From ‘America’s Next Top Model’ to Co-Owner of The Nation’s Oldest Black-Owned Businesses
Dominique Reighard-Brooks is truly a model citizen and if you think she looks familiar — then you’re right. She was on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 10, a spin-off show called Modelville, and ANTM Cycle 17. She served as the face of beauty brand Carol’s Daughter followed by her debut album Spend It All.
That visibility has aided in her role as one of the co-owners of the nation’s oldest black-owned business, E.E. Ward Moving and Storage. Founded in 1881, E.E. Ward has received multiple awards for high level of service and philanthropic endeavors, including the highly coveted Agent of the Year Service Excellence Award from the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), OMSDC MBE Supplier of the Year Award, and Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Ohio’s Torch Award.
In this interview, Reighard-Brooks shares transitioning from modeling to entrepreneurship and co-owning the longest running black-owned business in the country.
Question: How did your career as a model prepare you to run and operate a multi-million dollar moving and storage company?
Dominique Reighard-Brooks: Honestly, I have never been the type of artist, model, or entertainer to wait and expect anyone to create opportunities for myself. My mindset has always been to take the initiative, be curious, do research, find a way, and to use my voice to advocate my own best interest. I had a team, but I was always willing to roll up my sleeves and to act as supporting staff and give guidance as needed or directed. I believe when it comes to creating a quality body of work, the execution of the vision can never be sacrificed. This mentality of being resourceful in using actual experience, relentless in forging my path, self-awareness and never allowing rejection to keep me from knocking on doors, and even the same door that I had been rejected from has given me this incredible amount strength and empowered me. I never allow fear or rejection to keep me from making moves. There has been many life lessons, experience, courage, character, skill sets, and wisdom that was developed and deposited on the inside while I was in that era that I have found very useful and relevant in entrepreneurship. I want to be proof that you can pivot from one industry to the next and still find success by fusing your talents, passion for creativity, learned skill sets, life experiences, and connections.
Question: E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is the oldest African American business in the country. What has attributed to its success as a whole?
Reighard-Brooks: Earlier this year, we were recognized nationally by the American Moving and Storage Association as one the most trusted moving companies in the country by being awarded the Agent of the Year for Service Excellence. We are committed to continually strengthening the legacy of E.E. Ward while fostering growth and innovation. Being the oldest continuously operating African American business in the country was achieved by perseverance, accountability, service with dignity, community service, and best practices. These attributes created a culture that fueled the viability and success in giving E.E.Ward a competitive advantage for over 137 years. I am proud to say that E.E.Ward is proof that a company’s culture is the most critical component when it comes to sustainability. Prior owner Eldon W. Ward, who led the company for 50 years, had a legacy statement: “Do what’s right, come what may.” That sentiment has been adopted as the backbone of our daily operation and each individual member on our team.
Question: What career advice do you have to offer an aspiring business owner to achieve success?
Reighard-Brooks: Entrepreneurship is hard, but rewarding in many different ways. I many times reflect on my challenges today but am ever so humbled by the era in which E.E. Ward was founded, a time of struggle and fight for freedom for the African American community. I say this to remind us that it’s all been done before. So many trailblazers like the Ward family were dealt a deck of cards that none of us have had to experience in the modern era. John T. Ward was a fearless trailblazer who served many years as a conductor on the underground railroad before establishing Ward Transfer Lines in 1881 with just two horses and wagon. We all can draw inspiration from learning about Ward’s legacy of enduring slavery, the U.S. Civil War, Great Depression, two World Wars, the Great Recession, and 26 presidential terms.
Question: What steps do you take to keep yourself motivated during challenging times?
Reighard-Brooks: The biggest step to keeping myself motivated is having the right perspective and mindset on a daily basis. We all have tough times in life. When I get down and out, I allow myself to experience those feelings, understand what I am feeling, and then snap out of it by telling myself a different story! It sounds funny, but this daily practice has created a strong inner dialogue. I listen to my ego, say thank you for sharing, then say girl bye! My momma always told me to ‘Take the meat and throw away the bone.’
BLAQER Influence: Black 10K Project
In this episode, we chat with 2 of the co-founders of the Black 10K Project, a crowdfunding platform recently launched with the idea of enabling black investors to invest in black businesses and startups. We dig into some of the details around how they started but, more importantly, what they hope to accomplish with this endeavor. This is an amazing cause that I want to be sure everyone is aware of as so many folks will benefit, and you can get on the action as well.
You can also listen and follow our podcast station on Spotify
Grow Your Small Business: Part 1 – Build Your Brand
Get to Work “ON” Your Business:
Part 1 – Build Your Brand
There’s a lot of content out there that is written to help small business owners do their own marketing, but it’s often written by marketers who are adept in things like analytics, content marketing, and technical jargon. It may be written using terms you don’t understand and business processes you’re not familiar with, and then you’re left with no clue how to start marketing your brand.
If you own a small business or are responsible for marketing one, you need to know how to be effective in your market without the hoity-toity language of marketing. You need marketing for beginners.
Here, in a nutshell, are four simple things you can do right now to grow your brand:
1. Develop buyer personas
As a brand, you’re speaking to human beings who share your ideals, and who want or need your product or service. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’ll have trouble reaching your audience. Creating a buyer persona brings those individuals to life and helps you figure out how to market to them.
A buyer persona is simply a description of the person you’re trying to reach. You might have several. Give the persona a name. Write out the features of that person (“Sally has a master’s degree and likes buying organic food”) to illustrate her and get to know her. Then, when you do your marketing, keep that “person” in mind and address your messaging to her specifically.
2. Establish your tone of voice
How you communicate your marketing message is referred to as the tone of voice you use. It might be professional, casual, or even funny. The tone you use should resonate with your audience. For example, if you’re a B2B firm, you might do better using a more formal tone than a casual one peppered with teen-friendly acronyms. Just make sure to choose a tone that is consistent across all marketing channels.
If you’re outsourcing your content, your writers will need to use your brand’s voice as if it were second nature. Help them by creating a document with your brand guidelines, meeting with them, answering their questions, and giving them examples of the tone you are going for.
3. Know your brand’s values
Establishing what your brand stands for can help you immensely in your marketing because you can then communicate those values to your customers.
How can you do this? Jot down the things that are important to your company. For example, do you care about the environment? If you do, let people know about the choices you make that align with this value, like using green energy in your office, only buying recyclable or reusable office supplies, or volunteering to clean up your community.
4. Blog consistently
Blogs are hugely important to your marketing strategy: 81% of Americans trust the information they read in blogs. They can take you further than any ad campaign.
Write about things that matter to your customers: write about topics that they have questions about or that can enhance their lives in some way. And if you really don’t have time to blog, hire someone to do it for you.
Don’t know what to write about? Come up with a list of questions you’ve been asked by prospects and clients. Google other brands in your industry and see what they write about. Keep a spreadsheet of topics so you always have one to write about.
These four easy tips will help you attract more customers and build trust with them. Now, check out the below list of our top tools to use when building your brand to go from zero to 100 within a few hours.
DIY Logo Design
- Logojoy – Don’t want to pay for a professional logo design? Don’t want to leave your logo design in the hands of your uncles, cousins, friend Ray-Ray from around the block? Logojoy is an amazing resource for brands just getting started using artificial intelligent (AI) design. Create your logo all on your own by entering the name of your business, then you’ll begin to pick examples of logos that you like, colors you like most, add a tagline or subheading, choose a few symbols and icons that go well with your business, and VOILA! Logojoy will show you you samples of what your logo looks like with all of your choices in mind, and even shows you realistic applications of your logo on business cards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.
- FREE – use the tool as many times as you’d like to understand how it works and create your own inspiration
- $20 BASIC – gets you a low-resolution version of your logo design that you can use as inspiration for your logo designer
- $65 PREMIUM – provides you with everything you need to get your brand going. Includes high resolution files, multiple color variations, unlimited changes, and full ownership
- $90 ENTERPRISE – provides you with everything in PREMIUM + social media kit, business card layouts, and brand guidelines document all using your newly created logo.
DIY Graphic Design
- Canva – the go-to platform to allow anyone with little to no design skills to quickly and easily spin up creative and colorful designs for your brand. You’ll be able to quickly start with one of their thousands of FREE templates, change the words, images, colors, and fonts for your own unique design. The FREE version allows you to easily save your designs in the most popular formats from presentations and flyers, to business cards and social media posts.
DIY Web Design
- Squarespace – One of the top DIY web design tools for entrepreneurs looking for a modern look and feel for your website or e-commerce site. However, it is a bit pricey as there is no FREE option like the others listed here. The beautiful pre-built templates make it easy to get started. You can take advantage of the FREE 14-day trial to get a handle on how to use the web builder.
- Wix – A bit more complex than some of the others, yet more cost-effective. This web builder will allow you to build exactly what you are looking for to tell the story of your business, or to showcase your products with an e-commerce site as well. The basic version is completely FREE,
- Weebly – This is probably one of the most simple, and easy to use, but like all others, it will take some time to get used to. Easy to edit templates make this website builder a perfect choice for completely new businesses as there is a FREE option to take advantage of.
Royalty Free Images/Photos
- Unsplash – featuring beautiful images submitted by professional photographers from around the world, these images are available for you to use on your website, blog posts, postcards, presentations, or in any way you want. And best of all, they’re FREE.
- Pexels – this website is exactly the same as Unsplash in that you have full access to FREE images provided by professional photographers from around the world. I do recommend this one for a greater variety of images featuring people of color.
- Medium – a simple, and easy to use blog publishing platform that can help you amass your own readership following via its optimization and social features, allowing your readers to leave comments, give praise, and share your content with others. Like all other platforms, it caters to blogging with capabilities to add images and links alongside your writing.
- WordPress – one of the most popular blog platforms available is most widely known for being used to create websites with hundreds of different features beyond simple blogging. If you want to get up and running quickly on this platform visit www.wordpress.org for a FREE option that you can build upon over time.
Grow Your Small Business by Spending Time Working “ON” Your Business
Get to Work “ON” Your Busienss: A 5-Part Series
Every entrepreneur understands all too well the hustle that is required to take their business to the next level. No one can argue that in order for your entrepreneurial journey to be successful, you will need to spend a great deal of time hustling, grinding, and getting the work done. You’re probably reading this right now while taking a break from the work that needs to be done fulfilling an order from your website, following up with clients, sending invoices, etc.
With over 500,000 new small businesses (non-employers) launching each month, it is common that most entrepreneurs will start their businesses as solo-preneurs. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why most of your time will be spent on getting work done. As a solo-preneur you are the CEO, CFO, web designer, logistics manager, product manager, project manager, photographer, business development manager, marketing manager, and the list goes on and on.
However, with the requirement to wear so many hats, and juggle so many balls all at once, day in, and day out, you’re bound to find yourself on a hamster wheel. On one hand, you’ll find that you’re not making enough money or as much as you would like to make anyway. On the other hand, you’ll find yourself doing the same thing over and over again without any real increase or improvement in your business.
The bottom line is that you can easily find that you’re spending more time working “IN” your business, and not enough time working “ON” your business.
Simply put, working “ON” your business is investing time, energy, and sometimes money into things that will improve our business in some way. Consider something as simple as going from storing receipts and recording business expenses manually. Since the dawn of web and mobile accounting applications, now your entire bookkeeping workflow can be automated, saving you time, and energy in the short and long term.
We’ve compiled the list of just a few of the best tools that are available for small business owners for everything from accounting and bookkeeping, to web design, to project management and so much more. We’ll be sharing our recommendations in a 5-part series over the next few weeks.
Scooter’s Coffee Franchise Partners with First African American Owner
Julian Young never thought he would own a coffee shop – it never even crossed his mind. But a single phone call changed all that. Young and his wife Brittany are now the first African American franchise owners of the Scooter’s Coffee franchise.
In 2013, he launched The Start Center for Entrepreneurship, a community nonprofit designed to train and help North Omaha residents become entrepreneurs. Young was intimately familiar with the poor economic conditions of his community and believed he could be instrumental in changing that.
Through the process of running the nonprofit, he saw how challenging it was for aspiring business owners to start businesses in underserved communities and when they did, the learning curve was incredibly steep.
“I knew that following a proven model would be a way to cut down on the learning curve, so franchising came to mind,” he shared. In late 2014, he reached out to Don Eckles, CEO and co-founder of the Scooter’s Coffee franchise, to explore an opportunity to partner with The Start Center.
The two immediately hit it off and began discussing ideas on ways to improve the community through business ownership. As their relationship developed, Eckles became more and more impressed with the Youngs; he wanted to help them move the economic needle in their personal lives by economically benefiting from ownership. “It was a paradigm shift from teaching to doing,” said Young.
Eckles shared: “I had for years been thinking ‘how can I make a difference in communities where a difference can be made? Successful companies owe it to the community to give back in some way. This is a great opportunity to make a positive difference in our community. My hope is other businesses will say ‘You know what, yes, there is a good opportunity to have a successful business in North Omaha,’ and help revitalize the community.“
Not Just A Coffee Shop
Scooter’s Coffee already had locations in Omaha, Nebraska, and throughout the Midwest with focus on drive-thru. “I was looking to do something much bigger – something for our community that spanned beyond coffee,” said Young. He had his eye on converting an old bank that would not only be a great location for Scooter’s, but had space where people could meet, plan, and work–a true community coffee house.
In March of 2018, the new Scooter’s Coffee opened on Ames Avenue in North Omaha. The Youngs’ goal was to learn everything they could about the business without being overwhelmed by the immediate financial pressures that come with a new business.
In July, the transition from corporate-owned to franchise began, and by the end of September, they were franchise owners – employing 15 people in the community.
In addition to providing jobs, the store is fulfilling the promise Young set out to do – bringing the community together. His Scooter’s Coffee has been a catalyst for community events, community meetings, and meetings such as “Coffee with a Cop.”
Since opening the franchise, the couple has also launched Urban Coffee Partners, L.L.C., the organization’s goal is to help entrepreneurs in economically distressed areas become business owners.
Entrepreneurship-Based Show ‘Hustle’ is Coming to Viceland
Viceland is taking a dip into the startup space with its newest show, Hustle. Just wrapping up production in New York City, the series stars John Henry, a Dominican-American business owner and investor who by 26 has already sold his first company and launched a venture capital fund named Harlem Capital.
The premise of the show is surrounding the new entrepreneur and what it takes to successfully launch a company and get it off the ground. Henry seeks out other New Yorkers, like himself, and helps them turn their business into startups with true potential, pinpointing the exact issues holding them back. He gives them guidance, direction, and resources but, not without putting them to the test. His goal is to set them up with opportunities for their businesses that could potentially catapult them, but it really is up to them whether they sink or rise to the challenges.
So why did Henry take on the challenge of mentoring entrepreneurs in a docu-series format? “When Beth Greenwald originally came to me with the essence of this idea, I knew I wanted to be involved,” says Henry, “We were both passionate to produce and deliver an authentic look at the entrepreneurial journey. Silicon Valley’s narrative has been well documented. But what about the entrepreneurial journey of the rest of the country? And particularly, diverse business owners and entrepreneurs whose perspective has often been overlooked. Thus, Hustle was born.
Hustle puts Henry’s mission of empowering diverse young entrepreneurs on its feet and as he states, “gives the world a new perspective.” That mission has attracted two celebrity entrepreneurs and bona fide New York success stories as executive producers: 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, musician, producer, actress, best-selling author, and activist Alicia Keys and multiple award-winning chef and restaurateur, TV personality, best-selling author and philanthropist Marcus Samuelsson. The show premieres Feb. 10.
Get Noticed With These Facebook Content Distribution Tips
Facebook and Facebook ads are by and large one of the best marketing mediums available. They have been for a long time because they provide a pretty substantial return on investment. The Facebook platform is set up to be user-friendly, but there are so many options it can be easy to miss some of the ones that are most effective. When you create content, you want to get it out to the audience, and you want to use it to grow your audience. The only way to do this is to distribute and promote your content. The Facebook platform is one of the best ways to do this. It offers billions of active daily users who are available to view your content, and that is a lot of potential. So what is the best way to accomplish this? There are some secret hacks to successfully distributing your content with Facebook and Facebook ads.
The following tips will help you get noticed and expand your digital footprint.
Make Sure Your Content Is Relevant
You need to ensure your content is relevant and valuable to the audience. Answer commonly asked questions or solve a problem for the reader. Remember, your content also needs to be engaging. People tend to concentrate on posting consistently and forget to ensure their content is engaging. If your content is video, try to keep it less than ninety seconds long. Make it straightforward and include a call-to-action so your audience knows what you want them to do next. As you post consistently, you will start to get an idea of which content works best.
Evaluate The Metrics
Metrics are vital because they give you direction for your future content. Facebook provides massive amounts of data you can use on and off the platform. Analyze all this content and break everything down by posts to see what is performing best. If you used video, keep an eye on the watch time. Your goal should be a watch time of ten seconds or longer. You’ll be able to view the Likes, the Shares, and so much more. Break everything down into easily digestible chunks, and see what type of content is performing best. See whether or not it has images or infographics. Take the time to study everything about your top performing content so you can create similar content for future posts.
Boost Performing Content Accordingly
You’ll want to amplify the best performing content on Facebook. The first couple of steps is aimed more at organic traffic which is necessary for your success. When you know which content performs well, you have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t. It is also important to note that Facebook prompts you to boost under-performing posts. You should ignore this advice and promote the best-performing content that is in line with your strategy’s goals.
You also want to boost posts through the Ads Manager, and not the big blue boost post button. This method allows you to select specific audiences, split-test criteria, and have better control over your parameters. Facebook will let you choose your goal based on awareness, consideration, or conversion. Pick the one best suited to your content strategy. Now select your audience, placement, and budget in the ad creation steps. Don’t forget to review how your content will appear in mobile and desktop news feeds before you boost and adjust accordingly. You can promote your content for as little as one dollar per day.
Simply put, Facebook is one of the most effective marketing platforms created, aside from Google search. So it makes sense to use Facebook as one of your primary marketing channels. However, there are some secrets to a successful Facebook marketing campaign. Using the information provided here today, you should easily be able to get ahead of your competition and get noticed quickly (all while expanding your digital footprint).