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Business Journal

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

January 2018


Inspire, Inform & Educate


125th Edition

GET FIT WITH BEE FIT FOODS Billyssia Pierce, Owner & CEO




Houston Entrepreneur Deidre Mathis Wins $23,000 In Business Pitch Competitions


Get Ready to Celebrate at the Houston Creole Heritage Festival & Mardi Gras Parade


Mayor Turner Talks Historic Pension Reform

2  |  January 2018

For a special discount use code DMARS.

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

January 2018  |  3

Publisher’s Message


Happy New Year! is proud to share the success stories of African American businesses and civic and community leaders. We know that success does not always come easy and it is not always measured in money. How have you helped your fellow entrepreneur? Have you supported your locally-owned African American business? Have you donated to a nonprofit that is working in our underserved communities? Questions to think about and actions to take. This month’s cover story highlights Billyssia Pierce, CEO of Bee Fit Foods. Living a healthy and fit lifestyle is not only for athletes or fitness gurus. Busy professionals and everyday

Behind the Journal

“I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” —Ginni Rometty, IBM


Publisher & CEO Keith J. Davis, Sr.

04 Business 04 Your Breakthrough Exists in You

COO & Managing Editor Kimberly Floyd

06 Business 06  Richelieu Dennis Purchases Essence Communications



CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Noel Pinnock Stacy M. Brown Frenetta Tate Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Courtney J. Rose News Provider


08 Education 08  Business Basics Online 08  Webinar: Uncover the Untapped Revenue in Your Business

12-13 Cover Story 12-13  Get Fit for Life with BEE FIT FOODS 14 Entertainment 14  Get Ready to Celebrate the Houston Creole Heritage Festival & Mardi Gras Parade


DISTRIBUTION Booker T. Davis, Jr. Rockie Hayden

our services

10 Entrepreneur 10  Deidre Mathis Wins $23,000 in Business Pitch Competitions 11  Putting Your Positive Beliefs in Action


Project Coordinator Antoniece Portis

people benefit from meal-planning. Bee Fit Foods is passionate about offering fresh, healthy, nutritious meals at a cost-effective price while maintaining a high standard of quality and taste. The meals can be picked up or delivered right to your front door. How’s that for customer service? Pierce has created a product that embraces everyone and tastes great. She definitely has a winning combination on her hands. As always, thank you for your continued support of 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.

12-13 16 Finance 16  Growing Your Business?

• 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

18 Political 18  Mayor Turner Talks Historic Pension Reform 19 Real Estate 19  4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford


20 Technology 20  Ambiq Micro, DSP Concepts and Sensory Join Forces to Bring Always-On Voice Control to Portable, Battery-Operated Devices info MAIN OFFICE 7322 Southwest Fwy., Suite 800 Houston, TX 77074 Phone: (713) 373.5577 | Fax: (713) 750.9472 Email Us: Visit Us Online





Certified: HMSDC - Port of Houston - Metro City of Houston - HISD - HUB Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

4  |  January 2018 Business

“Your Breakthrough Exists in You”

This article is dedicated to my son, Noel A. Pinnock, II, whose breakthrough is coming as he makes his way to the NBA! By Noel Pinnock Contributing Writer


e search all over in life seeking opportunities from others and sometimes we don’t realize that the next opportunity, big thing, or breakthrough is already in you. Shirley Caesar wrote a song that clearly articulates my theme in this month’s D-MARS publication and affirms that your new year is an old year to God. She writes: “Have you ever walked with the Lord all night long, wondering how you were going to pay your bills? And a still small voice says, "be strong," "sometimes struggle is my will". And they were late, I'm always all time, get ready for your miracle, move to the front of the line; today is your day, you're next in line for a miracle". A miracle, the Holy Ghost said, "it's your miracle you're next in line for your miracle…Today is your day; take it by faith, take it by faith.”

That’s right…today is your day because God has aligned the right people, in the right places, to accomplish the right things. Merriam-Webster defines breakthrough as an act of instance of moving through or beyond an obstacle; a sudden advance especially in knowledge or technique; or an offensive military assist that penetrates and carries beyond a defensive line. In either meaning, a breakthrough is a place in time and space where you transcend to a new level. Some of us don’t realize that when a seed is planted, all the properties that are required for the seed to grow exists within the seed itself. All the seed needs, is a place to grow and water source that will enable it to sustain life during and after its transformation. Even then, it is still important

to know that we can plant the seed and water the seed but it is God who provides for the growth or increase. Now, some of you may either be critics or cynics of this example because you subscribe to the notion that success is a sum total of one’s effort and resiliency. I believe effort and resiliency are important but you have to understand that we have been equipped with everything we need to reach the next level but we fail to tap into the power within. Here are some signs that will let you know when you are ready for that breakthrough: 1. When you’re frustrated. The biggest breakthroughs in my life have happened after intense periods of frustration. But it was my frustration that drove me to keep trying. A lot of people will tell you to woosah and do yoga and let go, which is all fine and good but staying a little pissed off is what’s going to actually get you to your goal. 2.  When you hear radio silence from others. Being ignored or blown off is one of the first steps to having a breakthrough. Don’t take it personally. Just see it as a challenge and press on. 3.  When they start laughing at you. Being mocked or feeling like a misfit can make you want to give up. That’s normal. Everyone wants to fit in to some extent. The key is to not let the desire to fit in keep you from having a breakthrough. 4.  When you want to give up. Don’t feel guilty for doubting yourself or your path from time to time. And don’t feel bad for wanting to quit. Instead, lean into this feeling. Because it means that you’re close to a breakthrough. 5.  When you are told to be realistic. Intelligent people refuse to pursue realistic goals. The more you’re told to be realistic, the closer you are to doing something amazing. 6.  When it really hurts. Breakthroughs are painful. The first person through a wall always gets bloody. Don’t shy away from this pain. Expect it. Invite it. And use it to stay motivated. A butterfly never looks

back at the cocoon and wonders, what was it like when I was a caterpillar because if it doesn’t stretch those wings seconds after it breaks through the cocoon, then its chances of survival diminishes by the second and what once had the potential to fly…dies. When people turn their backs on you. Breakthroughs are life-changing events. 7.   Moving forward often means leaving other people behind. When this happens, don’t be surprised if some of these people turn their backs on you. Be forgiving. Because, in a way, you’re turning your back on them by leaving. Let’s get real: we’re living in a time when most people are lowering their expectations. We live in a time of tremendous uncertainty: at a time when 63% of Americans believe that the quality of life for themselves and their children’s future is far less than what it was in the past. We’re in a season of change— where we must thrive and not survive as dying is never the option. No matter how successful we are, there’s a gap between where we are and where we want to be. If your career is going great, then there is a tradeoff where we often don’t have time for your kids. If our relationships with our kids are wonderful, then other parts of life suffer as a result. No matter what you want in life – joy, love, passion, fulfillment, we must reach a balance and unlock and unleash what we have already been wired to do and become. Like the seed above, we are packed with everything we need to propel us in our greatness. When we discover that our breakthrough is within us, then we will approach everything we do differently and possess a unyielding power and unbridle commitment to accomplish the unimaginable and, in some instances, the unfathomable. Shirley Caesar nailed…you are next in line…after all, God is the captain of our ship and the master of our souls. You see, hindsight is always 20/20 but you can’t see your breakthrough in the rear view but through the windshield of life so like I always say…#getatit!

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January 2018  |  5

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

6  |  January 2018 Business

Richelieu Dennis Purchases Essence Communications

Essence Magazine, Once Again, Black-Owned after Purchase by Sundial Brands Founder Richelieu Dennis By Stacy M. Brown NNPA


n a deal that reestablishes Essence magazine as a totally, Black and independently-owned entity, Sundial Brands founder Richelieu Dennis recently announced the purchase of Essence Communications from Time Inc. The Essence Communications deal also comes a week after Dennis was knighted in his native Liberia by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who admitted him into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneer with the Grade of Knight Commander. Sirleaf reportedly described Dennis as an “Awesome Hero.” “Talk about surreal,” Dennis said in an interview with NNPA Newswire. “I can't even bring myself to say [knighthood]. It's been a phenomenal week.” Dennis said that the purchase of Essence Communications comes with a deep-seated passion and commitment to making sure that, “we are doing everything we can to leverage the power of the business to impact our community in a positive way and to demonstrate that we can run highly-profitable organizations.” Dennis continued: “We can also leverage the impact and the resources that those businesses generate to drive economic empowerment and social justice in our communities for ourselves and by ourselves.” Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group, said that it was good news to hear that ownership of Es-

Richelieu Dennis purchased Essence Communications from Time Inc., returning the iconic Essence magazine to 100 percent Black ownership. (Essence)

sence magazine has returned to the Black community. “I hope it's a trend,” said Leavell. “We do need strong Black ownership in our industry, even as I'm expecting that our Black newspapers will prosper in 2018.” Leavell also said that she hopes that Black entrepreneurs will see the work and products of the Black Press and “seek to restore some light.” Leavell added: “We need more and more publications that depict us in a positive way and that's certainly what ‘Essence' has done in the past and I hope they will continue.” While financial terms of the Essence Communications purchase weren't disclosed, Dennis said he's not only retaining Essence President Michelle Ebanks, who will continue to run the company, but Ebanks will also join the organization's board of directors and lead an all-Black executive team at Essence, who will have equity stakes in the business. “I'm overwhelmed with gratitude,” Ebanks told the

NNPA Newswire. “The ‘Essence' brand…has always had a special place in the hearts and minds of Black women and entrepreneurs and leaders like [Dennis] recognized ‘Essence' and its importance and wants to restore it. This has allowed a dream to come true and we couldn't be happier.” Ebanks said that it was an extraordinary and special privilege to be part of an organization that would be responsible for elevating Black women in the industry. Dennis said the deal to purchase Essence came together rather quickly after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about Time Inc.'s intention to sell the company. “The stars aligned. We started to think about the implications of what this would mean if ‘Essence' were truly bought back into the community and the impact it could have on the audience and on the industry to be able to create our content and to monetize our own content,” said Dennis. “There was never a waiver in the commitment on what ‘Essence' means to our community.” Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, congratulated Richelieu Dennis for purchasing Essence magazine and for returning this iconic publication to 100 percent Black ownership. “This is a very timely and an important milestone for the Black Press in America and throughout the world,” said Chavis. “Essence magazine, under the able leadership of Michelle Ebanks, is a valued treasure of Black America and the NNPA acknowledges, with supportive gratitude, Richelieu Dennis for this significant Black-owned business transaction.”

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January 2018  |  7

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

8  |  January 2018

Business Basics Online


Have you thought about the possibility of owning your own business? Being your own boss? Is it hard to find time in your busy life to develop your business idea? This self-guided online credit-free course is a great tool that will help you organize your ideas and develop a business plan.

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Webinar: Uncover the Untapped Revenue in Your Business Safety and risk reduction are critical for organizations of all sizes. They can save lives and limbs—PLUS, add to your bottom line! In this webinar, learn how to create and implement a safe workplace culture compliant with the Department of Labor and Occupational Safety Health (OSHA) standards. Date: January 25, 2018 | 1:00 pm EST - 2:00 pm EST Register for this webinar at events?colorboxEventID=1603688

Registration Required 716-338-1024

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January 2018  |  9

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10  |  January 2018 Entrepreneur



Deidre Mathis Wins $23,000 In Business Pitch Competitions By News Provider


anuary 2017, entrepreneur Deidre Mathis, won her first business pitch of the year at the Texas Black Expo, taking 2nd place and $1,500. Soon after, she beat out dozens of teams to win 3rd place and $4,000 during the Houston Community College Business Plan Competition. She went on to take 1st place with both the Houston Liftoff Business Pitch Competition, winning $10,000 and the Urban League Pitch Competition, winning $7,500. The local entrepreneur has secured over $23,000 in local pitch competitions to help fund her business. Her company, Wanderlust Houston, is a boutique hostel offering private and shared accommodations for millennial travelers eager to explore Houston’s myriad of nightlife options, festivals, and sporting events. When not participating in business competitions, she could be caught jumping from towers in New Zealand, bathing rescue elephants in Thailand, zip lining in a Mexican jungle or skydiving in the States. When she’s not trekking the globe, she is well known as a budget world traveler, author, and public speaker. She has traveled to more than 37 countries over all 7 continents. Her budget travel book, “Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional” has been well received worldwide, appearing in the United Arab Emirates, China, and Australia. Mathis’ claim to fame came in 2013. A recent master’s degree recipient fed up and burnt out from the

monotony of her full-time job, she quit her job to embark on a travel gap year where she lived on what she coined her “1212-12” model: 12 countries in 12 months for less than $12,000. Deidre's inspirational story has been featured twice in Black Enterprise Magazine, Forbes Magazine, USA TODAY, and Essence Magazine's, "Top Ten Things We Are Talking About." Other publications that have featured her inspiring story are Parlour Magazine, The Houston Chronicle, and Houstonia magazine. She is no stranger to television coverage, making appearances on numerous stations as their travel expert. She has appeared on Great Day Houston, First Coast Living in Jacksonville, FL, WBTV CBS in Charlotte, NC, and Houston Life in Houston, TX. Women’s travel conferences and colleges and universities have welcomed Deidre as a keynote speaker in the areas of travel and entrepreneurship. Wanderlust Houston ( is set to open spring 2018 in Houston’s Museum District. Her opening will make history, as she will be the first African-American woman to open a hostel in the U.S.

Mathis has a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Florida A&M University, a master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Bowie State University and a graduate certificate in tourism management from George Washington University.

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

January 2018  |  11 Entrepreneur

Putting Your Positive Beliefs in Action By Frenetta Tate Contributing Writer


hat you believe is your reality. It drives you. It moves you. It anchors you. It lays at the foundation of your actions. Where are your beliefs taking you and is it a place you want to go? Often, we adopt beliefs out of tradition or habit; not because it serves us well. We do well to challenge our beliefs, especially when it comes to business ownership. If you don’t challenge your beliefs; your mind is closed to differing perspectives and ideas that have the potential to make your life richer. In essence, you will only go as far as your beliefs will allow. How far will you allow your beliefs to take you? Can you look at your life without bias? When you believe that anything is possible; you open the door to possibilities through your actions by preparing for, recognizing and seizing opportunities. When you believe that there are no limits; you choose not to pigeon-hole yourself to one idea or opportunity; you open yourself up to receive all of your good without limitations. As new information comes into your being; your beliefs can change. You can choose not to remain stuck in a place that hinders your growth, development and experience. You can get new beliefs if the ones you have are not serving you. Just because you once believed something doesn't mean you have to always believe it. When you change your beliefs; you change the way you look at life and your life begins to reflect that inner transformation. No matter what you are doing in your life; your beliefs will do one of two things for you; open doors of

opportunity through your own strategic positioning or close the doors of opportunity through self-sabotage. You decide what you want your life to be, what you want to have and what you want to do. •  It is your time to position yourself so that doors will open to you. •  It is your time to align yourself with your true desires to attract your ‘good’. •  It is your time to shake off the limitations of others and the hindrances in your own mind and forge past fear. •  It is your time to walk toward your greatness.

Do you believe it is your time? Use the following questions as life or journal prompts to help you plan out your best year: Do you believe you are worthy of good things? Do you believe that you can be financially abundant? Do you believe you can have immeasurable peace and be filled with unspeakable joy? Do you believe that you have something to offer the world? Do you believe that the world is in need of your gifts, services and offerings in your business? Do you believe that you were born to make a positive and indelible impact upon this world? What do you want to be, do and have? What is holding you back? What actions can you take to move you forward? I implore you to do what it takes, put your positive beliefs in action and allow yourself permission to come out of the shadows and shine your light while embracing all the good that this New Year will bring to the doorstep of your life. Frenetta Tate is a Certified Life and Entrepreneur Coach, Life Strategist and Thought Catalyst. She can be reached @frenettatate on Social Media.

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

12  |  January 2018

Get Fit for Life with


FIT FOODS By News Provider


anuary is the month to make a fresh start and to conquer some of those mountains that have been standing in the way of our nutritional success in the past year. Why not get fit with BEE FIT FOODS? Billyssia Pierce, the founder states that “BEE FIT FOODSis a healthy food prep company. No matter what your goals are we can help you. Whether that is to lose weight or gain weight or even maintain. We have the solutions for any problem you may encounter. We provide the knowledge and the expertise to help you get through your health and fitness goals.” Pierce has had over twelve years of health fitness experience as a personal trainer and health coach. “I started off in this business as a certified personal trainer and my client’s biggest setback was their diet. You can’t out train a bad diet, so to fix that I started BEE FIT FOODS. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset with wanting more out of life and having my own business and businesses, and I knew that BEE FIT FOODS was another entity that I could have under my belt. But I didn’t know to what extent it would take me. When I first started BEE FIT FOODS training was my focus and as I continued to build on my business and my brand it completely took over. Whereas now, training has become secondary and I now outsource that service to my fitness professional ambassadors. Our philosophy encompasses total client care, and we have developed strategic relationships with other healthcare professionals to ensure that they receive a total package.”

BEE FIT FOODS is your lifeline to a healthy and fit lifestyle! —Billyssia Pierce

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January 2018  |  13

Pierce started the business three years ago and moved into a storefront a year later. BEE FIT FOOD’S ideal customers range from the busy professional to the athlete who is focusing on optimum performance, to the individual who simply desires to change their eating habits to develop a healthier lifestyle overall. So, no matter what your current health status is, from the overweight customer who has tried everything, tired of Yo-Yo dieting and is seeking a plan that is really going to work, they can help you out. If you are someone who knows how to be healthy and knows how to cook healthy meals but doesn’t have the time, they are here for you as well. They have established a trusted brand that anyone from celebrity clients to school children can depend on to provide the proper nutrition that will benefit your body. BEE FIT FOODS is known to be able to provide the best for the best.

Mention d-mars at the checkout and get 10% off your purchase. It’s an easy choice for the potential customer to make based on BEE FIT FOODS’ hard-earned reputation in the community. Pierce takes much pride in the fact that word-of-mouth advertising has built her company to where it is today. A quality product has been her aim from the day the doors opened and will continue to be first and foremost in her business philosophy.

They also offer a delivery option for Houston residents, they go as far as Montgomery County north, Freeport-Galveston south, Sealy, Texas west and as far as Baytown, Texas east. Their delivery service brings the meals directly to your door. For the new year, Bee Fit Foods most popular offering is their Shape-Up Plan, a high protein, low carbohydrate meal plan geared towards weight loss. If you overdid it during the holidays and want to get back into shape, this is an ideal option for you. In February, they will be doing The Shape-Up Extreme, a 21-day challenge for individuals who want to kick-start their new year weight loss goals. They also offer their online followers on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, first crack on any specials that they may offer. They are a valuable community resource and support its residents by hosting nutrition and fitness boot camps and they make it a priority to serve by offering discounts and supporting various community initiatives. For example, BEE FIT FOODS has offered free hot breakfasts for students taking the STAAR Test. Pierce saw this as an opportunity to show children healthy alternatives for breakfast. Pierce stated, “That’s where our focus has to go to, our youth. A lot of times it’s harder for us to eat healthy because growing up we didn’t eat as healthy as we should, or we didn’t have the knowledge of health and fitness. So as much as I can pour into our youth and our communities, to share health and wealth with them, I most definitely will.” Another BEE FIT FOODS enterprise to be introduced in 2018 is their free BEE FIT FOODS UNIVERSITY, where they will be offering classes on healthy living. BEE FIT FOODS has grown tremendously in the past three years, and with growth there must be a tough team. This year Pierce has brought on a new partner, Nick Houston, who will also take on the role as Bee Fit Foods COO. Houston, a native Houstonian, is no stranger to entrepreneurship, and has had much success in business. He is more than ready to take on his new role and continue helping the BEE FIT FOODSbrand grow. Another addition is the Award Winning, Celebrity Chef, JaNel Witt. Witt is the Season 11 Winner of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, with Gordon Ramsey, and has been the executive chef to many of Houston’s favorite eateries. Witt has brought a dynamic new menu to BEE FIT FOODS, surely to bring a bigger spark to healthy meal prep. These three have formed the ultimate dream team. Make sure you follow them on social media, check out their website or drop by the store at 9555 Main St Houston Texas 77025 or call them at 281.865.0601. Mention d-mars at the checkout and get 10% off your purchase.

Experience Our World of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Communication

14  |  January 2018


Get Ready to Celebrate at the Houston Creole Heritage Festival & Mardi Gras Parade

By News Provider


eople tend to get excited about good food, good vibes and an all-around good time. And come Saturday, Feb. 3, downtown Houston will be the backdrop for all of that. The Houston Creole Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras Parade, established in 2012, is an event that was created to preserve and celebrate Creole history and culture – which includes the unique fusion of African, French, Native American and Spanish influences. This year’s event will begin with a parade in downtown Houston at the corner of Bell and Chenevert at 9am and end at Discovery Green. That kicks off the day-long festival, which runs from 12 noon to 7pm. Reverend Michael Bill, founder of the Houston Creole Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras Parade, said event participants can expect “a parade of prestigious guests, great music, tasty food selections and an atmosphere that supports family fun.” In short, it will be “an event to remember!” A total of 10,000 people attended the inaugural event in 2012. “I established the Houston Creole Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras Parade in honor of my father and grandfather who were of Creole descent,” Bill said. “Unfortunately, I was not raised in Creole traditions, but year by year I am learning more about my heritage.” Bill is a huge advocate of family and supporting and building up the community. He grew up in East Texas and now lives in Houston and makes sure to give back to the communities both past and present. He has sponsored several community projects and little league sports teams and has been honored and recognized for his charitable contributions and efforts over the years by numerous organizations. He said establishing the annual event in the nation’s fourth-largest city of Houston, Texas helps bolster the diversity already present in the city. “It is evident that people of all walks now live here. Our Creole Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras Parade brings the diversity from the Bayou City throughout the Gulf Coast together,” he said. It might be its close association with Louisiana, but when one thinks of Creole heritage, two things inevitably always to come to mind – delicious food and great music. “I totally agree and that’s because good food and music often sets the tone for family engagement and quality time,” said Bill. “Food and music play a huge role in Creole culture because they are each a way we show love to one another. No matter the time of day or season of year, make mention of etouffee or Zydeco,

and a crowd is sure to follow.” The Houston Creole Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras Parade is sponsored by Houston SHOP (Sweet Hour of Prayer) Ministries Inc., a nonprofit founded in 2005 which raises funds to provide scholarships to students, support veteran services, offer benevolent funds to families in need and support all inner-city schools in Texas. “In order to continue to foster a spirit of unity and love, events such as these will lead the way,” Bill said.

“The diversified mecca that is Houston is – and will remain – an example to surrounding and growing cities of what it takes to collaborate, celebrate and appreciate the differences that unify us all.” Whether you’re of Creole descent or not makes no difference. Houston’s Creole Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras Parade is an event for those from all walks of life and all ages. And you’re just bound to have a good time! If you’ve ever celebrated Mardi Gras or been to a Mardi Gras parade, you know this is the absolute truth. See you there! For more information, visit

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January 2018  |  15

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16  |  January 2018 Finance

Growing your


These 3 financing mistakes can cost you big By News Provider


tarting a business can be tough. Growing one can be even harder. Dr. Nacondus Gamble knows this all too well. After her optometry practice, The South Eastern Eye Center, began to establish a reputation for great patient care, Dr. Gamble decided she was ready to expand. So she began looking for business financing to open another location in Georgia. That's when she discovered that many lenders don't share her commitment to high-quality service. "I called a couple of places, but I just felt like they were taking advantage of me," she said. "It was unnecessarily harsh." Dr. Gamble ended up borrowing through Funding Circle, an online platform focused exclusively on small business loans. Known for its speed, transparency and customer service, Funding Circle has helped more than 40,000 businesses around the world get financing, says co-founder and U.S. managing director Sam Hodges. Today there are more options than ever before for businesses looking to

grow. While some of these newer options can offer a significant leg up, others can actually end up doing more harm than good. So how can you get the best deal on a business loan? It helps to watch out for these three common mistakes:

3. Not Not knowing knowing what what you 3. you deserve deserve

Not understanding understanding the the true 1.1. Not true cost of your loan cost of your loan When shopping for a business loan, it's easy to become overwhelmed by fast-talking salespeople, endless strings of acronyms and confusing terms. If it's unclear how much you'll really pay for financing, that's a good sign you should walk away, Hodges cautions. A good lender will always be willing to help you calculate the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and explain all the terms of your loan clearly. They'll also help you understand what fees you can expect over the life of the loan - some lenders sneak in additional hidden fees, concealing them in fine print or confusing legalese, which can significantly inflate the cost.

2. Getting Getting trapped trapped in in daily daily or or 2. weekly repayment cycles weekly repayment cycles Some types of business financing can

seem like a godsend for a company in need of fast cash. These providers promise easy approval with quick access to funds. However, that speed can come at a steep price - in many cases, the provider takes a portion of your sales on a daily or weekly basis until the debt is repaid. Term loans are often the better option, Hodges says. They allow businesses to borrow a set amount of money for a specific purpose, like hiring new staff or stocking up on inventory. The funds are then paid back over a set amount of time, with consistent monthly payments and no surprise fees.

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While many finance providers have your best interests at heart, the truth is that not all do. Some use irresponsible or misleading practices and take advantage of small business owners' need for cash. After seeing countless small businesses get stuck with credit products they couldn't afford or understand, a coalition of small business advocates, lenders and online credit marketplaces came together to launch the Small Business Borrowers' Bill of Rights. As the first-ever gold standard for responsible business lending, the Bill of Rights outlines the rights and safeguards that small businesses should expect from finance providers. These include the right to transparent pricing and terms - ensuring business owners can see the cost and terms of any financing being offered in writing and in a form that is clear, complete and easy to compare with other options - and the right to non-abusive products that won't trap you in an expensive cycle of re-borrowing. Before you take out any financing, check if your lender has signed on at

January 2018  |  17

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18  |  January 2018 Political

Mayor Turner Talks Historic Pension Reform By Sylvester Turner Mayor of Houston


s you know, 2017 was a special year for Houston. Hurricane Harvey and the Astros made the biggest news, but historic pension reform, which benefits all residents, was also a huge development. Even during the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, many of you voted in the November election and helped approve the pension reform bonds that play a role in moving Houston forward as we gear up for 2018. With your votes, we succeeded in overhauling the city’s pension obligations, a task that has eluded the city for the past 17 years. With $250 million going to the Houston Municipal Employee Pension System and $750 million

going to the Houston Police Officer Pension System, we have stabilized employees’ pensions, reassuring them that we value our workers as much as we value a strong economic future for this city. And we did it without increasing your taxes or taking from city revenues, just Mayor Sylvester Turner as I promised. The comprehensive reform package will eliminate the $8.2 billion unfunded liability of employee pension systems over 30 years, partly because employees agreed to reductions in their pension benefits in return for assurances that pension funds will remain strong. This was ac-

complished by sitting down with employee groups and negotiating the details, earning City Council approval (by a 16 to 1 vote) of the reforms and then getting approval of more than two thirds of the state House and state Senate. The savings have already improved the city's financial position to a positive $1.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 from a negative $95 million in Fiscal Year 2016. Let me assure you, this historic pension reform benefits all Houstonians. Remember, city of Houston first responders and other employees work tirelessly to serve you. Investing in them is essentially investing in your daily quality of life. At the same time, making this investment reduces the city’s costs, giving the city a greater ability to continue providing the quality basic services all residents deserve. This is certainly something to celebrate as we ring in the new year.

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January 2018  |  19 Real Estate

4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford By Courtney J. Rose Contributing Writer


y knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that homeownership will fit in your budget. Interest rates will be going up soon, if you are not a home owner yet… Let’s make it a goal to own your home in 2018! Owning a home should make you feel safe and secure, and that includes financially. Be sure you can afford your home by calculating how much of a mortgage you can comfortably fit into your budget. Should you just take out the biggest mortgage a lender says you can have? Because your lender bases that number on a formula that doesn't consider your current and future financial and personal goals. Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree? Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses? Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage? Consider those lifestyle issues as you check out these four methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

costs, like your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable.

ConsiderYour YourDown DownPayment Payment 2.2.Consider How much money do you have for a down payment? The higher your down payment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home's cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default and costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment. The lower your down payment, the higher the loan amount you'll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment. But, if interest rates and/or home prices are rising and you wait to buy until you accumulate a bigger down payment, you may end up paying more for your home.

Don’tforget forgetabout aboutyour yourOverall OverallDebt Debt 3.3.Don’t Lenders generally follow the 40% rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes and insurance, plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn't exceed 40% of your gross annual income. Here's an example of how the 40% calculation works for a home buyer making $100,000 a year before taxes: 1.  Your gross annual income is $100,000. 2.  Multiply $100,000 by 40% to get $40,000 in annual income. 3.  Divide $40,000 by 12 months to convert the annual 40% limit into a monthly upper limit of $3,333. 4.  All your monthly bills including your potential mortgage can't go above $3,333 per month. You might find a lender willing to give you a mortgage with a payment that goes above the 40% line some go as high as 50%, but consider carefully before you take it. Past evidence from studies of mortgage loans suggest that borrowers who go over the limit are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns.

YourExisting ExistingRental RentalPayments Paymentscan be a 4.4.Your can be Guide a Mortgage Guide Mortgage

Budgetwill willhelp helpyou youunderstand your 1.1.AABudget understand your costs. costs. The oldest rule of thumb says you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. So, if you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000. But that's not the best method because it doesn't take into account your monthly expenses and debts. Those costs greatly influence how much you can afford. Let's say you earn $100,000 a year but have $1,000 in monthly payments for student debt, car loans, and credit card minimum payments. You don't have as much money to pay your mortgage as someone earning the same income with no debts. Better option: Prepare a family budget that tallies your ongoing monthly bills for everything -- credit cards, car and student loans, lunch at work, day care, date night, vacations, and savings. See what's left over to spend on home ownership

The tax benefits of home ownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment -- including taxes and insurance -- of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment. Here's an example: If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of home ownership. However, if you're struggling to keep up with your rent, buy a home that will give you the same payment rather than going up to a higher monthly payment. You'll have additional costs for home ownership that your landlord now covers, like property taxes and repairs. If there's no room in your budget for those extras, you could become financially stressed. Also consider whether or not you'll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can't also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a "what if" tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

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20  |  January 2018 Technology

Ambiq Micro, DSP Concepts and Sensory Join Forces to Bring Always-On Voice Control to Portable, Battery-Operated Devices Collaboration enables extremely power-efficient, always-listening voice control on batteryoperated, intelligent devices without sacrificing quality of experience By News Provider


mbiq Micro, the pioneer in ultra-low power solutions, today announced a partnership with DSP Concepts Inc., a global developer of embedded digital signal processing audio solutions and specialist in voice UI technologies, and Sensory Inc., the leading provider of embedded artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition technologies. Together, the three companies are demonstrating a new level of energy efficiency in always-on keyword detect and on-device command phrase recognition for portable consumer products including smartwatches, earbuds, smart home end devices, health monitors, and wearables.

Voice control is radically transforming the way consumers interact with their electronic devices, whether at home, at work, or on-the-go. Until the development of Sensory's TrulyHandsfree and DSP Concepts Audio Weaver Voice UI, it has been very difficult to add highly accurate, always-listening voice control to battery-powered devices without sacrificing the user experience or battery life. The Apollo family of microcontrollers built on Ambiq Micro's patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT™) further enhances the power efficiency of TrulyHandsfree and Audio Weaver UI while still providing ideal always-listening wake word and voice control performance for today's ultra-low-power devices. By combining Sensory's Low Power Sound Detector (LPSD) and TrulyHandsfree wake word and command phrase detection with DSP Concept's quiescent sound detection, beamforming, and noise reduction, Ambiq Micro's Apollo2 microcontroller is able to ach¬¬¬ieve

highly accurate key phrase detection rates while consuming 4x lower power consumption compared to existing solutions. This power and performance efficiency enables high-quality, multi-microphone beam forming and noise reduction algorithms to run for more than a week using a CR2032 battery. "We're thrilled to partner with industry leaders DSP Concepts and Sensory to enable energy-efficient, high-quality and seamless interactions for consumers as they increasingly engage with voice-operated appliances," said Aaron Grassian, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Ambiq Micro. "More and more innovative products are embracing voice-enabled user interfaces and, together, we're delivering the ultra-low power capabilities to bring true always-listening and always-on voice control to battery-powered intelligent devices." "Ambiq Micro's SPOT-enabled devices have given us a platform to showcase the quality of our Audio Weaver Voice UI to focus on the user's commands at ultra-low power levels," said Dr. Paul Beckmann, Founder and CTO of DSP Concepts, Inc. "The combination of the power efficiency and audio quality of our technologies is the most important factor in driving a frictionless user experience and a new level of adoption in the market." "TrulyHandsfree was specifically developed to enable highly-accurate and noise robust wake word and voice key phrase recognition on ultra-low-power applications," said Bernie Brafman, VP, business development at Sensory. "As devices continue to get smaller, so will the batteries within them. We are pleased to team up with Ambiq and DSP Concepts to provide a solution that will enable more companies to add TrulyHandsfree always-listening voice capabilities to their power-constrained applications." Ambiq will be demonstrating SPOT™-enabled ultralow power voice control solutions at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 (CES) on Tuesday, January 9, through Friday, January 12, at the Renaissance Hotel Las Vegas, Suite 532. For an appointment, please contact

AboutAmbiq AmbiqMicro Micro About Ambiq Micro was founded in 2010 on the simple yet powerful notion that extremely low-power semiconductors are the key to the future of electronics. Through the use of pioneering ultralow-power technology, innovative companies around the world are developing differentiated solutions that reduce or eliminate the need for batteries, reduce overall system power and maximize industrial design flexibility. Ambiq Micro has developed breakthrough technology based on its patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT™) platform that dramatically reduces the amount of power consumed by semiconductors, thus making its integrated circuits (ICs) an ideal solution for energy-critical applications. Ambiq Micro is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

AboutDSP DSPConcepts Concepts About DSP Concepts, Inc. provides embedded audio digital signal processing solutions delivered through its Audio Weaver® platform. Audio Weaver's versatility and flexibility allow it to achieve superior performance from any combination of components. DSP Concepts specializes in microphone processing as well as playback processing, and is the leading supplier to top tier brands in automotive and consumer products. Founded by Dr. Paul Beckmann in 2003, DSP Concepts is headquartered inSanta Clara, California.

AboutSensory SensoryInc. Inc. About Sensory Inc. creates a safer and superior UX through vision and voice technologies. Sensory's technologies are widely deployed in consumer electronics applications, including mobile phones, automotive, wearables, toys, IoT and various home electronics. With its TrulyHandsfree™ voice control, Sensory has set the standard for mobile handset platforms' ultralow-power "always listening" touchless control. To date, Sensory's technologies have shipped in over a billion units of leading consumer products. SOURCE Ambiq Micro

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January 2018  |  21

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Thomas Jones, Jr. McConnell & Jones, LLP

Sheriff Zena Stephens Jefferson County Dr. Austin A. Lane Texas Southern University

2017 COMMUNITY HEROES: Karen Carter Richards Houston Forward Times

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