Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don't Go To Work Without Your...Lipstick?

Leaving for the office or running to an important client meeting? Take time to throw on some mascara and lipstick. A fascinating study by Nancy L. Etcoff and othersfrom the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital shows why.
Etcoff et al suggest that it’s worth the extra few minutes it may take to put on your game face before heading into work. They examined the effect of women’s makeup on four factors that were judged by men and women in the study:
  • Likeability
  • Attractiveness
  • Competence
  • Trustworthiness
Respondents in the study – men and women – were shown photos of the same woman with varying amounts of color cosmetics, with looks from “natural” to “professional” to “glamorous,” and were then asked to rate the woman on the four factors above.  To no one’s surprise, women with more makeup were found to be more attractive and in most cases more likeable.

Makeup = Competence

But what about competence and trustworthiness?  Here’s the surprise: respondents who studied the photos for both brief periods and for an unlimited amount of time all found the version with more makeup to appear more competent. Yep. More competent.
And those who studied the photos for a brief time also judged the women with more makeup to be more trustworthy than the same women with the natural look. Unlike with competence, however, given a longer look respondents downgraded the trustworthiness of the photos with the “glamorous” makeup and selected those with the “professional” look as most trustworthy.

The Feminist View

Decades ago, as the feminist revolution was in full swing and I was starting my own career, I would have gasped and railed at these research findings. Though a fan of lipstick and stiletto heels myself, I would have been outraged that we women were judged on our competence by our makeup. How superficial! How unfair!
I now take a more mellow view, however, and think of what were to happen if roles were reversed. What if men were making 70 cents on the women’s dollar. Would they then have the right to cry: How unfair! Women get to wear makeup and just by putting on a little lipstick, they’re judged to be more competent!
Today, where I come out is pretty simple: wear makeup in a way that enhances your look if you like and understand that it will influence what people think. Or don’t choose makeup if that’s your choice. It’s all good.
Beauty may be skin-deep. Or in the eye of the beholder. Or come from within. Competence and trust, a little less so, perhaps. I’ve come to believe authenticity trumps them all. Being yourself is the best makeup.

This article is a repost of a feature posted by sandystyer on

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Say the name “Suze Orman” and you immediately know what you’re in for: tough, honest, plain talk about how to get your finances back in order—whether you’re reading one of her bestselling books, watching her on TV or listening to her on your drive-time radio hour. You also know what you’re NOT getting: you won’t get a fashion line, you won’t get her latest single, you won’t hear about how she’s taking acting lessons or going into rehab.
You’ll also get something that’s hard to come by these days: authenticity.
Says Orman’s literary agent, Amanda Urban, about her decision to hire an unknown how-to author when she didn’t represent how-to authors, let alone unknown authors, at the time,:“She had such an authentic voice, and that’s because she completely cares about what she is doing…”
Orman, whose story of going from struggling as a waitress on $400 a month to becoming the author of nearly a dozen bestselling books on personal finance is the stuff of legends, has helped millions of personal investors—most of them women—through her various television, radio and live events all over the country. The little girl who, because of a serious speech impediment, never thought she’d amount to anything, the former waitress who, after getting customers at her restaurant to invest thousands of dollars in her idea for opening her own eatery lost it all to an unethical financial broker, has succeeded in becoming what Investor’s Business Daily calls “one of the most popular self-help financial advisers in America.”
She is also one of the most popular personal brands on the market today. And she is not alone—many modern, successful women today are also very modern, successful personal brands. From Oprah Winfrey to Martha Stewart, from Condoleezza Rice to Nancy Pelosi, from Madonna to Beyonce, women as brands is nothing new.
There are, however, three critical lessons we take from Suze Orman’s playbook for branding success in the marketplace.
Brand Strategy #1: Compassion. I have always believed that people do not care what you know until they know that you care.  Make sure that people understand why you do what you do.  If your colleagues and clients can relate to you, they are more likely to trust you and want to stick with you.
Brand Strategy #2: Credibility. Never underestimate the power that increased education can have in reinventing your brand, especially if you are making a career change.  Education can come in many different formats, but it is important nonetheless.  Suze clearly worked diligently to develop her skill set and expertise.  Passion, while important, is not enough.  You must invest the proper resources in order to become an expert in your space.  If you want to earn more, learn more.
Brand Strategy #3: Consistency.  Understand exactly what it is of value that you bring to the marketplace.  The “it” that you bring forms the foundation of your brand equity.  From there, make sure you evaluate what you do, say, and offer through the filter of your brand objectives.  Suze Orman is very consistent with the nature of her brand message.  When you become more consistent in what you deliver and how you deliver it, you actually teach others what to think about you and the value of your personal brand.
To learn more strategies about how you can develop a compelling and profitable brand in the marketplace, please check out ME University: The Ultimate Business and Branding Bootcamp, sponsored by Black Enterprise.

Repost of an article in Black Enterprise Magazine 

Audrey Griffin's - The Day I Took Off My Cape

The Day I Took Off My Cape is a brilliant guide for today’s active and multifaceted woman. An offshoot of her celebrated blog site Remove Your Cape, the debut book is an exciting chronicle of Audrey’s personal experiences, adventures, tips and techniques for leading a fulfilled and balanced life. A valuable handbook for power moms and CEOs alike, the book is an empowering tool for women who want to achieve greater family, career, and personal balance.
Covering everything from parenting and family management to relationships and personal growth, The Day I Took Off My Cape encourages women to remove their cape and let go of superhero mindsets and behaviors. Through simple, yet useful strategies, Audrey provides readers with the keys to take charge of their lives. Her messages are clear and focus on how women can reclaim their sanity, enhance their quality of life, and effectively manage the demands of family, work, and more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Power of Networking!

Women In the Spotlight Goinglobal, Inc.

On August 27, 2011 -Women In the Spotlight Goinglobal, Inc., launched its on-line networking group to a packed audience of women at a brunch with life coach and keynote speaker Valorie Burton.  Women in the Spotlight Goinglobal is an online networking community of professional women from across the country that provides motivation, empowerment and entrepreneurial support.  Talk about the power of using social media to change and empower the lives of women!

Would You Hire Yourself?

Think about what you offer: if you’re a business owner, think about your product or service; if you’re in a career, think about what you do on the job.
  • If you were a company that was looking to hire in your field, are you sure you’re the best candidate?
  • If you were a manager that was deciding on bonuses and promotions, would you select yourself?
  • If you were a customer in need of the product or service that you provide, would you buy from yourself?
Whether or not you can say a confident YES to any of these is something within your control. The volatile economy is outside your control. It might seem like competition is super tight and there are fewer opportunities, but even if that’s true, you can increase your competitiveness for the opportunities that remain. Rather than spending time feeling anxious or blaming difficult external circumstances, reframe your focus around what you can proactively do to help yourself: What can you contribute? It is not helpful to offer a laundry list of skills and ask a prospective employer or customer to figure out where you fit. That puts the work back on them. Instead, get to know the company you want towork for (or the client you want to land) and talk to them in their language about their problems and about your solutions. When you offer your marketing expertise to a prospective company/ client, know how they do marketing currently, where they are stumbling, and talk specifically about how your marketing could contribute to them. How will people know about you? In the above example, you’re talking firsthand about your contribution, which really is the best way to ensure that you are able to share everything you offer in the best light possible. This implies that you are meeting with decision-makers and having substantive conversations. If your job search or business marketing consists of sending out resumes or marketing pieces and hoping people will call you, then you are hoping people happen to get to know you. You need to be out and about and talking to people directly.
When people are ready for you, will they be able to find you? The best relationships develop over time. When you meet a decision-maker, they may value your contribution but the timing may not be right – maybe they are in the middle of trying a different solution, maybe they don’t have a budget or resources to shift gears. This could change in a month or several months later or in a year, but will they think of you then? You need to stay front of mind consistently over time, not just in fits and starts. For a business, this might mean sending out a regular newsletter or posting regular updates to social media. For a job seeker, this means contacting your network on a regular basis to stay on their radar.
I hear many people who say they want to work for Google, Amazon, Viacom, insert brand name company/ client here. But what are you doing to make yourself attractive to these places?
Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling and financially-rewarding career paths, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters.

This is a repost of a feature from

Monday, September 5, 2011

Don't Settle

Dear Friend,

The very definition of faith requires that you "hope for" something. As I coach others, and in my own personal experience, I've noticed how often people downsize their dreams. And many do it for so long, that settling for less becomes a habit. Can you relate? When you stop hoping, you start settling. You begin to settle for a downsized version of your real dream. What have you stopped hoping for, out of fear that you won't get it? In what ways has "settling" crept in and buried a hope for something better?
As life brings disappointments or failures, it can be tempting to stop hoping for some of the things you truly want. If you're not hoping for anything, you don't need faith.

This week, I feel compelled to tell you, "Don't settle!". Ask yourself : 

What do I need to start hoping for again?

Perhaps it is for a relationship, or that you can lose the weight, balance your life, or take that leap of faith you've always wanted to take. Maybe you've stopped hoping for a better financial situation and started to settle for less than your best. Maybe you've given up on your dream of one day having a family or reconciling with a loved one. Whatever the case for you, I dare you to dream a bigger dream, and refuse to give up hope.

I'm not talking about setting up false expectations that set you up for heartache and disappointment. I'm talking about renewing the goals, desires and vision that speak to you deep within your spirit. Hope energizes. It inspires. It motivates. Sometimes we don't get what we hope for when we want it, but when we stop hoping altogether, we cease to do the things that will bring our dreams to life. The key is to balance your hope for the future with the decision to enjoy the present.

My challenge to you this week:  
Stop settling. Be true to yourself and your desires by giving yourself permission to hope for something more.

Journaling assignment: 
What have you stopped hoping for - for fear you will not get it? What is it time for you to start hoping for? Consider the five key areas of your life: Relationships, Finances, Work, Health and Spiritual Life. Then stretch your faith by resizing the dreams you've previously downsized!  

Until next time,  

This article is a re-post of a feature written by Valorie Burton.  For more information on Valorie Burton, please check out her website at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get it done!

Dear Friend,

What have you been putting off?  Almost all of us do it from time to time.  I'm convinced that procrastination is one of the biggest causes of stress.  You have something you know needs to be done.  Often, it's not even something difficult.  But you've made it difficult in your mind, and as a result, you never get started.  Instead, you do everything else you can think of - wash dishes, organize your files, surf the internet, check email - rather than the thing you actually need to do.  Perhaps you're even procrastinating right now.  It drains your energy and wastes precious time.

This week, I challenge you to focus your energy and just do what needs to be done.  There are two antidotes to procrastination:

1.     Drop the goal or project, and don't do it.
2.      Exercise some discipline, and just go ahead and do it.

Sometimes procrastination is a sign that you don't want or need to do the thing you're dreading, in which case Option 1 is a good choice (this does not apply to filing taxes, paying bills, picking kids up from school, etc.).  At other times, procrastination is a sign of perfectionism, stubbornness or lack of self-discipline, all of which you have the power to change.  If this is the category you relate to, Option 2 is your best choice.  Don't make the task or project a big deal.  Break it into smaller pieces and just get started.

So what is it that you need to do?  Don't wait for inspiration, just start.  You don't have to "feel" like doing something to do it.  Often, in the process of starting, your mood develops.  And even if it doesn't, the feeling you have after completing something you didn't want to do is well worth it.

My challenge to you this week:
Stop procrastinating.  Get it done!

Until next time...
Warm wishes, 

Valorie's Signature 
For more information on Valorie Burton please visit her website @

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Importance of Women Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship matters. Its benefits are many, from rewarding problem solving, organizational, and leadership abilities, to fostering creativity and engendering empowerment. Not the least of its merits is the significant boost it gives to the economy.
Approximately ten and a half million American women run their own businesses. Their endeavors account for the creation of approximately twenty-three million jobs and three trillion dollars added to the U.S. economy. Ironically, as Nell Merlino, the founder and president of the non-profit Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, has pointed out, the White House report on the status of American women released early this year surveyed employment data, yet remained silent on women-owned businesses.
For American women, who represent the primary or co-breadwinner in nearly two-thirds of this country’s families, entrepreneurship is clearly a meaningful option that can offer greater income as well as more varied lifestyle choices. In lower-level GDP countries, entrepreneurship can provide a way out of poverty for women faced with few other opportunities. It may also lead to greater personal autonomy and a route around discriminatory practices. In fact, some experts believe that greater female economic independence promotes geopolitical stability and world peace. If so, it might just be time to firm up that business plan you’ve been dreaming about.

Think you’re ready to save the world?  See how your business idea measures up with the $20 Starbucks Test!
Originally posted by Sheri J. Caplan on August 18, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Career Stalled? 5 Ways To Reboot

Dear Friend,

Do you feel as though your career has hit a standstill?  Are the promotions slower or your career in need of a jumpstart? How do you break through to the next level?  Try these five steps to reboot:
1.Fall in love with your job again.
By the time you feel stagnant, there is a good chance any love affair you had with your job is over.  You may be bored. Perhaps you're frustrated or have even become complacent.  Do an honest gut check. If unbeknownst to you, someone who didn't know the situation had observed you at work last week, would they say you have the passion, skills and attitude to break through to the next level?  You've got to make a decision to approach your job with the energy you would if you were a brand new hire looking to prove yourself.  Even though you want to go to the next level, your proving ground is the level where you are.  If you can't be in the job you want right now, make a decision to maximize the job you're in.  

2. Fine tune relationships.
Many people who find themselves stuck have never accepted the truth that it's not just what you know, it's WHO you know.  Don't resent it, embrace it.  Then make a plan to build relationships. Reach out.  Listen.  Observe and learn from those who are progressing more quickly. People get promoted, in large part, because of the effectiveness of their relationships - how well you lead, how people respect you, how inspired they are to follow you, how you make them FEEL.  Key questions:  1) Do people leave your presence feeling better or feeling worse?  Also, consider doing what HR departments do for performance reviews - get 360-degree feedback.  Get feedback from your bosses, peers, customers and subordinates.  It's hard to hear criticism, but if you learn from it, a few adjustments can catapult you to the next level.  Don't take anything personally.  Glean every bit of truth you can from criticism.
3.  Set new clear, specific goals.
Where exactly do you want to be in one year?  Be clear, specific.  What position?  What type of responsibilities? How much income? And what do you want LESS of?  Then identify specific steps - doable steps - to get you there.  If you don't know what they are, actively seek the answers - from inside or outside the company, from books and articles, from role models who are already where you want to be, and from anywhere credible that you can find the info.  Don't set only big goals and hold your breath until you reach the finish line.  Establish the milestones on the journey to the goal.  And research shows you will be more effective if you give yourself the flexibility to adjust your goal and your strategy for reaching it as you progress. 
4. Understand the big picture.
What does your company want from you right now?  If you're unclear, ask. Your goals and your desire to get to the next level are not just about you getting unstuck, it is about you making a contribution to the company's vision.  Understand the company's bottom line and your position's role in contributing to that bottom line.  Being a team player is absolutely essential to getting unstuck in a corporate environment.   

5. Close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
It's possible you can reboot your career at your current place of employment.  But many workers have found the door is shut to promotion.  The company is determined to hire from the outside or the company itself is at a standstill.  You need to understand whether that's the case, and if so, you need to reclaim your career by coming up with alternatives.  Do you need to transition to another department or another company?  Are you in a field that is stagnant and need to find a sub-field in which your skills are coveted (i.e., newspaper reporters who've moved into PR or marketing; teachers who move into corporate training, family doctors who go to work for health-related companies).  Be willing to make a BIG move to reboot your career.  First, plan your work.  Then work your plan.    

Make a decision to reboot your career by being honest with yourself,  taking a look at it with fresh eyes.   Identify the most important change you could make that would shake things up and take you to the next level.

Think of a wise person who has already made it to or beyond the level you want to be in your career. What is the most powerful piece of advice you imagine s/he would give you right now?  Is it time for you to take that advice?
Until next time...
Warm wishes, 

Valorie's Signature

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Carve Out Time for the People That Matter Most

"No man on his death bed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'" - The late Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts

Dear Friend,

When I moved to Maryland in 2003, my father serendipitously received a promotion to move from Colorado to nearby northern Virginia. We had not lived in the same city since I graduated from high school and I was excited that he'd be just 20 miles away. Despite the close proximity, we both noticed something: We didn't actually see one another as often as we'd thought we would.  

Have you ever noticed that life sometimes gets so busy that it gets in the way of what you say is most important? It's in those moments, that you must reassess your priorities and make sure your schedule reflects them. If you aren't intentional about how you spend your time, it will slip through your fingers without bringing you some of the experiences that make your life rich and fulfilling.  

To make sure we made time together a priority, Dad and I decided to set a standing appointment. On Fridays, we met for lunch. Same place. Same time. And on the occasions when one of us couldn't make it, we made it a point to see each other at some other time. Our lunch dates ensured that we never became so busy that we'd go for weeks, living in the same metro area, without visiting with each other face to face. We visited at other times, too, of course, but we didn't rely on happenstance and special occasions to see each other regularly.  I now live in Atlanta, and I am intentional about spending time with my family here. 

This week, I invite you to take a moment to consider the people with whom you most want to spend time with on a regular basis. Then carve out some time and put strong boundaries around it. There is so much vying for your attention that you must be intentional about making time for your relationships. I make it my rule to visit with my family here in Atlanta and South Carolina regularly.  I also have a few friends with whom I get together once a month or so. If we don't set a date, one of us calls the other to say, "Hey, it's time for us to get together."  

To some, it may seem ridiculous to set appointments with yourself and the people you care about. Instead, I see it as a way to honor your most important relationships. In a world in which there is always something calling for your attention, it is essential that you take control of how you spend your time and put boundaries around the time that's meant for your most important priority - your relationships. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 
  • Invite friends or family over once a month for an old-fashioned Sunday dinner.
  • Eat breakfast or dinner together as a family.
  • Choose a weekly "date night" for you and your spouse or significant other.
  • Have a "game night" with your children or friends.
  • Choose a favorite pastime and schedule regular time to enjoy it with someone you want to spend time with consistently.
  • Set a standard for how often you want to see loved ones who do not live in your area. Honor your standard by taking out your calendar and marking the dates.
  • Carve out regular time just for you. Just as it is important to make time for the important people in your life, it's important to make time just for you, too!
  • Come up with your idea by brainstorming with the person you want to carve out time for!
Living an inspired life means aligning your true priorities with your day-to-day actions. When you make time for your relationships, you'll notice that other less meaningful activities may fall by the wayside. Take a deep breath and let them go. You can't be all things to all people. Carve out time for the people who matter most to you. Enjoy!

Journaling assignment:  
With whom do you need to be more intentional about spending quality time? When, how and how often would you like to spend time with them?

My challenge to you this week: 
Carve out time in your schedule for the people who matter most to you. Make that time sacred by setting boundaries around it that cannot be infringed upon by work, other people or less significant priorities.

Until next time...

Warm wishes, 
Valorie's Signature

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who Am I Meant To Be?

Forget your career. Forget your role as a mother or a wife. Forget how much money you make or how successful you are. If you're struggling with the question "Who am I meant to be?", this quiz can help you figure out what really defines you. Based on personality science, I have identified seven "striving styles," modes of thought and behavior that direct us to seek satisfaction in different ways. Although everybody is wired with all seven styles, most people have one that dominates. When you engage this innate style, you've got the best shot at fulfilling your potential; when you don't, you can feel stuck.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What Career Women Can Learn From Oprah Winfrey the years, one of the role models I’ve eagerly observed from afar has been Oprah Winfrey. Her abilities as a female entrepreneur are what inspired me to leave the confines of corporate America and start my own consulting company focused on helping women succeed in their careers. And there are a lot of lessons career women can learn from Oprah.
Ms. Winfrey defied the odds stacked against her in life and used her abilities as an entrepreneur to take Harpo, Inc. from a small, five-person production company to a 430-person multimedia conglomerate. “Today, she is one of a handful of black billionaires across the globe; her net worth estimated at $2.5 billion” (Alleyne, 2008).
Born to unmarried parents, a miner father and a mother who worked as a maid, Oprah’s early years were filled with abuse, loneliness, and heartache. But what she was forced to overcome became a driving force for making Oprah what she is now, an incredible entrepreneur and mentor to women and men around the world.
“Her unprecedented success in American business serves as the undisputed blueprint for many minority entrepreneurs. Her leadership has broken down barriers; her business instinct the stuff of legend; and her innovation unprecedented. She has spent her entire career beating the odds – and has inspired millions of business-minded minorities in the process” (Allyne, 2008).
What career women can learn from Oprah:
  • Sometimes it pays not to “over plan” things: Oprah claims not to be much of a strategist; rather, “she asserts that divine inspiration, not strategic planning, is the key to her company’s success: ‘I haven’t planned one thing – ever. I have just been led by a strong instinct, and I have made choices based on what was right for me at the time’” (Allyne, 2008).
  • Demonstrate a strong work ethic: While Oprah worked as a news anchor she also took on the responsibilities as host of a morning television talk show. Throughout her career, Oprah has never shied away from hard work, she welcomes it.
  • Don’t be afraid to be an entrepreneur: Her entrepreneurial mind-set and willingness to take risks has paid off by propelling her forward throughout her career. She sought out opportunities as an actress, invested in start-up businesses, such as Oxygen, an independent cable network for women, and most recently, launched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
  • Create a moral-support network: Oprah created a cheering squad with people such as her best friend, Gayle King, and Stedman Graham, who helped her during difficult and lonely times in her career.
  • Create a professional-support network: Over the years Oprah has built up a professional network and been able to reach out to some of the most successful business people in the world for help or advice. In turn, she has also given back to others such as helping Barack Obama with his political campaign for president.
  • Lead and inspire others: Oprah’s leadership style demands that nothing be taken for granted. “I don’t yell at people, I don’t mistreat people, I don’t talk down to people. Treating people with respect is the most important thing to me. It’s not just talk” (Allyne, 2008).
Oprah has been a wonderful role model for myself and for women all around the world because she has demonstrated the key traits necessary to achieve your dreams. She has proven that it does not matter from where you come; what matters is where you want to go, how you get yourself there, and how you treat people along the way. She has shown me that to be a successful entrepreneur takes courage and the ability to try new things, even in the face of uncertainty.

But what I will probably always remember is that she has become more than a talk show host and more than a business woman – she is a mentor to women around the world.

Follow Your Passion, Not Your Fears

How I learned to thrive in my midlife crisis.



One year ago, I found myself at a midlife cross-road and almost-crises. After 15-plus years working at PR Newswire, one of the largest commercial newswire services, I had come to the end of the professional road. Reaching a vice presidential position a few years earlier, I was left with zero opportunity for personal advancement, nearly no challenges and, not least, a company-wide feeling of questionable growth ahead.
To be fair, the company was an incubator of many years of passion, growth, learning and exploration; it would not be fair for me to describe things as negative. But, the time had come for me to make a major leap of faith and choose a new path.

Naturally, I was terrified. But why? I was someone who somehow survived losing a mom at 20 to a hotel fire, recovered from a defeated marriage of 11 years by packing up and planting myself in a new city where I knew no one (New York), and witnessed the two-year slow-death of my father, which was caused initially by a root canal infection.

For years, I had been an accomplished sales, business development and marketing professional. When not working, I poured myself into various causes (women's advancement and leadership, entrepreneurship, environmental programs), as well as always being a go-to person for those looking for new jobs, connections, nonprofits to support and even potential life partners.

There was absolutely no reason I couldn't grasp what my future could be. The question was how could I take this turning-point, bottle it up and somehow monetize it? For the previous few years, I had taken an active interest in corporate social responsibility and in my spare time I kept up-to-date with the industry and attended conferences when possible. My last position at my old employer was helping the company determine what CSR communications services to offer its corporate clientele.

Thankfully, due to (1) solid and wonderful friendships; (2) a very supportive partner; (3) my ability to reach out to, and connect with, anyone online; and (4) with my voracious appetite for research, I was able to form a new path and strategy. Today, looking back at the last 12 months, I feel at peace with the decision and road I chose.

I've found my new direction and its one of excitement and challenge each and every day. Currently, I am a senior vice president at Fenton, the country's leading public interest communications firm. The firm has a 30-year history of helping make positive social change happen working with organizations, NGOs, nonprofits, government and individuals. My role is to lead our corporate responsibility practice and help market our good work to the overall public interest sector. Each day I'm blessed with working alongside some of the most passionate and brilliant thought-leaders, each making a difference in the work they do.

My thirst for creating innovation and developing new initiatives is satisfied. I feel challenged and motivated and look forward to continuing the enriching work we have ahead of us. I'm now paid to do what I'm passionate about. How rewarding is that?

For those prone to doing some reflecting on their summer weekends and vacations, I highly suggest that you consider following your passions and don't throw in the towel continuing with a job that is less than enriching or invigorating. We are blessed today with amazing technological resources and social media that provide us the opportunity to connect with almost anyone on the planet. Whether through the power of Twitter, Skype or Facebook, or joining one or two of the thousands of professional groups on LinkedIn, we now have the ability to gather new information and insight in minutes and hours rather than days.
I'm not saying its easy, but it is possible. There are webcasts, webinars, podcasts, conferences and symposiums presented on every subject imaginable. You have the power and tools to make change happen. Although one year ago I may have argued on this point, it is truly never to late too pick up and start-over.

Susan McPherson is a senior vice president at Fenton, the nation's leading public interest communications firm, where she focuses on corporate responsibility programs for the firm's clientele and regularly writes and speaks on sustainability communications and the value of public/private partnerships. She also serves on the board of Bpeace, an organization dedicated to assisting women in regions of conflict and post-conflict start businesses. She also is a member of Echoing Green's Social Investment Council and the New York Leadership team for 85Broads.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Got an M.B.A.? Great, but I Prefer Uncommon Sense

This interview with Byron Lewis Sr., the chairman and chief executive of the UniWorld Group, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Comcast Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program

DreamIt Fall 2011 in Philadelphia will include a special track, the Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP) sponsored by Comcast. The MEAP has been created to expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. Up to five qualifying companies / entrepreneur teams will be selected by Comcast and DreamIt for participation in this track. The MEAP will feature Comcast employees and others from the minority business community as mentors, as well as special events and curriculum specifically designed for minority businesses, in addition to all of the benefits and services provided to other participants in DreamIt Fall 2011. You can read more about the MEAP here. In order to be eligible to participate in the MEAP, your company must be at least 50% owned by members of your founding entrepreneur team who are African American, Asian American, Latino American or Native American (before taking into account the equity interest to be issued to DreamIt and Comcast in connection with your participation in DreamIt Fall 2011 - for more information on that, please see our FAQ), and such founding entrepreneur team (including their relative ownership interests, again without taking into account the equity interests to be issued to DreamIt and Comcast ) must be maintained throughout the duration of DreamIt Fall 2011. Accordingly, you will be required to provide information regarding the ethnicity, race, citizenship and ownership of your founders in your application to the MEAP; provision of this information is entirely voluntary, but you cannot be considered for the MEAP without it. If you choose not to provide this information, your application will still be considered for participation in DreamIt Fall 2011, but not as part of the MEAP. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Breathe" Based on the life story of Angela Burgin Logan

WITS is proud to announce the film based on the life story of Angela Burgin Logan - “Breathe” has been selected to the American Black Film Festival! The film stars Robin Givens, Elise Neal, Miguel name a few You can also see the film's trailer at And please visit the Official Breathe Website at

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The First 3 Stages of Starting a Business

Starting a business is a big deal—a big, exciting deal that comes with an endless to-do list and a steep learning curve. And as a new entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in the process, overwhelmed by the details, and lose focus of the big picture. You can make a whole business out of setting up your business, but too much detailed planning can seriously get in the way of really getting started!

The biggest favor that you can do yourself is to focus your time and energy on getting through these three critical stages, and learning as you go.

1. Get Your Product Out There

It’s tempting to fuss and fret until your offering is just right—a perfect package of your talent, vision, and potential. Guess what? It’ll never happen. Or at least not at the start. And here’s why: your product or service won’t be perfect until you get some honest feedback from the marketplace.

You need feedback from real customers and actual sales data to validate your assumptions. So, just get it out there! There’s no point in perfecting something people don’t want, or a feature they won’t use. Until you’re in the marketplace, you’re flying blind.
→ The Lesson: It won’t be perfect, but that’s OK!

2. Get Someone to Buy It

You may be crystal clear on why your goods are much better than the competition. But knowing that fact yourself and getting someone else to realize it are two completely different things. People will only pay for your product or service if they believe it’s worth it, which means that you need to demonstrate the value you offer in a compelling way. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and understand their pains. How does your offering help them? And what’s the best way to show them that? Fleshing out your key messages and how to communicate them in a clear and relevant way to your clients will be crucial to your success.
→ The Lesson: It must be valuable and it’s up to you to prove it!

3. Figure Out How to Improve It

This is the most important stage of all. It’s all about using what you’ve learned to make your offering even stronger. Being a successful entrepreneur means being comfortable with refinement and reinvention. There’s no room for pride, and there’s no point in trying to have all the answers.

So open yourself up to feedback. Solicit input and ideas. It’s important to be committed to the idea and not the details. Receive good suggestions with enthusiasm, not reluctance. In a fluid and fast-moving marketplace, learning to be adaptable will be your best tool for survival.
→ The Lesson: Your work is never done, but that’s what makes it FUN!

These stages may take one week or one year, but not until you’ve done all of these steps are you truly “in business.” So,what’s the hold up? We can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Success is Right Under Your Nose - Valorie Burton

Week 21:  Success is Right Under Your Nose
Dear Friend,

I feel led this week to give you a few words of inspiration about how your words can propel you to success rather than sabotage your efforts. Success often comes to those who know what to say, when to say it and how to say it. Those with talent who don't communicate effectively often never get the satisfaction of fulfilling their potential. Are you a wise communicator?

In the busyness of life and work, we can sometimes forget the impact of our words. A few words spoken hastily can ruin a relationship or an opportunity. So can a few words gone unspoken. Sometimes the people around you need to hear you speak clearly about where you stand on certain issues or how you feel about them. The missing piece that will solidify success is in your relationships, job or entrepreneurial endeavors may be right under your nose! I have five simple ideas to share with you this week about the words that come out of your mouth: 

1.  Learn when to be quiet.
Some of us are more inclined to speak than others, but those who find the most success are often those who know when to be quiet. There may be a situation in your life right now that is hindered and not helped by more talking. Don't be afraid of silence. Sometimes life's best answers appear when we are quiet enough to listen. 

2. Give yourself time to think. We have all heard the saying, "think before you speak." Consider this a reminder that it is always wise to consider the impact your words will have after they are spoken. Think of the best way to communicate what you need to say before you even open your mouth. Even when you are in a conversation and must respond immediately, take a few seconds first to gather your thoughts. You will come across as being more thoughtful, and you will feel more confident about what you say. If you need more time to think about how to respond, simply say, "Let me give that some thought."

3. Refuse to murmur and complain.
We can always find something to complain about if we focus on the negative. Make a decision to appreciate the blessings in every situation and refuse to waste your words complaining and murmuring. Instead, ask, "What solution would help me eliminate the challenges I find myself complaining about?" Complaints drain your energy - and the energy of the people around you! Use your words to renew your energy, not deplete it. 

4. Tell me something good!
In the seventies, Chaka Khan had a funky song that became her first hit, "Tell me somethin' good." I still love to sing it when I hear it on the radio. A few of months ago, I wrote a newsletter asking you to ask yourself and others everyday, "What's the best thing that's happened to you lately?" Are you still asking yourself that question regularly? Stay in the habit of acknowledging the good things that are going on, so that you don't find your conversation out of balance and focused solely on the negative realities you may face.

5. Speak your goals into existence.
One of the most common reasons many people never reach their goals is that they don't really believe they can. Not only do they not believe it, but they speak negatively about their chances for success. Sometimes you have to speak your way into believing all that is possible for you. Speak positively about your vision for your life. "I will accomplish my goal by doing XYZ ...". Even if you hear your doubts swirling around in your head ("You can't do that!" "Who do you think you are?!"), refuse to verbalize them. Eventually your thoughts will catch up with your words!
Watch what you say.  Your words have tremendous power.  
Journaling Assignment:
In what way(s) are your words hurting more than helping you?  What specifically will you commit to doing differently this week when it comes to your words?  

Until next time...

Warm wishes, 

Valorie's Signature

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Success - What mom taught Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter

My ideas about how I want to run my business grew out of the way I was raised. None of my successes would have been possible without my family. I may feel frightened or scared or unsure about what I'm supposed to do next, but I have never felt alone. My grandparents emigrated from Trinidad. My mom's mom and dad had seven children; my mom was the baby. The seven children raised their children the way they were raised, so my cousins are like brothers and sisters to me.
I have loved fragrance since I was a small child. I used my allowance to buy perfume, not clothes. I was a huge Prince fan, and I read that he had a fragrance bar on his dresser so he could mix scents. So I found a way to make my own fragrances blending perfume oils.
Over the years, it became something I did to relax. My mother was the one who suggested I start selling my body cream at a church flea market in the summer of 1993.

By the end of that first day, I was pretty much sold out. I made another batch and spent most of that summer at street fairs and flea markets, paying close attention to my customers. I noticed that they were looking for hair products. So I started making things for hair to keep them from walking away from my table.

My day job was in television and film production, but customers started to call me for refills. The weather was too cold for flea markets, so I had them come to my apartment. I continued selling out of my home until 1996, when I was expecting my first child. I quit TV because I knew I couldn't do that, be a mom, be a wife and do this business.
I came up with the name at the very beginning. I made a list of things that I was and a list of things I wanted to become. There were other things on the list, like Robert's daughter and Gordon's girlfriend. But when I said Carol's daughter, I got goose bumps. It sounded right.
My mother and I used to joke about it over the years. She would say, "Have you made enough money for me to sue you for using my name?" When she died, someone at her wake said to me, "It's so wonderful that you honored your mother while she was still here." My mother spent most of her adult life sick. When she was in her early 20s, she was diagnosed with polymyositis. It's a collagen vascular disease, and it attacks the muscles and the nervous system. She never complained, but I can remember times when I would hear her scream because her legs had cramped up. We would have to massage her legs and help her breathe through it.
As I was growing the business, I would sometimes feel overwhelmed. But my mother taught me to smile through adversity, to know that I wouldn't be given the job if I couldn't do it. It's appropriate that the company is named after her.

The other important person in my company's growth is Steve Stoute. He is a hardworking, self-made entrepreneur who began in the music business. He is also a brilliant marketer who has helped me take things to the next level by recruiting celebrity investors and spokesmodels like Jada Pinkett Smith and Mary J. Blige. We wouldn't be in Sephora if I were still on my own. We wouldn't be in Macy's. That's what you give up equity for. You do that to grow.

Carol's Daughter has made other people in the beauty business look at African American consumers in a different way. When I first started to do this, the black products were always at the back of the drugstore on the lower shelves. They were always dusty, dirty and sticky; they looked like nobody ever touched them. That's changing. I can't begin to tell you how amazing it is that my products are in Sephora. It's great to be part of that shift.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Type Of Financing Is Right For Your Business?

A Belle in Brooklyn

Unlike most bloggers who fell into the field of writing, Demetria L. Lucas has been a professional journalist for the better part of her career. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, the English major, who earned her Master’s Degree in Journalism from New York University, started off penning entertainment stories for national magazines but eventually found her voice in the world of relationships in 2007. As the creator of the award-winning blog A Belle in Brooklyn, Lucas, 31, has carved out a lane for herself as the “go-to girl” on relationship advice and issues geared towards women. A licensed life coach, she’s shared her perspective on CNN (Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell), VH1 (Let’s Talk About Pep) and BET (Being Terry Kennedy) and been a guest speaker at Princeton University, Harvard College, Spelman College, and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Continuing to expand her brand beyond the blog platform, Lucas also hosts several annual events—including Brunch with Belle, Cocktails with Belle and the Belle Affair—that are centered around networking and female empowerment. Her latest brand extension is in the world of book publishing with A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-To Girl For Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), which will be released in June. As kicks off its first annual Black Blogger Month, Demetria L. Lucas shares the secrets of her success.

I started blogging because…
I was looking for a place in the media where my friends and I were represented and I wasn’t finding it… I really liked Sex & the City and it had a big impact on me; I felt like so many of the issues that those four women were going through were things that I could relate to but it really bothered me that there were no Black women featured. It was like only White women have these lives, and then you start talking about Black women and dating and it becomes something daunting and tragic instead of fun and adventurous and light… I was waiting around for another show, or a book, or a blog… something to give voice to what I was feeling and it wasn’t happening. So I just started blogging and people started reading, and I kept on writing.
I realized blogging was a business when…
A Belle in Brooklyn logo
Lucas' brand power
I moved my blog [over from a BlogSpot domain] to my own site and maybe four months in I got an email about an interview, and I was like, “Oh, you want to interview me because I have a blog? That's weird.” I realized what I was talking about was more than writing and I was becoming like an outlet for people. It was more about being a writer and providing a safe space… I realized that people depend on me for something and I wasn’t quite sure what that was. I started to do more interviews and I started to get calls [for appearances]. One of the first places I made an appearance was Princeton. They sent me an email through my blog, like, “Hey we’re doing something about female leaders; would you like to come speak to the Black female population?” Then people started paying me to show up places and host. I totally wasn’t expecting it; but I definitely went with it.
Building a brand is important because…
It tells people what they’re going to get before you even open your mouth, before they even click on the page. Like anytime you see the A Belle in Brooklyn logo, whether you see it on Twitter or Formspring or Facebook or you hear of one of the events, Brunch with Belle, Cocktails with Belle… you know that you’re going to be getting something that’s empowering for women, you’re going to get something that’s well written, you’re going to get something that’s classy and uplifting, and you’re going to get something that someone actually took the time to put some thought behind. A brand is how you represent yourself, it means everything.
People trust the A Belle in Brooklyn brand because…
I write about my life; not as much as I used to, but when I do I put it out there flaws and all... I really put it out there and people trust me because it’s relatable, it’s not holier than thou, it’s not disgusting made-for-TV drama. It’s not salacious where it’s sex, sex, sex. I think people relate to it because they know it’s a real woman writing real feelings. And I think my realness is relatable to their lives.
In business, you should never be afraid to…

From blog to book: A Belle in Brooklyn
Say what you want. A lot of times, especially women, we tend to be afraid to ask for what we want. One of the things I’ve been able to do with the blog is to do a bunch of events. Belvedere has sponsored multiple events, Essence has come in and sponsored events, but the idea of that just sounded crazy for some folks, like, “You’re just going to ask them to sponsor your event?” Well, yeah. Some of those things have been entirely easy. Honestly just saying, This is my demo and this is what I want to do, I’ve lined everything up and here it is on a platter I just need XYZ from you to make it hot and then it happens. But asking for what you want, that’s like a really huge thing.
I measure my success by…
I tell you, getting a book deal off my blog was a huge marker—it’s not the only measure of success but, professionally, that was a huge thing. I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. I wanted to be an author as well but that seems so farfetched to writers sometimes and so when I was able to make that happen that was everything. Like, I can’t wait to hold it in my hands and be like, “Oh, my gosh, I wrote this.” It’s great to see things on screen, it’s great to see them in magazines but that’s a collaborative effort that everyone puts together. On the screen it’s not something tangible that you can see, like, you don’t feel the words, you don’t feel the screen but to have a book and to see my name on the spine that’s kind of a big deal.
If you want to know more about Demetria Lucas - check out the rest of the story at