Nov./Dec. 2022 Vol. 1 Issue 6 KANSAS CITY ®
Sophic Solutions, LLC
A Fusion of Scents & Harmony for the Body
Handmade Soaps Body Scrubs Body Butters and more.....
It seemed like only yesterday when the first edition of Huami Magazine was published. In November 2007, a vision given to me by God became my reality. I have shared the story of publishing Huami Magazine, first having a conversation with God, then taking the leap and stepping out faithfully in response to God’s call. Still, I often reflect on the first edition and become reminded of how awesome God is.
While I was confident in my ability to fulfill the assignment, I admit I didn’t have all the answers initially. Ten years earlier, in 1997, I researched the magazine publishing industry, specifically in the Triad area of North Carolina. I did this to learn more about what is required to publish a magazine, including how to manage a publishing company, etc. Amongst all of the information obtained, I never inquired about how to support my new media company financially. That would eventually pose a problem for me and Huami Magazine.
Finances and their availability is vital to the survival of any business. I self-funded operating costs for quite some time, especially in the first few years of existence. However, all of a sudden, things changed. Huami Magazine would enjoy the love and support from unlikely sources, including individuals who never exhibited an interest in the product. Doors would soon open and opportunities flowed. Things were looking up for Mykel Media Company, LLC.
As the face and founder of Huami Magazine, I worked hard to spread brand awareness. During this time, there were other challenges I would face, but having the support of the magazine wasn’t one of them. Sales were so good that everything needed to keep our doors open, we received it. God saw something good about Huami Magazine and He made provisions to ensure
The message that I want to remind the readers of Huami Magazine is simple. When God gives you an assignment, He will also make provisions for you to see it through. All that we have to do is show up for the assignment.
Terry L. Watson
Terry L. Watson Publisher
Dorjea’ McClammey Writer Monica Montgomery Writer Terry L. Watson Writer Marrissa Dick Writer Still Shots Photography Photographer TMF Photography Photographer
Howard Gaither Photography Tamara Smith www.huamimagazine.com
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Yesterday Prepared Me For What’s Next
Flem Peacher VI
He has stepped into his calling and continued the legacy of his father. Learn more K-9 Safety Consultants. Detroit, MI
Learn how she stepped out on faith and built her company. Rock City Staffing Agency. Little Rock, AR
Donnie C. Young
He has universal appeal. Learn more about his journey from the streets of South Carolina to success. Greenville, SC
Sophic Solutions LLC Stephenie & Rodney Smith
CONTENTS 6 On The Cover Huami Magazine Cutest Baby Braxton Moore Serving Their Community The New Black Collective An Eye For Interior Design Dymetra McCaskill King’s Lemonade Corey and Amir Also Featured 32 34 30 18
Sophic Solutions, LLC
By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Sophic Solutions, LLC
In 2018, the world was formally introduced to Wakanda. A world where people of color lived and ruled in a modern economic and progressive society of fair trade and collaboration. As portrayed in the fantasy fiction movie Black Panther, Wakanda is a black utopia untouched by the outside world. To most, it was a fantastic work of fiction, but to Rodney and Stephenie Smith, it was as real as you or I, and as possible as starting a simple courageous conversation. Rodney and Stephenie (Steven-ee) Smith have made it their mission and business to create a space where sustainable transformations takes place through courageous conversations about race and equity. The Smiths are working to change society toward racial equity.
Sophic Solutions, LLC is a change management and consulting firm based in Kansas City, Missouri. Sophic provides educational consultation to schools and school districts, offers change management solutions to various organization types, and conducts diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging training for a variety of companies and associations. Sophic also designs educational curriculum, offers professional development sessions, and facilitates team-building activities in addition to several supplementary management improvement services.
“Sophic Solutions was born out of our passion and experiences in our respective professions,” Rodney explains. “Our goal was to overcome our own daily dealings with some of these discriminatory practices. It came from being faced with marginalization in our own professional environments.”
Dr. Rodney D. Smith is also Vice President for Access and Engagement at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. As an academic, his natural curiosity caused him to question and investigate how implicit bias became so ingrained in American culture and how to change it. “As an academician, I began to study the origins of the divide we as a country are experiencing. It ushered me into wanting to learn more about how we got here.” These are the questions Sophic Solutions encourage their partners to ask and explore.
Dr. Smith began teaching courses in the area of social justice and equity. As word spread of his knowledgeable and practical approach to this conversation, he received invitations to speak and educate others. Fast-forward to 2018, after leaving a post in the not-for-profit sector, Stephenie assumed the role of managing partner of their business. As a social worker, Stephenie had a front-row view of how unawareness and avoidance affected underserved communities in the area of social equity. Her passion for helping people find efficacy in their lives and community made her stand out.
“Although Sophic Solutions was founded in 2007, I continued to work for outside organizations until 2018. I have always been blessed because while working for majority white social service organizations, I created a safe space for my team and the people we served. I was able to use my role, personality, and the way I lead, to create a “Black” space within those entities,” Stephenie explains. Creating a relevant space wasn’t just about carving out and cultivating an environment where the concerns of black and brown people were heard, but were responded to with a demonstration of cultural humility. It was also essential to how the work was being done and those doing it.
Stephenie has leveraged her 20 + years of direct practice and organizational leadership experience to support her partners/clients. As the lead consultant with leaders across several sectors, Stephenie is able to stimulate curiosity about how outcomes are generated. With a belief that outcomes are produced through the system, Stephenie is able to guide teams through examining the Pedagogy, Policy, Practice, and People (Culture) of the organization. Stephenie explains, “Often times when organizations are seeking change, teams stop at simply transforming behaviors. While behavioral modification can be key, it is equally important to ensure the system of that organization does not have policies, practices or a culture that tolerates or promotes inequity.” Therefore engaging in a holistic approach to change is imperative. Stephenie’s approach is very much aligned with her discipline as a Master’s level Social Worker. Her commitment to this value- driven practice creates room for social emotional attention that must accompany the process of change.
In addition to leading Sophic Solutions, Stephenie serves as an adjunct professor at Avila University while also contributing to several community boards. Stephenie reminds us, “It is important to connect the dots in every area of our lives. Meaning this is not just the work that I engage in, but the life that I live.”
As husband and wife business partners and parents to two wonderful children, family is vitally important to the Smiths, “We were both privileged to have parents who are Black professionals that taught us how to seek and use knowledge to further ourselves and our community,” Stephenie explained. “When you have role models in the home that set the standard, you are compelled by those expectations. My mother is a retired educator, and my father is a retired agriculturalist. So, I grew up understanding that I am responsible to my community and that is how Rodney and I have raised our children, and I’m proud to say that they have embraced the idea that it takes action and understanding to move the culture forward.”
With recognition from the community and other entities, Stephenie and Rodney received requests asking them to help create equity-centered schools, companies, and organizational groups.
With, not for is Sophic Solutions’ approach to assisting organizations in achieving their goals of self-sustaining social change. “We strongly believe in working with organizations to help them identify and address the areas of social inequity within their companies or groups,” Stephenie explained.
“Helping companies understand what implicit bias is, that it really exists and that its existence is the cause for the racial inequity that we see in society, is an important first step for the organizations that engage our services,” Rodney explains. “If asked, most of these organizations will say that they are made up of ‘good people.’ So, the next question is, ‘Can good people cause black, brown, and female workers to feel marginalized and overlooked?’ These kinds of questions can open the door to the kinds of courageous conversations that must take place so that change can happen.”
Over the years, Sophic Solutions has been a catalyst for change across a variety of platforms. Their website features many testimonials from partners and individuals who have benefited from their approach to social justice. As a result, Stephenie and Rodney have been recognized by their peers and the community at large.
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In 2021, Sophic Solutions received MARC’s Leadership Award. This award honors people and organizations that advocate regional concepts, approaches, and programs; address regional challenges; apply innovative solutions to regional problems; and advance a regional vision of excellence and opportunity. In 2022, Stephenie Smith, MSW, was selected as the Missouri Social Worker of the Year by the Missouri NASW chapter. The duo has been featured on several podcasts that spotlight social change as they continue to get their message of hope, empowerment, and self-efficacy out to the community.
As they move forward, Sophic’s vision continues to grow. “Growth is one of our goals”. Stephenie says, “Within the next two years, we hope to add more associates dedicated to promoting and educating about social justice, equity and inclusion. Although we are based in Kansas City, Missouri, we serve all over the country. We also want to grow how we do the work, so we are excited about the recent launch of Sophic Circles. Sophic Circles are practical engagement workshop opportunities for our peer partners. We refer to our clients as partners, and Sophic Circles allow partners in like industries or organizations to connect and create community. The long-term benefit is that these circles become an ecosystem of change.”
Sophic Circles brings Rodney and Stephenie’s vision into view. “We know that this work happens best in community. When change agents are isolated, they are less likely to demonstrate the behaviors necessary to perpetuate change. The future of racial equity and inclusion cannot be achieved in silos, but by agents of change working in community to educate ourselves and others.”
So, is Wakanda real? According to Dr. Rodney Smith and Stephenie Smith, with hard work, sacrifice, and a willingness to ask hard questions and then apply practical solutions, the answer is Wakanda is in all of us. We have to be willing to cultivate it.
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A Magazine Just For Kids For more information, including advertisement opportunities, please call 336-340-7844
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By Dorjae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Angela Maria Photography
On the surface, Donnie Young appears to be an average African American male. However, if one looks a little deeper into who he is, one will find a lot more to this serial entrepreneur’s story. For the most part, his journey has come with a few ups and downs and bumps and bruises. Still, Donnie has found a way to persevere and now lives a life of gratitude and grace while exemplifying the love of God.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Donnie comes from humble beginnings. His mother passed away when he was just a baby, and his father was imprisoned shortly after. At such a young age and without his parents, what was next for Donnie? What would his future look like? As if someone sounded the horns, Donnie’s village stepped into place with his grandmother and aunt answering the call.
During his childhood, Donnie enjoyed playing all sports, including football. There is where Donnie could be found, on the football field, he says, until the pressure of wanting more in life pushed him toward the wrong crowd. “I looked to the streets to find my way. I began selling drugs and soon got entangled in crime. I was charged with accessory to murder and found myself sitting in a jail cell, alone,” he says. Donnie was eventually cleared of that accusation, but his past would soon catch up with him, and soon Donnie would find himself back in prison, he says, for being framed for a crime that he did not commit or know anything about. “I wasn’t supposed to be in there, but I used that time to my advantage. I slowed down, sat quietly, analyzed my mistakes, and educated myself.”
Donnie says, “Prison won’t teach you how to be a man, but it will give you the blueprint.” While incarcerated, Donnie learned as many trades as possible such as cooking to brick masonry and obtained his G.E.D. He was a model prisoner and gained a good rapport with other inmates and officers. “I was motivated to make it out and make something of myself, but most of all, I was inspired by the fear of ending up like my father.”
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“I looked to the streets to find my way. I began selling drugs and soon got entangled in crime. I was charged with accessory to murder and found myself sitting in a jail cell, alone.”
Once released, Donnie was determined not to find himself in an idle situation. He went straight to working multiple jobs and mastering a new trade at each one. “When I did something, I pretty much mastered it, making it a point to be the best at it,” he says. Things were going well for Donnie but he knew there was more he could be doing, specifically for himself. That is when the spirit of entrepreneurship sat on him, and he hasn’t looked back.
Donnie shares that he became tired of growing so much with his skills and not with the companies he was employed by. He decided to break away and create his own business and do it the way he knew how, with excellence. In 2016, he launched his first brand, Universal Lawn and Floor, a high-quality landscaping and lawn care business. Under the Universal brand, he owns several sub-companies. One is Universal Flooring, which covers all floor maintenance, such as striping and waxing commercial floors and flooring installation. “Laminate, tile, vinyl, carpet, and subfloor. Anything flooring, we can install it,” Donnie says.
Other companies Donnie has produced are Universal Power Washing Solution and Uni-Klean. These offer services such as pressure cleaning driveways and homes, as well as commercial cleaning. He has also developed Universal Credit Repair and Business Consultation and UNI-Wellness.
The word “Universal” is purposely incorporated into all of Donnie’s companies. He says that word is his staple. “I am ‘Mr. Universal’. I can apply my brand to anything, no matter what you need, I can handle it,” he says. Moreover, Donnie’s work speaks for itself. That is obvious and he has several awards to validate that. He’s won ‘Best of Taylors’ award twice and ‘The Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite’ award, amongst many others.
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It is apparent that Donnie has his hands and mind involved in many things, and that is by design. He shares that while he serves many industries, his primary objective is to impact his community positively. “My past has been challenging, but I’ve decided to allow my lifes’ lessons to help others. I can do this by employing and providing real opportunities to members of my community. I want to provide an outlet for people facing obstacles, as I have. I understand that all it takes is for someone to be given an opportunity, and I am happy to be in a position to do so,” he says. “Just like how I was tired of struggling, I’m even more tired of seeing others struggle.”
Moreover, Donnie’s testimony is that he got it out of the mud, period. “I’m a very, very hard worker. I never quit, I never give up or listen to the naysayers. When people tell me I can’t do something, it makes me try harder,” he says.
What is next for this self-driven entrepreneur? He says, Don’t think for a second that he will be slowing down anytime soon. Donnie says he’s just getting started. He has plans to continue growing as a businessman and will add real estate to his list of services in 2023. It is pretty clear there isn’t much that he can’t accomplish once he sets his sights on it. To learn more about Donnie Young, and all of his brands, please visit his website or contact him directly.
& King’s Lemonade LLC
By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by King’s Lemonade LLC
There’s always a good time to drink lemonade; fortunately, a young group of inspiring entrepreneurs in Durham, NC, has made it their business to quench the thirst of lemonade drinkers.
Founded in October 2020, King’s Lemonade LLC is a siblingowned and operated business led by Corey Jr. and Ami. They also share ownership with their older sister, Jada Lyons-O’Kelly. With the support of their mother, Erica, and other family members, the duo has created over 25 delicious flavors of freshly squeezed homemade lemonades. Erica is the formal operator of the business and describes herself as the “Momager” and “Queen”.
So how do they make it happen? Corey is responsible for squeezing lemons, cutting fruit, creating new recipes, assisting with purchasing supplies, loading and unloading supplies, and serving as a cashier at events. Amir is responsible for the same duties as Corey; however, he is also the spokesman.
Initially, the idea of the business came about while Corey and Amir were at home during the Covid 19 pandemic. During this time, everyone was bored and just tired of doing the same routine, day after day. Like most families, the pandemic required most families to resort to a life of isolation. In some cases, the pandemic even added a financial strain on their budgets. Erica’s family experienced both. “The pandemic changed how we moved, so we collectively decided to think of various ways to generate additional income. We came up with various ideas, and finally, the boys decided they wanted to have a lemonade stand. I encouraged them to expand their thoughts, think bigger, and even start an entire lemonade business. With the support of their father, Corey Sr., everyone agreed. Next, we needed to create a name for the business. Everyone threw out various ideas for names but none really stuck. Finally, Corey Jr. blurted out “King’s Lemonade!” I asked him why he chose that name and he said “because I’m a king, momma!” That’s how King’s Lemonade was birthed,” Erica says.
King’s Lemonade currently has over 25 flavors of delicious, freshly squeezed homemade lemonades in various sizes. Some of their most popular ones are Strawberry Lemonade, Pineapple Lemonade, Blue Raspberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Very Berry Lemonade, and their classic Original Lemonade. King’s Lemonade can be purchased online, year round, and they also deliver locally within a twenty-five-mile radius of Chapel Hill, NC, for an additional fee. At various locations, King’s Lemonade can also be found around the Triangle and Triad areas.
Owning a business has been an enjoyable experience for both Erica and her two sons. She shares, “I truly enjoy learning with my children. I didn’t go to school for business. I actually went to school for Criminal Justice. Teaching my kids how to provide for themselves for the future is very important to me. They now have the opportunity to continue to build and grow their business and brand and provide job opportunities for others.”
Amir shares that working with family is easily the greatest challenge he has faced in his young business career. “No one knows how to support you like your family, but no one knows how to push your buttons like family also. Working with my mother and brother has proven to be stressful, and I’d be lying if I say if I haven’t thought about waving the white flag at one time, but after seeing how well-received our products are, I can firmly say that I believe in what I do.”
Erica says she is inspired by her children and the support of her community for their business. Corey Jr. says the positive feedback from the customers also inspires him. Amir says, “While revenue is a great inspiration, an even bigger inspiration is what I can hopefully tell the people that see what I do and are either encouraged in entrepreneurship themselves, or to support small businesses like mine.”
Erica, Amir, and Corey encourage anyone who may follow in their footsteps to be unafraid. Amir’s message is to embrace struggle and loss and, while doing so, continue to swing on. “There are days where our product doesn’t sell as well as we had hoped, and it can get discouraging. Never give up, swing on. Sometimes a closed door can open another window. Another window will open for you soon enough.”
Moving forward, Erica says her plans for both of her children’s businesses are to continue to assist them with making each better. “We would love to see King’s Lemonade in various stores and online,” she says. With persistence and good flavors available, the sky’s the limit for King’s Lemonade.
To learn more about them, please visit their website. www.kingslemonade.com
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To submit photographs to be placed in the Huami Magazine Cutest Baby feature, please send a detailed email to email@example.com Cutest Baby
K-9 Safety Consultants LLC
By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Flem Peacher VI
Family is essential to Flem Preacher Sr. He is the sixth Flem Preacher in his family and the second generation of leadership in the K-9 Safety Consultants firm.
K-9 Safety Consultants LLC was launched on January 29, 1985, by founder Flem Peacher V of Detroit, Michigan. K9 Safety Consultants is a household name and brand people can trust. K9 Safety Consultants has trained private firms, law enforcement agencies, celebrities, athletes, and the general public. The “K9 Safety Method” enhances the relationship and communication between dog owners and their furry friends.
Flem Peacher VI, the company’s CEO, and his wife, Talitha Peacher, the company administrator, along with his sister, Flemesha (Peacher) Armstrong, president, are in charge of securing the family-run company for the next generation.
The founder of K-9 Safety Consultants was Flem Peacher V. This business was not just a job but a calling. Birth from tragedy, the founder Flem Peacher V built a legacy that would span over forty years.
“Our story started with a near-fatal mauling. When my dad was around thirteen, he was walking down the street, and a neighbor’s pit bull got loose. The vicious attack left my father close to death. Needless to say, that experience traumatized him. After surviving that attack, my father was terrified of dogs. It didn’t matter what kind. He couldn’t be around them or see them. If someone said the word, he would panic, looking around to see if there was a dog nearby. My grandfather was concerned and didn’t want his son to continue to live in terror. He firmly believed that the best way to get over your fear was to face them head-on. So, my grandparents bought my father a puppy. This helped him see that not all dogs were the same. As he bonded with the dog, my grandparents noticed that he had an unusual gift for training the dog. This confirms that everything happens for a reason. If not for the attack, the talent my father possessed may have never been revealed.”
After overcoming his fear, Flem’s father fell in love with dogs. Everyone around him noticed his unique gift of reading a dog’s behavior. They also noticed that he could train dogs to perform practically anything on command. Through experience, he began to develop what is known as the “K9 Safety Method.” This method has been proven and used worldwide to transform millions of dogs into model citizens. “After marrying my mother, my dad moved to Arlington, Texas, and went on to receive many specialty certifications. Including Schutzhund training.”
According to the United Schutzhund Clubs of America or USCA, “Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog.” It refers to a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating dog traits that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners. Schutzhund’s work concentrates on three parts. Many are familiar with the obedience work of the American Kennel Club’s affiliates and will recognize the first two parts, tracking and obedience. The Schutzhund standards for the third part, protection work, are similar to those for dogs in police work.”
Upon returning to Detroit with his wife, young son, and daughter in tow, Flem’s father, saw the need to add another layer to the training of personal security dogs. “When my father moved us back to Detroit recognized that the dogs had to be able to discern their environment. With the crime rate as high as it was, the animal couldn’t properly protect its owner in the streets of Detroit if they weren’t trained to do so. So, he trained them in real conditions.”
This led Flem’s father to go door to door, offering his services. “He went from house to house asking people to let him transform their dogs. And that’s how it started. One house, one client, one dog at a time.” Eventually, word spread about the success Flem’s father was having, and their clientele grew. By the time Flem was ready to take over the business, the Peacher name was known by dog owners across the country.
One of the many things K-9 Safety consultants prides itself on is that they not only train the dog, but we train the owner. “What makes us unique is that we train the client and their dog. Because the dog is only as good as its handler, and the handler is only as good as the coach. As coaches, we have to educate and empower the handler. Once the owner or handler has completely bought-in to the theory behind what we do, you see a different kind of relationship between the dog and its owner.”
K-9 Safety Consultants’ “both sides of the leash” approach to training gives them success with dogs that most people won’t work with or own. “We are known for dealing with the dogs that most people have given up on,” Flem explains. “We have partnered with rescue organizations and taken on dogs sentenced to be euthanized. We’ve found that most people don’t know how to handle or respond to dogs with behavior issues. Like us, dogs have emotional issues and trauma, but they cannot express it the way we do. That’s where our approach excels.”
Flem and his sister Flemesha were raised watching, helping, and being trained by their father in the family business. Their mother was the executive administrator, and their father the CEO. Just like his name, Flem knew that K-9 Consultants would be passed on to him one day. At the age of twenty-one, he and his wife were newly married and had just purchased their first home. They were starting their new life together, and Flem was preparing to take up the torch when the recession hit.
“It had always been my dream to run the business, but because of the recession, there was no business. Our clients had to choose between paying basic utilities and paying for dog training. All I could do was stand by and watch our business, legacy, and my father’s hard work dry up. My father did everything he could to keep the doors open, but eventually, in about 2007, the banks foreclosed, and K-9 Safety Consultants was no more,” Flem confessed. With fewer clients, employees were laid off. “It was the toughest period in my life. We lost our home and our car. We lost everything. I’ve been a certified master trainer since I was thirteen. I didn’t know anything else.”
After losing everything, Flem found himself at what he said was his lowest point. “I had to work, so a friend connected me with a job as a part-time lunch aid, making $8.00 an hour. I was at my lowest point. My parents were multi-millionaires, so I never knew the kind of struggle I was experiencing. God was humbling me. Ministry wasn’t on my radar then, but God had plans.”
Taking the job as a lunch aid, Flem trusted that there was something bigger ahead. Like his dad, it wasn’t long before people noticed his unique talent. “The students at my school were rough. But they needed someone to give them structure and show them that they cared. Although I was just an aid, I didn’t sit by and allow them to be disrespectful. I knew how to give constructive discipline, and people took notice.”
Even in his dark place, God showed favor to Flem. Within ten years, he went from being a part-time cafeteria aid to Dean of students. “I didn’t want there to be a reason I couldn’t progress, so I went to school to show myself approved.” After losing everything, Flem and his family were finally starting to stand on firm financial ground. But the dream he thought was dead was only sleeping.
“K-9 Safety Consultants had closed physically, but it was always on my mind. So, once I made decent money and we were stable, I started training dogs again. I started just like my father did. I went door to door.” It wasn’t long before K-9 Safety Consultants was back in business with over two thousand clients. Flem could leave education and go full-time into the training business again.
The company continues to prosper and be a blessing to its community. They won the business of the year in 2022. And through their K-9 Cadet program, they have mentored twenty-five hundred children and youth, ages nine to eighteen, because the Peacher family legacy is bigger than dog training. They have also granted scholarships to students who what to further their education.
“This has truly been a rollercoaster ride, but I wouldn’t do anything differently. God has blessed us beyond measure with a life and legacy that I pray will last another forty years.”
“It had always been my dream to run the business, but because of the recession, there was no business. Our clients had to choose between paying basic utilities and paying for dog training. All I could do was stand by and watch our business, legacy, and my father’s hard work dry up.”
Rock City Staffing Agency, LLC
By Terry L. Watson
Photos Provided by Vivian Brittenum
Vivian Brittenum is the owner of Rock City Staffing Agency. Based in Little Rock, AR, her company is a locally owned and operated professional staffing and recruiting agency. Vivian says her team is dedicated to providing their clients with top-notch service, industry-leading solutions, and skilled talent. “At Rock City, we take great pride and purpose in what we do. That’s why we always seek to outperform client expectations. We cover many staffing situations, including temporary, temp-to-perm, contract, and direct hire. We specialize in placing administrative, information technology, customer service, warehouse, and light manufacturing,” she says.
Vivian is a native of Forrest City, AR, but has called central Arkansas home for the past 28 years. She is a divorced mother of two fantastic children, Miracle, 21, and Praylyn, 19. She acquired her MBA with an emphasis in Information Technology and an MS in Management and Leadership with an emphasis in Project Management from Webster University. She also obtained her BS in Management Information Systems from Park University with a minor in Human Resources.
Some additional certifications she holds include a nationally Certified Public Manager as well as a Certified Arkansas Governmental Manager from UA Little Rock. She is a Certified Woman Entrepreneur from Cornell University, a graduate of Leadership Greater Little Rock, past Chairman of Auditing Committee for Southern Gas Federal Credit Union, past Diversity and Inclusion committee member for the City of Little Rock, Commissioner for the City of Jacksonville, past-chairman of the Board of Adjustment, and past chairman of the Planning Commission and a graduate of the Rock It! Lab Accelerator Program.
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“At Rock City, we take great pride and purpose in what we do. That’s why we always seek to outperform client expectations.”
Vivian shares how her faith in God has shaped her life from the very beginning. “I am so grateful to God for choosing me for such a time as this. Life for me began in Forrest City. My parents were teenagers when I was born. My mom, Barbara Paulette, was a senior in high school. My father, Leon Jones, Sr. was attending college in another city. In a sense, my mom and I grew up together. She raised me and my two sisters, Tracy and Tajuan in a strict Pentecostal household. We were in the church from sun-up until sundown at least four days a week. That is where my faith began and where I learned to trust and believe in God. My mom and dad worked hard to provide for my sisters and me. Mom worked for a time in factories making garments and televisions before she decided that was not the life she wanted for herself or her daughters. She decided to further her education and became a CNA, became certified in early childhood education, and worked as a transport driver before settling down in the classroom. That’s where I got my inquisitive mind and my love of learning. My dad, Pat Haggins, has owned and operated a well-respected construction business for over forty years. My father, Leon Jones, Sr has been self-employed for 48 years. They both stepped out on faith, took a chance on themselves, worked hard, and are now reaping the benefits of following God’s path. That’s where I inherited my entrepreneurial spirit.,” she shares.
After getting married and moving to the central Arkansas area, Vivian knew this was where she could flourish. The big city lights, highways, fast cars, and endless opportunities, she says, it was time for her to walk in the calling God has on her life.
Vivian says her job isn’t about just having a source of income or building generational wealth for her family. “I have a God-given passion for helping others, so placing someone in a job offers me a sense of personal fulfillment and professional growth. I am so blessed to wake up every morning with the opportunity and be a blessing to someone else.”
When her youngest graduated high school, she felt God telling me that now was her time. Finally, on September 14, 2021, God spoke to me and said now is the time! I stepped out on faith, drove to my job, and resigned in the parking lot! I knew it was now or never. I chose my NOW! I came home and incorporated Rock City Staffing Agency and have not looked back,” she explains.
Without any doubt, Vivian is sure she is walking in the plan God has for her because He gave her the idea to open a staffing agency and the name of the business. “I did not know much about the staffing and recruiting world, nor did I have any savings to fund a business. All I had was faith and trust in God,” she shares. A week after opening her business, Vivian was blessed with a $1000 small business grant. Still, she didn’t know where to begin or how to open a staffing and recruiting agency, but she says God provided everything needed to get her company going. “I don’t have a choice but to be successful,” she says.
Now fully operational, Rock City Staffing LLC has positioned itself as a premier staffing agency. Vivian’s advice to others who may follow in her footsteps is to pray, pray, and pray some more. “Keep God at the forefront. Do your research. Find good mentors. Go for it!”
Moving forward, she hopes to continue to follow God’s plan. “Rock City Staffing Agency is just the beginning. There is so much more that’s going to be birthed from this. We are going to use this platform to do the Kingdom’s work,” she shares. To learn more about Vivian Brittenum and Rock City Staffing Agency, please visit their website.
Rock City Staffing Agency LLC
Urban Esthetic Interiors, LLC
By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Dymetra Caskill
Dymetra McCaskill of Denver, CO, has a unique eye for detail. Her ability to look at a blank canvas and create works of art has propelled her to being one of America’s top African American interior designers.
Along with being a mother, grandmother, sister, and daughter, Dymetra is the owner and founder of Urban Esthetic Interiors, LLC. As a black designer, you will notice hints of cultural esthetics, vibrant colors, and warm textures. She describes it as a whole vibe!
With her company, Dymetra offers one-on-one, personalized design experiences and collaborates with her clients to create what she describes as a beautiful space.
Dymetra was born and raised in Denver. There she attended school and obtained a Business Management degree. All of her family resides in Denver, including the matriarch of her family, who is now a great-great-grandmother. Dymetra is also a lover of music and says, “If you come to my home, there’s always music playing and candles burning. I’m always tinkering around with something design related,” she says.
Urban Esthetic Interiors, LLC came to life in 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic. “I worked full-time as a flight attendant, and because of the pandemic, I was temporarily furloughed. During that time, I was able to divert all of my attention to interior design, develop a business model, improve my skill set, and work,” Dymetra says.
When asked what she loves about having her own company, she says it’s all about the art of design. “I love beginning with a blank canvas and using my imagination to create a work of art. There are so many moving parts, which can be challenging at times, but that is what drives me. I test the limits with each project, make bold choices, and experiment with new trends.”
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While Dymetra says she is inspired by her friends and family’s support and encouragement, she specifically acknowledges her mother for being the most significant source. Dymetra says her mom was the first to let her use a miter saw, which she thought was just a “guy thing” at the time. “I gained confidence, and it allowed me to feel limitless,” she says.
Growing up, Dymetra says her mother would always rearrange furniture and have beautiful plants throughout the house. She shares that everything had its place. Even more, Dymetra’s dad is a pretty good designer in his own right. “Dad designs with class and deliberate pieces. His home shows like a model home, and I always wanted that for my space,” she says.
Additionally, Dymetra says that all things visually beautiful inspire her. “My son, who mimic’s my feature wall ideas, inspires me. My four-month-old grandson, who greets me with bright eyes and the happiest smile, inspires me. My sisters, who consistently root for me, inspire me. My aunt, who always eloquently encourages me, inspires me. My gramma, who covers me in prayer every day, showers me in love, and shows me how a fierce black woman moves and shakes in this world inspires me,” she says.
Things are going great for Dymetra, and she says there isn’t much she would change about how things have happened for her in business. If anything, she says she wishes she would have started sooner but also that she firmly believes that everything happens when it’s supposed to happen. “I’ve encountered some challenges and made plenty of mistakes; however, the beauty lies in knowing they are learning lessons. I’m creating my own formula, which makes me unique, bringing about some uncertainty, but it’s a beautiful mystery. I’m hopeful and excited about what’s to come,” Dymetra says.
Her advice to others who may follow a path similar to hers is not to allow fear to keep you from leaping. “Keep some of your thoughts and plans private, and if you decide to share them, do so with those you know will encourage you. Remember, we’re always students, so we never stop learning. This is a constantly evolving business, so be prepared to operate consistently with your creativity. Whatever your dreams and desires are, release them into the wind. Allow yourself to imagine all the possibilities, keep your intentions pure, and enjoy the ride.”
By the sounds of it, Dymetra has a bright road ahead of her. Futuristically, Dymetra plans to add to her existing brand, which will include designing commercial spaces and offering my products through retail. “If I’m not in your city, I would love for anyone to have access to an Urban Esthetic Interiors experience,” she says.
To learn more about her, please contact her directly.
303-505-0755 Dmccaskill35@gmail.com h
By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by The New Black Collective
Action is a necessary component required to bring change to a community. The type of action to which others who desire change will respond to. The kind of action that addresses the concerns and problems of a community and produces solutions that improve living conditions. Such an organization exists, and is answering the call for change.
Based in Houston, TX, The New Black Collective was developed by four high school friends; Ebony Joiner, Shaquala Warren, Kevin Thomas, and Jasmine Bledsoe. With each member reigning from Waco, TX, they share a variety of degrees and certifications from HBCUs to Ivy Leagues. Another member, DeAundra Moore, serves as Program Manager and is passionate about empowering and supporting others through direct community interaction.
Launched in 2019, The New Black Collective is a nonprofit organization that services the minority community through community outreach programs. The idea was born out of a need each member was aware of. They also genuinely wanted to give children and adults something positive to look up to.
“To amplify the quality of life in our community, promote culture, and education; through community intitiatives and partnerships with other organizations.”
Led by Jasmine, who believes in giving back and enriching her community, The New Black Collective operates under the mission to implement community initiatives that improve access to education, investments, opportunity, and sustainable services. “I learned that surrounding myself with people who can help me is like being surrounded by tangible Godliness,” Jasmine says. The group offers curated programs that are free to the community. They also host annual events, including a Back 2 School Drive and Coats N’ Cocoa, and collaborate with other organizations and businesses in Waco, and Waco ISD.
What motivates the group as a whole? They say, “God and people. Our love for God has inspired us to love people aloud. Our people inspire us so much. Knowing that we come from a strong people who have built so many things from the ground up is an inspiration. The tenacity and perseverance of those that have come before us will always be true inspirations. They did, we can.”
Like any other startup, The New Black Collective has endured its share of trial and error. One challenge they shared was that learning what works for them as a business and what doesn’t serve them has been pivotal in their journey. They were able to overcome such challenges through mentorship and counsel. “We believe one does not know everything. So we talk to people that know a little bit more than we do and apply what we’ve learned,” they said.
Moving forward, the plan for The New Black Collective is to be a legacy of labor and love. They also hope to expand and build sustainable and forward-thinking programs. To learn more about the program and to find ways on how to get involved with their programs, please visit their website.
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“I learned that surrounding myself with people who can help me is like being surrounded by tangible Godliness.” Jasmine Bledsoe President
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