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Business Journal

Entrepreneur | Business | Education and Career | Finance | Real Estate | Technology | Insurance

May 2017


Inspire, Inform & Educate


117th Edition

Texas Black






Maroon & Gray Affair Raises over $800,000 for Scholarships


27 2 Girls Who Travel Take Chicago

Comerica Bank Receives 2017 Financial Capability Innovation Award from EverFi at Nasdaq

2  |  May 2017

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May 2017  |  3

Publisher’s Message

MR. D-MARS will continue to uplift and promote the small business community. We are a stronger community when we are united. Support the businesses in our community and the events promoting the businesses in our community. Small businesses are a vital component for Houston’s economic growth and prosperity. This month highlights the Texas Black Expo (TBE). Since the first TBE “Summer Celebration” in May of 2004, the non-profit has created an impressive path of empowering the local and state business

Behind the Journal




16 Finance 16  Using A Self-Directed IRA to Invest in Private Placements

DISTRIBUTION Booker T. Davis, Jr. Rockie Hayden CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Texas Black Expo Texas Southern University Comerica 2 Girls Who Travel Kim Floyd Valerie Jones Charlotte Jackson Linda Lindsay Victor Walker, Esq. Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Noel Pinnock Shelondria Peavy News Provider


18-19  Cover Story 18-19  The Legacy of the Largest Black Consumer Expo and Festival in Texas


Project Coordinator Taelor Smith

08  Education and Career 08  Job Prospects Flat for Black Workers 10  A Lesson for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos 12  & Gray Affair Raises Over $800,000 for Scholarships

14 Entrepreneur 14  "Hello Alice"...Meet The World's First AI-Based V irtual Advisor for Women Entrepreneurs

PHOTOGRAPHY L.C. Poullard Grady Carter


our services

04 Business 04  5 Steps to Creating Happiness in your Workplace 04  9 Tips to Boost Productivity in the Workplace 06  Blackonomics: Time for Black Fraternities and Sororities to Step Up

Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Floyd

Vice President, Marketing Anita Bates

—Oprah Winfrey


Publisher & CEO Keith J. Davis, Sr.


“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”

community, educating entrepreneurs and youth, providing health & wellness information to the masses, all while entertaining people from Houston, across Texas, and neighboring states. Under the leadership of the founder and president Jerome D. Love, the TBE is the largest minority-owned expo in Texas. As always, thank you for your continued support of d-mars. com. When you support us, you are supporting more than just our company; you are supporting the communities in which we live and work. Working together, we can succeed in making positive things happen.

20 Insurance 20  Life Insurance Is One of the Keys to Black Wealth 18-19

ADVERTISING | MARKETING MEDIA | COMMUNICATION • Business Journal • Health & Wellness Journal • Community Journal • Black Pages Online Business Directory • Top 50 Black Health, Medical & Wellness Professionals • Top 50 Black Professionals & Entrepreneurs • Top 30 Influential Women of Houston • Top 25 Prime & Subcontractors for Diversity • Business Connection • Business Development • Business Consulting • Graphic Design • Photography • Printing • Web Design • Online & Email Marketing • Public Relations • Social Media • Advertising • Writing • Promotional Marketing

22  Real Estate 22  Survey" African-Americans Passionate About Home-ownership, but Fewer Own Homes info

24 Technology 24  Digital Course Solutions & eCommerce Shift Strategies in College Market 26  Stage With Style 26  Relationships Matter

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27 Travel 27  2 Girls Who Travel Take Chicago

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30 Spiritual 30  The Virtuous Women 30  Let's Build Many Mini Mansions





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4  |  May 2017 Business


5 Steps to Creating Happiness 9 Tips to Boost Productivity in the in Your Workplace By News Provider


ach workday, the average American spends 8.8 hours at work or on work-related activities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s even more time than people spend sleeping. And because we spend so much time at work, it's in your and your employer’s best interest to make workplaces the happiest environment it can be. Workplace comfort and happiness is highly impactful in retention and recruitment, as well as an individual’s productivity, satisfaction and ultimately, a company’s or business’s ROI. It’s not just free snacks, pizza or bagel Fridays, big windows or colorful conference rooms and ping pong tables. In fact, there’s a science behind what drives happiness in the workplace and what can be done to achieve it, through light, furniture, ergonomics and movement. To ensure both employers and employees can create and maintain an ideal workplace environment, Dr. Mike O’Neill, lead global researcher of workplace strategy and market analytics at Haworth, a leading furniture company based in Holland, MI, shares five tips to improve the happiness of your work environment: • Bring order to the chaos. If you have an important meeting coming up or you’re under a lot of stress, cleaning your workspace can help. A clean workspace allows you to arrive and immediately get to your most important task without wasting time. Plugging devices in to charge, color coding your files, even filling or cleaning your water bottle the night before can help. The more organized your workstation, the more organized you’ll be to start your day. For employers, ensure your employees have streamlined and legible space. Workstations tailored to individual and group tasks help to promote legibility in the workplace, with clear indications of space designed to promote certain activities. • Adjust your workspace to fit you. Whether it’s a height-adjustable work surface, an ergonomic chair or even a wrist base for your keyboard, simple comforts can have a monumental impact on your productivity. Take the time to adjust your workspace and posture to fit your needs instead of “making do” month after month. And don’t be afraid to ask your employer for solutions to help. The tools you need may already exist, you simply need to raise the question. For employers, be cognizant of employee needs in seating and the functionality of their space. Not all employees or tasks require the same template. Consider seating options that promote ergonomic health, desks and stands that compliment required privacy or sharing, and structure that encourages movement and healthy habits. • Let in the light. Everyone values the corner office or space closest to the window — and that’s not coincidence, as natural light is proven to provide renewed energy and vitamin intake. If your workstation leaves you lacking some sunlight, take a little time each day to find some natural light. A quick 15-minute trip to the office atrium or even a simple walk outside can leave you feeling rejuvenated. Make a quick coffee

run or take your computer outside to catch up on emails — you won’t regret it. As an employer, it can be challenging to ensure daylight options depending on real estate availability. If there is minimal natural light in the office, consider expanding to incorporate outdoor workstations, or simply encourage remote work or brief breaks to increase sunlight exposure. • Master your technology. We all recognize and understand the frustrations faulty technology can bring. And while you may have little input regarding the types of printers or computers your office uses or in who the conference call provider is, improving your technical knowledge will lower your frustration and your anxiety. Take any training sessions offered by your IT department and/or watch available videos to learn how to use any given technology more efficiently. Run that system upgrade you’ve been putting off — provided you have IT approval. Your machine will run more smoothly and so will you. For employers, it’s critical to understand the day-to-day technologies that impact employee productivity and happiness, for both individual and group tasks. Ensure costs have been allocated to optimize technology and training in areas that are most impactful, and cut costs in areas of least impact (or perhaps frivolous add-ons that can be eliminated). Ensure employees understand training and troubleshooting that is available to them.

• Stand up for storage. Adding storage solutions to your workspace is about more than simply clearing the clutter; it’s about taking ownership of the area where you spend so much time. A natural place to put your personal belongings or hang your coat makes your workspace feel more like home. As an employer, it’s important to empower employees with the control over their workspaces. Oftentimes, organizational tools and tactics can provide this — from designated compartments, shelving, cabinets and drawers. Customizable organization and storage can be critical to feeling control over the workspace and happiness in the workplace. Until the day you retire, your workplace will be an integral part of your life, so as a reminder, make it the happiest it can be. For more whitepapers, case studies, infographics and shareable ideas on improving workplace happiness for yourself and your co-workers, visit – BPT


By News Provider


f you feel like you’re working more, but getting less done, you’re not alone. Employees are working an average of 44 hours per week, but only think 29 of those are productive, according to a new survey of 1,200 full time office workers. The “Productivity in the Workplace” study commissioned by Fellowes found respondents feel the key to productivity is making adjustments within the existing workday versus working more hours. Chatty co-workers top the list of productivity killers, with unnecessary meetings, cell phone disruptions and problems with office equipment also on the list. Productivity can be increased by cutting meetings, creating more quiet spaces to work, making schedules flexible and updating technology. Laura Stack, also known as “The Productivity Pro,” travels the country helping organizations of every size improve their employee and team productivity. She shares the following tips to help people make the most of their hours in the office. 1. Give disruptions the boot. Resist the urge to constantly check email and turn off email notifications. Put your cell phone on airplane mode, instant messaging on Do Not Disturb, and let calls go to voice-mail. 2. Speak up. Need something new in the office to help your co-workers and you stay more productive? It never hurts to ask. Office equipment, like printers and shredders, are being made with advanced technologies that can make your job easier. 3. Cut down on meetings. Ask yourself if you really need to have a meeting. Can you cover agenda items via email? Cancel meetings if face time isn’t imperative and give colleagues more time to get their jobs done. 4. Don’t multi-task, single-task. When you have a meeting, make sure you are 100 percent focused. You don’t want to miss crucial updates and next steps on projects, it will only hurt your productivity later. 5. Practice "on, in, around, or shred." Eighty-eight percent of people use paper in the office. Keep items you work with daily on your desk, those you work with weekly in your desk drawers, and those you work with monthly around your desk, in archives, or filing cabinet. Use an automatic shredder for everything else, like Fellowes’ line of AutoMax shredders, which shred up to 500 sheets of paper at a time with the simple touch of a button –which helps avoid disruptions. 6. Break it down. If you have trouble getting started with a big task, break it into smaller chunks. Ask yourself, “What is the next action step I need to take to see progress on this project?” Then set a timer, leap into action, and focus on the next step. 7. Vary activities. For mental and physical alertness, vary sitting activities with standing ones, mental activities with physical ones. It will help prevent fatigue and keep your efficiency high. 8. Put some fun into your work. Turn boring tasks into a game. Make a deal with yourself that when you complete the activity, you will do something fun afterward – like take a walk or have a piece of chocolate. 9. Change of scenery. Try to work in a different setting once a week. Whether you work from home, the library, or a nearby park, new surroundings can inspire ideas and give you the energy you need to tackle your to-do list. To learn more about Laura Stack and the “Productivity in the Workplace” study, visit www. or – BPT

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May 2017  |  5

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

6  |  May 2017 Business

Blackonomics: Time for Black Fraternities and Sororities to Step up

Black Fraternities and Sororities Have the Economic Clout to Power the Next Black Renaissance By James Clingman NNPA


emember the scene from “New Jack City” when Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) told Scotty (IceT), “This ain’t personal; this is business?” And at the end of the movie, Scotty said to Nino, “This is personal,” as he proceeded to give him a beatdown. Well, this article is both personal and business. It’s a call to the Alphas, Omegas, Kappas, Sigmas, Deltas, AKAs, Zetas, Thetas, Iotas, known as the “Divine Nine,” and the fraternity I was apart of back in the 1960’s at North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University), “Groove Phi Groove.” The latent collective power within these organizations is mind-boggling. Their members are conscientious, which is demonstrated by their friendship and loyalty to one another. They rally around their members during crises; they support one another when they get married and have children; they work together, locally and nationally, on community projects across this country. They even formed a national collective organization, The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc.; the group’s stated purpose and mission is “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.” I especially like the part about “mutual interests.” I know it’s a hard question to answer, based on our individualistic and proprietary approach to solving many of our problems, but what are the mutual interests among not only sororities and fraternities, but all Black organizations? Is there one thing that all of us can and should do together without compromising our various missions and such? I believe there are several things we can do together, but reality tells me that all Black people will never do any one thing together. So in light of that reality, we must come up with something that is simple yet powerful and will demonstrate our collective resolve, not just to the world, but to ourselves and our children. Keep in mind I said, “Simple.” On the business side of things, this is a call—a challenge—to each member of the abovementioned Black, proud, historic, and venerable organizations to purchase at least one bag of Sweet Unity Farms Tanzanian Gourmet Coffee. The coffee is grown by family co-ops founded by Jackie Robinson’s son, David, twenty years ago. April 15, 2017 was the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball; we can break the economic barrier

by collectively propelling his son’s company to unimagined heights by purchasing his coffee. In case you didn’t know, Jackie Robinson went to work for a coffee company when he left baseball. On the personal side, Black folks are taking an Ice T beatdown like Wesley Snipes received, only ours is an economic beatdown, much of which we are doing to ourselves by not supporting one another more than we do presently. What could be more personal than family? Again, one simple solution is for our Black sororities and fra-

ternities, comprising millions of members around the world, to take this challenge personally and buy at least one bag of David Robinson’s coffee, a fitting tribute to his father’s legacy. By doing so, the world would witness a Black- owned company, operating in Africa and the U.S., become a billion dollar firm virtually overnight, all because a group of conscientious Black folks individually spent a very small amount of money on a Black owned product. A veritable, Black economic renaissance.

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After accomplishing that simple goal, we could repeat it hundreds of times with other Black companies, thus, creating larger firms that have so much business they would have to hire more employees. In the words of the soul singing group, Atlantic Star, “Am I dreaming?” Maybe I am, but it’s a great dream, and I pray it will come true. From what I observe among our social organizations, members of sororities and fraternities are the most conscientious; therefore, I am calling on the Presidents of the Divine Nine to spread the word to their members to take this simple action step toward economic empowerment. In addition, I want all HBCU student associations, Greek Letter organizations, and individual students to insist that their cafeterias serve Sweet Unity Farms Coffee. Now that’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it? As I said, this is both personal and business, and I truly believe that our Black sororities and fraternities can make it happen. With a little bit of money from a lot of people, we can accomplish a very personal and business milestone, one that our youth can look upon as an example of Blacks utilizing our latent power rather allowing it to sit on the shelf and eventually expire. Order your coffee at (Click on the products tab.) No excuses, y’all. If you don’t drink coffee, give it as a gift to someone who does. C’mon, let’s do this.

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8  |  May 2017

Education and Career

Job Prospects Flat for Black Workers By Freddie Allen NNPA


he employment prospects for African Americans showed little improvement, according to the Labor Department’s most recent jobs report. The labor force participation rate, which is the share of Blacks who either hold jobs or are looking for work, remained unchanged from February (62.3 percent) to March. The share of Blacks who have jobs within the population (employment-population ratio or E-POP) was also flat (57.3 percent). The Black unemployment rate improved slightly, decreasing from 8.1 percent to 8 percent in March. Meanwhile, the key labor market indicators for White workers continued to improve under the Trump Administration. The labor force participation rate for White workers ticked up from 62.9 percent in February to 63 percent in March and the E-POP increased from 60.3 percent to 60.5 percent last month. The unemployment rate for White workers also improved, dipping below 4 percent in March. The labor force participation rate for Black men over 20 years-old climbed up a few rungs from 67.8 percent in February to 68.1 percent in March and the E-POP ticked up from 62.5 percent to 62.6 percent. The jobless rate increased from 7.8 percent to 8.2 percent in March, which may occur when workers are optimistic about their prospects. The labor force rate for White men over 20 years-old decreased from 72 percent to 71.9 percent in March. The E-POP also declined from 69.3 percent in 69.2 percent. The unemployment rate improved from 4.1 percent to 3.9 percent, but this was most likely the result of White men leaving the labor market in March. The labor force rate for Black women over 20 yearsold was the same 62.7 percent in March that it was in February. The employment-population ratio increased from 58.3 to 58.6 percent in March. The jobless rate for Black women fell from 7.1 percent to 6.6 percent in March. The labor force rate for White women over 20 yearsold rose from 57.6 percent to 57.8 percent in March. The E-POP also increased from 55.5 percent to 55.7 percent in March. The unemployment rate for White women fell from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent in March indicating that White women entered the labor market and found jobs at higher rates in March compared to February. The national unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in

March and the economy added 98,000 jobs, the lowest monthly job growth under the Trump Administration, so far. The professional and business services sectors added 56,000 jobs and retail trade lost 30,000 jobs in March, according to the Labor Department. In a statement about the March jobs report, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said that the current economic growth, once again, disproves President Trump’s claim that he was handed ‘a mess’ by the Obama Administration. “President Trump and Congressional Republicans have failed to build on the economic progress made during the Obama years,” said Scott. Scott also noted that the House Republicans of the 115th Congress have rolled back protections that would help Americans stay safe at work, have access to a high-quality education, save for retirement, breathe clean air and drink clean water. In a blog post about the March employment numbers, Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said that, despite President Trump’s claims, the economy has been slowly but steadily headed evercloser to full employment for years. Gould also refuted Trump’s assertion that he could enact policies that will see the American economy add 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years. “This pace of job growth over a decade is pretty much impossible to envision,” said Gould. “But we could in theory see 2-3 years of significantly faster job growth than what has characterized the recent past. Unfortunately, no sign of this theoretical possibility has shown up in the data yet.” Gould said that policymakers must aggressively pursue full employment to ensure that all workers share in the nation’s economic growth. “While the topline indicators provide important measures of the overall economy, workers of color, as well as young workers and less credentialed workers, suffer from higher than average unemployment rates in both good times and bad,” said Gould. “For example, it was only in July 2015 that the Black unemployment rate finally ducked below where the White unemployment rate was at its peak in the aftermath of the Great Recession.” Gould continued: “So, while the economy is the strongest it’s been in years, there are still a lot of workers sitting on the sidelines and underutilized. For communities across the country to feel the full extent of the recovery, the Federal Reserve needs to keep their foot off the brakes and let the economy reach full employment before raising interest rates again.”

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May 2017  |  9

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10  |  May 2017

Education & Career

A Lesson for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Just Made Life Harder for Student Borrowers By Charlene Crowell NNPA


his year’s swearing-in of a new Congress and President signaled a surge of new ideas and approaches to government. However, no elected or appointed official should ever depart from or diminish the primary role of government: service to the American people. Ours was, is and must remain a democracy that affords every citizen the opportunity to become a productive and contributing member of society. Yet in recent weeks, the Department of Education has taken a series of specific actions that depart from our creed and duty. By disregarding the needs of 40 million debt-laden student loan borrowers who collectively owe more than $1.2 trillion, it seems one of the Education Department’s top priorities is to respond to concerns of student loan servicers hired and paid with taxpayer dollars. Where is a DeVos plan to address these still-growing concerns? With more philanthropic than administrative expertise, hearing from student borrowers, higher education officials and consumer advocates would provide insightful benefits to the new Education Secretary. In 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) received 12,300 student loan complaints. Of these, the vast majority—67 percent—concerned either their lender or their servicer. Another 30 percent of student loan complaints focused on fees, billing, credit reporting, defaults and fraud.

“More frequently than other issues, nonfederal and federal student loan borrowers expressed their concerns relating to trouble with how payments are handled,” states CFPB’s report. “Borrowers complained of misapplied payments and inaccurate accounting of payments. Some borrowers complained of misapplication of payments and reported that payments were not applied to specific accounts, but rather applied to all accounts managed by the servicer.” Ironically, servicer complaints made many mortgage borrowers frustrated too, especially during the housing crisis. Whatever the loan financed, borrowers were pleading with servicers to act responsively and fairly. Despite minimal standards of accountability, on April 4, the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER), the organization that represents student loan servicers, wrote the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Appropriations Committee and its Education subcommittee. In part, the letter wrote, “the amount that is paid to servicers is not sufficient to cover the currently requested services or the expected services that borrowers need to begin paying their student loans.” In everyday language, that sounds a lot like, ‘you don’t pay me enough to do this job.’ Add to that interpretation the Trump Administration’s proposed $6 billion budget cut to the Department of Education, more money for servicers doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. Further, negotiations for new servicing contracts are expected to start this year. The NCHER letter could be interpreted as an unoffi-

cial start to those negotiations. Just one week after NCHER wrote federal lawmakers, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote James W. Runcie, the Chief Operating Officer for Federal Student Aid, rolling back important guidance on student loan servicing. The now retracted guidance protected borrowers in three key ways: 1.  Providing borrowers access to accurate information and consistent service; 2. Regular audits of both records and complaints to be used in compliance reviews; and 3. Connecting servicer compensation to measurable actions such as payment processing time, length of response time to inquiries, and errors. By reversing steps designed to assist student loan borrowers and safeguard taxpayer investment, servicers will also have less accountability. Before the Education Department turns away from fair treatment of enforcement and loan regulation, officials should know that research and data have consistently illustrated broad borrower mistreatment at the hands of servicers. Should the Department fail to monitor itself, bor-

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rowers can still seek enforcement and protection from state officials and the CFPB. Both entities have demonstrated an interest and willingness to act on behalf of consumers, even if the Department of Education will not. CFPB is the consumer’s federal copon-the-beat and that agency is also facing challenges as President Trump has publicly vowed a regulatory rollback in general and a haircut specifically for the CFPB. As some have maintained in public policy debates, regulation has gotten in the way of private enterprise. No one should dismiss or forget that the private sector has always been guided and motivated by profitability. In state capitols across the country and on Capitol Hill, private interests bank roll lobbyists to cut their taxes, reduce regulation, and appoint officials who will support policies that increase their respective bottom lines. For example, Robert Eitel, senior counselor to Secretary DeVos, previously served as an attorney for Bridgepoint Education, Inc., that operates multiple for-profit colleges. By contrast, the public sector, i.e. government, should be guided by the duties and obligations of public service. School children have been taught for decades that government is ‘for, by, and of the people.’ That pledge should include consumer protection and fiscal accountability. The American people should never be denied or shortchanged for the sake of private entities looking for more lucrative contracts. It’s a lesson that the Education Secretary needs to learn.

May 2017  |  11

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

12  |  May 2017

Education & Career

Maroon & Gray Affair Raises over $800,000 for Scholarships Texas Southern University Recognized Outstanding Students and Alumni By Texas Southern University


exas Southern University held its inaugural Maroon and Gray Affair and raised in excess of $800,000 in scholarship money for deserving TSU students. More than 1,100 people were in attendance. Texas Southern’s award-winning Ocean of Soul marching band opened the evening with a thunderous performance. Nephew Tommy, comedian and radio personality on The Steve Harvey Morning Show, and Melinda Spaulding from Fox News Houston served as the masters of ceremonies. The Maroon & Gray Affair was conceived by TSU’s President Dr. Austin A. Lane and First Lady Loren Lane as a means to present an evening of elegance in support of student scholarships and programs. The black-tie event recognized four top students and two outstanding alumni. “It was a dynamic evening to celebrate all of the wonderful aspects of Texas Southern. The gala allowed us to celebrate our best and brightest students and dedicated alumni,” said Mrs. Lane. “We are grateful to all who joined us to support higher education and those who will make a positive contribution to society.” Brianna Batiste, a finance major from Southern California; Anthony Collier, a political science major from Manor, Texas; Ashtyn Duncan, an accounting major from Houston; and Kaleb Taylor, a political science major from Missouri City, Texas, were recog-

Left to Right: President Lane, Loren Lane, Alaina Benford, and Tony Wyllie

Left to Right: Loren Lane, Anthony Collier, Brianna Batieste, Kaleb Taylor, Ashtyn Duncan, and President Lane

nized for their academic and civic accomplishments. Alumni honorees included Alaina Benford, an attorney at Norton Rose Fulbright, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from TSU and her Juris Doctorate from the TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law; and Tony Wyllie, vice president of communications for the Washington Redskins, who earned a degree in communication from TSU. “Texas Southern is elated to honor our fantastic students and accomplished alumni. The University family is buoyed by the support of our stakeholders and friends. This gala will allow us to continue the critical work of serving as a special-purpose institution for the most deserving students,” said TSU President Dr. Austin A. Lane. Judy Smith, founder and president of Smith & Company and the inspiration for the hit television show Scandal, recounted her role as a White House advisor in a question-and-answer session with Spaulding. Turner Construction, Challenge Office Products, Marie Bosarge/Music Doing Good, and AL&H Custom Homes/Southwest Wholesale were Presenting and Founder Sponsors. Notable guests at The Maroon & Gray Affair included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, U.S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, State Senator Borris Miles, Texas Representatives Alma Allen, Jarvis Johnson, Ron Reynolds, and Shawn Thierry, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, HISD Board President Wanda Adams, HISD Board members Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jolanda Jones, Texas Southern University Board of Regents members Wesley Terrell, Derrick Mitchell, Glenn Lewis, Marilyn Rose, Samuel Bryant Oliver Bell and Tramauni Brock, and Harris County Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney (Precinct 7-2).

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May 2017  |  13

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14  |  May 2017


"Hello Alice" … Meet the World's First AI-Based Virtual Advisor for Women Entrepreneurs dict founders' needs to guide them to referrals, events, mentors and access points to capital and ecosystems.

By News Provider


ecently at Dell EMC World, Circular Board unveils Alice, the first-ever artificial intelligence platform for women entrepreneurs. Developed in partnership with Dell and Pivotal, Alice is on a mission to make it possible for significantly more female founders to succeed at unprecedented levels. Women-owned businesses currently employ 7.8 million workers in the U.S. and generate $1.3 trillion in revenue overall, yet only 2% of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. have reached more than $1 million in revenues. Alice and her partners will work to flip this stat to 98%. "Alice is a female founder's best mentor, guide and consultant. The current startup ecosystem continues to cycle resources among a very small percentage of well-connected entrepreneurs, making it difficult for less traditional founders to navigate," said Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Circular Board. "Alice instantly filters millions of resources down to the personalized, verified content that enables founders to scale to the highest heights, no matter where they are located or who they know."

MeetAlice: Alice: Meet Driven by data analytics, Alice is a virtual advisor that connects women entrepreneurs in real time with the resources needed to scale based on startup stage, location, industry, revenue and individual needs. As Alice populates, machine learning will allow her to pre-

Alice offers offers its its users users the the following: following: Alice •  A conversational user interface to express different areas where women entrepreneurs need help (e.g., financing, legal, marketing, technology) •  Static and machine learning based on user input •  Personalized dashboard with real-time modules based on user activity •  User profiles with data collection capabilities for personal and company demographics •  An extensive library of resources, network of global experts and leaders and events calendar •  Robust search pages with stored results that sort and filter by location, industry, annual revenue, employee count, years in business and content publication source •  Bulk and single upload of resource(s) and mentor(s) by trusted partners and the Circular Board team of experts for easy content aggregation and suggestive analytics

In 2016, Circular Board approached Dell with an idea to disrupt the startup world by building an entirely new ecosystem for women founders. Built on its existing commitment to support growing businesses, Dell grabbed a leadership seat at the table to lend its expertise, capital and innovative spirit to create Alice. "Entrepreneurship is part of Dell's DNA. We're always looking for ways to bring entrepreneurs the best technology solutions to help empower them

in the new world of digital transformation," said Karen Quintos, EVP and Chief Customer Officer, Dell. "Through the power of the Dell Technologies network and the expertise of the Circular Board, we're driving innovation to help women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level." Pivotal, the company accelerating digital transformation for startups and enterprises, developed and deployed Alice's software in near record-setting time – just over three months from concept to launch. The Circular Board team successfully adopted Pivotal's next-generation software development methodology, as well as used Pivotal's cloud technology, to ensure machine learning capabilities allow Alice to evolve and continue to provide targeted resources and mentorship for female entrepreneurs. "Circular Board is leading the way in helping female entrepreneurs turn ideas into fast-growing businesses," says Rob Mee, CEO, Pivotal. "Working with us, the Circular Board team have successfully adopted Pivotal's next-generation methods and technologies to ensure their ecosystem and platform thrives. We're thrilled to be able to help Circular Board on this important mission." Alice is now available globally. Source: Dell

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May 2017  |  15

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16  |  May 2017



Comerica Bank Receives 2017 Financial Capability Innovation Award from EverFi at Nasdaq Comerica Bank News!


Using a Self-Directed IRA to Invest in Private Placements By Victor D. Walker Esq. Contributing Writer


ou can invest self-directed IRA money in private placements, and doing so can help diversify your investment portfolio. Between a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA and a selfdirected IRA, the self-directed IRA gives you the maximum flexibility to choose your investments. A custodian or trustee must administer an IRA. However, the owner of the self-directed IRA makes their own investment choices instead of the custodian. Of course it is up to the owner of a self-directed IRA to ensure that the IRA doesn’t contain prohibited investments such as life insurance policies, collectibles and certain precious metal which are explicitly banned by the Internal Revenue Service. Likewise, you cannot sell to your IRA private securities that you’ve purchased outside the IRA; they must come directly from the issuer.

counting a primary residence -- or at least $200,000 of income in each of the previous two years. Up to 35 non-accredited investors can purchase an issuer’s private placement under Rule 505. Rule 506 private placements require any non-accredited investors to be “sophisticated,” which means they understand investment risks or have hired someone who does.

Typesof ofPrivate PrivatePlacement PlacementInvestments Investments Types Your self-directed IRA can invest in these private placements, such as:

• LLCs (limited liability companies) • C corporations • Partnerships • Pooled investment funds • Small businesses • Land trusts

PrivatePlacements Placements Private A private placement is composed of securities not registered with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Instead, the issuer takes advantage of Regulation D, which provides a few methods to sell unregistered securities privately to investors. Regulation D (or Reg D) contains three rules providing exemptions from the registration requirements, allowing some companies to offer and sell their securities without having to register the securities with the SEC. (Rule 506 of Regulation D • Rule 504 • Rule 505). The rules require that some or all of the private investors be "accredited."

AccreditedInvestors Investors Accredited The owner of an IRA need not necessarily be an accredited investor to buy a private placement, but the issuer might insist upon it, because some private placements, such as those under Rule 504 of Regulation D, are open only to accredited investors. Under Rule 501 of Regulation D, an individual accredited investor must have either $1 million in net worth -- not

When you invest in private placements through a self-directed IRA, it may be a win-win situation: The business owner gains access to needed capital. IRA investors gain the potential to reap a higher return on their investment. Investors also gain the benefit of diversifying their retirement portfolio. If you would like to know more about how to set up and use a self-directed IRA or how to raise capital for your business by offering a debt or equity private placement, contact corporate attorney Victor D. Walker at 713-724-5300.

omerica Bank was recently honored at the third annual Financial Capability Innovation Awards presented by the nation’s leading technology innovator, EverFi, Inc. Presented at Nasdaq Marketsite in New York City, the award recognizes Comerica’s significant efforts to improve the financial capability of Americans through unique digital learning initiatives. Honorees were selected based on a set of criteria that included the scale and reach of their financial education initiatives, the duration of their commitment, and unique employee volunteering activities that supplement their programs. “We’re honored to again be recognized for our financial education progra mming, which combines EverFi’s digital platform and active participation by our Comerica colleagues,” said Irvin Ashford, Comerica’s National Director of Financial Education. “Helping educate our youth on the basics of financial stewardship is one of the most important things we can do in the communities of the markets we serve. We’re pleased to see the growth and success of the Comerica “Money $ense” program, and we look forward to continuing this partnership to equip students with the gift of knowledge.” “Each year, we travel to the birthplace of the American financial system to honor institutions that are truly dedicated to going above and beyond in service to their communities,” said Ray Martinez, EverFi President of Financial Education. “The Financial Capability Innovation Awards have given us the opportunity to share and celebrate the tremendous investment these institutions are making and continue to make in the communities where they live, work, and serve. For EverFi, our time here reminds us just how critical the role innovation continues to play in empowering Americans to pursue economic opportunity and achieve financial security for themselves, their families, and their community.” Comerica Bank is committed to providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully navigate the increasingly complex financial world. Comerica has partnered with EverFi to bring “Money $ense” to local students at no cost to schools or taxpayers. The web-based program uses the latest in simulation and gaming technologies to bring complex financial concepts to life for today’s digital generation. Administered by teachers in a classroom setting, the web-based course offers over six hours of programming on a variety of financial topics including credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings, 401k’s and other critical concepts that map to national financial literacy standards. The platform uniquely tracks the progress and performance of every student. For more information, please visit

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18  |  May 2017

The Legacy of the Largest

Black Consumer Expo and Festival in Texas

The Texas Black Expo has Served Small Businesses and the Houston Community for More than a Decade Submitted by the Texas Black Expo


owadays when Texas Black Expo’s (TBE) “Summer Celebration” gets close, there is a buzz around Houston and across Texas about the upcoming event. People can be heard discussing the star-studded concert, asking about dates to the opening ceremony, tweeting and posting about the non-profit’s now legendary networking happy hour, and purchasing tickets to the “Corporate Awards Luncheon,” that has become a “must attend” event. Since the first TBE “Summer Celebration” in May of 2004, the non-profit has created an impressive path of empowering the local and state business community, educating entrepreneurs and youth, providing health & wellness information to the masses, all while entertaining people from Houston, across Texas, and neighboring states. Founder and president, Jerome D. Love, says when he started TBE, he never imagined it would become what it is today. “When I began TBE, I had a clothing business. At the time, I needed a place to expose my line to the public. Once I began speaking with other small business owners, I saw the need for a Black expo in Houston. So, I really began this expo out of a need to grow my

personal business and in turn help other business owners,” says Love. Love’s initial vision has turned TBE into the largest minority-owned expo in Texas. Over the years, the Expo has grown into what it is today; a four-day event peppered with business and entertainment. There is now an opening ceremony, a networking event, workshops, various health & wellness and entertainment panels. The “Corporate Awards Luncheon” was created seven years ago. Among past keynote speakers are: former HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, Pastor Kribyjohn Caldwell of Windsor Village Church, and Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of the Texas Economic Development Corporation. “I was 26-years old when I started TBE. Back then I didn’t truly understand and appreciate the need for community involvement and creating a network. Thankfully, I was open to suggestions and growth. I now see how invaluable it is to partner with local Fortune 500 companies, small business, and community service organizations. This has allowed us to broaden our reach

beyond the Houston community. We can also now give people what they want and say they need,” says Love. Part of fulfilling those needs is being more strategic in empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs through mentorship and training. TBE has partnered with the Houston Urban League, the Greater Houston Black Chamber, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Radio One, the National Black MBA Association, 100 Black Men of Houston, and more to lead workshops and breakout sessions for business own-

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May 2017  |  19

ers and professionals in various fields. The “Summer Celebration” is not all business. Influential entertainers, comedians, and sports heroes have joined in the festivities in the past. From the beginning, there has been a concert showcasing some of the best talent in gospel, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and comedy. The very first concert featured Will Downing and the incomparable Shirley Caesar. Since then, concert goers have enjoyed Mc Lyte, India Arie, George Clinton & Parliament Funkedelic, Dougie Fresh, Mint Condition, and

Chubb Rock, just to name a few. Comedians like J. Anthony Brown, A,J. Jamal, Tommy Davidson, and Billy Sorrells have done stand-up during the non-profit’s yearly event. Celebrities like Tom Joyner, Susan Taylor, Nick Cannon, Letoya Luckett, and Carl Anthony Payne have all hosted or spoken at various events during past festivities. This year, attendees can expect the usual live entertainment with more programs focused on meeting the needs of its growing audience.

“With so many years under our belt, we now have people who come every year for our signature events like “Diva Dialogue,” but we also recognize the need to empower and engage our next generation,” says Love. The college workshop and “Battle of the Deal Music Showcase,” which provides a platform for up-and-coming artists in the Houston area, were added this year to cater to TBE’s younger audience. Both events are likely to draw parents and music lovers from all age groups. And of course, there will be the open-

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ing ceremony, networking happy hour, corporate luncheon, and women’s empowerment panel – “Diva Dialogue” with celebrity guest Golden Brooks of “Girlfriends.” As always, patrons can anticipate some great deals from vendors selling art, books, jewelry, and more. As TBE2017 gears up for its 14th season, Love reflects on his biggest lessons learned. “The realization that we can’t do this alone has helped us to grow leaps and bounds. Community and economic synergy is key to our success. Now we focus on the needs of the community at large and ask service organizations and local businesses for input,” he says. “Our core mission is to foster business growth and development, educate and expose youth to the world of entrepreneurship, and provide events designed to inform, economically empower, and establish the Houston community and beyond. I think we do an excellent job,” says Love. For more information on this year’s TBE Summer Celebration, please visit

20  |  May 2017



Life Insurance Is One of the Keys to Black Wealth By Stacy M. Brown NNPA


f Black lives matter, then Black wealth should certainly matter, too. That’s the motto that Eugene Mitchell, a corporate vice president and market manager in the African-American Market Unit for the New York Life Insurance Company, often shares. Since 2011, Mitchell has been on a mission to create wealth—$50 billion to be exact—in the Black community through an innovative and well-thought out insurance program backed by his employers and the 1,200 African-American insurance agents the company employs. “We are on mission to create $50 billion of tax-free future income in the Black community,” Mitchell said. “I believe the issues in the Black community are not crime [or] drugs; those are symptoms of a greater and deeper rooted issue, which is about economics. Mitchell continued: “Without economics, without college saving plans in place, without down payments for new homes, folks struggle to move to the next level. What we’ve put together is a community empowerment plan that’s about financial literacy.” Mitchell said that leveraging financial tools to really make a difference is what’s important. The equation is quite simple: multiply 200,000 families by $250,000 in life insurance and that creates $50 billion of tax-free income. Instead of thinking of life insurance as just a means to cover funeral expenses, Mitchell urges Black families to consider life insurance as protection and an investment for future generations. Mitchell based his plan on four principles: Protect what you own and those you love; prioritize financial goals; plan for major life events; and pass on assets to individuals and institutions you care about. “We’re not only trying to create wealth, but to spend it in the right place; to build upon it and protect it and leverage it for the future and pass it on, so that money is never an issue,” said Mitchell. “Knowing collectively that we’ve created $50 billion and changed the financial future of our community shows that Black wealth matters.” Each generation of African-Americans stands proudly on the legacy of everyday heroes and civil rights leaders, just as Mitchell said he happily stands on the legacy of Cirilo A. McSween, an African-American trailblazer in the insurance business who dedicated his life to strengthening the Black community. McSween, who served as the treasurer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was a close confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr., was adamant about helping his clients create estates and leave legacies to financially empower the next generation, using life insurance as the foundation, Mitchell said. “I tell my agents that we have the responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who came before us by doing all that we can to help those who will come after us,” said Mitchell, who holds a degree in finance from Florida International University and an MBA in finance from New York University. Helping to create economic opportunity and building multi-generational wealth can ensure the stability and the future of the Black community, he said. A revelation struck Mitchell when his employers explained that his value to the company was $2.5 million. Mitchell said that was the current value of his

Eugene Mitchell, the corporate vice president and market manager in the African-American Market Unit for the New York Life Insurance Company

future earnings at the company, just his salary alone, without bonuses. “So, it made me think about valuing my life. If someone got on the bus and was acting up, it taught me to move to the other side, for example,” he said. “You tend to take better care of yourself, your children and your family and make better decisions, when you know you’re worth a million dollars or more.” Other races, particularly Whites, inherit their wealth, most through life insurance payouts, he said. “You really can’t work your way to wealth, you have to invest your earnings somewhere,” said Mitchell. “It’s time to consider tools like life insurance, as well as, looking at places where we can find money to invest.” Mitchell continued: “We could empower ourselves, and send more kids to school, create endowments, lessen crime and create more home ownership, collectively.” Buying life insurance isn’t a government handout, or someone else doing for the community, Mitchell said. “It’s us, getting ourselves together with what we have,” explained Mitchell. “To teach our children better, to act better ourselves, and to use these tools that are readily available that have been underleveraged in our community, so that we can raise expectations and create a new legacy for generations to come.” Quite simply, life insurance isn’t a lottery ticket, Mitchell stressed. “We can insure our parents, ourselves and our children to build this within our own families. By getting our mindset and spending habits right, we can start setting up college savings plans and down payments for homes like others,” he said. Mitchell explained: “If you had inherited $250,000 from big momma, would it have helped you put aside your nest egg, put a down payment on a home or have startup capital for a business?” Already, after just six years, the plan is nearing its goal. In 2016 alone, New York Life paid out $5 billion in death claims, Mitchell said. African-American agents at the company handled more than $100 million in claims from Black Americans. “The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) forthrightly salutes New York Life and Eugene Mitchell for this transformative initiative to undergird the building of wealth for Black families and communities,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA. Mitchell and others, including New York Life agents, plan to celebrate reaching the $50 billion milestone by taking a portrait on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in August. “The $50 billion is just a starting point,” said Mitchell. “It could be used on top of the trillion dollars of earned income that Black people already have.”

Tips to Reduce Your Health Care Expenses By News Provider


ealth care costs are in the news all the time. You hear about them at work and when you’re with friends and family. The comments are always the same. Health care is getting more and more expensive and it seems to be outpacing the money you make. Fortunately you’re not helpless when it comes to controlling your health care costs. While some treatments simply have to be done in order to support your health, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones while looking out for your pocketbook at the same time. Employ these five tips today and you’ll enjoy the care you need without breaking your budget. • Focus on your health first. When it comes to controlling your health care expenses, you actually have more control than you think – a lot more. The decisions you make every day – what to eat, whether or not to smoke, how much to exercise – all play a dramatic role in your overall health. So take charge, dine on fruits and vegetables, take a run and kick that nicotine habit for good. Each of these little decisions will benefit your health and your budget. • Be decisive with your deductible. Your insurance deductible is a fixed cost and one you’ll pay every single year before receiving network coverage support. But once it's paid, you’ll enjoy the full coverage of your plan. Thus, if you have another treatment or procedure coming up, don’t put it off any longer than you have to. Undergoing additional procedures in the same year means you get more coverage while paying only one deductible. Many health plans also cover preventive services in full, without going against a deductible. • Be smart about where you go for care. While health care facilities across the country are all capable of delivering compassionate, quality care, they are not all priced the same. According to a Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report, 29.8 percent of emergency room visits were for conditions that could have been treated in retail clinics. The same research also found consumers saved money on out-of-pocket costs by visiting retail clinics for routine services when compared to doctor’s offices, and the visits were much more inexpensive than receiving the same treatment in the emergency room, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. • Ask questions. Your provider may know best, but it's all about your health. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, not only about the procedure itself, but about the price of the procedure and if there is anything you can do to reduce the expense. Sometimes there may be something you can do on your own that supports your health and lessens your costs at the same time. • Embrace an HSA. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) provide a cost-effective way for people who don’t use a lot of health care services, to access care and pay for services up until they reach their deductible. Plus the money you save in your HSA can be used to pay for coinsurance payments or co-pays at your doctor’s office, and it's also an eligible tax write off, opening the door to further savings. There are ways you can manage your health care spending. Follow the tips above and be an active participant in your role as a health care consumer and you'll be surprised at how much you save. To learn more about the The Health of America Report, visit – BPT

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22  |  May 2017

Real Estate

Survey: African-Americans Passionate About Homeownership, but Fewer Own Homes By News Provider


ore than any other demographic group, African-Americans perceive homeownership as an integral component of the American Dream, and a way to build security and wealth for their families, according to a recent survey. The poll by Ipsos Public Affairs, conducted on behalf of Wells Fargo, found that 90 percent of African-Americans said homeownership would be a dream come true, and more than half were considering buying a home within the next two years. However, African-Americans currently have the lowest rate of homeownership among ethnic minorities - just 42 percent, or 20 points short of the national rate, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. African-Americans are expected to represent the third largest segment among new households (renters and owners) in the U.S. by 2024. "Americans of every demographic aspire to homeownership, but this survey indicates African-Americans place high value on the emotional and financial benefits of owning a home," says Brad Blackwell, executive vice president and head of housing policy and homeownership growth strategies for Wells Fargo. "Unfortunately, myths about down payments and credit often deter people from inquiring about loan options."

Barriers, Barriers,real realand andimagined imagined Like many Americans, African-Americans want to own homes, but are often challenged by factual and perceived barriers. Real barriers include tight credit markets, lack of affordable inventory in many areas and underemployment or unemployment. Perceived barriers are directly related to a lack of experience with the homebuying process. For example, in the Wells Fargo survey, nearly half of African-Americans believed a 20 percent down payment is necessary to buy a home. However, many home loans permit down payments of less than 20 percent. Some are as low as 3 percent. Mortgage approval is not contingent on full-time employment, either. Homebuyers need only be able to demonstrate their ability to repay their mortgage loan, regardless of whether their income comes from a full-time or part-time job. However, 54 percent of African-Americans believed homebuyers must have full-time jobs in order to qualify for a mortgage. In some loan programs, income from others who will live in the home, such as family members or renters, can also be considered. The survey also highlighted the possibility that some credit education could help aspiring African-American home-

buyers. Eighteen percent weren't sure what constitutes a good credit score, 35 percent didn't know what minimum score they would need to qualify for a mortgage, and 20 percent didn't know their own credit score range. While lenders do consider credit scores in making mortgage decisions, credit scores are only one factor, and minimum credit scores vary based on the type of mortgage and loan amount. Homebuyer education and credit counseling could provide key information about the elements of a good credit score or how to develop a good credit profile.

ImprovingAfrican-American African-American Improving homeownership homeownership "Just 5 percent of homeowners are African-American, according to the National Association of Realtors," Blackwell says. "African-Americans and other minority groups should have equal access to the wealth- and stability-building benefits of homeownership. In an effort to positively impact the homeownership rate among AfricanAmericans, Wells Fargo has committed to providing education, counseling, a more diverse sales team, and mortgages to African-Americans."

Wells Fargo recently announced plans to lend a projected $60 billion to qualified African-American consumers with the goal of increasing the number of African-American homeowners by at least 250,000 by 2027. They'll also hire more African-American mortgage consultants in an effort to make their mortgage workforce more closely aligned with the populations they serve. Finally, Wells Fargo will provide $15 million to support educational initiatives and counseling for AfricanAmerican homebuyers. Meanwhile, if you want to purchase a home, you can maximize your chances of getting approved for a mortgage with several important steps, including: • Monitor your credit - Your credit report and score can affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage, how much you can borrow, and the interest rate and terms you'll be offered. Review your credit report and score at least once a year. You can get an annual free credit report from all three national credit bureaus at • Control other debt - Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor lenders consider in mortgage applications. This ratio compares your total month-

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ly debt to your monthly income. Keep your DTI below 36 percent by paying down credit cards, auto loans and student debt. • Save - Even though you don't always need 20 percent down in order to qualify for a mortgage, having savings can still positively affect the mortgage process. Some financing programs allow qualified homebuyers to secure a mortgage with as little as 3 percent. Or, you may qualify for programs that benefit veterans if you've served in the military. • Be able to prove income - Although you don't need a high income to qualify for a mortgage, you will need to be able to document your income with W2s, tax returns and other paperwork. • Build up an emergency fund Unexpected expenses are a reality of homeownership. An emergency fund can help you cover costs such as repairing a leaky roof or replacing a brokendown appliance. Lenders are also likely to view you as more financially responsible if you have six months' worth of expenses saved up. To learn more about homebuying and to find a mortgage professional near you, visit – BPT

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24  |  May 2017


Digital Course Solutions & eCommerce Shift Strategies in College Market By News Provider


he 2015-2016 academic year provided the most significant shift in the types of course materials that college students were acquiring— with a decided bump up in the uptake of digital. In College Course Materials Market Trends & Forecast 2016, Simba estimates that digital media accounted for 42% of course materials in 2015, up from 32% in 2014. Students continue to retain a preference for print textbooks, which has kept the secondary market, or used-book market— whether rented or purchased—strong. Simba estimated the print media share (both new and used) of course materials was 58% in 2015. "The digital transition in the higher education market has been long and messy," said Kathy Mickey, senior analyst and managing editor of the Education Group at Simba Information. "And, it is likely to continue to be messy as students, faculty, bookstores and publishers adjust to the changing dynamics in the higher education market."

The most significant dynamic is that universities and colleges are shifting focus from the freshman flunk-out course to creating pathways to help students successfully complete certificate or degree programs. Publishers are offering digital solutions—platforms, learning environments, and particularly adaptive programs—to help institutions meet that goal. Digital programs and online purchas-

ing have created another dynamic in the higher education market: growth in publishers' own ecommerce sites and a changing focus in bookstores. As examined in College Course Materials Market Trends & Forecast 2016, the leading components that are making distribution anything but business as usual include: • Student preference for textbook rental • OER inroads in traditional

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bookstores • Increased Amazon pickup locations on campuses • De-stocking of textbooks by college stores Publishers have noticed that students are making purchasing decisions later, as classes are about to start. In the case of digital, students are heading to the publisher sites where they can download directly at the last minute. "McGraw Hill Education saw ecommerce sales increase 33% from 2014 to 2015," Mickey said. "Cengage ecommerce sales increased 16%." Overall, Simba Information expects the higher education course materials market to move through a shift to digital over the next several years that will see digital accounting for about 80% of industry sales and new-course materials sales stabilizing by 2019. The transition, however, puts continued pressure on overall sales growth. Simba projects the total market of new and used course materials will decline at a compound annual rate of 8.7% to hit $3.44 billion in 2019. Source: Simba Information

May 2017  |  25

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26  |  May 2017

Stage with Style By Linda Lindsay Contributing Writer


s a professional stager and design, I’m happy to make a difference, inspiring designing lifestyles for different individuals. Whether it’s working in the community, with a homeowner, or business professional, I can work in different environments with budgets from high to low. Having relationships with developers and real estate brokers has also allowed me to stage and prepare homes for resale. Staging is a vital part of getting a home ready for sale. The stager is not focused on creating a home that suits your personal taste and need for everyday comforts, but instead helps to make your home appeal to a broad range of tastes. The stager’s work should help people fall in love with your place and want to buy it.

Tostage stageyour yourhome homewith withstyle stylebefore beforea To a showing, please some helpful showing, please seesee some helpful tips tips below. below. Staging Tip #1: When it comes to paint colors, choose warm hues. Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that all walls need to be white in order to be neutral. But white tends to look unfinished and cold. Look for warm colors, based on reds, oranges, and yellows. Using soft tints of these colors will make a space feel inviting. Staging Tip #2: Clear out the clutter. Make your house as clean and organized as possible. A cluttered, overstuffed home sends a message to potential buyers - and to your own psyche - that there isn't enough space and storage in the home.

Staging Tip #3: Identify specific ways to highlight your home's best features and compensate for its shortcomings. For example, remove curtains from a window that has a great view; or, in a small bedroom, replace the double bed with a twin or even a baby's crib. This will make the space look larger. Staging Tip #4: Arrange for repairs or other major work to be done on your home before a showing. There would be nothing more embarrassing than having a potential buyer discover a leaky faucet or a garage door that doesn’t open.

Relationships Matter By Charlotte A. Jackson Contributing Writer


ost working people live for the weekend, so they can enjoy life with those they love. On Monday, they drag into work and spend so much time counting down to Friday. I have been blessed with a pastor who has taught me to live intentionally with passion and spend time with those who add value to my life as well as spending time pouring into the lives of others. In doing so, I often lose track of the day of the week.

Staging Tip #5: Bring in furniture, art work, curtains, carpets, pillows, and even artful-yet-homey objects. Add a real or high-quality fake bowl of organs or potted orchids. Put a welcoming doormat in the front. Make your house feel like a place where people can live their dream life. Staging Tip #6: Add finishing touches before an open house or major showing. For example, add fresh flowers, or put a pie in the oven on low heat in order to waft delicious aromas through the house. Making your home well-dressed before a showing will enhance lots of attention and potentially help it sell quickly, no matter if the market is cold or hot. In a cold market, buyers don't have to settle for anything less than the best. A new home buyer does not need to spend time and money fixing up a distressed home when a staged house looks great and is move-in ready. In a hot market, buyers can focus on the hot property of the week and ignore the others. So you want your property to be the hot one, with buyers going crazy in their efforts to outbid each other. Stage with style! For more information, contact Linda Lindsay of Designing Your Lifestyle at 347-731-1020.

According to my friend, Tim, who I met in seventh grade, I was always the geek with a calendar. Recently, while I was spending time with some young adults, Tim called. He heard the laughter as well as the basketball game on the big screen. He asked for a rundown of my week and about half way through it, he stopped me. He said, “And Charlie, I know you had all of this on the calendar, right?” I laughed. He knows me well. I learned years ago that if something is important, you need to write it down, and you might as well write it on a calendar too. My 24-year-old hero happens to be my daughter. She was telling me that she was unpacking boxes at her new apartment in Tennessee. She asked if I had looked on the calendar yet to plan a vacation this summer. I laughed. I told her I needed to check with two friends who live between here and there so I could schedule visits with them as well. In unison we said, “I have to make the most of the trip and my time.” Her friend listening in the background was laughing. Yes, my child must have already told her about my need to get the most out of every day. A friend and I were discussing what all is on the schedule for the weekend. He shared that between his facilitating meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, checking on a friend in hospice, and another friend who just moved, he would be pretty busy. I told him about my long list of plans that included working on community projects, volunteering with my church, and spending time with a friend who was recently released from the hospital. Yes, life is busy. The calendar is full, and as I am spending time with friends, I am always working to help build my community. Giving back to others helps you make memories. What is on your calendar? Don’t get so consumed with day-to-day activities that you don’t have time to pour into the lives of those close to you and those in need. Be blessed, and spend each day making memories.

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May 2017  |  27

2 Girls Who Travel Take Chicago Millennium Park Loew’s Hotel

By Valerie Jones & Kim Floyd


hicago. The Windy City. ChiTown. Home of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. Hometown of President Barack Obama. However you refer to the magnificent city makes no difference. The beauty of Chicago lies in its people, its history and its uniqueness. I mean, what’s the first place you think of when you want deep dish pizza? It’s that special branding and so much more that makes Chicago an awesome vacation spot for us. Chicago is one of those cities you can visit time and time again and do something different each visit. We had both been, but not collectively as 2 Girls Who Travel … and with the help of Choose Chicago, this was an awesome and busy trip. We opted to stay at Loew’s Chicago, the decked out hotel downtown – and close to Millennium Park and other attractions, so most things were a walk or short Uber/Lyft ride away. We spent four days in Chicago with pleasantly cool (sometimes cold) weather and experienced some of the best food, attractions and entertainment. Check out the highlights in what we like to call 2 Girls Who Travel’s Chi-Town Bucket List! -

•  Giordano’s – We knew we wanted to eat authentic deep dish pizza, but there were so many choices. So when our Lyft driver swore by Giordano’s, we had to check it out. Chicago has a few locations, so take your pick. Our wait was well worth it. The cheese did the lovely pull apart thing we loved and quite frankly, if we weren’t stuffed to the limit, we would have finished it in one sitting.

•  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Technically, this was a matter of us being in the right place at the right time. Alvin Ailey is a traveling act, but when we saw they were performing in Chicago during our stay, we just had to check it out. Words won’t do it justice. It’s a performance you have to experience yourself.

•  Garrett Popcorn – This was literally one of our first stops. If you know, then you know. If you don’t, then get familiar! Garrett Popcorn in Chicago is hands-down the best gourmet popcorn you can find in the States – not up for debate. Order the Chicago mix – caramel with cheese! It’s delicious.

•  Art Institute of Chicago – We frequent quite a few museums on our travels and the Art Institute of Chicago did not disappoint. Located in Grant Park and home to more than 300,000 works of art, plan to spend at least a few hours marveling in the masterpieces. We loved the audio devices available to assist you in learning more about the art.

•  DuSable Museum – This is the oldest African American Museum in the United States, so we felt privileged to visit. The building itself is beautiful and when inside, you’ll see and hear stories of notable figures in black history – including the story of Harold Washington, the first African American mayor elected in the City of Chicago.

•  The Bean (at Millennium Park) – Nobody should come to Chicago without dropping by Millennium Park. Always bustling with visitors and residents, Cloud Gate (also known as The Bean) is the massive sculpture that serves as the centerpiece to the Park. It’s reflective and downright cool. You will want to take a picture in front of The Bean. Trust us.

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•  Skydeck Chicago – Located on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, the Skydeck is the quintessential go-to spot for a jaw-dropping picture of the city. Be aware of the clouds though. When they’re doing their thing, like during our visit, they obstruct your views so there’s 0 visibility. But on a clear day … that’s when you get your money shot.

•  Barack Obama’s family home – Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Though guarded by trees, gates all around and 24-hour Secret Service, we still managed to get a view of the very home that the beloved Obama family calls home. It’s beautiful – and worth the work to get the picture!

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The Virtuous Woman By Noel Pinnock Contributing Writer


he expression virtuous woman is from the Hebrew ishshah chayil and literally means one of power either in mind or body, or both. As one source comments, "She is the perfect housewife, the chaste helpmate of her husband, upright, God-fearing, economical, wise" (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 9, pg. 597). I submit that the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 stands as an ideal example of God's woman viewed from such facets as wife, mother, sister, auntie, grandmother, manufacturer, merchant, CEO, lawyer, pharmacist, astronaut, doctor, legislator, pharmacist, engineer, homemaker, teacher, professor, entertainer, counselor, preacher, and landowner. Let me introduce the virtuous woman who is in it to win it, according to the psalmist in Psalms 31:10-22 (NIV): "10Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. 11The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands. 14She is like the merchants' ships; she brings her food from afar. 15She rise also while it is yet night and give meat to her household and a portion to her maidens. 16She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plant vineyard. 17She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms. 18She perceives that her merchandise is good: her candle go not out by night. 19She lays her hands to the spindle and her hands hold the distaff. 20She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy. 21She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” It becomes more and more transparent that women are the backbone of our existence, and through their wombs, they renew and replenish the core of our very human existence. Women in it to win it do not lose sight of their spirituality and divine purpose. In verse 30 of this chapter, we read: Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."


What gates? Well, the gates in life: church, home, work, school, market, civic, etc. A woman who chooses to win focuses on her spirituality and divine purpose, embracing her future in order to illuminate her path of victory. My wife of over 13 years was challenged in her last semester of college when she reached the bottom of her last trimester with our first child. As you can imagine, she was more then ready to give birth and was not really trying to sit in a classroom; nonetheless, she commuted to and from the university campus. However, she had an internal desire to win and not let her physical condition, albeit natural, be a hindrance to her completing her last semester. She was striving to be one of the first college graduates in her immediate family, and she kept that at the forefront of her thinking. She would recite this prayer of fortitude each morning before she would head off to class:

“Dear Lord, accomplishing anything requires discipline, determination, and deliberate and definable actions with a clear goal in mind. I want you to use me despite my extra load to do your wonders. Lord, here I am. Take me, use me, and be all around me today. I thank you Lord for your guidance, protection, and provisions.” She not only had to face the rigors of senior level courses, but she had to contend with the challenges of pregnancy. Nevertheless, she never lost sight of her appointed purpose, giving birth to our son and graduating college with honors. My wife was in it to win it because she set a goal, chartered a path, and never stopped trying to achieve. Accomplishing anything required discipline. At the heart of a woman winning are the essence and characteristics of the virtuous woman. To read more about author Noel Pinnock, B.S., M.P.A., C.A., CCC, IPMA-SCP, please visit #GetAtIt

Let’s Build MANY Mini Mansions! By Shelondra Peavy Contributing Writer


ecently, one of my long-time dreams was realized. For nearly a decade, it’s been a pressing desire of mine to own a tiny house. Long before the recent craze and fascination about them, my ever-present hope was to not only reside in a tiny house, but to also provide them for folk who possess a great need for clean and truly “affordable” housing. My infatuation about the matter was a direct result of hard knocks and a creative mind. On many nights, I would sit alone in the same rear booth at Denny’s and challenge myself to create as many livable floor plans as I could. For me, trying to fit an entire home inside of a space that was less than 200 square feet was as pleasurable and relaxing as a hand of solitaire or solving crossword puzzles. Beyond that, such minimal dimensions were all I needed and all I could truly afford in my quest for a completely debt-free lifestyle. And now, the day has come. I’m sitting in the living room of my 216 square feet artistic abode, graced by the sun illuminating off of the page of this letter to you with one purpose in mind: My purpose is to pass the vision along as though it were a baton. Although “1st and/or 2nd person” isn’t my typical style of writing, this article is intended to bear similar seeds of inspiration, healing, and positive change as my previous work. Given the types of people I’ve met as a journalist, it would have been a comfortable cakewalk for me to find a name in my rolodex and then fatten up their credentials and ego by naming them as a noteworthy community builder, but instead, I’m boldly standing outside of my comfort zone and “the box” simultaneously. It’s easy for me to influence a reading audience with elegant word flow about almost any subject matter, and it’s extremely difficult for a selfless recluse such as myself to approach a dignified reading audience with a bunch of I’s, Me’s, and My’s scattered throughout the content of my dissertation. It causes me to feel bashful and vulnerable. Nevertheless, I wanted to talk to you. It’s my hope that my words will gain a voice and then drift off of the page and into your heart and mind. I want to humbly challenge you to become a community builder who I can wholeheartedly write about in the near future.

Let’sexplore exploresome somedefinitions definitionstogether: together: Let’s • A mansion is a place that is typically occupied by rich residents. • A rich person is one who can meet all of their own needs financially. • To be free is to be absent from bondage. That being said, I should tell you that I built my priceless miniature “mansion” for just shy of $12,000 (turn-key). Now, I feel peaceful, rich, and free. My greatest wish is that you all will join me in passing these feelings along to another deserving person. In other words, let’s become community builders together. By all means, grab an inexpensive residential lot in an underserved community and BUILD! If there’s enough money in your 401k or any other personal account(s), then BUILD! If you can understand the true housing needs of SSI recipients who live off of a total of $733 per month and the similar circumstances of minimum-wage workers, reformed prisoners, or any other groups/individuals who are in need of socioeconomic and financial healing, then BUILD! Let’s do it together. Let’s cause revitalization to ripple throughout our communities. Let’s build many mini mansions together!

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