Huami Magazine Charleston Sept./Oct. 2022

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CHARLESTON

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Sept./Oct. 2022 Vol. 1 Issue 12

Cake Bar By Alexis Charleston - Sept./Oct. 2022

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A Fusion of Scents & Harmony for the Body

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God’s Plan Is Greater Than Me A Letter From The Editor

With every ordeal or trying circumstance, there will always be more than one way to handle them. We can face them head-on, or we can turn away and avoid any form of an altercation. No matter what decision is made concerning the matter, the impact or effect of what we chose will most likely be waiting on the other side of our decision. That’s why I believe it’s vital to share our thoughts with God beforehand and confirm His viewpoint because God’s plan is greater than anything I can decide for myself. Like most people, the thrill of victory is generally the reason why I compete or fight. Also, if you are anything like me, I understand that you may hate to lose, regardless of what is at stake. Yet, I am learning that I must do a better job choosing my battles because, for the most part, every battle is not mine to fight. God desires to fight for me, and He expects me to let go and allow Him to do His thing. I’ve learned that the car drives better when He controls the wheel. I recently celebrated my birthday, and to be honest; I celebrated for the entire month. That was my choice because I love birthdays. I also used that time to reflect on where I am in life and where I’ve come from. I wanted to know what I am currently doing to get to where I ultimately want to be. What was revealed is my interests and efforts were possibly pointed in the wrong direction. I learned that while I am blessed, God is more concerned about those individuals He can reach beyond me, and when I don’t allow God to use me, He isn’t able to reach them through me. Being vulnerable and a cooperative vessel are attributes of real greatness; that’s what God spoke to me. Living my life as a Christian and believer in God means that I must trust God. Even during the most difficult moments, if I just show up for the fight and trust God while I am fighting, I will then see Him move on my behalf. The things that I may be dealing with and determined to be unbearable may actually amount to nothing once it’s placed in God’s hand. How will I ever know if I don’t allow God to lead me? God has a plan and purpose for all of us, and His plan is far greater than anything we can imagine or think. I get excited when I think about everything God has prepared for me. His is greater, and all I have to do is trust His process and believe what He tells me.

Terry L. Watson 4

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CONTENTS

CHARLESTON

SEPT./OCT. 2022

The Money Friend

Kara White

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On The Cover

Cake Bar by Alexis

Alexis Fussell

My Goal Is To Succeed

Trudi B. Parson

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Kingzi Royal Skin Care Products

Richard Steadwell

Huami Magazine Cutest Baby

Laney Williamson

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Also Featured

Denaro Cook He spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Learn how he uses his experience to help others. Little Rock, AR

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Michelle Coleman Learn how this young and ambitious businesswoman is putting her name on her community. Columbus, OH

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VaShaun Mosby Never judge a book by its cover. Learn more about how she uses her experiences to help others. Louisville, KY HuamiMagazine.com

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Cake Bar By Alexis By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Alexis Fussell I am a free spirit adventurer. This is how Alexis Fussell describes herself. “I’m a mother, sister, friend, and entrepreneur wanting to surround myself with positive influences continuously. More than anything, I am a forward thinker, and I desire to leave a beautiful impact on the world.” The Charleston, SC resident is the proud owner of two brick-and-mortar businesses, one being the bakery, Cake Bar By Alexis, and the other, a salon called Pink LaLa. Along with her spouse, she owns the AirBNB, The Charleston Pretty Pink House. “The Cake Bar is my pride and joy. That is my place and space that allows for my creativity to flow,” she says. Alexis has been baking for as long as she can remember. It began with her first edition of the Mini Bake Oven. Then as a teenager, she developed a passion for cosmetology and attended cosmetology school after graduating from high school. After getting her license, she opened several salons but would later return home to care for her two young sons. While doing so, her passion for baking came back into the picture, and she considered making a business out of it. “I made my first cake for Easter that year using advanced tools like piping bags and tips. Everyone in my family thought it was store-bought and couldn’t believe I made it. My mom then pushed me to make my son’s first birthday cake. The guest loved it so much that I began booking jobs right away, and the rest is history,” she says. With Cake Bar by Alexis, Alexis offers custom cakes with simple or extreme designs. Her cakes are made for all occasions and holidays. She also prepares a variety of sweets that include but aren’t limited to, cupcakes, cake bowls, cheesecakes, cake slices, cookies, brownies, chewies, cake pops, milkshakes, and more.

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Michelle

Coleman The Coleman Estate JC

By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided byMichelle Coleman This young and vibrant entrepreneur has one thing on her mind: to succeed. She is no stranger to hard work; at a moment’s notice, she is ready to roll up her sleeves and make things happen. Micelle Coleman of Ohio, comes from a large family. Along with her twin sister, she has five other siblings. She describes her mother Theresa Magee, as being strong and wise. Her father, the late Frederick Coleman, was awarded a purple heart for his sacrifice in the U.S. Army. When her father died at a young age, Michelle says her mother, aunt, and uncle worked in unison to ensure that she and her sister never went without. “They were someone we looked up to. They never forgot a birthday or holiday, and they instilled in us the importance of education. I would not be who I am today if it were not for the three of them,” Michelle says. Originally born in Nashville, TN, Michelle attended Forest Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi. There, she ran track, cross-country and created a dance team in high school named the 601 Chicks. “The dance team gave young girls like me a fun space to express ourselves throug dance,” she says. She later graduated high school in 2013, and along with her twin sister, they were the only two children on her mother’s side to receive a high school diploma. Michelle says it was a great day to see her mother so proud. After high school, she attended Hinds Community College and received a trade certificate in business. She would go on to work a couple of side jobs until she received her license in the insurance sales field. Today, she owns The Coleman Estate JC, and Wealth Consulting Group LLC. Both were established between 2019 and 2020. Charleston - Sept./Oct. 2022

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The Coleman Estate J.C brand involves real estate investing, wholesaling, Airbnb, and rental properties. Michelle shares she helps her community by buying unwanted properties, rehabbing them, and turning them into beautiful masterpieces. She also enjoys helping families out of foreclosure, problem homes, and relocations. She successfully acquired rental property, turned it around, and later built her dream home within 12 months. Those accomplishments even happened during the Covid 19 pandemic, and now Michelle is teaching others to do the same, no matter what the housing market looks like.

“While in college I started attending real estate (wholesaling) seminars and reading real estate investing books. I attended many seminars throughout the years. Then I finally invested in a mentor who gave me more hands-on training. After doing my first flip and receiving a check for over $10,000 for little to no work, I believe that was the start of my journey.”

Michelle Coleman

Wealth Consulting Group LLC www.startcreditjourneynow.com 614-972-3026

Her other company, Wealth Consulting Group LLC, assists clients with their credit, offering many services such as free consultations, free one-on-one credit coaching with a credit expert, free credit analysis, and much more. “We are changing the lives of our clients, their families, and our community,” she says. Michelle also named one of her businesses after her father’s last name and hopes to build a housing community for veterans one day. How did Michelle get started on her entrepreneurial journey? She says, “I have always had a vision of helping others. I guess that is what sparked an entrepreneurial spirit that initially launched my business interests. While in college I started attending real estate (wholesaling) seminars and reading real estate investing books. I attended many seminars throughout the years. Then I finally invested in a mentor who gave me more hands-on training. After doing my first flip and receiving a check for over $10,000 for little to no work, I believe that was the start of my journey. I purchased my first rental property at the age of 24, built my home at 25, and purchased another property at 26. There is something about owning multiple properties that always gave me such excitement. My second business came about as a response to something that happened to me. I was a victim of identity theft and had to work personally for many years to clear up my credit and regain my identity. I have seen what the damage can do, and after studying and getting my own score above 740, I’ve set out to help others do the same.” Like most business owners, Michelle has faced some challenges along her journey. The first and biggest challenge she shared was finding new clients without being one of those large household names. “I had to work hard every day to bring as much attention to my business as possible. Another challenge was finding help with running my business. That issue was easily resolved after hiring family and close friends, which allowed them to be a part of the journey of helping others,” she says. Moving forward, Michelle says her goal is to acquire five multi-family homes by 2023 and at least three more Airbnb properties by the end of this year. She has already set a goal to help one hundred credit families get the credit score they deserve. “My ultimate plan is to keep changing lives,” she says. Michelle has one son, Jeremiah, who she professes is her rock and greatest motivation. h

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My Best Is Yet To Come By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Denaro Cook

We’ve all heard about the many innocent people who have been victims of inadequate representation. Denaro Cook served eighteen years of a twenty-year sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. I wish I were about to tell a story about how the truth won out in the end, but that was not the case for Denaro.

Since his release in 2017, Denaro has hit the ground running, fueled by the hopes and dreams he never let go of during his eighteen years of incarceration. Music has always been a large part of Denaro’s life, and his time in prison was no different. “The inspiration didn’t stop just because I was locked up. In fact, it happened more often. I have so many songs and lyrics that I have yet to record it ain’t funny.”

The culture that most African-Americans grow up in says that you don’t turn on your family. Denaro heard this a lot as a kid. “My mother used to say all the time, ‘your family is all you got. You should never turn on your brother.’ So, I didn’t. And it cost me eighteen years.”

Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, Denaro has always loved country music. One of his songs is titled “I Love Country.” But it’s not the sad, jailhouse blues. What Denaro sings is Joyful Country.

At eighteen, four days after his high school prom and two weeks before graduating, Denaro was arrested and charged with a murder he didn’t commit. “The detective told me if I testified, I would have been cleared of all charges. But the person was my brother, and they already had him in custody. They knew he was the guilty party. They just wanted me to make their case for them. Because I refused to say anything, they charged me as well,” he says. Because Denaro wouldn’t testify against his brother, he was punished and spent eighteen years of his life in jail. “I completed 80% of the sentence I was given. If I’d had the financial means available to me at the time, I wouldn’t have served a day,” Denaro explained. Losing your freedom just as your life is about to begin is a hard pill to take. Especially when you and everyone involved, including the detective and prosecutor, know that your only crime was guilt by association. “I had a public defender, but they were no help. So instead of continuing to fight and get my hopes up, I decided to make peace with the hand I was dealt.” Although Denaro gave up the hope that he would be exonerated, he never gave up on hope. “That’s all you have, really. Life without hope is death.” So Denaro refocused his energy toward the future. When you are locked up, you are at the mercy of someone else. They tell you when to eat, sleep, and control every aspect of your life. The one thing they can’t control is your ability to dream,” Denaro shares.

“I could be bitter, but what would that accomplish? The time I spent in prison caused me to see life differently. I had to learn to forgive. Forgive the people who put me there, forgive myself, and forgive God. Once you do that, you can have peace no matter where you are.” Denaro credits his faith in God for seeing him through the rough times. “I learned to trust and believe God would see me through it all. And he did. Since my release, I’ve seen him work things out for me that I couldn’t do for myself. My dreams are becoming a reality,” he said.

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Denaro is a country music recording artist. He has a talk show called Prison Chronicles. He owns a book publishing company, Cook Book Publishing LLC, and he just started a nonprofit organization called Ones WHO (Ones Who Have Overcome). “These were the things I dreamt about, and I’m watching God put people in my path who can make things happen. That’s why you don’t give up on your dreams. Especially when you are in the darkest of places.” Prison Chronicles is a YouTube web show that gives voice to those affected by the penal system. This platform gives voice to former inmates, current inmates, family members of incarcerated people, and the people who put them there. Denaro has hosted correction workers and even judges. “Everyone on both sides has experienced some form of trauma. I believe it’s essential to understand that. The show allows people to speak their truth and dispel the lies and misconceptions people have about life in prison. It’s not what you see on television. These men and women are still human beings and deserve to be treated as such. These stories not only give them a release, but it also helps others who don’t yet dare to speak out. It’s therapeutic in many ways.” The seventeen episodes of Prison Chronicles have been over three thousand times since the first video podcast aired. “We are in the process of revamping, but there will be new episodes coming soon.” As a recording artist and a talk show host, it’s only natural to have a Cook Book Publishing company. “I never thought about becoming a publisher until my brother and his friend started writing books.” Denaro’s brother, who is currently serving time for the same crime Denaro was convicted of, has written several books. “An inmate who started a publishing company while in jail published one of my brother’s books. When I visited him, he asked why I didn’t do it too. At first, I didn’t think I could, but after some research, I realized it was simple. With just a few steps, I had a legitimate book publishing company.” Cook Book Publishing is a licensed publisher with nine books published under their label and four authors.

taking you to the Goodwill to get clothes. Giving you guidance on where to go to get help for different things.” Denaro admits that he has had a few struggles while making a name for himself as a free man. “Everyone has trauma, and I’m no different. It was painful to endure what I did, knowing I hadn’t done anything wrong. While you are away, life begins, and it ends. People you love pass away, but none tells you, thinking they save you heartache. They don’t understand that it’s more painful to find out years later.” During reentry, everyone has a decision to make about the way forward. For Denaro, that meant losing friends and family. “Inside, I had to make a change of mind and change of heart. When I got out, I had to change my environment to maintain that change. I lost friends and family who didn’t understand that I wasn’t the person I was when I went in. As a man, society has taught us not to show weakness. We have to suppress it and suffer through it. To do that, we have to become detached and inaccessible. It makes having successful relationships hard because you don’t know how to open up without being vulnerable. Thankfully God blessed me with a beautiful daughter who has taught me how to love again. Because of her, I feel myself coming alive again.” It’s been five years since his release, and Denaro has never let go of three things. His faith in God, his love for his family, and the belief that it’s never too late to dream. h

The nonprofit is a recent addition but not a new idea for Denaro. “The nonprofit was just approved, but it’s an idea I planned out while in prison. Originally it was supposed to be called MAID by Us, but the name was taken. Ones WHO is a rehab, recovery, reentry, and disability assistance program for ex-inmates trying to restart their lives.” After release, most former inmates have to adjust to the world they are being released into and come to terms with losing the world they left behind. “You must apply for your social security card, driver’s license, and all kinds of documents that make it legal to walk around. You have to figure out how to function in an alien world. When I went in, technology was nowhere near where it was when I came out. I wasn’t familiar with smartphones, tablets, and things like that. For successful reentry, there needs to be technology training. You have to know how to use computers and the internet to fill out a job application.” Along with the need for help with technological advances, Ones WHO will act as a resource for people who need support during reentry. They will help with everything from basic needs such as clothes and personal care items to mental and emotional support. “You learn to cherish the things most people take for granted. Something as simple as someone

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Richard Steadwell Kingzi Royal Skincare Collection

By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Todd Youngblood The first question asked of Richard was, “Who is Richard Steadwell?” The look on his face was priceless. “Of all the questions I expected to be asked, that was the one I wasn’t prepared for,” Richard explained, smiling and nervous while rubbing his cold, clammy hands. It was clear that Richard was nervous, but he slipped easily into his element as he explained his plight. Richard Steadwell is living his dream of being a self-employed entrepreneur. He owns and operates Kingzi Barbers Lounge in Concord, N.C., and the Kingzi Men’s Skincare Collection. Although Richard has always possessed the creative spirit of an entrepreneur, there were limitations he says he had to overcome before he could realize his dream. “I’ve always been good with my hands. I love being creative and using my imagination. I always knew that using those natural talents would make me happy.” Richard called himself a kitchen barber because he’s been cutting hair since he was a teenager, but he never thought of it as a career. Richard was born in North Carolina but was raised in California. In the tenth grade, he decided school wasn’t for him. He shares, “I was struggling and getting into trouble a lot. I had convinced myself that they were teaching me the things I wanted to know. Deep down, part of my reasoning was I felt like I was an embarrassment to my mother, and I didn’t want to keep putting her through that, so I quit.” Richard explained. “My mother wasn’t happy about it, but my mind was made up.” Richard’s mother gave him two options, the military or trade school. Due to health issues, the military wasn’t a good fit, so Richard went to the Earl C. Clemmons Job Corps center in Morganfield, Ky. “My mother drove me to the center because she was serious about me not sitting up in her house without a job or trade of any kind. She said if I was going to be grown, I had to make a way for myself,” he says. While in Job Corp, Richard took several certification classes, including a business course. The one thing he stayed away from was getting his G.E.D. “If I had been wise and not so worried about failing, I would have just gotten my G.E.D. while in Job Corps. Things would have been a lot easier for me, and I would be farther than I am today. But, what can I say? I was young and didn’t want to listen to anybody,” Richard explains with a laugh. In his lifetime, Richard has done just about every laborious job there is. He was a self-proclaimed jack of all trades and master of none. “Wow… I can’t even begin to name all the different jobs I’ve had in my life. I’ve done everything from working fast food to construction. And

at no time did I ever feel like I was doing the job I was meant for. I wouldn’t say I like working for other people. Plus, because I didn’t have a high school diploma or G.E.D. I couldn’t go any higher than entry-level work. It was frustrating,” Richard states. After years of going from one unfulfilling job to another, Richard decided he wanted something more. One day, not long after his fortieth birthday, Richard was sitting in his barber’s chair and shared his idea of going to barber college. The response he received was surprising. “I had been going to this same guy for over ten years, and I considered him a friend, but what he told me blew me away. He told me it was too old and it would be too hard for me to build up clientele at this point. I couldn’t believe my ears,” Richard said; still a little put off by the experience. “I was like, wow. I was not expecting that at all. When I left the shop, I kept thinking about him telling me it was too late for me. The more I thought about it, the more I was determined to prove him wrong.” Immediately Richard looked into starting barber college at Park West Barber College in Greensboro, N.C. As he read the requirements, the first thing that stopped him in his tracks was the requirement of a high school diploma or equivalent.

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“There I was again. Every time I tried to move forward, I found myself coming back to the same roadblock. All these years later, my decision to drop out of high school was still haunting me. I sat there thinking about what I wanted and the time I had wasted. I have to admit I was terrified of going back to school, but I decided I couldn’t spend one more day letting fear hold me back.” Richard enrolled at Gilford Technical Community College, Jamestown, N.C., and started working towards his G.E.D. He transferred and finished the program at Alamance Community College in Graham, NC. School was never easy for Richard, but his desire to achieve his goals was stronger than his fear of failure. “It was hard, working and going to school at the same time, but I finally knew what I was working towards. It was all going to be worth it in the end.” After completing the program, Richard had to take the G.E.D. Test. Most people struggle with standardized testing. Richard’s past traditional education experiences and test anxiety didn’t make things easy. He says, “I will be honest and say I didn’t do well initially on the G.E.D. Test. I failed it three times!” he said, shaking his head. “I couldn’t believe it! I had worked so hard. Before I knew it, I felt like I was back in high school. I didn’t think I was smart enough to pass the test. I was struggling and embarrassed. Then I remembered that I wasn’t in high school anymore, and my dreams were just on the other side of that test. I couldn’t let it stop me again.” On the fourth try, Richard passed and received his G.E.D. “I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. My family came and celebrated with me, and I made my mother proud. I made myself proud. I proved that I could do anything if I didn’t give up,” he said. After receiving his G.E.D, Richard started at Park West Barber College in Greensboro, N.C. From there, he became an apprentice barber, but he knew that he had to relocate to grow. “After job corp I moved back to Greensboro, and later moved to Durham, NC. to finish barber school. But after barber college, I wanted to go to an area where I could start fresh and have room to grow. Barbering in Durham and Greensboro was a crowded market. I thought about Jacksonville, Florida, or Georgia but settled on Charlotte, NC.” Richard was an apprentice barber at Bennett’s Barber Shop in Charlotte for four years. “You usually do one year as an apprentice before you can take your master barber’s licensure test, but I did four years because I felt I had so much to learn.” As Richard worked as an apprentice barber, he was free to explore his creativity. Barbering isn’t just about cutting hair. Men trust their barbers and seek their advice about looking and feeling their best. Richard noticed a small selection of beard and skin grooming products for men. The scents were basic and didn’t represent all men, especially black men. Hence Kingzi Men’s Skincare Collection was born. He says, “I didn’t like that most beard balms smelled like the great outdoors,” Richard said with a laugh. “Never have you heard a woman say she loves the smell of citrus on her man. So, I started experimenting with fragrances that I liked and ones that didn’t make my customers smell like car air fresheners.”

“My clients were willing and honest test subjects. I gave away free samples, and they would let me know what worked and what didn’t. Before I knew it, word got out, and it’s gained momentum from there.” Putting what he learned about sales and marketing in Job Corps, Richard is preparing to put the Kingzi Men’s Skincare Collection on the shelves of major shopping centers all over the country. But for now, the skincare line can be purchased locally at Kingzi Barber’s Lounge. This was his reply when asked what the future looked like for Richard. “The future is bright. Brighter than I thought possible at this point in my life. I was stuck for forty years because I didn’t think I was smart enough to pass a high school equivalency test. But when I faced my fears and pushed past them, the world opened up to me. Things are happing so fast I am having trouble keeping up,” Richard said, smiling proudly. “But I guess that’s a good problem to have.” Richard intends to continue growing his business, including lotions, skin conditioning oils for women, and a Kingzi clothing line. He concludes by saying, “If I could say one thing to my younger self, it would be this: Don’t let fear and other people’s opinions of you hold you back. You can achieve anything you set your mind to if you are willing to fail at it first. When you fall, you got know where to go but up!” h

Richard enrolled in YouTube university and learned all he could about creating beard balms and lotions specifically for men. Once he had the know-how, Richard started making small batched in his home and trying them on his clients.

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& The Plan Works Better With Two By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Autumn Shelton Autumn Shelton and Nathaniel Taylor possess a vital ingredient that a successful relationship must have. That is chemistry. In just a few short years, this young and talented power-couple has built several businesses in Nashville, TN. Their first venture, Honeyed Natural Health & Beauty Store, made its debut in 2020, during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic. Honeyed Natural Health & Beauty Store is a natural health and wellness company that specializes in alternative holistic healing. Today, the innovative product line has converted to a new identity, and is known as the Honeyed Skincare, and has increased its overall footprint with the addition of many new products. Their newest brand is the Golden Plant Vegan Eatery, a vegan-based food product line that tastes just as good as it looks. Autumn shares, “We are a vegan popup company offering fresh vegan food, catering services, and many other plantbased options. We have vegan-friendly universal items such as sandwiches, Mexican cuisine, and Veganese, also known as Vegan Chinese) BBQ, Soul, Jerk, Mediterranean, and more.”

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Nathaniel and Autumn have enjoyed the vegan lifestyle for nearly five years and started their vegan business in July 2022, and while they primarily serve the community of Nashville, their pop-up arm allows for them to travel around to other states frequently. Being a vegan and owning and operating a business that caters to the growing vegan population is something that Nathaniel and Autumn has enjoyed. Autumn says, “We are changing the perspective on veganism. We provide good authentic food to those who are already vegan, transitioning to this eating lifestyle, or are simply open to trying something new.” They share personal life experiences and transitions inspired them to start The Golden Plant Eatery. “After making better health decisions and chasing a healthier lifestyle, we learned a lot about alternatives. Once we shared our cooking with others, we knew they loved it and decided it was time to finalize things and open up the doors to our business.” While the Covid 19 pandemic affected many businesses worldwide, Nathaniel and Autumn have been fortunate not to be directly impacted by it’s grip. “Our biggest struggle is getting people to try vegan and understand that you can get just as creative with vegan than you can anything else. It’s more than just a simple salad,” they said. The future looks very bright for The Golden Plant Eatery, and Autumn and Nathaniel have positioned themselves for success. “We plan to move into a food truck soon and hopefully acquire a small location. We hope to open up shop in many states one day. For now, we want to take it one step at a time,” they said. To learn more about The Golden Eatery, please visit their website. h

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MAGAZINE

Cutest Baby

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Laney Williamson The daughter of Elise Blackmon and Dante Williamson

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To submit photographs to be placed in the Huami Magazine Cutest Baby feature, please send a detailed email to huami.cutestbaby@gmail.com


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Tolbert Consulting Group “Falling Forward”

By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Julius Tolbert

His journey has had its significant highs and lows, but now he wants to help others fall forward.

Growing up, Julius says his grandparents were his biggest influence. “Being the oldest grandchild, although we all were exposed to that enterprising spirit to some degree, I would say I had a little more first-hand experience.” When Julius was fourteen, he moved in with his grandparents, whom he credits as the center of their family’s business prowess. “My grandparents ran a fully functioning business. My grandfather was also a driver, so he was away often. I spent most of the time with my grandmother, who ran the day-to-day operations that make or break a business,” he says. The expectation was that Julius would grow up and work in the family business, but he had plans of his own. “Watching my grandmother made me realize there was more to being a business owner than selling a product or providing a service. I think that’s why I focus on the behind the scenes work. The business behind the business.” Julius is putting the lessons he learned as a child to good use. He has two consulting companies: Tolbert Consulting Group and Cornbread Consulting Firm and co-founder of Black Economic Mobility Coalition. “Tolbert Consulting Group is a nationally recognized business credit and funding company. We help entrepreneurs that are serious about getting their business started the right way the first time. We help with everything from business coaching, business funding, payroll, and bookkeeping. Our goal is to give business owners the support they need to succeed. Cornbread Consulting Firm work specifically with small business owners that are in the hospitality industry. We assist restaurant, food truck, catering company owners get in business, turnaround existing business, and/ or franchise concepts. Then there is the Black Economic Mobility Coalition which is very similar to a chamber of commerce. Our mission is to identify, address and remove barriers to economic prosperity for black business owners. All three companies were birthed from the experiences and challenges he faced along the way.

Julius has always known who and what he wanted to be in life. He just had to carve his own path. Not one to take the traditional route, Julius decided the military was the best path forward. “After high school, I joined the Navy. During my time, I went through two six-month deployments. I gained knowledge and exposure I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else during my travels. I saw myself and Black America from a different perspective. I have to say it definitely affected me,” he shares. As someone who already had plans, he says his time abroad helped shape and define his vision for the future. “When you live in the same place around the same people all the time, it’s hard to imagine a different kind of life. My time away allowed me to open my mind to the possibilities of what could be.” The unfortunate side of life in black communities is that it may be hard to do anything but worry about surviving. Julius decided he couldn’t live with the status quo. When he returned home, he was full of dreams and plans for the kind of world he wanted to live in and contribute to, but his ideas weren’t met with the excitement and support he was hoping for. He says, “After having the opportunity to experience other cultures and communities, my creative juices were overflowing. I wanted to push the boundaries and show my community that we don’t have to travel the world to experience it. However, I was met with a lot of resistance and close-mindedness. I kept hearing, “Aye, bro, ain’t nobody gonna come to that around here…” Thankfully, Julius wasn’t easily dissuaded.

Watching my grandmother made me realize there was more to being a business owner than selling a product or providing a service. I think that’s why I focus on the behind the scenes work. The business behind the business.

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For Julius Tolbert, entrepreneurship is in his DNA. As the oldest of four, he grew up in a family of business-minded people. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My granddaddy was in the logistics industry. He owned his own trucking company. My mother was an interior designer, my uncle had his own trucking business, and my grandmother was the family bookkeeper. So, I understood from an early age what entrepreneurship meant. Everything wasn’t always peaches and cream. I was exposed to the good, the bad, and the ugly when it came to growing businesses as a minority in the south,” Julius explains. “The most important lesson I learned was that falling is part of succeeding. Just as long as you fall forward.”

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Along with his time in the military, another important factor that pushed him to think about the longevity of a business was the loss of his grandfather. “My grandfather stepped in during a crucial time in my life. He took on the role of father and mentor. He taught me about business etiquette and how to dress and be addressed. He taught me how to conduct myself in professional settings, and even how to talk and handle business in meetings,” Tolbert explains. “He taught me to make sure I do everything in excellence. People will remember you if you take pride in everything you do.” Using his grandfather’s wisdom, Julius went from an entry level position in restaurant all the way to the corporate offices. “It was never my intention to build a career. I wanted to build knowledge. I took advantage of every opportunity to learn a new skill. I worked at several restaurants as I continued to climb the ladder. That’s how I worked my way out of the kitchen to become a corporate manager overseeing a region of restaurants.” Julius was being paid to learn how to flip, manage, and maintain a restaurant successfully. He was learning restaurant hospitality from the inside out. “My first leap into the deep end of entrepreneurship was when a partner and I opened Cornbread to Caviar Catering, which later became a fully operational restaurant,” he says. Like most chain restaurants, the employees seldom met or had a relationship with the owners. Julius and the chef of the restaurant he was overseeing decided they were done training people to become their boss or compete for their jobs, so they struck out on their own and opened Cornbread to Caviar. He shares, “Our concept was a southern-inspired menu presented with a touch of elegance and creativity. So that’s what we did, or at least where we started. We kicked off our catering company with networking events like First Fridays.” These events weren’t just for the locals. Julius and his partner had a targeted audience. “We were intentional with our invitations. We invited corporate department heads, University chairs, and others we knew had influence with their companies. As a result, we were awarded their catering contracts.” From there, Cornbread to Caviar grew into a full-service restaurant, and Julius did well for a while. The restaurant earned Best New Restaurant 2009 and at a tender age of twenty-five, he was part owner and operator of a restaurant making over seven figures per year. Then the effects of the recession hit. We went from doing $1.5 million a year in sales to $750,000, but I was operating as if we were still making $1.5 million. At this point, I realized there were areas of running a business that I didn’t know. I was running way above cost and bleeding money.” In 2008, Julius lost his grandfather and mentor. So, it was a fatality of the economic recession without any guidance on how to make the adjustments needed to keep the restaurant above water. “I struggled with self-doubt and depression when the restaurant closed. That experience taught me a critical lesson. Success isn’t how great the business is doing right now. Real success is how well the business will be doing ten and twenty years down the road.” To say he landed on his feet is an understatement. One of the reasons Julius started his restaurant consulting business that caters to small companies is because, after twenty years in the hospitality industry, he learned what the mom and pops need to know. “I have essentially taken all my years of experience with corporate restaurant chains and made it available to the little man. I share all the processes and tools the big boys use to maintain continued growth with my clients. I never want anyone to find themselves in the position I did.”

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It doesn’t matter what your business is; knowledge is power. Julius and his associates are here to make sure you have the power to live your entrepreneurial dreams successfully. He can’t guarantee you won’t fall, but he will help you use the momentum to fall forward. h


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VaShaun Nicole Group By Ellen Richardson Photos Provided by Chanel Wells-Henderson

“I didn’t plan on becoming a serial entrepreneur... all of my businesses evolved from a need I saw in the community.” Successful businesswoman, VaShaun Mosby’s story is that of determination, hard work, and promise. Born and raised in Lexington, KY, she began her career in the corporate sector. VaShaun was a troubled youth who never went to college, yet she set her sights on working in the corporate sector. Without having a college degree and experience, she had to start at the bottom, and she did. She shares, “I worked from small beginnings, all the way to the vice president of Global Services and Operations before I was 30-years-old.” VaShaun had acquired 20 years of corporate experience before a last-minute ultimatum led her to a new beginning in the world of entrepreneurship. “While I enjoyed corporate life, a new path began forming for me when I received an email that said my entire department would be shipped to the Philippines. As a newly divorced single mother with two small children, I realized I had a significant decision to make.” After understanding that she had already received the skills and talents necessary to gamble on herself, this decision quickly turned into an entrepreneurial venture, VaShaun Nicole Enterprises. VaShaun Nicole Enterprises is a minority, woman-owned publishing house and marketing firm that was born from her personal story. “When I started my own business, I wanted to do so by telling my personal story of overcoming struggles,” she said. Her story would begin while growing up with a father who was a sniper and a mother who was a preacher. Together, VaShaun says they raised a troubled child who even faced jail time at one point. That was before VaShaun would find her life being dug from the ashes and climbing the ladder of success.

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“I may have been a young kid whose past even included facing 25 years in prison at the age of 19. Still, I always tell anyone who will listen to not let your past dictate your future because you could be the person that others look to for advice and encouragement.”

After publishing my first book, Behind Her Eyes, VaShaun was offered a deal from Barnes & Noble and Joseph-Bell Booksellers in Lexington, KY. There she participated in a series of tours and inspirational book signings. That experience was what she needed and opened her eyes to more opportunities. She hoped her writing would serve as encouragement for women, and soon she was on her way to publishing her second book alongside Angela Allen-Johnson. Entitled 365 Days of Attacks but God, this devotional is written from a mother and daughter’s perspective and allows readers to experience the highs and lows of becoming who God called them to be. VaShaun’s entrepreneurial journey would continue. She reveals she learned there was more to her life than just making people feel good. After giving birth to her second business, she officially launched VaShaun Nicole Consulting. “My second chance to become a successful entrepreneur stemmed from my love of helping people learn their God-given abilities. Today, our alternative staffing organization focuses on those who have criminal backgrounds or lack the professional skills necessary to scale the corporate ladder,” she shares. As VaShaun continued to climb the entrepreneurial ladder, she began to see other needs within her local community that would eventually spawn her newest business creation. Vauntech Solutions, a minority-owned tech startup, creates innovation and social services spaces that help provide the information necessary for people to meet their basic needs. Her fourth venture came about due to challenges she was already facing within her existing businesses. “As I began to grow in entrepreneurship, I noticed others within this field were not adapting within the professional setting and could not effectively present their small business,” she says. This revelation gave the “queen of entrepreneurship” the idea for VaShaun Nicole Advisors. This advisory company offers professional development for new business owners and those who may need to brush up on their skill sets. VaShaun uses 130 classes and other workshops, all based on what she learned during her time in the corporate and entrepreneurial sectors. As VaShaun continues to follow a path toward philanthropy, she remains committed to building up others who look just like her. “I may have been a young kid whose past even included facing 25 years in prison at the age of 19. Still, I always tell anyone who will listen to not let your past dictate your future because you could be the person that others look to for advice and encouragement,” she says. Please visit her website for more information about VaShaun Mosby and any of her four effective businesses.

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Real Estate, Finance, and Dance....... I Do A Lot By Terry L. Watson - Photos Provided by Kara White

While Phoenix, AZ, is widely known for its often sweltering climate, someone else is blazing their own path in the black business community and helping others succeed along the way. Her name is Kara White. The young and ambitious entrepreneur wears many hats, including that of a real estate agent, financial planner, dance instructor, and director of a nonprofit organization. Kara was born and raised in Chicago, IL. In 2002, she decided to make the cross-country trek to the Desert Valley in search of a new start. That same year, she received her real estate license and followed that by becoming a licensed broker in 2009. She shares how her journey began, an experience wrapped in surprise and purpose. “While on a trip with my mother, I talked with an owner of a real estate agency. They offered me a job and even offered to cover the cost of my real estate license. However, as soon as I received the license, I left the resort gracefully and began building my clientele,” she says. Due to the ever-changing real estate market, Kara had to reinvent herself. That’s how one of her products, Kara’s Wealth Consultant, was developed, which spawned another product, Get the Money Friend. In this brand, “F.R.I.E.N.D.” is an acronym for “Financial Consultation, Real Estate, Investments, Planning, Notary Public Services, and Debt Elimination. She also offers credit consultation with services that include Credit Report Review, a Credit Repair DIY Kit Guide, and Income Protection and Budget Review. While she has demonstrated an astute business understanding, Kara’s talents expand beyond the entrepreneurial sector. She is the former Miss Arizona International. Her platform and influence were carried over into her nonprofit organization, Live Love Dance Inc. Its focus is to empower youth and lead them to live healthy, strong, and fulfilled lives via the performing arts. It also provides workshops, empowerment sessions, galas, fundraising, private lessons, and community service events. Kara shares she has always had a passion for dance. “When I was 11 years old, my first job was as a dance assistant. I quickly rose in rank from an assistant to teaching my own class. I’m disciplined in all seven dance forms, with contemporary dance being my favorite. I favor this style more because it incorporates the basics such as ballet and the freeing movement fundamentals of jazz and modern dance,” she says.

Kara’s genuine love to see others succeed is an attribute that comes into play in her personal and professional life. “I am committed to helping others, and my business endeavors must positively impact my community. The different experiences I’ve gained have allowed me to not only help others, but I’ve benefited from those that I serve, pouring back into me,” she says. The life of an entrepreneur can present unique challenges, and Kara has also experienced her share. She says that times can get complicated, but during those moments, she has to search deep within and find a way to stay positive and keep moving. “Despite my challenges, I am committed to living in the moment. I try to live and be present because time is whatever you think it is and whatever you create. I often tell others not to dwell on the past or focus too much on the future because they don’t know what will or might happen. We must live in the moment,” she says. On top of being able to help others, Kara also loves that she doesn’t have to conform to anything. Whether it’s her money world or dance world, she’s able to be personable while working at the same time. She also loves being able to work with a team of great people. As life moves forward for Kara, she expects to be involved in more endeavors and hopes to launch an event planning business. She also plans to expand her brand, Kara’s Wealth Consultant, and continue spreading financial advice in her community. Additionally, plans to continue to promote and grow Live Love Dance Incorporated. Their signature gala fundraiser is coming up in October, with proceeds going towards dance scholarships. For anyone looking to follow in Kara’s footsteps, her number one piece of advice is this; no one is going to be better at being you than you. She says, “Don’t try to be me, be better than me, be better at being you than me.” Please visit her website to learn more about Kara White and h her great endeavors.

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By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Bridget Speller Bridget Speller describes herself as a proud entrepreneur, author, and Business Coach. The Charlotte, NC, resident was born and raised in the small town of (Bertie) Windsor, NC. After graduating from high school in 2006, she attended and graduated from NC A&T State University in 2010. During her college years, she met the love of her life, Joseph Purington, and the couple has enjoyed each other for a total of 14 years, being married for nine of them. Together they share two beautiful daughters, Sage and Phoebe. With one of her business ventures, she serves as the owner and founder of Loc’d By Nature, LLC, a Natural and Organic Hair Care Product line. Bridget’s company creates natural hair care products, including shampoos, conditioners, Pomade, and oil treatments. They are uniquely designed to care for natural hair and locs. Bridget shares, “We promote growth and healthy hair. Our innovative line of organic products ensures quality and freshness.” The health of an individual’s hair and its impact on the environment are two of Loc’d By Nature’s biggest priorities. In addition to its haircare line, they have produced a plant-based pet care line designed for dogs, cats, and horses. This new line was launched in June 2022 and consists of shampoos, Pet Balms, and treats. One might ask how did the journey begin for Bridget and her companies. She says, Loc’d By Nature Hair Care was established in April 2020. She started in her home kitchen, mixing organic products as a hobby. She says, “My daughters are my why. Prior to the year 2020, I began to realize that I truly wanted to learn the science of our hair, especially since all three of us have different textures and hair types. I also wanted to ensure I was using nonharsh products on our hair. I’ve always noticed how beautiful our textures were, and I wanted to have a product line that could work perfectly for our hair and my husband. I later decided to have people with different textures try out my shampoo and give me their honest thoughts. I made up about four different formulas and once everyone tried them, their feedback helped me to determine what was working and what wasn’t. One that stood out was the peppermint and tea tree formula. In October 2020, I launched my “Mint Roots” Hair Care line of products online; the rest is history.”

“My daughters are my why. Prior to the year 2020, I began to realize that I truly wanted to learn the science of our hair, especially since all three of us have different textures and hair types. I also wanted to ensure I was using nonharsh products on our hair.”

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Starting her company presented several challenges. Bridget had a great idea, but had no clue where the startup funds would come from. “I didn’t want to take on a business loan because that would involve debt and time. I also felt like I had to do everything myself as a new entrepreneur. I made the decision to avoid a business loan and use the salary from my job to get things moving. After working extra long hours, I was not only able to get the startup funds, but had enough to operate the business the first year,” she says. Although Bridget had been employed before, she knew that entrepreneurship was her true passion. She shares, “I was blessed to only have one job after graduating from college. I always loved the entrepreneur side but didn’t think it would happen. While working in the banking industry for 11 years, I experienced a short-term layoff, and I made lateral moves within the company to gain my dream “9 to 5” job. I endured many denials for positions I thought were a great fit for me. I became comfortable with my corporate salary job to the point where I was okay with retiring there. Sitting home during Covid for almost two years, God truly showed me my purpose. The spirit allowed me to sit down and figure out what Bridget wants. If it wasn’t for me working from home during the pandemic and writing out my wants, I probably would still be working my corporate job.” She resigned from her job in January 2022, became an author, and published her first book, “Attain Financial Freedom, Evolve as Entrepreneur. Loc’d By Nature has been very successful, so much so that Bridget and her husband decided to diversify their business portfolio. She says they noticed a shortage of rental cars and decided to create a business that would offer a solution to the shortage. That is how Regal Rental Cars came about in late September 2020. “Our goal was to make things easier and affordable for guests renting cars,” she shares. Outside of running multiple businesses, Bridget coaches other entrepreneurs on their purpose and shows them how to take their businesses to the next level. She also reiterates how important it is for her to leave a legacy for her children and generations that will follow. Her advice to others who may follow a path similar to hers is to put God first in anything you do and pray over your goals. “Remember, faith without works is dead. Manifest your life, and watch God work. Always know that success isn’t built overnight, and things take time.” Moving forward Bridget’s goal is to ensure the values and mission of each of her brands. She also plans to continue giving back to her community. “I love being a blessing to others,” she says. To learn more about Bridget Speller and her brands, please visit her website. h

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Trudi B. Parson

“I Have One Goal...... To Get The Job Done” By DorJae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Luguzy Adkins of L.A. Photography

She is Coach Trudi B. Parson. Marketplace Minister, educator, generational debt eraser, generational wealth builder, business launch coach extraordinaire, CEO and Founder of Fortify | The Business Launch Firm, and International Empowerment Speaker. Trudi B. Parson seamlessly does it all. Coach Trudi has been a business owner for over 24 years and a full-time entrepreneur for eight years. She currently resides in Greensboro, NC, but is a native of the small town of Ramseur, NC. Coach Trudi attended Liberty University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and Criminal Justice and a Masters in Human Services with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. Now back in school, her goal is to receive her doctorate in Business with a concentration in Organizational Leadership at North Central University. One of Coach Trudi’s brands, Fortify | The Business Launch Firm, was birthed out of the need to help her clients secure a life of abundance via the avenues of business, relationships, spirituality, and politics. “Securing your life from the inside out where external factors don’t determine the kind of life you want to live, I help others understand that you control that,” she says. Each business that Coach Trudi has created has experienced sustainable success. While each company is unique, three of them partner under the umbrella of Fortify | The Business Launch Firm, a strategy she implemented to ensure clients had access to all the resources needed to make their business sustainable. Fortify | The Business Launch Firm is a comprehensive coaching firm offering everything a business owner needs. They provide business tax preparation and planning, and group business coaching, grant discovery and writing, alternative business funding, business conferences, retreats, masterclasses and mastercourses.

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Like many other new businesses, Fortify | The Business Launch Firm officially launched during the Covid pandemic. Coach Trudi shares she became aware of how business owners were panicking due to the pandemic’s effect and impact. In her response, she developed solutions that taught business owners how to remain successful and helped several launch new businesses. “I taught them how to pivot into a continuation of the revenue they normally would make, yet in a different way,” she says. Fortify | The Business Launch Firm also offers five different master classes. One of them, #Buildit, is a 30-day program that helps develop an idea and connect its purpose to serve while creating a high level of monetization simultaneously. #LaunchU is Coach Trudi’s original threeday masterclass filled with foundational information that she believes businesses need when facing the challenges of a “brick wall”. #Fundit is all about the money and focuses on getting businesses adequate funding. This includes helping to find loans, obtain grants, gain government contracts, and more. Finally, the #LaunchU52 component is a year-long coaching subscription for established or aspiring entrepreneurs ready to start or expand their businesses. “When you enroll in #LaunchU 52, I will take you under my wing and teach, advise, and coach you based on what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur,” she says. As previously stated, Coach Trudi believes everyone hits a brick wall, and she is no different. Before starting Fortify, Coach Trudi helped her mother run her tax business. When her mother passed, she took over the company full-time. This was a difficult moment in Coach Trudi’s life. She shares that while everything was going fine, she began to feel like she was settling. “The business had plenty of clients, but times were changing. Realizing that I had hit my wall by failing to pivot the company into a new age, I overcame that struggle by deciding to no longer be stuck and let the growth happen,” she says. More than anything, Coach Trudi loves seeing the success of other people and seeing them take control of their lives. “I love seeing other people create the life that they love,” she says. She also loves knowing that she is a part of helping them take accountability for creating their financial freedom and being ok with accepting the responsibility and courage to do so. Coach Trudi’s shares that she finds inspiration in understanding her purpose in life. “The good, bad, and ugly all work together for my good. Knowing my purpose has kept me from falling into the distraction of disappointment. If you’re not careful, you can let your distraction be your main attraction, and your disappointment will distract you if you settle in it,” she shares. “When you walk in your life’s purpose, sometimes it will cost you everything, but it will be so worth it when you understand that your life is not your own, and what you experience is not for your purpose, it’s for God’s purpose.”

To learn more about Trudi B. Parson, please visit her website.

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In the future, Coach Trudi says she expects to expand internationally as an empowerment speaker and business launch coach and corporate consultant. She shares that these expansions will take place in countries with a lack and need for such services. In addition, she plans to establish global business incubators. As for Fortify, Coach Trudi is looking to start more retreat-based master courses that will minimize time but maximize the monetization of services by engaging more with groups of people, small businesses, and corporate leaders. In 2023, she hopes to share her Fortify strategies for success with churches. Her last piece of advice is aimed at the savvy and determined business owner. “When opportunities fail to present themselves, you must be willing to create your own opportunities.” h

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