request and type. Equity may be required based upon the loan type as well. For example, a bank may require the owner to have some of their own money in the deal to ensure the collateral covers the loan amount or to reduce the loan amount to keep payments lower.

6. Understand the role of the five Cs of credit: Character, capital, capacity, collateral, and conditions. Banks have various underwriting criteria, but most evaluate an application based upon some version of the five Cs of credit. Understanding these will better position your dialogue with the bank.

7. Educate yourself on loan programs that you may be eligible for as a small business owner that can help you achieve your goals. The Huntington National Bank’s Lift Local Business® program focused on growing minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses is an example.

Once you are application ready, prepare to be interviewed by the banker. Your banker will want to interview you and your management team to ask questions that were not answered in the application, clarify information that was in the application, and/or assess your ability to execute the plan you provided. Likewise, you can use the bank interview to pose questions to the banker.

Finally, as a business owner, you must determine what source of capital is best for you and your company.

Capital sources include:

1. Bank Financing

2. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Financing

3. Community-Based Organizations

4. Venture Capital

5. Angel Capital

6. Crowdfunding

7. Fintech Financing

Choosing the right banking relationship is vitally important. Select the person, capital source and structure that best fits your immediate and long-term needs.

Romona J. Davis is Vice President and Senior SBA Product Development Officer at The Huntington National Bank. All opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of Huntington Bank.

Creating Opportunities for Black Generational Wealth

The Presidents’ Council Q&A with Nicholas Perry President & CEO

What is The Presidents’ Council’s (TPC) mission? Our mission is to be an engine for Black business growth. We are achieving this by supporting, developing, and championing the region’s current and future generations of Black entrepreneurs and leaders for sustainable wealth creation. To date we have accomplished this through business development and entrepreneurial support, organizing and mobilizing, thought leadership, and capital formation and investments. We know that we have been instrumental in these efforts as we have affected influence and accountability at all levels that directly impacted Black-owned businesses and the communities they serve.

It has been 27 years since the founding of the organization. What impact has the TPC had on diversity, inclusion, and empowerment in the Northeast Ohio Black business ecosystem?

The organization was established on the foundation of diversity, inclusion, and empowerment. Therefore, the organization and its members both individually and collectively have worked tirelessly to ensure that Black businesses have a seat at the table through strategic partnerships, aligning ourselves with other elite organizations with the same values, and regularly communicating with Northeast Ohio leaders to ensure that they are adhering to the concept of equity and inclusion – in regards to contracts, hiring, equitable investments and access to capital.

Two of the most impactful examples are PC Scholars and our Chairman’s position on influential boards like Greater Cleveland Partnership.

How has the organization evolved? Why was this evolution necessary?

The organization is constantly evolving to meet the needs of our members. The Presidents’ Council started as an investment group. It then recognized the challenges Black entrepreneurs faced and that those challenges were at a macro level. It evolved over the years to focus more on economic and business development, capital formation, and investment.

I was hired because of their constant evolution. They realized TPC’s need to increase its organizational capacity to expand its programming and

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Photo by Kamron Khan

foster the development of stronger businesses. My charge is to do just that.

What might the community not know about the impact of the TPC in the community?

We are undergoing a brand and membership tier refresh because the community isn’t fully aware of our impact. We have several organizations under TPC umbrella – 22 LLC members, over 200 Chamber of Commerce members, The Foundation, and our political action committees. There are several programs that each entity is responsible for managing.

We have a program called Excellence in Entrepreneurship At Your Business which fills a critical gap in the entrepreneurial space by providing tangible services not only for scalability but for long-term sustainability. We also offer chamber events – RealTalk Tuesdays that help business owners talk through their challenges and we provide suggestions and/or solutions. Another is Work It Wednesdays designed to directly provide our chamber members with education and actual resources. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are gaining more visibility through networking events and sponsorships.

You are the TPC’s first President and CEO. What excites you most about your new role?

As the leader of this organization, I have the chance to shape its vision, strategy, and priorities for the very community in which I was born and raised. I am particularly excited about pulling together partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders, including businesses, non-profits, government agencies,

and community leaders, to advance its economic development, social justice, and civic engagement in the region. Seeing Black-owned businesses thrive is inspiring.

I also find motivating my team to achieve ambitious goals, fostering a culture of innovation and excellence, and empowering them to develop their skills and potential is exciting. I too am growing as a result of our combined successes.

What’s the outlook for the next generation of leaders? (i.e. youth entrepreneurs, new & emerging business owners, serial entrepreneurs). Losing ground? Gaining ground? Opportunities increasing or decreasing? Is the number of entrants increasing or decreasing? The outlook is completely dependent on if this next generation is prepared to lead. From one generation to the next it’s like a relay race. The last generation must prepare the next to take the baton. TPC is that elite training center to prepare the next generation not only as entrepreneurs but also as leaders in the community so that they are prepared to make the largest impact on the socioeconomic ecosystem.

What is TPC’s vision for impact in the future as it relates to community wealth creation?

TPC exists to empower, connect, and champion Black entrepreneurs so that our communities can thrive from within and create wealth and access for generations to come.

We do this by promoting connectivity between Black entrepreneurs and leaders, advocating for policy changes that affect our members’ growth, offering financial support and investing in our members, and

creating opportunities for Black generational wealth through investments and real estate initiatives.

How does one become a member of TPC?

Right now, businesses interested in becoming a member of the Council or the Chamber may contact Chanel Spencer at chanel@thepresidentscouncil. com or sign up online.

Does TPC have a community political agenda?

Yes, however, TPC is neither a D nor an R. We are for TPC.

Through our Political Action Committee, we provide a shared magnified voice on public policy issues that impact African American businesses. According to, while African Americans make up just 14 percent of the population, we are responsible for some $1.2 trillion in purchases annually. In some cases, Black consumers make up over 50 percent of overall spending. We are an indisputable part of this region and wealth. It is important that we vote for an inclusive economy. We work on both the local and federal levels to remove the barriers that affect African Americans’ quality of life.

Final thoughts to students? To early career professionals?

Everyone has a special gift. For that gift to flourish one must take changes, seize opportunities, and learn as much as possible. Prepare oneself wholly – mind, body, and soul, so that one is prepared to take the baton and have an impact in this generational race. | 13

A New Home for Placedbased Impact and Community Partnership

The Cleveland Foundation is the world’s first community foundation, rooted in the idea of place-based impact and community partnerships. After building a new headquarters in Cleveland’s MidTown neighborhood, the foundation now has a home that reflects and promotes its focus on local impact and collaboration.

In its early years, the Cleveland Foundation’s primary focus was studying urban issues such as education, social services, the criminal justice system, and economic reform. Over one-hundred years later, the foundation’s focus has evolved but, in many ways, stayed very much the same. Thanks to the generosity of thousands of donors over the decades who have chosen to partner with the Cleveland Foundation, the organization doesn’t just study the issues but also makes significant investments to improve the quality of life in Greater Cleveland.

Today, the foundation and its donors direct the majority of their charitable dollars to support nonprofit organizations, projects and programs based in Greater Cleveland. Key program areas include arts and cul-

ture, education and youth, digital excellence and inclusion, the environment, leadership development and more. In addition to its grantmaking, the foundation is a national leader in social impact investments that earn a financial return and preserve or recycle capital – including the foundation’s recent investments in Cleveland’s MidTown and Hough neighborhoods, where its new headquarters is located.

Before its move to MidTown this year, the Cleveland Foundation spent nearly 40 years headquartered in Downtown Cleveland’s Playhouse Square district, an area that benefitted from major investments – including the foundation’s groundbreaking social impact investment in the 1980s to help save the district’s historic theaters. Decades later, Playhouse Square has become the largest performing arts district outside of New York City and a thriving destination for residents and visitors alike. Several years ago, as its lease in Playhouse Square was coming to an end, the Cleveland Foundation had an opportunity to explore options for a new home. After considering more than 60 sites across the city, the foundation’s board of directors

decided to build a new headquarters at the corner of Euclid Avenue and E. 66th Street.

With its move, the foundation is part of a larger movement of equitable growth and placekeeping efforts already underway in the neighborhoods between University Circle and Downtown Cleveland – an area in the heart of the city that has the potential to become a cultural epicenter, given the right resources and support. The Cleveland Foundation is bringing everything it’s learned over decades of neighborhood and community development to its work in MidTown – namely, how to plan for success to ensure the community benefits from new development. This is an opportunity to explore an entirely new realm of possibilities in terms of partnerships and strategic investment.

In addition to serving as an office space, the Cleveland Foundation headquarters is designed to accommodate guests for all manner of collaboration, whether that be donors, grantees, or other community members. The first floor features a variety of community gathering spaces, such as Susanna’s Café, a public

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café serving food and beverage options and operated by HELP, a local nonprofit that supports, trains, and employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The ground floor also hosts the Steven A. Minter Conference Center, which includes spaces like the African American Philanthropy Committee Conference Room that can be utilized free of cost by nonprofit organizations for workshops and meetings. In addition to these spaces, there is also the KeyBank Studio for Arts & Community, which serves as a grand multipurpose room for community events, classes, and performances, among other activities. Neighborhood Connections, a grassroots grantmaker and community building organization that the foundation helped to launch in 2002, has also moved its offices into the building. Neighborhood Connections’ Neighbor

Up network meets regularly in the space, bringing in residents from across the community.

This is the first time in more than a century that the Cleveland Foundation has a street-level presence and a front door to the community. The building’s design reflects the foundation’s desire to be sustainable as well as transparent and accessible to the communities it serves. The building is LEED Gold Certified, with a 250-kilowatt solar canopy providing nearly one-third of the building’s electricity. Upon entering the building, visitors will notice lofty ceilings, glass windows, and wide-open spaces, all of which are intentional in emphasizing transparency and connection to the surrounding environment. One of the primary materials used was mass

timber, combining environmental sustainability with a feeling of warmth and comfort.

The foundation worked with S9, a leading architecture firm in New York City as well as VOCON, a local firm, on the building design. Pascale Sablan of Adjaye Associates led the programmatic design of the building, consulting community residents and gathering extensive input and feedback on what they wanted to see built in their neighborhood. Sablan is one of just 315 living African American women registered as an architect in the United States.

The Cleveland Foundation headquarters is one of many investments and ventures coming to the neighborhood. As an anchor institution, the foundation hopes to serve as a catalyst in the community to stimulate growth, promote positive social impact, and incite genuine, lasting change. The foundation and its partners recently broke ground on the MidTown Collaboration Center (MCC), a multi-tenant building that will house organizations from various fields and business sectors, from education to the arts to health research to small businesses. The building will also be home to two Black-owned food and beverage vendors, including Cleveland’s first Black-owned brewery, as well as a

community-led music center, coworking and community programming spaces. These areas of the building will provide invigorating opportunities for collaboration and the growth of jobs in the community. Located directly across E. 66th Street from the Cleveland Foundation’s headquarters, the MidTown Collaboration Center should be complete in early 2025.

Serving as a community and philanthropic partner is a top priority of the Cleveland Foundation, and its new headquarters was designed to foster relationships and encourage collaboration. The foundation’s staff looks forward to giving tours of the new headquarters and hosting multiple information sessions to discuss the various philanthropic and charitable giving options that are available to those who partner with the foundation.

For more information, contact Terri Eason, Senior Director for Advancement Equity Initiatives at the Cleveland Foundation, via teason@ or 216-615-7580.

Embrace Elegance & Ease When Attending Summer Weddings

As the summer season approaches, so does the excitement of attending weddings. With the sun shining and love in the air, it’s the perfect time to showcase your fashion prowess while adhering to the season’s top trends. This year, the fashion world is abuzz with a trend that effortlessly combines elegance and ease, ensuring you look and feel fabulous at every summer wedding you attend.

Light and Airy Fabrics: When it comes to summer wedding fashion, lightweight and breathable fabrics are a must. Opt for flowing maxi dresses, chiffon gowns, or ethereal silk ensembles. These fabrics not only provide comfort in warm weather but also lend a romantic and dreamy vibe to your outfit. Embrace pastel hues, soft prints, or even delicate floral patterns that evoke the spirit of the season.

Romantic Ruffles & Soft Details: Nothing exudes femininity and grace quite like romantic ruffles and delicate details. Incorporate this trend into your summer wedding attire through dresses with cascading ruffles, asymmetrical hemlines, or voluminous sleeves. Opt for soft and romantic silhouettes that evoke a sense of timeless elegance. Whether it’s a ruffled neckline or a flirty tiered skirt, these feminine touches will make you feel like a vision of beauty.

Jumpsuits & Coordinated Sets: For those seeking a more contemporary and chic look, consider jumpsuits

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or coordinated sets as a fashionable alternative to dresses. Jumpsuits in breathable fabrics like linen or lightweight cotton offer a modern and sophisticated edge. Coordinated sets, featuring matching tops and bottoms in coordinating prints or colors, provide versatility and allow you to mix and match for other occasions. With tailored cuts and clean lines, these options are perfect for the fashion-forward wedding attendee.

Color Matters:

Unless it is a color themed wedding or the attire is related to ethnic tradition that incorporates specific colors and styles, avoid wearing bright bold colors or sequin. Remember it is about the bride and the groom, not you. Avoid being too distracting by optioning out of those choices and following the decorum set forth by the bride and groom, ie., black tie, white tie, casual or formal.

Statement Accessories:

Complete your summer wedding ensemble with statement accessories that elevate your look. Choose timeless silhouettes that can be razzle dazzled but are statement accessories. Here is where you can embrace a bolder approach and utilize unique earrings or statement necklaces, to complement your look. Finish off with stylish shoes that are first and foremost comfortable and chic so you can dance the night away in style. | 17

2023 BPACF Professional Soft Skills Boot Camp

We are thrilled to express our gratitude for the success of the 2023 Professional Soft Skills Boot Camp, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland on May 19th. We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who made this event truly remarkable and successful. Special thanks to Diana C. Starks, Senior Vice President and Senior Diversity Advisor, and the Conference Services team for going above and beyond.

Firstly, we would like to thank the 31 professionals who volunteered as speed mentors. Your presence made a significant difference in helping our students and recent graduates develop their professional skills and confidence. We were pleased to have representation from Bank of America, City of Cleveland, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Municipal School District, Feder-

al Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Fifth Third Bank, JACK Entertainment, Job Corps, Key Bank, The MetroHealth System, NAACP Cleveland Branch, The NRP Group, Perfect Pineapple, PNC Financial Services Group, Pregnant with Possibilities Resource Center, and WKYC.

We express our sincere appreciation to the session presenters who shared their knowledge, experience, and expertise with our attendees. Your contributions played a vital role in making the Boot Camp a success. Heartfelt thanks to Talia Seals, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Emotional Intelligence & Professionalism); David Taylor, AVP Treasury Services Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Financial Management: What’s Next?); Stephanie Weaver, Senior Talent Business Partner, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Resume & Interview Management); Anthony Scott, Esq., Commissioner, Division of Park Maintenance & Properties, City of Cleveland Dept. of Public Works (Your Professional Brand) & Charron Leeper, Founder, Perfect Pineapple ® (Your Professional Brand).

Finally, we thank the students and recent graduates who participated in the Boot Camp. Your enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work were truly inspiring. We are confident that you have gained valuable skills that will serve you well in your future endeavors.

View the highlight reel: https://youtu. be/_pLYGq0h0xE

Once again, thank you to everyone who made the 2023 Professional Soft Skills Boot Camp a huge success. We are already looking forward to the next one!

18 | SUMMER 2023

2023 BPACF Professional Soft Skills Boot Camp | 19

2023 BPACF Professional Soft Skills Boot Camp

20 | SUMMER 2023

Welcome to Cleveland !

The BPACF Welcomes Professionals to Cleveland

For years, Census data has indicated that Cleveland is losing residents. To turn around these statistics, Cleveland must reach past “home grown” and embrace diverse perspectives. New professionals can help grow and revitalize Greater Cleveland. We welcome people from around the world who bring their unique experiences and talents to help create a new, thriving environment.

Interested? Please click here to submit your information. We look forward to your contribution!

include: Marketing & Social Media Mental Well Being Health / Health Literacy
/ Financial Literacy Travel • Real Estate • Food Fashion Trends • Philanthropy Politics / Political Literacy
& Antiracism
If you have a passion for writing quarterly columns, please consider joining our team. Columns
If one of these topics doesn’t move you, we’re always open to exploring more. BPACF is a
volunteer-driven organization, so we cannot provide monetary compensation. You will receive byline recognition, and an opportunity for 5,000+ people to receive your article and experience. | 21

Celebrating BPACF Scholars

It's time to celebrate! Ten amazing BPACF Scholars have graduated this spring, and we couldn't be prouder of them! These talented young men and women have worked tirelessly to achieve this incredible milestone, and we are so thrilled to welcome them into our BPACF Scholar Alumni family!

To all our graduates, we say: Congratulations! You did it! Your graduation is a testament to your perseverance and determination. You have overcome numerous obstacles, and your success reflects the grit and resilience

that defines you. As you transition into your professional careers, we have no doubt that you will continue to make us proud. You are now part of a remarkable community of program alumni who have achieved great things and are making a positive impact in the world. We look forward to staying connected with you and learning about your future successes.

Once again, congratulations on your achievements. Wishing you all the best as you embark on the next chapter of your lives!

Nathanael Ahiagbedey Computer Science/Engineering Cleveland State University

What’s Next? Chase Bank in Columbus, OH

Da'Veona Blair Respiratory Care Youngstown State University

What’s Next? Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH

Douglas Burnett, III Political Science Morehouse College

What’s Next? After interning with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, DC, he will be attending the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University pursuing a Master in Public Administration.


Art & Design

Keandre Graves Intervention Specialist Education Capital University

What’s Next? Pursuing an MBA at Heidelberg University, where he will be a Graduate Assistant Basketball Coach.

22 | SUMMER 2023

Kye Harrell Journalism

Hampton University

What’s Next? Huntsville, Alabama where she will be a Producer-In-Residence for WZDX news station.

Imari Hill Music Technology Kent State University

What’s Next? Self-Employed Film Composer and Sound Mixer, Cleveland OH

Jada Keyes

Communications & Psychology (Double Major) Notre Dame College

What’s Next? Attending John Carroll University to pursue graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Substance Use Disorder Concentration.

Nevaeh Miller Community Leadership The Ohio State University

What’s Next? Attending the Ohio State Unviversity to pursue Master’s Degree in Science of Leadership. She will be a Graduate Research/ Teaching Associate.

Morgan Sims

Inclusive Early Childhood Education

Bowling Green State University

What’s Next? First Grade Associate, University Schools, Shaker Hts. OH Campus | 23

Ariane Kirkpatrick: Right Where She Needs to Be

24 | SUMMER 2023
by Montrie Rucker Adams, APR, Fellow PRSA

Bid whist. Wheel of Fortune. Murder mystery theater. Trivia games.

If you’re the CEO of a construction management enterprise and as quoted in Essence. com, “the first female and Black, majority owner of a vertically integrated cannabis company in Ohio,” you must find ways to relax, unwind, disconnect and rejuvenate from a day’s work.

Ariane Kirkpatrick is the Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation’s (BPACF) 2023 Black Professional of the Year (BPOY). She heads The AKA Team, a construction management company, and Harvest of Ohio. Although “’professional’ is never a word I use to describe myself,” she said, Kirkpatrick’s entrepreneurial track record of jumping hurdles and defying odds deserves the organization’s highest honor.

Soaking It All In

In the late 1960s/early ’70s, East 100th Street and Cedar Avenue bustled with activity. Kirkpatrick and her younger "Irish twin” sister Amonica Davis played often in the neighborhood. They visited the Black-owned stores buying candy and food, frequented Beatrice’s Beauty School for hair care, swam in the neighborhood pool and looked forward to fun at the skating rink. Their grandfather operated a barbershop on Cedar before they were born. “It was an entrepreneurial hub,” recalls Davis. “There were doctors’ and dentists’ offices. Our father worked on Central Avenue. The people around us were role models and we didn’t realize it. It was how we grew up.”

Wright’s family store located in a red brick building stood out for Kirkpatrick. “There was something special about Jimmy and Sara,” she recalls. “The way they treated their customers, remembered names, exhibited the old-fashioned customer service that we almost don’t see today. I remember their

butcher, Claude. It was a family atmosphere. The store was something they owned, and they were proud of it.”

Risks and Rewards

“I knew. I knew,” responded Davis when asked if Kirkpatrick’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident while growing up. Davis wears many hats. She is the Chief Operating Officer for The Jabali Group (“jabali” means rock in Swahili), the umbrella organization over Harvest of Ohio and The AKA Team (named for Kirkpatrick’s sons Ali, Kristopher and herself, Ariane). Davis also oversees the ServiceMaster franchise that she and her husband, John Davis, own.

“There are different types of entrepreneurs,” describes Davis. “She is the one, from my vantage point, who takes the greatest risks and then realizes the greatest rewards. She jumps into experiences and opportunities without knowing where she may land. She is blessed and highly favored. That is her journey. For her, it’s natural. I have always admired her tenacity and blind faith.”

They are both hard workers with the same values and mission. “We’re cut from the same cloth with different and complementary working styles,” said Davis. “Working together is the best mixed cocktail to enjoy, a little sweetness and some sour.”

Davis is behind the scenes with strategies supporting and helping Kirkpatrick realize her vision. “Someone has to be there to make sure there is a soft landing. There have been ebbs and flows during our small business trek. We’ve worked together intently over the last few years. All of our businesses have flourished,” she said.

The Drive to Start Something New

A serial entrepreneur, Kirkpatrick now heads two highly successful businesses. | 25

However, not all her ventures were met with the same outcomes. There was graphic design and A Better Kopy – business ventures she started after graduating from Warrensville Heights High School; Corned Beef Warehouse, a corned beef and chili dog restaurant; and rehabbing homes with the first iteration of The AKA Team.

When asked how she managed to move forward despite setbacks, she responded, “I talked to authentic people who would tell me the real deal about going into business.” When things didn’t work out (she had to close the restaurant, which had been open for over a year, within the month following 9/11), Kirkpatrick admits to becoming sad and depressed, but then she rebounds. “I take situations that don’t work and build on them. I very rarely make the same mistakes. I always have the drive to start something new.”

“I am truly a visionary” she adds, “which has its pros and cons. I will have a conversation with someone, and my mind is running. Some part of my brain is always thinking about how to create something bigger. How to take it to the next level. How to make it something of my own and put my creative touch to it. It’s bothersome sometimes to always think that way.”

Since she was a child, Kirkpatrick continuously thought about growing things. She thinks strategically about putting processes together. “I am good with vision,” she says gesturing toward her head. “I take it from my brain and throw it out there.”

For the Thrill

Davis chuckles as she describes their annual trips to Geauga Lake Amusement Park. “Ariane loved to ride the roller coaster. She would be so excited thinking that I was going to ride with her. Every year I would say no. I

26 | SUMMER 2023
Top: Participating in a forum with the President in 2011. Bottom: At the cultivation site in Ironton, Ohio.

always stood down below watching in excitement and angst. Not having level footing was a comfortable space for her. One day I told her, “I need to share something with you. When I rode the roller coaster, my stomach hurt really, really bad. I was sweating profusely and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was at the end of my rope. She then said to me, ’I felt the same way!’ If that feels good to you, you can have it,” laughs Davis.

November 30, 2017…

… the date Kirkpatrick was awarded the license to start Harvest of Ohio, after continuous encouragement from her son. Two days later the first of many lawsuits and challenges began. “They challenged who I was as a person, as a business owner. You must be vetted to be approved, yet I was re-challenged. It was very demeaning and one of the hardest things that I’ve gone through in my life,” she shares. “I started questioning myself. Who am I?” The inquiries about her didn’t stop. Why is she in this business? What does she bring to the table? “I was ashamed. They kept ’messing’ with me for years. It took three years, six months, and 25 days for us to finally open. It was one of the worst times in my life, especially as a businesswoman.”

The Life Jacket

Kirkpatrick felt as though she was on an island by herself. Folks that were not approved for the license (that didn’t look like her) questioned the type of money she had. “Those that looked like me were upset that I won, and they didn’t. I was just floating. I wore a life jacket. It was the only way I stayed above water,” she said.

She prayed a lot. Her Pastor, Father Bob of St. Agnes Lady of Fatimah, was very important during that time. Danny Couch, her husband of 11 years, “is amazing. He has the patience of Job dealing with me. He’s my calming force,” she says about that critical time in her life. They met when he delivered mail on the street where she lived and worked. They became friends but later parted ways. After 10 years they reconnected and married shortly after.

This year in August, Harvest of Ohio will celebrate its two-year anniversary cultivating, processing and operating three cannabis dispensaries in Athens, Beavercreek and Columbus.

Thistledown Racino job site, 2016.

The Rice Effect - Unmasked

Even though she’s realized phenomenal success, Kirkpatrick says she’s experienced Imposter Syndrome, where accomplished individuals believe that they are undeserving of their achievements. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think and people will discover the truth about them. “Most definitely,” she responds when asked. “I suffered from it as a girl at 15 years old and again at 25… not feeling comfortable, not thinking I deserved to be there.

She recalls when then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was interviewed by Katie Couric. “Katie Couric asked, ’Are you shocked that you’re here? Are you amazed?’ Very poised she answered, ’No. I’m not. I’m a third-generation college graduate. I’m right where I need to be and right where I’m supposed to be.’

“That interview did something to me,” she said. “I’m where I’m supposed to be. The path that I have taken has been crooked a lot of times. I had to climb over a lot

of bridges, stubbed my toe on many pebbles. I’m proud to be here. I am unmasked. I am me. This is the authentic Ariane that deserves to be right where she is. I have to say that and portray that because young girls must feel that same way also. It’s a detriment to our growth. I feel I’ve wasted years thinking I wasn’t supposed to be somewhere, that I’m not an expert in this. I am,” Kirkpatrick adamantly responds.

Survey Says!

Asked what was a big deal but is no longer? “I’m confident in my own skin now,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’m very comfortable being me, bold – to dress the way I want to dress, go blonde if I want to. I’m not afraid to try anything. I think that comes with age and the experiences you’ve had in life.”

Ironically, a question on the Family Feud once asked, At what age do you just not care about what other people think? The number one answer? 50.

28 | SUMMER 2023

Lifting Others Up

Her list of board memberships and awards are extensive. From the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC), Team NEO, YWCA and The Warrensville Heights Alumni, Kirkpatrick is constantly lending her voice and expertise to improve the lives of those in her community. She’s received awards from YWCA, The Presidents’ Council, 100 Black Men, Crain’s Cleveland Women of Note, Diversity Matters Julian Earls Community Achievement Award, and many others. She founded the Construction Readiness Empowerment Equitable Workforce (CREEW) program which she says is close to her heart.

“We created it with YOU (Youth Opportunities Unlimited) for 18 to 25-year-olds interested in the construction industry. We are on our fifth cohort.” They have a collaboration with Whiting Turning and NAMC, and The AKA Team is the main sponsor. “It’s very exciting. We work with different agencies teaching them about the construction industry. It’s a six-week program for five days a week averaging 10 to 12 students. We use the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) curriculum. The students learn

about tools, safety, and all aspects of the trades. If I could do that all day long, I would,” she said.

Continuously making sure the Black community is exposed to the construction and cannabis industries, Kirkpatrick is laser focused on improving the number of students and women in these careers. “It’s an opportunity to change the generational wealth for their families and community as a whole,” she said.

Eight Days

Coffee…cigarette…coffee…cigarette…coffee… is how Kirkpatrick described her endless workdays when she was building her businesses. “I would work all night until the wee hours of the morning typing and drinking coffee. I’d go to networking events, work on job sites, attend meeting after meeting. I smoked a lot. I was not managing my lifestyle,” she said. “The businesses took over. I was trying to grow them and didn’t eat healthy, didn’t exercise. I was just surviving,” she shares.

Kirkpatrick had a massive heart attack on December 8, 2014, eight days before her 50th birthday. She learned she was pre-diabetic and had suffered a minor stroke. The doctors inserted four stents to improve her condi- | 29
Photo shoot for Women in Construction Week during Women's History Month this past March.

tion. “They told me if I smoked another cigarette, I would die,” said Kirkpatrick. She never did.

“I was ashamed,” she said. “I remember people coming to the hospital. I was afraid business partners would not want to continue working with me because I felt weak. The AKA Team did not close its doors. That was the beginning of me putting a team together that could manage what we were building. I had a lot of support. Not only did Ariane survive, but The AKA Team also survived,” she said.

She took nearly a year to recuperate, then jumped right back in, not slowing down. Her construction and cannabis companies continued growing. They bought a new 46,000 square foot building – The Jabali Building - on the corner of 55th and St. Clair Ave.

Last year Kirkpatrick began experiencing chest pains. She remembers walking around holding her chest. “Once I get this finished, I’ll get it checked out. Once I get that finished…

There were so many signs. I thought it was the after COVID effects,” she remembers. Kirkpatrick knew she was having a heart attack but ignored it until she couldn’t. “My kids were angry that I would take a chance to not be here. It was preventable. I was killing myself,” she reflects.

Right Where She Needs to Be

Kirkpatrick is much happier now. She lives in a beautiful building on Lake Erie where she says it’s peaceful and serene. “I know when I get to my stress points. I do more fun things. I take more relaxing time for me.”

Danny shares that she loves to cook and relaxes by, “chopping stuff…vegetables, onions, anything. When she’s in the kitchen, it’s her happy place. Her favorite meals to cook are spaghetti, New Orleans gumbo and chicken noodle soup. She loves life, laughing and having fun. Whatever she does, she gives it 100 percent.”

She’s right where she needs to be.

30 | SUMMER 2023
Left: “The Brady Bunch” Ariane and Danny are flanked by their children: Camille and Jazmine Couch; Kristopher and Ali Kirkpatrick. Top: With husband, Danny Couch. Opposite Page: The Kirkpatricks in the 1970s: Art and Aramenta with daughters Ariane and Amonica.

Ten Questions for Ariane Kirkpatrick

What four words describe you?

Authentic. Passionate. Visionary. Strategic.

What personal challenges have you overcome?

Getting out my own way. While I believe 500 percent that a Black woman business owner has different issues, the obstacles and the barriers in front of me are ones that I know I can overcome.

What is your pet peeve?

Judgmental people. It irks me. You don’t know a person’s story. In this male dominated construction community, people make presumptions about other people. I know they made presumptions about who I am. That is a serious pet peeve of mine.

Knowing what you now know, what would you tell your 15-year-old self?

Be more confident. I’ve always been a quiet leader. I had leadership skills but didn’t know how to home in on them. I was shy and awkward. If I felt there was too much competition and adversity accomplishing a goal, I would say forget it and not do it. I was scared to fail. I’m not scared to try anything now.

Your 25-year-old self?

You are enough. I didn’t think I was enough to do what I needed to do.

What do you believe is your life’s purpose?

I am living my life’s purpose. I always wanted to make enough money to help the community. Not for myself.

My calling is to be a pioneer and a fighter for social equity and social justice. That is who I am. I am unapologetically Black. It’s the fuel that lights my fire, ignites passion in me. It makes me smile when I see people that look like me put their hands on a building and tell their family, I did that.

What keeps you grounded?

My family! 100 percent. I am blessed to have the most supportive family. Danny is amazing. My sons are my best friends. My sister is my Bestie, Bestie. My nephews and nieces. Danny’s two daughters. I love my Jabali Family. I could hang with them every day.

What makes you laugh?

I love comedy and watching TV with my husband. We have a strict TV night. I must get home by 7 pm so we can watch Wheel of Fortune together. Our other favorites are FBI, Law and Order and NCIS. I’m also a big Cleveland sports fan.

When will you feel you’ve arrived?

I am on the path to arriving at the plateau that I want to be. It’s not tomorrow. I see it. I feel it’s attainable within the next five years.

What does it mean to be BPOY?

It means that people see me for who I really am and the passion that I have. The thing that fuels my fire is making sure that I build our community. I am overjoyed to be in a position to help others.

What book do you have inside of you?

She believed she could, so she did. | 31
32 | SUMMER 2023
Lenny Berry and Marcia Pledger are founders of the Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit.

The Cannabis Industry is Booming –

But the Barriers to Entry Are Steep

The cannabis industry is one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors for job creation and tax revenue, yet racial and gender diversity is still lacking, especially in ownership and executive positions.

It’s a complicated industry that’s continually evolving, and outdated stereotypes are finally starting to fade away. More consumers are being educated about positive impacts and health benefits.

Despite the lack of federal legalization, people nationwide have expressed their voices through the power of the vote. As of June 2023, a total of 41 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have medical marijuana programs. Of those, 23 have decriminalized cannabis or have full adult-use programs.

But for many Black Americans –who are close to four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis charges as white people – the prospect of generating wealth through the cannabis industry is out of reach.

Despite Black people representing about 13 percent of the population, Black cannabis entrepreneurs accounted for less than two percent of the industry, according to Leafly’s 2021 Jobs Report, a worldwide publication that follows the cannabis industry.

The Cannabis market size is estimated at $29 billion in 2023, and is expected to reach $60 billion by 2028, growing at a 15 percent rate for the forecast period (2023-2028). Statistics for the 2023 Cannabis market share, size and revenue growth rate, are reported by Mordor Intelligence Industry Reports.

While every year brings lots of positive changes, one thing hasn’t changed. The people that pioneered it as a business in many urban communities are prevented from taking part in the industry. Very few applicants are well-funded and well-connected to deep financial networks. Almost all social equity applicants have issues with access to capital and getting a license for cultivation or dispensaries.

Owning a dispensary or cultivation business isn’t required to participate in the cannabis industry. One of the fastest growing areas is ancillary businesses that support it, from supplying packaging for the plant to offering insurance for cultivators, processors, and dispensaries.

Ancillary cannabis businesses can be anything from delivery services, lighting equipment manufacturers, point-of-sale systems to industry consulting.

Hosting a cannabis conference is another way to get into the industry. Cannabis expos, conventions, trade

shows, and conferences are the easiest way to connect with the industry’s biggest players. You don’t need a license to run a cannabis conference or festival.

Attending the right trade show ensures you meet potential consumers and business partners interested in learning more about your company. Some conferences focus on the business-to-business audience only, while others focus on bringing together the general public with people who work in the industry.

One of those conferences that brings both audiences together is the Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit at the IX Center in Cleveland, October 6th & 7th.

It’s not easy bringing together an event that involves two different audiences, but one of the event organizers, Lenny Berry, says they’re up for the challenge. They’re motivated to make a difference on multiple fronts, including playing a role in getting more people of color interested in participating in one of the nation’s fastest growing industries.

Berry is a serial entrepreneur who formerly owned a Cleveland-based recommendation clinic that helped people with state-approved conditions to get an Ohio medical marijuana card. After talking to many patients who sought more information about why medical marijuana | 33

The Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit is coming to Cleveland October 6 & 7 at the IX Center. The conference is aimed at educating the general public and connecting people in the cannabis industry. Besides offering exhibitors and panel discussions, the Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit will offer an opportunity to get a medical marijuana card on site, an expungement clinic and networking events including one on Friday, October 6 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

For more information, visit Sign up for the newsletter and check out the “Blunt Talk” blog.

continued from page 33

might be helpful to them for conditions such as chronic pain, he decided to create an educational event.

This will be the third event. Last year’s offered about 100 exhibitors, and more than 1,500 people enjoyed two days of workshops that ranged from basics about THC, hemp and CBD, and cooking with cannabis to career oriented panels such as women in cannabis and executives in cannabis.

This year the Summit is expected to be much larger, with events that includes networking at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and offers that include free entry for people who have an Ohio medical marijuana card.

Ariane Kirkpatrick, this year’s Black Professional of the Year and CEO of Harvest of Ohio, is on the Executives in Cannabis panel. Not only does this African American woman own a Cleveland construction company, but Harvest of Ohio has a cannabis processing license, three dispensaries, and a cultivation business.

34 | SUMMER 2023
Marcia Pledger is a freelance journalist and co-founder of the Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit.

As we admire the warmth and beauty the summer season brings, remnants of the winter and spring may still linger, making cleaning an absolute must. It’s customary to choose the spring season to clean. Spring cleaning can be a daunting but necessary task. The outcome is an organized, decluttered, and clean home and yard. However, achieving this result can be a grueling and time-consuming process. Let me spring this on you (yes, pun intended), spring cleaning is not just necessary for your home and yard, it is necessary for your finances. But what happens if spring cleaning sprang right by you?

It is never too late. The summer months are a perfect time to embark on a deep cleaning and organization spree, declutter and organize your financial records, deep clean your debt, spruce up your finances and much more. Dedicating this time to focusing on your finances will surely prove beneficial to your bottom line and overall financial satisfaction. Let’s explore six transformational steps you can take to enhance your financial health.

Declutter and Organize Your Financial Records

As you tidy up your living space, take the time to sort through your financial records. Gather all your financial documents: Bank statements, investment statements, tax returns, medical records, last will and testament, power of attorney, insurance policies, etc. Shred outdated documents and systematically organize the remaining documents. Create digital backups and then store them in a fireproof safe, protecting

Your Finances CLEANING Deserve

them from loss or damage. Discuss each document and your wishes with the relevant members of your family and make sure they can access the documents when needed. Consider sharing sign-in credentials to important websites with your spouse or another trusted person.

Review Your Financial Records and Update Beneficiaries

As you freshen up the paint on your walls and baseboards, take a fresh look at your financial documents to ensure the beneficiaries reflect your current wishes. Review the beneficiaries listed on your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other relevant documents. Your beneficiary can be a person or entity, including nonprofit organizations and charities. Make any necessary changes and communicate those changes to the appropriate agencies and individuals. This process can at times feel morbid, but this action ensures your wishes are carried out and your loved ones and community are taken care of.

Revisit, Review and Revise Your Budget

As you are rearranging your furniture, take time to revisit, review and revise your budget. This is an excellent time for this exercise. It is also a suitable time to create a budget/financial plan if you have not prepared one. According to a study by CreditDonkey, only 32 percent of U.S. households prepare a monthly budget. However, budgeting is one of the most effective ways to keep track of and manage your finances. As we see unprecedented increases in the cost of food, utility bills, consumer products and services, this ex- | 35

ercise becomes more crucial to ensuring you are prepared for the unknowns that a recession brings.

Your budget should reflect your actual income and spending as closely as possible. When reviewing your budget, compare your actual income and expenses to your budgeted income and expenses. Identify the budget busters impacting your ability to stay on target, save and invest more. Make any necessary adjustments to your spending and if necessary, explore opportunities to create additional revenue streams. This is also a suitable time to call and renegotiate rates for all your bills: Insurance, utilities, interest rates, Internet, cable, etc.

Cancel all unused subscriptions and memberships (that streaming service and gym membership you have not used since the beginning of the year). If your review reveals that you are on track, stop and celebrate your success. Keep up the excellent work and push yourself a little harder. If you have fallen off track, dust yourself off and get back on the budget horse. Finally, if you are in the passenger seat of your financial destiny, take control by creating a plan that will put you back in the driver’s seat. Strive for a plan that will give you a satisfying balance between saving, investing, and enjoying your money responsibly.

Assess, Refine or Establish Your Financial Goals

As you experience the sense of renewal and growth, take the time to assess and refine your financial goals. Are you on track to achieve the financial goals you established when you created your vision board and budget for the year? Did you plan to pay off debt, start that new business, purchase a home, build your emergency savings and your nest egg? Are you experiencing the financial satisfaction you deserve and desire? If not, you may need to adjust or start over. If you did not establish goals for this year, take the time to envision how life would look if you were living a financially satisfied life. Set clear, documented SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) goals. Break them down into manageable milestones and establish a timeline for their attainment. Tracking your progress frequently will help you stay motivated and make necessary adjustments along the way.

Deep Clean Your Debt

As you deep clean and sanitize your home, take the time

to clean up your debt. Just like clutter in your home, debt can hinder your progress. Evaluate outstanding debts including credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Utilizing the debt snowball method, make the largest payment possible on your smallest debt, while maintaining minimum payments on others. Once this debt is repaid, apply its payments to the next smallest debt. Repeat this method until all your debt is repaid. This method allows you to see progress quicker, giving you the excitement and momentum needed to stay the course and get to the finish line.

Consider debt consolidation strategies or refinancing options that could help streamline your payments and potentially reduce interest rates. Reducing debt not only improves your financial health, but also frees up resources for other important goals.

Dust Off Your Credit Report

As you dust all of those hidden areas in your home, take time to dust off your Credit Report. Your Credit Report plays a significant role in your financial well-being. Utilizing Annual Credit, obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus and review them for accuracy. Look for any discrepancies, errors, or fraudulent activity that may impact your credit score. Dispute any inaccuracies and address any issues promptly. A clean credit report ensures you have access to favorable loan terms, better interest rates, and increased financial opportunities.

Cleaning your finances is a must and can bring about a sense of renewed purpose and confidence in your financial journey. By dedicating time to focus, adjust, and update your financial records, budgets, beneficiaries, and goals, you can create a solid foundation for longterm financial success.

Just as a clean and organized home and yard bring peace and joy, a well-managed financial life provides security and freedom to pursue your dreams. Embrace the opportunity to refresh and revitalize your financial wellness.

36 | SUMMER 2023
Meltrice Sharp, CPA is a Managing Partner at CLE Consulting Firm, Immediate Past President of BPACF’s Board of Trustees and this magazine’s Publisher Emeritus.

DigitalC: Taking Cleveland Tech to the Next Level

Born in 2003 as One Community, the organization now known as DigitalC is working to establish itself as an Internet provider for the people of Cleveland. It’s a very crowded technology marketplace where several major providers are already in play in the midst of a city with an enormous digital divide. So – what makes DigitalC different?

First and foremost, unlike other Internet providers, and what sets them apart, is that DigitalC is a mission-based nonprofit. “We are a technology social enterprise,” president and CEO Joshua Edmonds shared recently. “We are focused on connecting the unconnected – the hardest to reach – in the City of Cleveland. We deliver reliable, affordable high-speed Internet and collaborate with community partners to provide devices, digital literacy training and tech support.”

According to the DigitalC website, through its fixed wireless Internet service provider, EmpowerCLE+, the organization has a plan to provide access to affordable broadband service to Cleveland’s 34 neighborhoods. Headquartered in MidTown Cleveland the MidTown Tech Hive, Edmonds noted that “even our call center is in the City of Cleveland – being here is our choice.”

“With Cleveland as our priority,” he continued, “we are seeking to bring technological certainty to the marketplace - certainty that the Internet we provide will work, and certainty that we will be a provider for all.” This focus on all-city connectivity comes at a time when Cleveland is recognized among the worst-connected big cities in the country, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) data from the U.S. Census. Local nonprofit PolicyBridge echoed this point in 2021

in its report “Access Denied,” which noted that in the fall of 2020, when the pandemic raged and school children were forced to attend school remotely, 31 percent of Cleveland households lacked Internet service of any type, including cellular service.

The focus on bringing technology to all Clevelanders is now guided by Edmonds, who was named DigitalC’s president and CEO in October 2022. Prior to returning to his hometown, Edmonds served as the Director of Digital Inclusion for the City of Detroit, where he developed a strategy to increase Internet subscribers while promoting digital skills training and more access to computing devices.

Edmonds is most certainly not a neophyte in this sector. As a Fellow with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, where he served in the presidential initiative that aimed to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research, he was one of five people called to testify at a hearing on “empowering and connecting communities through digital equity and Internet adoption.” During his testimony, Edmonds outlined how the importance of funding digital equity and Internet adoption affect people’s access to online banking, healthcare, job opportunities that require tech skills, participation in Census 2020, and their kids’ ability to do homework.

“In Detroit, we developed public-private partnerships without any government funding, but it was an unsustainable model,” Edmonds said at the congressional hearing. “We need [government] resources to continue our work. If we were to receive additional funding, we could do more robust outreach, and incentivize more localized funding from philanthropic organizations.” | 37

Having “found his voice” in Detroit, Edmonds returned to Cleveland armed and ready to apply his experiences from the City of Detroit and Poverty Solutions, as well as time spent working as a Digital Innovation Fellow for The Cleveland Foundation. There he helped develop and execute a digital equity strategy across Northeast Ohio while partnering with nonprofits and community organizations to drive investment and maximize impact. He also served as a Public Service Fellow for the Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship, where he worked with city leadership to create a countywide digital empowerment plan for public housing residents.

It was Edmond’s leadership, national exposure, and experience, combined with DigitalC’s history and vision, that led to the organization being selected by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb to receive $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding from the city to deliver affordable, high-speed Internet to city residents.

“Internet access should be a right for all Cleveland residents and not a privilege for only those who can afford it,” Mayor Bibb said in the selection announcement. DigitalC was selected through a competitive process. Along with its many consortium partners, DigitalC laid out a plan to provide citywide Internet coverage for $18-permonth and provide basic technology skills training at no cost to residents, per the city’s requirements. However, although the selection has been made, Cleveland City Council must still approve legislation submitted by the mayor to allocate funding to DigitalC. The legislation was presented to City Council in early June – and Council “paused” before making a final decision, which may come as soon as in the July meeting.

This “pause,” Edmonds noted, provides the organization with an opportunity to convey confidence in DigitalC’s ability to successfully manage the project. “This is really a David and Goliath moment. Yes, there are giants in the room. But we are ready to leverage an extraordinary team to bring all the employment, educational and health benefits that come with being digitally included and connected to Cleveland residents.” He added that he and his team have made one-on-one meetings with council people a top priority, and plan to host a public meeting, with all project vendors, at their MidTown Cleveland headquarters, so everyone can learn more.

The goal is to clear up any misunderstandings about the project and what DigitalC is offering.

Sometimes, in the nonprofit sector, there’s a need to “pause” to ensure you are living up to the organization’s mission and/or providing what customers are asking for. To reassess programs and services. To validate audience needs. To review strategic direction. This is exactly where DigitalC finds itself. Taking a pause – thanks to Cleveland City Council – before taking on this major undertaking that will determine Cleveland’s technological future.

Until the Cleveland project is approved, DigitalC is taking a hard look at itself to ensure it is best positioned to move forward with its ambitious goals and objectives. The tech sector is quirky, especially now in these post-pandemic days. This requires providers like DigitalC to be fleet-footed and ready to pivot as market conditions continue to shift.

In DigitalC’s announcement introducing Edmonds to the community, board chair Lance Frew noted that “Joshua’s experience in improving access to low-cost and reliable connectivity, including here in Cleveland,” makes him the ideal person to lead DigitalC into the future. He added that, together with an established and experienced leadership team, DigitalC is poised to maximize its impact in helping the community reach its potential by closing the digital divide.

Edmonds has stepped right into the crosshairs of this challenge. “We have made a number of strategic executive changes and are also taking a more nuanced look at our marketing and branding,” Edmonds said. “Our goal is to foster trust and confidence within the community, with an emphasis on training and upskilling” for people in the communities we serve. That, and to get Cleveland off the least connected city list.”

Stay tuned – DigitalC will most certainly be one to watch in the near future, as it plants seeds of change across and for the betterment of a more technological Cleveland.

Kimberly St. John-Stevenson is a writer, innovator, and advocate. She is Associate Director - Grants and Strategic Partnerships at YWCA Greater Cleveland.

38 | SUMMER 2023


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Are you ready to grow your business? | 39 GET STARTED TODA Y AT JUMPSTARTINC.ORG

The GOOD, the BAD, the UGLY of Homeowner Associations

Here’s what you need to know…

Growing up I lived in a community that had no Homeowner Association (HOA). In fact, it almost felt like there were no city ordinances or government control.

Picture driving through a neighborhood where some of the houses are very close to the road and others have a further setback or maybe even a house that has deteriorated paint. How about someone barbecuing in the front yard and leaving the grill there for an extended period? Where I grew up you might have seen a swimming pool in the front yard but one thing you would not see is any type of uniformity in that community.

When a person purchases a home, they want the right to have the freedom to do whatever it is that they want to do with that piece of property. However, when you live in a community, what one neighbor does in the community could impact the entire community and bring down the value of the home. The same goes for making home improvements. Exterior improvements to a home help increase value to the neighbor’s home as it shows a pride of ownership within the community.

40 | SUMMER 2023

The community in which I grew up had a rural feel, so government controls were more relaxed. If you had a problem with the upkeep of your neighbor’s yard, it was hard to have something done about it. In many communities nowadays, an HOA was formed to have bylaws and give an extra layer of protection for community neighbors against homeowners who want to run a mechanics shop in the driveway or park a sailboat that may be an eyesore. An HOA gives some uniformity within a community and gives guidance to homeowners to help preserve values of homes within that community.

When moving into a community that has an HOA in place, it is best practice to request and review bylaws before moving to that community. For example, if you had plans to install a swimming pool at your new home you may be moving into a community that does not allow swimming pools. Do you have kids that like to play basketball? You may be selecting a community that does

not allow basketball hoops. These are things that we just assume we are allowed to have but are things we have to consider when moving to a community with an HOA.

You may be a person who just wants to have the right to enjoy the home that you purchased however you see fit. If this is the case, a community with an HOA may not be for you.

To many, HOA rules may place a damper on future plans to enjoy your home. Or, you may be someone who does not mind stricter controls within the community to prevent community eyesores. Either way, be cautious moving into a community with or without an HOA. | 41
Andrea Wilson, MBA is a broker and owner of Brick House Realty.


The BPACF is all about highlighting and promoting Greater Cleveland professionals (hence, Black Professional Association). As the ranks of Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) in corporations, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurship, and government continue to grow, we are encouraged that change is happening. We are filling seats at all the tables. In this issue, we’re presenting six professionals who exemplify BPACF’s vision and mission. Where you can support them, please show them lots of love.

Mark Akins is an author, sales professional, public speaker, volunteer, certified mental health first aider, mental health advocate, workshop facilitator, father, husband, son, and brother.

Science in HVAC. Akins overcame a single parent low-income household, and physical, sexual, and mental abuse. He also survived a suicide attempt where he lost over 70 percent of his body blood. challengeyourperception/ 216-256-6561

As founder of Gratifying Expressions LLC (GE), Akins believes that everyone has the right to express themselves. “In the age of social media and Internet, expressing yourself has become a responsibility. This is what GE helps groom. Even though you are free to express yourself, do it in a way that makes others grateful that you did it!” he says.

Akins expresses himself in writing, speaking, and working to develop the Midas touch. “I don’t believe that you are born with the Midas touch. I believe it can be developed by constantly improving yourself and skills. Then everything you are involved in is that much better,” says Akins.

Sales happened to wake up the author in him. He authored the book, Challenge Your Perception of Cold Calling. “The secret to perception isn’t what you see is what you get, it is how you see is why you get,” he says. “Challenging your perception is the only way to free your success from the captivity of anxiety.”

Akins started in the trades shortly after he graduated high school. He obtained his Universal EPA Certification, HVAC Diploma, and Associates of Applied

The work of God and a strong will made him who he is today. “Help, give and serve. To me, this is how you grow,” says Akins.

What is your superpower?

Challenging your perception. Also, using my energy to heal environments and individuals.

Why did you choose your career?

My purpose calls for me to utilize my life experiences, views, and lessons. I must do this passionately by working to transform and challenge the way we think. God left me no choice. When God calls, I don’t text.

Who inspires you? Who are your role models?

Birdman, Bob Proctor, and Lou Joseph.

What personal/professional advice do you have for our readers?

The only way you will truly know what you can’t do is to go for the biggest, scariest goals that no one believes you can accomplish. This is a way to turn negatives into a positive. You have a beautiful mind that will allow your imagination to breed any creation. Love and forgive yourself daily!

42 | SUMMER 2023

After completing her undergraduate studies at Lincoln University, Beasley completed two years of AmeriCorps service with College Now Greater Cleveland as an AmeriCorps College Guide. Upon service completion, she was hired as a full-time advisor. As an advisor, she started the Rockin’ the 216 Program, now known as impact!, and worked with the Upward Bound Program at Shaw High School. In her role as Director, she oversees ten federally funded programs serving various high schools in Northeast Ohio with a combined budget of $2.4 million.

Beasley received her Master’s in Higher Education Administration from Tiffin University and is an active member of the Cleveland Council of Black Colleges Alumni Association (CCBCAA). During her term as Vice President of the CCBCAA, she was vital in building successful annual events: Destination HBCU College Fair, Beyond the Classroom Internship and Career Fair, and the HBCU Student Send-Off celebration. She is the First Vice President of Lambda Phi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., Secretary for Ohio TRIO, and Parks and Associates Foundation Board Member.

What is your superpower?

My superpower is my ability to adapt to any situation and juggle multiple commitments and projects simultaneously. I often hear, “I don’t know how you do it all.” The funny thing is, I don’t either. I take it one task, assignment, challenge, event, and day at a time. Most people wouldn’t call handling stressful situations a superpower, but

it is one thing I am known for. This strength allows me to think fast on my feet and keep those around me motivated without cracking under pressure.

Why did you choose your career?

Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. I switched to wanting to be a math teacher in my senior year of high school. After my first math class in college, that quickly changed, and I set my sights on becoming a high school history teacher. After student teaching, I changed my mind, stumbled upon the AmeriCorps opportunity with College Now, and fell in love with the college access field. Even though I am not a lawyer or classroom teacher, I get to live out my dream of helping, educating, guiding, and advocating for high school students.

Who inspires you? Who are your role models?

My biggest inspiration is my grandmother. When I was born, she retired from being an elementary school teacher to be my full-time babysitter. Throughout my life, I learned so much from her. She was loving, giving, the rock of her friend group, dependable, loved learning, and she passed those characteristics on to her daughters and grandchildren. She devoted her time and money to ensuring I had a well-rounded childhood. She was my role model and biggest support system.

What personal/professional advice do you have for our readers?

You can love what you do for a living but still think it feels like work. | 43

Jessica Lauren Malone is a Senior Development Officer within the Office of Institutional Relations & Development at University Hospitals. She has more than 10 years of experience in healthcare philanthropy, directly raising millions of critical dollars to advance clinical care, medical research, and community healthcare access across Ohio.

As an integral team member, Malone has been involved in tens of millions of dollars raised for healthcare programming and innovations throughout her career. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Urban Community School, St. Edward High School, and she previously sat on the board of The Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and The CWRU Flora Stone Mather Center for Women Advisory Board highlighting her passion for creating opportunity through education.

She serves her profession as Secretary of the Board for The Association of Fundraising Professionals and finds joy in mentoring others. Malone is an undergraduate of Case Western Reserve

University and holds an advanced degree in Public Administration from Cleveland State University. In 2017 she was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business as a “Twenty in their Twenties” honoree, acknowledging her rising leadership in the Greater Cleveland community.

What is your superpower?

Building meaningful connections.

Why did you choose your career?

I chose a career in fundraising out of my love for humankind, and to do my small part in changing the world for the better.

Who inspires you? Who are your role models?

My parents will always be my favorite role models - they have instilled in me strong values and strong sense of self. I'm forever grateful to them for shaping me into the person I am today.

What personal/professional advice do you have for our readers?

Always be your authentic self! It is a gift to the world to be uniquely and unapologetically you!

Jessica L. Malone Senior Development Officer University Hospitals
44 | SUMMER 2023

DaQuri Mays is a CRA Mortgage Loan Officer for Huntington National Bank. He specializes in working with low- and middle-income community members advancing the bank’s goals under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). He also works to connect community members in need of assistance to Huntington’s community partners and programs.

What is your superpower? Discernment. This superpower is my tool that helps with better judgement. I see through deception and can navigate complex situations with clarity.

Why did you choose your career? My mother was taken advantage of during the 2008 housing crisis. While I was in college, she lost her home she recently purchased. I came back to essentially nothing. This made me realize I had a desire to make a difference and help others to not experience the trauma of losing a home. As a CRA Mortgage Loan Officer, I have the tools and knowledge to better prepare those seeking homeownership or those who need help keeping/improving their home. I have the honor of helping

change the communities that I grew up in and those surrounding it.

Who inspires you? Who are your role models?

My mom and my granny inspire me. Both seem to always make a way. Even after what life has dealt them, they both managed to raise their family to the best of their ability. I admire their ability to forgive and continue to enjoy life.

My role model is Brother LaRese Purnell. He is one of the few in the industry who I feel I can relate to. He commits a lot of himself to the community and even the nation and still maintains a family life. That not only gives me hope, but it also shows me that our people do want the financial literacy knowledge I have acquired over the years. I can’t leave out that he is also a fellow member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

What personal/professional advice do you have for our readers? Plans can always change but if you know what you want, you know where you are going.

DaQuri Mays CRA Mortgage Loan Officer Huntington National Bank mortgage/mays-daquri 216-333-6664 | 45

Asia Simmons

Workday Payroll Consultant


Phone: 216-336-4585

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin. com/in/asiasimmons/

Asia Simmons is a Workday Payroll Consultant at Topbloc. As a consultant, she helps clients navigate through the process of adapting to the Workday payroll system from previous payroll operating systems. She accomplishes this by being a subject matter expert in Workday Payroll and having an openness and willingness to teach others.

What is your superpower?

My superpower is always being teachable. This has helped me transcend through multiple industries throughout my career. Learning through others by observing and one-on-one training is so important because that is the foundation of how you will view your time at a company. Being teachable has also helped me become a great teacher/ mentor to help others.

Why did you choose your career? Honestly, I don't think I chose my career. I believe it chose me. Before becoming a Workday Consultant, I had various jobs in customer service. Whether I was in the pharmacy, bank, or working for a mortgage company, I always found myself educating customers about the benefits of some service or product. In doing this over the past 10 years of my career and using LinkedIn to gain more exposure towards my skills, I was recruited into my current career without even searching but always being prepared.

Who inspires you? Who are your role models?

My parents are my role models. Throughout my life my mother and father have always instilled in me to always do my best in whatever I do because you never know who's watching you.

My mother has shown me how to know your worth as a woman of color in corporate spaces and never think that you can't be taught. My father has taught me to always get back up anytime that life may knock me down, and to always embrace the things that make me unique.

What personal/professional advice do you have for our readers?

My advice to anyone reading this is to never question whether you're worthy for any great opportunity that is put in your path. God or whatever greater power you believe in wouldn't present you with something you couldn't handle. Everything you've been through up to this point has prepared you for this moment right now.

46 | SUMMER 2023

Tabitha Simpson is an Akron, OH native. After graduating from St. Vincent-St. Mary’s high school she went on to play Division II Varsity College tennis at Ferris State University; located in Big Raids, MI. Upon graduation she forged a partnership, and started her career in Human Resources, as an Intern at Trinity Health’s- Chelsea Hospital. While swiftly working her way up through the ranks, she simultaneously obtained two Master’s Degrees in Organizational Leadership and Healthcare Management.

In 2017, Simpson moved back to her home state. She resides in Columbus, OH with her two children Chloe and Lennox. For the past 10 years, she has worked predominantly in the healthcare industry as a Human Resources Professional, the past four have been in her natural niche as a Human Resources Business Partner.

Simpson works for Takeda Pharmaceuticals and is a trusted Human Resources Business Partner supporting roughly 30 of the Operational Centers for the Plasma Derived Therapies Business Unit. She has a passion for servant leadership, change management, and plays an integral role in the ongoing coaching and development of leaders throughout the organization; as well as ensuring that employees are working in a culture where they are respected and valued. Her keen eye for leadership talent plays a vital role in talent transformation and imbibing new talents to bridge the digital gap and keep the process of innovation alive.

Simpson is ambitious and self-driven with the zeal and drive to create molds and continue to break down barriers for herself and others.

What is your superpower?

Inspiring others and elevating capabilities.

Why did you choose your career?

I chose my career in Human Resources because I saw it as a way to make a difference. I chose my career as an HR Business Partner because I enjoy solving complex problems by utilizing strategic thinking and innovative ideas. Every day is different and diverse with a constant satisfaction of overcoming challenges and helping both the organization and the people of the organization. I find great satisfaction in broadening a leader's perspective for their growth and the betterment of the team.

Who inspires you? Who are your role models?

While there are many people and innovators that have come before me, I am my own inspiration. As an ambitious and self-driven Black woman, I am determined to achieve success on my own terms. At times this may look different and/or unconventional, but my desire to be successful in all aspects of my life has gotten me where I am. The marathon will most definitely continue.

My role models are the friends and family that comprise my village, as they challenge me to grow and be better.

What personal/professional advice do you have for our readers?

If there is no room at the table, pull up a chair anyways. If you are not welcome at the table build your own table. Your greatest achievements are merely one thought away!

Tabitha Simpson, MBA SHRMSCP Human Resources Business Partner Takeda Pharmaceuticals | 47
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