Substantial Issue: The New Diversity Conversations

Page 1

JULY 2021

Sept-Oct 2020 SubstantiaL Issue

In this issue:




Substantial sits down with the Director, Practitioner, Advocate, Author and "Realist" LaChaun J. Banks regarding Equity and Inclusion


Meet Jackie Ferguson, Author, Multicultural Marketing Consultant, Certified Diversity Executive, Global Business Specialist, Lead Course Writer, and Human Rights Advocate


STEREOTYPE "Everybody has equal potential. What isn't equal is access to capital, access to training, access to mentors and networking."

We are entrepreneurs, innovators, advocates, family and so much more. We are substantial and so is our voice and our vote.

The New Diversity Conversation WEARESUBSTANTIAL.COM | 1



D • E •I

“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” — commonly referred to as DEI — has taken center stage in our nation. Organizations, major coropration and institutions of higher learning are all actively working to create meaningful change and bring about new understanding in spite of the history of injustice that has marginalized underrepresented groups for generations. | 3



Substantial issue July 2021 Letter from the Editor 05

BLACK AND BLUE How do you seek to build a relationship with a community where they cannot look within your department and see someone that looks like them in it?


DEI IN CONSTRUCTION A lot of people think that because you are a woman, you are not as passionate and not as qualified. A lot of women in construction are not given the same respect as other men.


DEI BEYOND THE CHECKBOX Whenever things become a buzz word in the media, it’s very common for folks to put their own spin on it and create their own definitions. Jackie Ferguson's work at The Diversity Movement seeks to bridge that gap and facilitate meaningful dialogue and actionable change.


President’s Note


Featured Advertiser

ADVANCING ENTREPRENEURSHIP The NC IDEA Foundation is on a mission to strengthen the economy of North Carolina and they're help people achieve their entrepreneurial potential.


A CONVERSATION WITH A VENTURE CAPITALIST “In order for us to change the shape of our community, and the future that our communities face, we have to be the owners and investors in that future!" - Dr. Shanté Williams


Click to learn more Substantial Magazine is produced by Substantial Media LLC president@

Evelyne Del Editor-in-Chief

New Territory. Same Purpose. The unified cry of the Creative entrepreneur is learning how to balance your passion with the inner workings of a growing business. For me, writing, telling stories, and connecting people has always been second nature for me. I would do it in my sleep if I could. I simply love showing the world the brilliance of the people that I meet on a regular basis. So when a fellow college Alum comes to you in the middle of a global pandemic and says he has plans to relaunch his passion project, you clear off your desk and get to work. Our Substantial relaunch has been like reading a chapter in one of your favorite novels. You’re excited to see how things are going to turn out, but you’re also enjoying all of the experiences while you wait. It’s a lesson in resilience and a test of your Faith. Convincing people of the value that lies in the Black owned and operated media space can certainly be a little difficult. But we’ve never backed down from the mission, simply because we know the power that exists in the stories we tell, and the influence that the narrative can have on our communities. Here at Substantial, we have boldly accepted the mission of continuing to tell the stories of dynamic members of the minority community. People who add value, people who teach and bridge gaps between socioeconomic groups, and people whose influence will ultimately change the world. Along the way we’ve learned that our mission is actually much more than just storytelling. It’s about building up our communities and sharing resources that help us all to live rich, sustainable lives. We soon realized that in order to reach more


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF people in an impactful way that we needed to create avenues that would also allow us to impact business and industry. This new territory required us to tap into our shared experiences in the business world and enter new markets. We were able to spend time in cohorts with other business owners and media outlets that not only helped us fine tune our message, but also reminded us that our purpose in the black owned and operated media space is much too important for us not to focus on growth and development. This June we wrapped up our first six week cohort where our team broke down essential elements for business owners to apply to the growth and sustainability of their businesses. We also launched our Branded Content Studio where we provide organizations with custom content that allows them to make connections with valuable members of our communities. It is our contribution to ensuring that marginalized communities have a chance to grab the same opportunities as others. It’s not enough that we speak about diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have to take it a step further and show the world how diversity, equity, and inclusion impact our daily lives. It is a mission that combines passion, purpose, and experience. Our commitment to ‘Black Excellence’ is one that has now taken us into new territory. The blueprint for our role in Black owned and operated media may change a little over time, but our mission continues to stay the absolute same - to show the world the phenomenal impact of Substantial people in our Black and Brown communities. | 5



Greg Hedgepeth President & CEO


Planting a seed. Being more than just... As a young man growing up on a farm in Halifax County, NC, I witnessed what it means to till the ground, plant a seed, water it, care for it, and day after day go back to it knowing if you just stay commitment and focused it will soon sprout up, bloom and one day bare fruit. We replanted a Substantial seed a year ago, and we’ve been tilling the ground and caring for it. We've been going back daily with a goal to see it take root and bare influence. There are so many things that can devastate a crop: weather, markets, accidents. Farmers have to believe none of them will happen. I share that statement because diving into the blackowned media space, the local media market in general, much like that farmer you have to believe each year will be a good harvest. Substantial has been able to do so much despite everything that was 2020, we weathered the storm and I believe we’re stronger for it. From being accepted as a NC IDEA micro grant recipient, joining 33 historic BIPOC publishers from across the nation for the Local Media Association Branded Content Project, engaging with the newly created Black Owned Media Equity and Sustainability Institute and not to mention winning a few awards along the way. I look back on the year, where we are as of 2021 and all I can say is by grace and through faith.


If this past year has taught me anything, this new energy and focus around DEI; it’s that there is a place for us. Black people need to own our stories from ideation to distribution. We deserve our voices, our imagery, our culture, our success, our history to be documented and lifted. We are of considerable importance, size and worth. We are strongly built and made. We are Substantial and so is our very existence. Substantial is well on its way to living out its mission, which is to serve as a black-owned and operated publication that amplifies the positive stories within our community. Our vision is clear, to show our state and beyond just how substantial we are. Stay tuned!



HELP US SPREAD THE WORD! Subscribe, Like Us, Follow Us, Share, Retweet, and all those other social things we do.

Substantial Magazine

Substantialmag | 7



A Substantial Brief

In this courtroom sketch, Hennepin County, Minn., District Judge Peter Cahill presides over the June 25 sentencing hearing for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty in April of murder in the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Sketch by Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

DEREK CHAUVIN SENTENCED TO 22 ½ YEARS IN MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD Not enough! Those were the sentiments of George Floyd’s family, social media and advocates in the Black community after the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. On April 20, 2021 the Black community and others across the nation anxiously awaited the jury’s verdict to be announced after ten hours of deliberation. Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges, including second-degree murder. Chauvin’s sentencing decision is one of the longest prison terms ever imposed on a U.S. police officer in the killing of a Black person. But as we stated in the bigging of this article many feel “just because it’s the most time, doesn’t mean enough time.” The Floyd family attorney Ben Crump and legal team released a statement after the sentencing news broke stating, “this historic sentence brings the Floyd family and our nation one step closer to

healing by delivering closure and accountability.” The statement went on to read “For once, a police officer who wrongly took the life of a Black man was held to account, while this shouldn’t be exceptional, tragically it is. Day after day, year after year, police kill Black people without consequence. But today, with Chauvin’s sentence, we take a significant step forward—something that was unimaginable a very short time ago.” Darnella Frazier, the young woman who courageously recorded the video of Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd received an honorary Pulitzer. Frazier’s video that went viral and galvanized people all across America and all across the world has been credited as a vital part in the conviction of Chauvin. Frazier has gotten widespread praise for her actions from people including President Biden, film director Spike Lee and Anita Hill.

PAGE 14 | 9



“Trust and transparency will be key to bridging the gaps between law enforcement agencies and their communities.” - Major Kevin Stormer

“Representation Matters! We have to actively work at building relationships with diverse groups.” - Major Derri Stormer

Photograph provided by JJ McQueen (

Kevin and Derri Stormer A BLACK AND BLUE FAMILY


think we can all agree that it has been a rollercoaster ride for law enforcement agencies across the nation. Most of us can also agree that being both Black and a Law Enforcement Officer has become somewhat of a daunting task. Substantial sat down with Kevin and Derri Stormer, a family of Criminal Justice professionals to talk about the importance of diversity in law enforcement, and get their perspective on what can be done to heal the wounds between police and our community.

Why is it important to have minorities in law enforcement? How does the lack of race and gender affect police departments? DS: Simply stated, representation matters! How do you seek to build a relationship with a community where they cannot look within your department and see someone that looks like them in it? When diversity is missing within a police department, departments are left many times in a reactive approach. KS: I feel it is important to have minority representation at every level (entry, middle management, administration) of law enforcement. As a culture we have lobbied to have a seat at every table of government but, law enforcement/public safety is a key position our communities often sky away from. When your law enforcement agencies and police departments become a reflection of the population it serves, then true inclusion and policy reform can take place. Having representation at the table is a critical part of reform! What’s been your biggest lesson on diversity and inclusion in law enforcement? KS: as a part of an agency’s leadership team, I have a responsibility to myself, the agency, and the community to make sure my image is not the maximum reflection of diversity. We must become purposeful in identifying our successors and other qualified minorities. DS: Representation Matters!! Saying it again for those in the back. We have to actively work at building relationships with diverse groups. How can law enforcement empower themselves to create a more inclusive environment in their communities and in the office?

DS: We cannot continue to want to show up after something happens. Even the best intentions will be seen “for show” or not authentic. To not be afraid of your biases but practice self-awareness so you can improve with yourself first. KS: Trust and Transparency will be key to bridging the gaps in their communities. Agencies must learn to write their own narratives, be the first to admit when they are wrong, and equally as responsive in boasting about their good deeds. Department employees (Sworn & Civilian) have to be personally invested in the success of a neighborhood/ community. What can leaders in law enforcement do to bridge the gap between cultures and communities? DS: Go to them. Talk to the community leaders, activists, discover what cultures are represented within your community, etc. In doing so, you aren’t just offering an olive branch but being proactive. We (LE) are always asking what can we do? Well, many times, people have already told us, they are waiting on the results. We must be mindful of the promises that are made because not having accountability is a quick way to lose trust. KS: Ditto! Leadership teams inside the agency will need to partner with community stakeholders to find out what caused “trust” to be broken between the agency and the community. You can’t begin to fix a new problem if you don’t understand what caused the original problem. | 11



Importance of Diversity in the CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY


hen I was a little girl I always loved looking at houses and buildings and was curious about how they were put together. As a teenager I used to fix things around the house and paint. I worked in a lot of different fields but for some reason I was always pulled back into construction. After working for a tower company, I decided to go back and finish my degree so that I could work on construction full time” What are the challenges for women in construction & how can one overcome them? A lot of people think that because you are a woman, you are not as passionate and not as qualified. A lot of women in construction are not given the same respect as other men. On a more trivial side, many women are challenged with remaining feminine without being stereotyped or treated differently. It’s important to be yourself and not feel intimidated by your colleagues” What actions can businesswomen take to better position themselves for success? “One of the biggest things is to stay up to date on the latest trends and business developments. Get a mentor, and remain professional at all times so that you are taken seriously. Also, joining professional organizations is a way to connect with other professionals and sharpen your skills. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the room”. What is one of the most common misconceptions about construction in general? Most people just think of construction as unskilled labor. People don’t realize that even if you don’t have a formal education that construction still involves some of the things that you would learn if you did have a formal education. For example, Algebra - why would I ever use this? But you actually use Algebra quite a bit in construction. Science and Geography classes are also important and are used in everyday construction activities.

Valerie Del, 62 Charlotte, NC Project Manager & Diversity Consultant How has the construction industry changed since you’ve ntered your field? There are a lot more things that you do with technology. The biggest thing I can think of is how people conduct safety training. You can now do it with Virtual Reality tools that simulate a real jobsite. Another great tech tool is Building Information Modeling or BIM. It allows you to do walk-throughs where you map where everything is in the buildings before you even go inside of an actual building.

A lot of people think that because you are a woman, you are not as passionate and not as qualified. A lot of women in construction are not given the same respect as men.”

It’s also used for a number of different trades - for example, many of the trades have a certain amount of space to build or create assets. This helps ensure that appropriate information is being created and can help prevent issues with quality control and safety. What can minorities do to position themselves for professional opportunities in the construction industry? They need to attend all the free classes possible. Get a good mentor. Be open to learning and understanding other trades within their industry. Really do the research and see if it’s something that they truly want to do. Sometimes you should partner with other companies before you jump out there.

Sometimes you may think you know something, but don’t know all the ins and outs. What should companies be doing to recruit minority talent? Reach out to people in your community and at community colleges and high schools to get kids interested at an early age. They can achieve this by hosting or attending Career fairs, recruiting at colleges, and working with trade organizations in their areas. Many companies are not hiring minorities because they assume they are not qualified. This is a common misconception that happens when companies are disconnected from minorities in the industry. That’s why it’s important to get young people interested at an early age, and to stay connected with trade organizations that may be a great resource for new talent and partnership opportunities.

Valerie is a graduate of East Carolina University where she majored in Construction Management and Finance. She currently resides in the Charlotte area, and is a member of several nonprofit and trade associations that promote Diversity and Inclusion.

Visit | 13




aChaun J. Banks serves as the Ash Center’s first-ever Director for Equity and Inclusion. She is a seasoned professional in economic development, strategic planning, and merging private enterprise with government and academia for overall shared prosperity. At Ash, she works to advance the practices, policies, and networks needed to diversify the Center’s community; inform its organizational culture and resource allocation; and help move the organization toward shared understanding, language, and values around diversity, equity, and inclusion. LaChaun also works with the Center’s Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative where she manages the deployment and adoption of the newly launched City Leader Guide for Equitable Economic Development.

Photography provided by LaChaun Banks

Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been important forever. But it is a hot topic right now because people are actually listening.”

Substantial got the opportunity to sit down with LaChaun and ask her a few questions regarding the buzz surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion in our nation right now.

really hit home how even the policies that have good intentions can have bad outcomes. And even when one group is suppressing another group, it actually has implications for the group suppressing that group.

Take a moment and read a few of the highlights from our conversation and visit to dive deeper into the podcast conversation.

The only way really to move forward is by creating a more diverse, a more equitable, and more inclusive organization, no matter what it is, no matter if it’s a fund, community, local government, corporation, etc.

SM: LaChaun let’s dive right in, tell us in your opinion why diversity, equity, and inclusion is so important right now? LB: So diversity, equity, and inclusion has been important forever. But it is a hot topic right now because people are actually listening. This is the first time in history that we are having the murder of black people by policemen filmed where the whole world can see, though some would say it’s always been happening. This is a moment where the country is saying, “We have got to do something.” The reason why I’m so passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion is because not only is it good for a community or business, but it’s bad if we don’t do it, the implications of what happens if we’re not diverse, if we’re not equitable, it actually ends up being bad for everyone. I was lucky enough to moderate a book talk for “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGee. It just

SM: As we get into some of these ‘new’ DEI conversations what are some of the important factors and pieces that we should be considering? LB: One of the things that I would say is when things are being created, whether it’s a project, a policy, a program, an initiative, is really looking at who has the leverage to make things happen, but then also, who are the people that are going to be impacted. Also thinking the whole DEI process through and making sure that there’s diverse thought, as much as there are diverse people in the process at every step. These two things to me have been where I’ve seen success happen, diversity should be planned out from the beginning. So really looking at when these programs, policies and initiatives are created, having a seat at the table and being able to influence what the outcome is, and having that diversity from the beginning. | 15



SM: What is one barrier or challenge as it relates to achieving real diversity, equity and inclusion or at least moving the needle forward?

LB: I would say the number one thing is bureaucracy. I see it in cities, I see it in firms. I mean, there is this ‘BS’ bureaucracy, bureaucratic practices, that have only served the people that created them 100 years ago, that people are trying to navigate through. For the folks that really want to create equity and diversity, that are white males running organizations, they’re even having challenges because of the policies in place. So one thing that I would say that would make all of our lives a bit easier is if people could really remove these bureaucratic systems that are in place for no reason.

Click to hear a snippet of our All Things Substantial Podcast episode with Lachaun.

Hear more of our conversation with LaChaun.


Beyond the


How Diversity Accelerates Business Results

When most people think of the Lottery, they very rarely think of minority affairs, but the North Carolina Education Lottery has focused on minority affairs and the importance of diversity. Substantial caught up with Annette Taylor, North Carolina Education Lottery, Minority Business and Community Affairs Manager to discuss how diversity is being talked about across all sectors and spaces, including the NC Education Lottery. Annette has an extensive background in philanthropy, higher education, and government. She’s a servant leader who cares deeply about helping people and creating access to opportunities. Annette has made it her lifes mission to help those who are disadvantaged, marginalized, and denied equal access to opportunities and she brings those values and lives out that mission in any role she occupies. SM: Annette, most people know the “chance/game” side of the NC Education Lottery (NCEL), however their are so many things that are happening beyond and behind the numbers. Tell us a little more about your role. Taylor: Well, I’m honored to be working in this newly created role with the NCEL. As most know the NC Education Lottery is run by the government of NC. The North Carolina State Lottery Act created a 9-member Lottery commission who’s charged with overseeing all aspects of the education lottery. NCEL leadership saw the need to extend opportunities, really to expand their base of diverse suppliers to grow their supply chain by working with minority businesses.

Click to hear a snippet of our All Things Substantial Podcast episode with Annette.

It’s also important to make sure people in the community are aware of the value of the lottery to our state and to education. 100% of North Carolina Lottery net proceeds go directly to benefit the state’s education. NCEL funds go to pay for school construction, need-based college financial aid, transportation, salaries for non-instructional support staff like custodians, substitute teachers, and office assistants. The NCEL also funds pre-kindergarten programs. For me this role is about building relationships with our stakeholders and we have a diverse group of stakeholders, outside of just those that play. My title pretty much spells it out, “minority business and community affairs,” I am really focused on building relationships with diverse suppliers and the community. Business inclusion is a huge part of my work. I want to expose minority owned businesses to opportunities and help them build their capacity to compete. SM: What has the conversation been around DEI within NCEL? Taylor: Well, there’s no shortage of statistics, and data that prove that diversity strengthens the bottom line of any organization. It’s one of the reasons that I thought it was important to establish a series on the business of diversity. Diversity strengthens the economy in so many different ways and shows up in so many ways as well. We’re improving and growing just like many other businesses and organizations, the key is you must be intentional about DEI. I see that as part of my role at the NCEL, and I’m very happy to be leading the diversity agenda at the lottery. “The NC Education Lottery has raised over $8 billion for education in the last 15 years. $.95 of every dollar spent on a lottery ticket is returned to the state in the form of prizes, commissions and earnings for education. Lottery ticket sales boost the bottom line for local businesses also. Since the lottery began in 2006, it has followed a Minority Business Outreach policy and now it has Annette Taylor at the table ensuring DEI accountability” | 17

Catch the entire conversation at



Let’s Talk

DIVERSITY: Beyond the Checkbox Coming from a diverse family, Jackie Ferguson acknowledges her advantage to understanding why diversity in all forms is an essential part of a progressive society. As Head of Content and Programming at The Diversity Movement, Ferguson has seen her industry change tremendously; along with the desire for companies to seek out the proper way to understand and implement policies that reflect diversity, equity, and inclusion. She explains that growing up she “learned to process differing perspectives real time, and engage in conversations to find bridges to understanding, empathy and allyship”. In the same vein, she also understands that not everyone grew up that way, and for some it may be a little difficult to understand others with different lifestyles, backgrounds, and opinions. Her work at The Diversity Movement seeks to bridge that gap and facilitate meaningful dialogue and actionable change.


he Brookings Institute defines diversity as “all of the characteristics and attributes that make each one of us unique.” It further explains that diversity actually includes many dimensions.

Elements such as race, gender, age, socio-economic status, religion, and even work experience are all elements of a diverse population. In America’s “melting pot”, diversity has now become a hot button issue in regards to civil rights, policing, and even workplace equity and inclusion. Although these past couple of years we’ve seen a heavy focus towards educating people on the importance and understanding of diversity, there are some who have been committed to this work for quite some time. Created in 2019, The Diversity Movement was a passion project started by five innovators from Walk West whose eLearning course on inclusion and bottom-line results spiraled into a full-service DEI Consultancy. At The Diversity Movement, their team is committed to providing insight on the notion of diversity, equity, and inclusion “by combining a unique mix of products, education, and consulting”.

DEFINING DEI Whenever things become a buzz word in the media, it’s very common for folks to put their own spin on it and create their own definitions. Over the course of the past year incidents in the media have created a slew of headlines that includes issues surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. But many are not fully aware of what the terms consist of it and what they truly mean. It’s very similar to the controversy that once surrounded affirmative action policies. Before people became truly aware of what affirmative action did and did not include, there was widespread controversy and the practice was sometimes met with uninformed resistance. Experts in DEI are experiencing this backlash now, and they find themselves having to explain the true meaning on a regular basis. What may appear to be a frustrating task for most, Jackie Ferguson takes it all in stride with a ton of patience and just as much understanding. She graciously explains the differences, taking into account that some people are at different places on the spectrum of learning about DEI. Jackie explains that she “was born into it” and is aware that “some people are starting at different points of being uncomfortable” when it comes to learning about DEI. Depending on how they are raised or what their life experiences are, they may start their journey at different points.

A quick lesson into the differences amongst these three buzz words shows us how we can understand what DEI means:


is about People + the differences in people’s lived experiences.

IN•CLU•SION is about participation (how those people are able to show up in the workplace) do they feel comfortable, safe, and can they contribute.

EQ•UI•TY is about processes and policies. Ex: Parental leave. Is this maternity only, or is it for all parents, adoption, etc. There are major differences amongst the different facets of the industry. And essentially it takes having a structure and strategy that includes all three in order for an organization to be successful. It’s seemingly ineffective to acknowledge people’s diverse backgrounds and life experiences without developing a company culture and policies that address these differences. “Implementing these changes can change a business and provide transformational outcomes. Studies are now showing that companies are benefiting from these transformations.” She further explains that by embracing DEI, companies can take advantage of having diverse voices with different types of innovation, ideas, and creative problem solving. Within creating a diverse environment where people can truly thrive, it’s important to note that the emphasis is on much more than race. It also includes taking into consideration factors such as gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical disabilities, and education levels. The learning curve is constantly shifting due to the many different types of people in the workplace. “There is a level of intentionality in making sure that human resource and business leaders are thinking more about how policies are written” says Ferguson. She shares that her role in the DEI space has evolved quite a bit in the past year due to the prevalence of race riots over the last year, new legislation, and the ever changing melting pot of cultures we have in the workplace. What has happened is that there is a noticeable change in the use of inclusive language. But more focus needs to be on understanding exactly what inclusive language means and how it impacts the people who are in these diverse communities.

GET THE FULL conversation with Jackie here. | 19



This is one of the many areas that The Diversity Movement focuses on. They work hard to ensure that they are not only bringing attention to issues related to inclusivity, but also creating content that is informative and educational when it comes to inclusivity. When it comes to the knowledge gap or the misunderstanding of what inclusivity means, Jackie tells us that many times people simply don’t say anything.

“Instead of being afraid to be uncomfortable, they simply don’t do anything. But people should be thinking about what they can find out on their own that can give you a decent foundation for a conversation.” For now, Jackie Ferguson is focused on her evolving role at The Diversity Movement. The organization currently puts out content in the form of blogs, videos, micro-lessons, and white papers. As the Head of Content and Programming at TDM, there is a growing need for flexibility and creativity. Ferguson understands that in order to reach new audiences that new measures of communication may be necessary. In all of her efforts to create progressive content for TDM, Ferguson puts in the hope that if her lifelong work reaches at least one person then she has made a difference in the lives of others.


Beyond the Checkbox with Jackie Ferguson

Want to learn more? Gain insights, perspectives, and tools from our community of experts, practitioners, and educators on our podcast, Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox.


WITH DIVERSITY A chat with Shelley Willingham

S helley (she/her) is a serial entrepreneur and business

strategist with more than 20 years of corporate and small business experience. In 2003, Shelley founded the National Organization for Diversity in Sales and Marketing (NODSM), a company focused on helping corporate America recognize the increasing purchasing power of diverse segments and helping them market to these groups without using stereotypes or being offensive. Shelley in 2006 also partnered with FORTUNE magazine on a special diversity section highlighting her work in the space. Shelley is currently the Vice President of Business Strategy for The Diversity Movement and leads the client acquisition strategy and execution while supporting each of the TDM business units in the development of their respective strategies. Substantial chatted with Shelley to learn a little more about who she is and how she helps companies and organizations win with diversity. SM: Shelley you've been championing diversity for some time, tell us about your time in this work.

conversation about the business case, and amount of purchasing power that existed within diverse audiences. Corporations were leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the purchasing power of diverse segments. That was not only ethnic minorities, but people with disabilities, the LGBTQ plus community, women and so forth. I've seen the ebbs and flows of DEI. In 2007, it seemed diversity programming stopped being a high priority to big corporations. In 2008 we got a Black man in the White House and we immediately solved all the issues with diversity, equity and inclusion, which we all know wasn't the case. Fast forward to the tragic events that happened last year, with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others and now there's a renewed energy and interest in DEI. SM: Why DEI? SW: I can’t imagine any forward thinking company that wants to position itself for growth not embracing the value of DEI. The business case is clear. DEI initiatives increase the bottom line, drive innovation, attract more talent, and create more opportunities for growth. Simply, it just makes good business sense.

SW: I have been in the DEI space since the early 2000s. My approach to diversity at that time was to have a Click to hear a snippet of our All Things Substantial Podcast | 21 episode with Shelley.





ehind every great business or brand is someone who is talented enough to put the words together to draw you in and pique your curiosity.

For Shannon Baylor-Henderson, her natural love of words and stories has created a very specific niche that gives her clients a competitive edge. The DC native tells us how she got started and how she is creating big opportunities in her small NC town. Who is Shannon Baylor-Henderson? Shannon Baylor- Henderson is the owner and Chief Content Officer of Content Commanders, a storytelling and strategy company located in Elizabeth City. She’s a creative entrepreneur, wife and mother of four sons. What do you do? Who do you serve? As the owner of Content Commanders, I spend my time leading & supporting my team members in creating and managing content for our clients. We provide content storytelling & strategy services to small businesses, nonprofits and artists who want to monetize their multimedia messages. I have a team of seven “commanders” who specialize in digital media, writing, marketing, research and creative design. How did you get started in this space? What prompted you to open a brick and mortar location? I was a solopreneur for my company,, which I ran for 15 years.

During that time, I self-published four books and was a ghostwriter for a dozen authors and media contributors. Additionally I wrote three dozen e-books. After closing my business, I became a business counselor for small businesses throughout North Carolina. I’ve always been involved in content development and strategy—from helping people to tell and promote their stories to helping people start and scale their businesses, I’ve just always been deeply involved in and excited about helping others make money from their ideas and interests. Content Commanders didn’t start off as the company it is now. I started this business as a content automation software company. When the pandemic happened, I had to shift gears a bit. Also, I left my job during the peak of the pandemic due to a variety of reasons. I thought people would call me crazy to leave a job in the middle of an economic crisis when millions of people were involuntarily unemployed. But the calling for me to go after my goals was too loud for me to ignore---as inconvenient as the calling may have appeared at that time. After a couple of months of keeping up with the blessings of a demand for our kind of work, that “higher calling” happened again. This time, it was to open a brick and mortar studio. I knew that based on our clients’ needs and interests as well as some of the ideas I had for small businesses in my community, a creative studio & learning lab would make sense. What can people expect at your new studio? The Content Commanders Creative Lab & Learning Studio is a membership-based space where people can create their own multimedia content. We’re in a digital era, where you can easily and quickly make money online and from your smart device. However, some people don’t have access to the equipment, tools, software & space to create their own content. Our space is available to do anything from record your podcast and YouTube videos to take product photography, shoot a talk show or simply write a book. Most importantly, members will have access to our Commander Community, which is an online community where they can take classes, share or engage with other creative projects and collaborate with other content creators. We’re doing our best to remove the barriers of helping people create a revenue stream from content creation. Many people spend a lot of time consuming content and have no idea that they can create and monetize their own content too. If you could wave a magic wand for the members of what would be your studio, what would your gift be for them? My hope is that someone will change the trajectory of their financial future by utilizing this space. I want someone to come in here with an idea, get access to the equipment, guidance and tools and create income from their talent. Also, we have plans to create award-winning content for our brand as well. I’m really pushing to start and complete this project then hopefully get an award recognizing our project. I want my children and my team members to see what a vision, a plan and good intentions can do. Where do you see Content Commanders in five years? In five years, I hope to see Content Commanders recognized by major multimedia companies and brands, but not just with a “wink and a nod”. I want these brands to come to us because we have our fingers on the pulse of the small business community and rising content creators. I want for the Content Commanders brand to be the credible liaison and influencer for major brands to pour into and uplift small businesses and independent multimedia artists. Contact Info, Biz Links | | 252-357-9769 | 23



Reconstructing the future of History, Humanity, and Artistry


hen you meet Monique Douglas, you know immediately that she has a knack for uncovering what makes people and places come to life in unique ways. For Monique, VIP service and excellence is a natural way of life. Her decades of experience in customer service in both the corporate and entrepreneurial sectors is what has allowed her to bring her ‘Midas Touch’ to everything she does. The Nassau Bahamas native hails from a family of entrepreneurs, so naturally she was born with "the bug". When she met Kevin Douglas years ago, she knew that there was professional synergy. But little did she know that she and Douglas, a professional photographer, would end up being partners in both business and life. It’s rare that you meet two individuals who are so committed to creating professional symmetry that you don’t even realize that they are also husband and wife. After knowing each other for several years, and working together on numerous projects, their natural connection blossomed into “the perfect marriage” of commitment to creativity and uplifting their ommunity. Kevin Douglas is a veteran in both photography and business development. The Charlotte native credits the discipline of the Air Force as the foundation of his business acumen. From opening franchise kiosks in Puerto Rico, to working for NASA, and operating photography studios, the

outspoken and charismatic photographer has created working relationships with people from event managers to government officials and sports commissioners. His brand, Captured by Kevin is known for being a staple in the Charlotte community. Together, the Douglas’ run Studio 229, a multi-use facility that appears to be an event space on the surface, but on the inside is a sacred place where “history, humanity and artistry intersect” in the most beautiful way. Kevin, a seasoned entrepreneur in the Charlotte area uses the space to capture photographic moments for clients. His long history of creating beautiful imagery for his repeat clients has been truly enhanced with the launch of Studio 229 at Brevard. In addition to serving as a space for photography and videography, it is also home to some of the most intimate and soulful events. The Douglas’ regularly welcome live music artists, poets, visual artists, networking, and family events into their space at Studio 229. The vibe inside of the building feels warm, sexy, and unapologetically “grown up”. But the true beauty of the space lies within the history of the building itself. Studio 229 is one of three buildings that make up The Brooklyn Collective. The history of The Brooklyn Collective is a colorful one. Natives of Charlotte will remember when this area was considered the Black Wall Street of Charlotte. The first reference to the Brooklyn area of Charlotte was in The Charlotte Observer in 1897. Much like many cities Photographs provided by Kevin Douglas

“We understand the depth of the responsibility that we have to do our part in helping maintain stability, and helping to tell the history of what happened here, and helping the community to see the necessity of engaging."

across the country at that time, there were areas reserved specifically for Black families that served as community hubs where families could live, work, and even worship. The Brooklyn area of Charlotte was made up of housing for families of all income levels, along with black owned businesses and social gathering spots. The Grace Church can be traced all the way back to 1900, and the Mecklenburg Investment Company, an integral part of the growth and development of Black communities in Charlotte can be traced back to 1922. The third building in the Collective is where Kevin and Monique Douglas occupy as Studio 229. The Mecklenburg Investment Company plays a large part in the deep history of the Brooklyn area. It served as the pinnacle of growth for upward mobility of Blacks in Charlotte. A place where Black doctors, teachers, and business owners could gather and share resources. Unfortunately this vitality was quickly destroyed with the progression of urban development in the area. In the 1960s a NC Urban Development law took 238 acres of land and considered them to be “blighted”; resulting in the destruction of housing for over 1,000 families and 216 black owned businesses. Most of these families and businesses never recovered. Today, the original mission of the Brooklyn area is coming full circle. Ironically, this was not the first location in consideration for Kevin Douglas. The seasoned photographer had explored several other spaces in the past but never pulled the trigger. One could say that it was divine intervention, because the physical space that he now occupies with his wife and business partner Monique fulfills both his personal and professional passions. In this new space Kevin is able to not only create, but impart his wisdom and experiences onto other young entrepreneurs and creatives. In regards to his passion for mentoring and advising young entrepreneurs, Kevin says “I'm 59. So I know I don't want to be on my seat forever. So we understand that we have an opportunity here to transfer some of the experience, knowledge, and different things to a younger generation. So I don't think it's by accident that we have this studio.” In regards to why mentoring is so important in this post-pandemic time, Kevin also affirms “I think more than people want to get back out and start making money, which, obviously we have to do if we want to stay afloat, but I think it's equally important that we understand that we need to start teaching and mentoring for those things to come back to us”.

The charming property also houses a number of other businesses, including an incubator for small businesses, a maker/creator studio, and a nonprofit that Monique created many years ago called ‘Grooming Greatness’. But what makes this venture even more fantastic is that both Kevin and Monique have an active role in the livelihood of the entire Brooklyn Collective. Monique serves as Director of Community Engagement and Director of Tenant Services, while Kevin serves as the Director of Operations for the organization. Monique explains that the appeal of the buildings in the Collective go far beyond the original hardwood floors and stained glass in some of the areas. It is also an opportunity for things to come full circle and return to being the hub for collective growth. “There are some folks that still remember that there used to be 1400 families, 200 businesses, and that this used to be a thriving community. And these three buildings are the last thing left of that. I think bringing this back to life, and trying to establish a vibrant culture here where people can come in, they can not only go into history here, but they can actually do activities and programming here. Hopefully it gives them a sense of pride.” Additionally, the organization has been very intentional about making sure that they have representation from all parts of the community when developing programs and activities. She explains that the Brooklyn Collective is “a collective of like minded individuals from diverse backgrounds, who have come together for the greater good of the community.” There is always a variety of interesting activities at Studio 229. On some nights you’ll find Spoken Word and Jazz, on other nights you can enjoy exhibits much like the Frontline Worker exhibit earlier this year that paid homage to the heroes of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Brooklyn Collective is working on partnerships with much larger organizations like the Blumenthal Arts, who will soon introduce seven days a week of creative programming at The Grace. This will undoubtedly serve as a symbol of connection for the Charlotte area. Housing diverse programming in this lane creates an opportunity for deeper connection and understanding, as well as economic advancement and future development opportunities. With an almost unspoken understanding the Douglas’ both agree that their involvement in the growth and development of the Brooklyn Collective is an essential part of their story as entrepreneurs. | 25

Read the full article at



We the People Written by JJ McQueen

It’s been a full year since the world shutdown. A year that many would consider to be one of the worst in American history. The challenges of COVID-19 have proven too be so intense that we can’t do an internet search without there being mention of the impact of it. When we look back on how the world has trudged forward, the thought that we made through it should bring you/us to a pause. COVID-19 has prompted questions that don’t provide simple answers. How did we make it? Who did we consult to make? What did they say? The need for answers has helped us reconnect with the community in ways that many never anticipated. On the educational front schools had to pivot to digital platforms with virtually twenty-four-hour access for struggling students. Grassroots organizations made their way back to the street corners to supplement where mainstream groups no longer had access. Philanthropic organizations now have a renewed laser sharp focus on what areas need them most. There has also been increased global visibility brought to issues that many have ignored for decades. Most notability police reform, immigration reform, and systemic racism. These things have exposed how deep the measuring stick

for justice goes, and or doesn’t run for some ethnic groups. The Preamble of the United States Constitution clearly speaks to this, it even closes with the ordination of the ideals that we’re supposed to abide by as it relates too covering those that inhabit U.S. soil. The promise is written in a very unapologetic fashion. The words are delivered with what one would propose that they’re intended to cover all citizens or those considered sons and daughters of U.S. soil. While capturing the lives and moments of those in need during the toughest stretch of the COVID-19 season, I was challenged with photographing the depths of who “We the People” was truly meant for. There were moments when I saw children from different ethnic backgrounds carrying cartons of food home for multiple generational households. Those moments were hard stops on a ride of a full year of being forced to see the reality of how many of our social-economic systems were being exposed in real-time. Not to mention that we’d begin to see the power of imagery not seen since the open casket photos of Emmett Till in the 1950’s. For the first time in history we, America, was faced with the ugly realities of who we could be, and become when we/it decided not to include all of we the people. There was bright side to all of this, men

and women from all generations and diverse cultural backgrounds were forced to trust one another in an organic way. For the first time in my career I captured photos of people from the suburbs receiving assistance in communities of blight. I witnessed relationships being forged by circumstance. For the first time outside of sports, I was able to capture who and what we the people looked like. Although the legal context of the Preamble was written for a more specific fit for the nation, its elementary form the words refers to the body of people who inhabit the nation.

We all understand that our world is made up of countless differences, but there’s one constant that remains. The world is made up of people in its most general form of the word.

Photographs provided by JJ McQueen ( | 27





he NC IDEA Foundation is on a mission to strengthen the economy of North Carolina through a strategic combination of grants and programs depolyed directly and through a network of partners. The vision is clear and that's to help people achieve their entrepreneurial potential. At the helm of this independent private foundation is Thom Ruhe, an entrepreneur, investor, mentor and thought leader. Thom works with entrepreneurs, governments, universities and NGOs around the world to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset needed to grow vibrant economies. Thom has served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Entrepreneurship, addressed the United Nations Assembly on Entrepreneurship, lectured at conferences around the world and serves on multiple boards including Innovation Fund America and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. Substantial had the opporunity to sit down with Thom to talk about the importance of diversity in entrepreneuriship.

SM: Thom tell our audience a little bit about who you are. What's the Thom Ruhe origin story? TR: Let me start by saying, I have the good fortune to work with an incredible team of very committed people at NC IDEA. As for an origin story, I put myself through college with an Air Force ROTC scholarship. When I graduated in the late 80s, instead of going in and serving, the then president, Ronald Reagan, did a very large reduction in force. So they cut substantial parts of the military. And one of the ways that they cut was all these newly commissioned officers after going through four years of college. So we were all kind of set free if we wanted to get out. Seeing as I had a degree in computer science, it wasn't that hard for me to find a job, so I was like, "Yes, please, I'll take that option." I spent the next 20 years kind of bouncing around entrepreneurship and I just dumb luck stumbled into a startup. Very early in my career, I watched a man by his own admission, he would describe himself, you know, having barely graduated from high school. I watched him. In the three years that I worked for him, I made him a millionaire.

Click to hear a snippet of our All Things Substantial Podcast episode with Thom.

“We're just working off the thesis that everybody has equal potential. What isn't equal is access to capital, access to training, access to mentors and networking."

Photograph from

The man had this dirty little company that sold this obscure technology. He said, "hey, I've heard that the US government buys this stuff. You just got out of the Air Force, you know what all that stuff means? Go figure this out." And I'm 22/23 years old, naive enough of the world to say, "sure, I'll go figure it out." So I figured out how to do government contracting. And, basically, the company before I joined was only doing about 500,000 a year in revenue. And at the end of my first year, we had cracked our first three and a half million dollar government contract. I saw firsthand, the impact of entrepreneurship. Granted it's not all about getting rich and wealth creation. I saw what it meant for hiring in the company. Expansion of the markets we were going after, the economic impacts of entrepreneurship. I understood what entrepreneurship did for my own family, me and my wife of 30 years, we didn't have kids yet, but for the first time we were starting to talk about it, because, I was making some nice income. I was making well beyond what I would have made if I had just stayed on some kind of tech path. So it clicked with me; entrepreneurships has this empowerment property. It's like a superpower.

NC IDEA is going to go statewide, and we're going to look to help underserved populations, not to lower a standard, not to say, we're going to change the fundamental model, right? We're just working off the thesis that everybody has equal potential. What isn't equal is access to capital, access to training, access to mentors and networking. That's what we have to address. And if we do, our theory is that, you know, whether it's communities of color, or female founders or rural communities, they're going to perform just as well. They're going to have high growth opportunities, wealth creation, job creation, events, just as much as any, you know, white founder from the affluent triangle, for example. Not that, we want to not support those folks. We just want to give him more competition. So we've been doing this and it's been evolving through our programs. But last year, like everybody else that at least has a soul and a brain we were looking at world events, we were looking at the George Floyd case, even before George Floyd, Tamir Rice and we saw how these events amplified the inequity in society.

SM: NC IDEA created the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council back in August of 2020. Tell us a little more about the council and how it came to be.

As I said early I believe that entrepreneurship is a great equalizer. Entrepreneurial success doesn't care if you're Black, or Korean, or trans, or from the sticks or from the downtown metro area. Everybody has a chance to do something great. And so for me, that was kind of the epiphany, we have to do something even more than we already are.

TR: It's all a part of NC IDEA, the culture here, thanks to an incredible board of directors who supports our sometimes over ambitious goals. They also have really pushed our collective values that the staff have reflected for several years now. And that is that, if everything we're doing isn't based on equity, then why are we doing it? That was a condition of me taking the job in the first place.

I'll share I had a really bad idea at first, and my incredible staff pushed back on me and said "that's a really bad idea." We have to be careful about the curse of good intentions. What I mean by that is even with my experience, there are limits based upon my skin color and my background and my socio economic status. So good intentions are not enough. And that's a hard truth that people that mean well in the white community need | 29



to remember every once in a while. So we had to step back and say okay, how do we plan to attack this problem. Collectively, we said, we should let this be led by the community, the very people we serve and we seek to serve. And that's what gave birth to this notion of, we shouldn't try to in our own vacuum chamber decide what kind of program or activity we should do to serve the black entrepreneurial community in the state of North Carolina, we should pull together this group that represents that ambition, and then know what our role is, namely, to fund it. Basically we need to support it, we don't need to lead it, we need to trust. Listen for foundations and organizations that deploy capital and resources that not an easy think to do. However I again thank and give credit to our board because I went to them and said "I want to put some money under the control and auspice of these 25 people that aren't, connected to us. They're not employees, they're not contractors they're not board members," and they said yes. In fact I'm happy to say that we approved our new budget for next year that we put a million dollars into the Black Entrepreneurship Council (BEC). And the BEC is going to decide what programs are going to be priorities, who's going to get funded, how we're going to go about that funding, etc. Because the simple goal of doing that, and this aspiration I have for it, this fever dream about it is that we as a team just want to make North Carolina the best state in the country for black folks to start and grow great companies full stop. It's not complicated, it's not easy, but again it's not complicated. Let's make North Carolina the best state in the country. For black, indigenous, and other people of color to start and grow businesses, to have wealth creating events, job creating events, and strengthen their community. Because that's going to be good for everybody. Everybody benefits from that. SM: Knowing there's no magic formular or one size fits all approach, however what's some early advice you would give to an entrepreneur and what's the ideal business or idea in your opinion that you yourself would invest in. TR: So I'm always happy to share, in fact I’m working on a book. The book, ironically, is named the gospel of entrepreneurship, where I have kind of like the 10 commandments of entrepreneurship. So I'll start with the first commandment, that is “to thine own self be true.” I did steal that one from “The Bard” Mr. Shakespeare himself. But what I mean with that is, if there's a recurring mistake, challenge, problem, obstacle, whatever word you want to use that I encounter with first time entrepreneurs, it's that they're not honest with themselves.

“We're just working off the thesis that everybody has equal potential. What isn't equal is access to capital, access to training, access to mentors and networking."

Another thing I like to share is you need to understand the power of choice. Time is your most valuable asset. How do you choose to spend your time, your valuable asset? Time is more valuable than money. Again you need to understand the power of choice, how do you choose to spend your time? I'm going to apologize in advance if I disappoint with the answer to the second part of this question because I get it frequently. I think there's an expectation that I should say "biotech or IoT, or AI, or crypto or whatever." I'm actually super agnostic, when it comes to that, what people in my position value and when I say people in my position, I mean, organizations that might fund activities, or startups in this regard is, it's all around market potential. Is the idea is the, the it something that has the potential to have impact. There are a lot of people that will chase a decent enough idea, but it just has such small economic impact potential that you find yourself in these unfortunate situations where you're sympathetic to their plight and to their passion, however it's just not the right fit. I find myself saying if you are in your wildest vision of success, if you achieve it, at most, you've created a job for yourself, and maybe one or two others. Not that there's anything wrong with that there isn't, it's just not where we get enough leverage for our limited resources. So we're often times looking for ideas, companies, it can be a service, although they're usually not as competitive as a product type company, but anything that's got the potential of becoming a multimillion dollar business, because you can't build a multimillion dollar business without hiring typically, you can't do that without hiring a lot of people and having other economic impact in the community, tax revenue base and everything that cascades from that. Honestly thought if you look at our portfolio we've funded all types of companies from SAS solutions to consumer goods, 3D printed metals, and vegan cheese. Again it all boils down to the market potential. SM: Listen, we are in no way disappointed in that answer, having ourselves been funded through NC IDEA as a Micro grant recipient we're grateful to you and the organization for seeing our marketing potential. What's coming up with NC IDEA? TR: Our Fall 2021 Grant Info Sessions kick off soon and our Fall 2021 MICRO and SEED grant opportunities will be opening soon as well. MICRO is $10K for entrepreneurs who are testing a big, new business idea and SEED is $50K for entrepreneurs who need to advance their startup, gain customers or attract future investment.

LEARN MORE by Visiting | 31



REAL ESTATE DIVERSITY Myron Rouse Greenville NC Broker\Owner Heartland Realty How did you get started? My high school friend Chuck Jones suggested that I go into it. Explain the difference between the roles of a Realtor, Broker in Charge, and the Lender? The Real Estate agent’s job is to make the home buying or selling process as smooth as possible by having a vast knowledge in real estate. They should be able to provide information on lenders, attorneys, inspectors and several other vendors involved in the process, as well as have thorough knowledge of the comps in the area, schools, shopping, and other community amenities to say the least. The Broker in Charge’s duty is to be the Supervisor of other agents in their organization, making sure that policy and procedures are followed and state guidelines are adhered to at all times. The Lender’s job is to provide the best possible financing options, help clients understand credit and the necessary documents needed to complete the buying process What is one of the most challenging learning experiences you’ve had as a small business owner? The hardest thing is getting support from your community and building the trust to show people that you are as competent as any other agent they may choose. What are some tips that can help emerging real estate agents in areas where they are the minority? Be sure that your family and friends know that you’re getting into the business before you are even licensed. It’s also important to network and promote yourself daily to everyone What are some of the challenges you see for first time homebuyers, and how do you help them navigate these challenges? Not understanding all of the obstacles in the homebuying process and not understanding how credit works. The goal is to educate and connect with great lenders to help them with the process.

What can real estate agents and lenders do to empower more homebuyers to have a better understanding of the process of buying and selling property? Education is key, and all too often consumers depend on the internet for knowledge. But in reality a professional is where they should be getting all of their knowledge. As a minority in business, do you find it difficult to create a solid extended network outside of your immediate community? What’s your advice for creating a solid network? Yes, because people have the option to use whomever they like to represent them. So sometimes it’s difficult going outside of your immediate circle. One of my first deals was a college friend outside of my community. I’ve had several referrals throughout the years but not at the same rate as others. The best advice for building a solid network is putting your clients interests ahead of your own. How can people contact you? 252-320-2158 | 33




tumors from spreading through the brain. That's what my educational background is. That's where my early clinical experiences. That's where I really started to get very curious about the possibilities of what can be done in the world.


r. Shanté Williams Is Currently The CEO Of Black Pearl Global Investments, A $25M Venture Capital Fund. She Is A Distinguished Venture Capitalist, Business Owner, Inventor, Intellectual Property Strategist, And Private Investor. In Her Career Years, She Has Used Her Wealth Of Scientific Knowledge As Well As Her Passion For Innovation To Solve Multiple Complex Problems Across The Industries Of Health, Finance, And Real Estate. Since the death of George Floyd more and more people are raising their voices to call for social justice, equity and real support of black owned businesses. Major corporations are pledging substantial dollars in the belief that in order to truly expand our economy and close the racial wealth gaps that exist in this country we have to start investing in Black businesses. Dr. Williams has been doing just that. She has been on a mission to mobilize money to help build thriving communities and ecosystems. How she's doing it, you ask; by investing capital where it can both earn returns and have an impact. SM: Dr. Williams tell our readers a little about yourself? Who is Dr. Shanté Williams? SW: I always do a bad job of this and I never really cover everything, but I'll try to be brief. I am a former Neuro-oncology Experimental Therapeutic Scientist. which is a lot of words to say, I used to help develop new therapies and techniques to keep brain

I left that career path a while ago, and I actually decided to go into finance and investment banking; mergers and acquisitions. I completely transitioned out of science and went to finance. I did that for a lot of reasons. One, was I wanted to make a lot of money. I'm kidding, but I am money motivated. I really wanted to be able to see all that hard work that people do in the clinic, and all of those discoveries get out to the people who really needed them, so logically believe it or not that goal lead me on this path. I actually went from the clinic to tech commercialization for university, and then into management or investment consulting. That was a lot of fun, I got to do financial modeling, structure deals and work with the "big boys" like Johnson and Johnson, Kraft Foods. etc. I also enjoyed working with those smaller companies that you may have never heard of until they develop something like a vaccine or medical device that impacts your life. So I always tell younger people willing to listen, a lot of my journey was not intentional, necessarily, but I was open to possibilities. SM: So pause there because one would say everything you've talked about to this point seems like pretty lucrative and amazing careers. But there's more to this story right, you got out of all of that and went on to get an MBA and...? SW: That's right I got an MBA. And then I went into mergers and acquisitions formerly as the head of M&A for a medical device company. Then I was off to the races as I like to say. I wanted to came out of healthcare and clinical all together and went into electric vehicles. I do have some patents, specifically in designing components for electric vehicles. I did that for a while, I was the head of intellectual property for a very large Japanese company. That was my last corporate gig. I jumped out, and I started a couple of companies. SM: WOW, it sounds like you've had an amazing journey thus far. Tell us about Black Pearl Global Investments.

“In order for us to change the shape of our community, and the future that our communities face, we have to be the owners and investors in that future!"

SW: So with Black Pearl, we invest in healthcare companies around the world, but we like to focus in developing markets, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. We like to grow companies where they are. We help them to become job creators, and continue to fuel their economy, but then we also help those companies get into the the US. We serve urban and rural markets that are experiencing healthcare problems. So for us that looks like all kinds of companies. It looks like telemedicine, ambulatory care, skincare, all kinds of things. So we love seeing good ideas that are solving problems to make life easier. Black Pearl Global Investments has been around now for four years. SM: Again you've done so much and been involved in a number of sectors/industries. What was the feeling when you said, OK it's time to transition, and to chart a new path forward? SW: I'll answer that question with a story, in fact I'll share two brief stories. I'm a storyteller. So, two stories. One, my first deal. I was so excited, we structured this deal, we closed with a partner, and I was like, YES, we're making some money around here. Now, I was making a good salary, so by no means do I want to downplay that. But, in this case we were closing a several $100 million deal. Listen the firm takes in a percentage, and I already know it's not like I'm getting $600 million, right. But, I couldn't wait for that bonus check. When I see that payout, I thought, this is nice. I mean, it was a lot of money, it was more money then I had seen at one time in a lump sum. However, it wasn't the amount that I knew came in, nor was it anywhere close. In comparison, it was a little bitty tiny morsel, Greg it might have been a crumb actually.

probably had some decent or high number, nope a $100 and a plaque. Sickening and sad. But that's what corporate sometimes gives the inventors on patents. So that was lesson number two. I was actually the director of intellectual property and had some insight as to the compensation programs, in this particular company. Now every country thinks about inventorship, ownership and patents very differently. The United States, depending on the company, some companies split revenue with you, some companies don't. It came down for me, I didn't set out to be an inventor, or you know, some battery engineer, anything like that. But that, was my big lessons learned. If you want to actually capitalise on your intellectual property, on your talents, on your gifts, you got to own them. SM: Powerful words, I'm sure at that point though there had to be some type of questioning of the process. You know what I mean, like is this happening because I'm black, is this happening because I'm a black women. Did that ever cross your mind? SW: Listen my family wasn't a wealthy family, I was born in public housing. My parents were two teenage parents who got married and decided to make the best out of life for themselves and for me. They continued to build and ended up owning homes. But we didn't have like 150k, 200k in the bank. What I know was, if you want to be at the top of the food chain, and own and capture the value that you're really bringing, you really need to be in a position of ownership, whether that's a stockholder, whether that's, somebody who is making decisions that are financially tied, but you've got to own it.

In my head I was like, I did this work, I led this initative and closed this deal. Anyone that's in corporate or been in corporate know when you are an analyst, or when you are kind of that junior associate, you're way back in the line, even if you did all the work. It was that moment that started my wheels turning. Fast forward, I've learned more, I'm participating at higher levels, I'm a director now, etc. In fact I write patents, and I'm on patents. I mean our ideas/patents are in electric vehicles, the components in cell phones, etc. Now I'm getting ready, right. I'll pause there, what do you think I get for being on that patent? SM: First off I'm hoping you got paid! But hearing how this stories going I'm not sure I can even begin to make an educated guess. SW: Greg, I got a $100 and a plaque. So um, I know in your head you | 35



Literally, for me, if we're going to control the future, we have to own it. And sometimes ownership has nothing to do with money necessarily. To me, it has everything to do with the authority over the things you have control over. I have control over my mouth, I have control over my brain, I have control over how I contribute. And for me, now, as an investor, the things that are important to me, I invest, because I want to own a part of that future. I want to own the direction that I would like to see the world going in.

“Ownership of our future means, I have choices. Ownership means, I decide if I participate or not, it means this is my land, get off of it."

talk to me about the importance of diversity in some of these rooms, and how through all the various sectors that you have found yourself in how that shows up?

SM: I feel like we could talk for hours, days, months about this topic of ownership alone. As we talk about ownership and investing, granted "money's not the most important thing, but it takes money to do most, if not all of those important things." Talk to me about being an investor. How does one begin to really position their company themselves, to take on people like yourself who are willing to say, "I think you got something, let's figure it out and get your the captial and resources you need." SW: Well, first you have to have a plan, no matter what the plan looks like I tell people, everybody wants to talk to an investor, they want to start a business. But, do you have a plan? Do you have the fundamentals of a plan? Those fundamentals look like; here's my idea, from this idea this is how I'm going to sell it to people, this is why people are going to want it and buy it. It doesn't have to look like a 30 page, well designed, long form document. It's about the fundamentals, idea, audience, prices, how you're going to make money. You have to have those basic things written down first. You have to talk to people, talk to investors and other entrepreneurs. You should have those early conversations, and then transition over into an expert group. There are a lot of community based entrepreneurial groups now that are there to provide information and serve as a sounding board to help you really think your ideas and business through. SM: Today, only 3% of venture capital investors are Black; additionally, only 2% of partners–individuals that make investment decisions–at venture firms are Black. According to How do we break into these spaces?

SW: I'm in venture capital, in angel investing, and less than 2% of the people who write the checks. And I think it's well under 1%, in both who actually write the checks or have direct financial capabilities are people of color, that's of any color. Women, if we include white women in that group, the number goes up just slightly, but people of color aren't writing checks. What that means is, investors for example, invest in things that they can relate to. That means the people who look like them, it's very relational. And so if you can't see yourself or your community's needs in the things that get presented to you, you don't fund them. Diversity in the field means diversity of products that come forward. We talk about tech all the time. And as a darker skinned black woman, the development of cameras that can see dark skin is a real thing. So diversity is key, I think, to changing the trajectory of a lot of things. I think right now we're still in an infancy stage of diversity as it relates to funding.

Read the full article and listen to the podcast at

Donald Thompson is a serial entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, and Executive Coach. He is currently the co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, a technology-driven diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy.Learn more at



hy are we comfortable celebrating Black people as

performers and athletes but not as leaders? That’s the question a good friend asked me recently, and I have to say, it’s been hanging around in the back of my mind ever since. I’ve been reflecting on the stereotypes of Black excellence in modern America, and so has my team at The Diversity Movement.

To cut right down to the core of the problem, I think we spend too much time talking about performers and athletes in general. Lebron James, Tiger Woods, Cicely Tyson, Denzel Washington, Beyonce – those are common household names. But Marvin Ellison, Roz Brewer, Bozoma Saint John, Brenda Mallory, Victor Glover? They’re each at the very top of their fields, but they’re still almost completely unknown. Certainly, there are lots of complex and intersectional social issues at play, but I’m not interested in explaining how we got here. Instead, let’s talk about where we go now. With a growing number of Black leaders across science, technology, construction, retail, marketing, healthcare and all the other major American industries, we have a fantastic

opportunity to flip the script on Black excellence at work. What is it, and who is doing it best? Which examples are we holding up for our children as we redefine what it means to be successful? The answer lies in our definition of impact. If we want to raise children and young adults who work hard and use their failures as learning opportunities, we have to show them what’s actually achievable, because the truth is that being a professional actor, musician, or athlete is exceptionally unlikely. Instead of celebrating Denzel as an actor, we should emphasize his work in philanthropy. Instead of celebrating what Lebron does on the court, let’s talk more often about his charitable work. Let’s talk about Beyonce as a powerful CEO, not only as a stage performer. When we do that, we amplify the traits that really matter. We start to look around for more Black people who are doing hard work that makes a real social impact. Instead of celebrating Black success in mostly unattainable jobs, we start to celebrate the healthcare workers, teachers, public servants, engineers, and business leaders who are out there right now, forging paths we can actually follow. When you learn about someone you want to celebrate, someone who inspires you to make a bigger impact, I hope you’ll share their story with Substantial and with me on LinkedIn. Let’s amplify them together. | 37



Special Thank You President & CEO Greg Hedgepeth Editor-in-Chief Evelyne Del Substantial Contributor J.J McQueen Partners Donald Thompson Shannon Baylor-Henderson Contributors J.J. McQueen Mark Woodson Christina Morillo from Pexels Supporters • Donald Thompson | Earfluence • NC Education Lottery • The Forum on the Future of Women & Money • The Diversity Movement • TowneBank

Sponsorship Opportunities Eastern NC, Triangle Area, Charlotte © Substantial Media, LLC 2021 All Rights Reserved

Stock imagery provided by

Featured Advertiser



Throughout the month of June and July Substantial hosted a webinar series that discussed with industry experts the importance of financial literacy, business planning, investing, and scaling. With the generous support of sponsors like TowneBank Substantial continues to find unique ways to educate, inform and empower our community to ‘Excel’ in their business and in their everyday life.


Serving Others. Enriching Lives. | 39



Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.