How This Woman Landed Her Gourmet Food Brand at Bloomingdale’s Stores

Genelle Drayton left a 10-year career in sports marketing and entertainment to take the entrepreneurial leap into the culinary industry—a sector where many people of color, particularly women, are underrepresented and underestimated. Drayton’s desire for something more paid off. Not only has Sweet Dames Artisan Confections landed in Bloomingdale’s stores, her mouthwatering gourmet macaroons were voted one of the Top Five Desserts in NYC PopMarkets by MetroNYC. Now she’s also sharing her knowledge and talent to help other “foodpreneurs” by participating in events like the SheChef panel series focused on “The Art of Hustle: Branding, Marketing & Launching Your Product.”

“While I learned a lot within the organization there was no opportunity for growth, said Drayton. I was stagnant. I knew that there was more and I was willing to create a life for myself doing something that I loved, so it was time to go. One day while I was still employed and sitting at my desk, I decided I was going to bake for the holidays and gave away baked goods as gifts. People loved the products and began to place orders with me. Six months later, I took the risk and left corporate America to establish Sweet Dames Artisan Confections.”

Here’s the backstory on how she learned more about the food industry and landed in Bloomingdales, a New York-based high-end department store.

When you made the decision to take a leap of faith, what are the first three things you did to learn about the industry and perfect your craft?

Research, education, and networking. I sought the knowledge of professionals within the industry. I’ve worked with Chef Julian Plyter, who taught me all the necessary steps to establish a legal baking business in New York City, and was his intern. I learned the science of baking and various baking techniques at the Institute of Culinary Education. I’m still perfecting, still learning and discovering ways to improve my business every day.

gourmet

Image credit: Sweet Dames Artisan Confections

Why did you choose gourmet Coconut Macaroons and CocoMallow sandwiches as your niche? 

Initially, when I started my business I was all over the place, custom designed cakes, wedding cakes, custom cookies, you name it I baked it. That, of course, gets old very quickly. My coconut macaroons were always a part of my offerings, but I noticed clients were ordering them as gifts for the holiday season. They appreciated the uniqueness of the product, flavors, and packaging. My event planning experience and relationships in that space definitely helped me. We now offer custom packaging due to an increase in the corporate space.

The idea of the CocoMallow Sandwiches came to me at home, I love the idea of taking something old, traditional, and making it new again with Caribbean flavors and unique pairings. People get really excited about them.

Did you test the market before delving into your business full time? If so, how?

Yes. Pop-up markets were definitely my testing ground. It’s a great way to get your name and product out there, and see how customers respond, what works, what doesn’t.

gourmet

image credit: Sweet Dames Artisan Confections

How did you land an opportunity to sell your macaroons at Bloomingdales? 

Thank God for relationships, I’ve learned over the years the importance of maintaining them. I know someone that works for them, she started her career a few years ago and was promoted to food buyer. She was aware of my brand, loved the product, and invited me in to pitch the company.

What would you say were the top two deciding factors for Bloomingdale’s buyers to accept your product into stores? How did you prove that there was a demand for your product?

The presentation is everything and that’s what definitely drew them in, but they really appreciated the uniqueness of the product and the packaging, I even converted some folks to coconut lovers. The real test was the trunk shows. I sold the product in their 59th street location and did very well, they were very impressed with my numbers. I’ve since sold at both SoHo and 59th Street Bloomingdale locations and will increase over the next few months.

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Slideshow: Everything You Missed at the American Black Film Festival 2018 Including Future, Kofi, and Coogler

If you were seeking to break into the film industry or you love black movies and television shows, the only place to be on this planet was the 22nd Annual Black Film Festival. Held in Miami, the event was sold out—and for good reason.

ABFF Ventures CEO Jeff Friday created the film festival more than two decades ago as the premier professional development and networking platform for African American filmmakers, artists, and industry influencers. This year, filmmakers, producers, and actors sought to elevate themselves within the industry by gaining essential training through a series of master classes taught by seasoned pros, which included “Becoming A Showrunner;” “Film Financing;” and “Nailing Your Audition.” Others gained the inside track through “Business of Entertainment” seminars sessions that demystified film distribution deals; evaluated television writers’ rooms; and shared how Netflix Original Films seeks to diversify talent in front of and behind the camera, among other topics.

Attendees also gained access to premier entertainment and interviews. For instance, HBO, which has been an ABFF partner for 21 years, sponsored the side-splitting Comedy Wings Competition as well as diverse, powerful slate of indies featured as part of its short film competition. Moreover, filmmakers and film lovers alike packed Miami’s New World Center to view an exclusive interview with ABFF alum and filmmaker of the moment: Black Panther Director Ryan Coogler.

SEE ALL THE PHOTOS: 

Sony Pictures Reception at the ABFF Premiere of “Superfly” – June 13, 2018

 

 

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‘Black-Ish’ Creator Kenya Barris and Pharrell to Create Juneteenth Musical

Kenya Barris, the creator of the hit ABC series Black-ish, is teaming up with Grammy Award-winning producer Pharrell Williams to create a stage musical about Juneteenth, a nationally recognized holiday marking the end of slavery for 250,000 African Americans in Texas on June 19, 1865.

Barris will collaborate with fellow Black-ish writer Peter Saji to write the libretto, the text of an opera or musical. Meanwhile, Pharrell will write, compose, and produce the music under his entertainment company I Am Other.

“I dream about projects like this,” Williams said in a statement, according to Deadline. “Kenya and Peter are geniuses and Juneteenth will change culture and change history. We couldn’t sign up fast enough. We are thrilled to collaborate with them.”

Although full details of the musical have not been disclosed, Juneteenth will reportedly focus on two different black families, one set during the Civil War era and the other in modern times.

Barris described working on Juneteenth as one of his greatest aspirations. “The acknowledgment and celebration of Juneteenth as an American and possibly international holiday is something that I would put in the life goals column for me.” He added, “For Peter and me to be able to team up with Pharrell on such an important project like this is something that neither of us in a billion years would have thought possible.”

The context of “Juneteenth” is a familiar topic for Barris. The showrunner frequently addresses issues of racism with humor and creativity on Black-ish. The season four premiere of the popular comedy-drama featured a musical episode based on the emancipation of slaves in 1865 titled “Juneteenth: The Musical.”

“For us, this project isn’t about numbers; it’s about humanity,” said Barris. “Slavery is America’s recessive gene and it’s time we all dealt with it and what better way to have an audience swallow this dose of medicine than with amazing music and raw, honest, jaw-dropping comedy?”

Last month, Barris and his wife Dr. Rainbow Barris donated $1 million to fund a new scholarship at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, to support students studying media, arts, and biology.

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What Songs Would Make the Cut of Your ’90s R&B ‘Love Is’ Spotify Playlist?

In honor of the new show, Love Is____, which premiered last night on OWN, and following suit of the creators, Mara Brock Akil, Salim Akil, and Oprah Winfrey herself, here is a list of our top 10 ’90s R&B songs (and ones from the early ’00s) that would make our overly indulgent Spotify playlist.

Our ’90s R&B Spotify Playlist



 

ABOUT LOVE IS_____

Michele Weaver (Illicit) and Will Catlett (Black Lightning) star in OWN’s new romantic drama Love Is__, from award-winning producers Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, Being Mary Jane, The Game) and Salim Akil (Black Lightning). According to a recent press release, the show is set primarily in 1990s Los Angeles against the backdrop of Black Hollywood. Love Is__ follows Nuri (Michele Weaver) and Yasir (Will Catlett), a couple from seemingly opposite worlds, as they chase their dreams and learn to follow their hearts.

'90s R&B

Michele Weaver and Will Catlett  (Image: Facebook)

 

Told from the perspective of the couple’s present-day selves, the romantic drama also revisits the social issues and vibrant black culture of that time reflecting on how it all aligned to shape the couple they have become nearly 20 years later—a power couple navigating a complex set of social codes while also balancing successful careers and a beautiful family. Drawing inspiration from creators Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil’s own relationship journey, the series explores the highs, the lows, and the magic of falling (and staying) in love.

The OWN show made its debut on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. In case you missed the first episode, or the trailer that reeked of ’90s nostalgia, Brownstone’s “If You Love Me” led us back down memory lane.

Now it’s your turn. What R&B songs from that era would be on your playlist?

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Puma Makes Power Moves, Signs Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, and Jay-Z

Puma is back in the basketball business. The company has announced the signings of top draft prospects Deandre Ayton (Arizona), Marvin Bagley III (Duke), and Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech).

The Ayton signing was announced this week. The projected No. 1 pick in this week’s NBA draft signed a four-year, multimillion-dollar footwear and apparel endorsement deal. Ayton, a native of the Bahamas, shares a Caribbean connection to two of Puma’s biggest ambassadors in Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica and pop star Rihanna of Barbados.

“Puma is pretty popular in the Bahamas,” Ayton said. “I’ve always seen the brand growing up. [Bolt] is one of the first people I saw with the brand. It’s important to me that someone I identify with and admire as an athlete is with the same brand.”

In case competitors in the lucrative athletic shoe and apparel industry didn’t take Puma’s re-emergence into the basketball space seriously, they’ve taken immediate notice now that Jay-Z has joined as the company’s president of basketball operations. “We’ve been working with Roc Nation for quite some time. They’ve been great partners to us for several years. We’ve done many different deals with many different ambassadors,” Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director of brand and marketing, told Complex. When Puma approached him about this opportunity, Jay-Z felt it “was something he wanted to be a part of,” according to Petrick.

 

Check here to read the rest of this story at The Shadow League.

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Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ Stars Celebrate Juneteenth at the James Beard House

Each year, the James Beard House hosts over 200 dinners featuring select world-class chefs who prepare unique tasting menus for guests. However, on Monday, four famed African American cooks from Bravo’s hit reality competition series Top Chef took over the esteemed Beard House kitchen for an unprecedented Juneteenth celebration that honored African American food and culture.

The private dinner was held in New York City at The James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit culinary arts organization named in honor of prolific food writer and cookbook author James Beard, a.k.a. the “Dean of American Cookery.” It was dedicated to the observance of the Juneteenth Independence Day, a nationally recognized holiday that marked the end of slavery for African Americans in Texas and other parts of the South on June 19, 1865. Although slaves were legally free after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it took two years before the news traveled to all parts of the country. As a result, African American slaves were still working on plantations as late as 1865, while 250,000 people were still enslaved in Texas until Union soldiers traveled to Galveston, Texas, to announce that all enslaved people were free.

At the dinner, the chefs presented a collaborative menu inspired by black southern cuisine and their own roots. In addition to paying homage to his ancestors, Chef Chris Scott said the event allowed him to tell “a story of our people through food.” Some of the dishes he made included hoecakes, which date back to the 18th century, and scrabble, a dish that his grandmother used to make consisting of hog offal. However, it was his famous honey butter biscuits that won the night. “In a million years, my grandmother would have never thought that her biscuits would be served at the Beard House on this kind of night,” he told guests following the dinner.

“A lot of chefs are turning back to their roots, especially black folks,” Scott told Black Enterprise in an interview. “All of us are classically trained in French style, Spanish cuisine, and a lot of European cooking methods, but now we’ve come to a point where we’re turning the curve and we’re coming back home, cooking the food of our ancestors, cooking the food that we grew up on.”

Chef Adrienne Cheatham told BE that cooking Juneteenth-inspired dishes at the prestigious James Beard House was an honor that affirms that soul food deserves the same recognition as other acclaimed fares around the world. “James Beard House is acknowledging Juneteenth. That’s a holiday that has been big among black people for years, but it’s never been recognized by a major institution,” said the Top Chef season 15 runner-up.

Chef Brother Luck, the owner of Four By Brother Luck in Colorado, called the Juneteenth dinner a celebration of diversity. “As someone who’s worked my way up from the bottom, it’s really special to be here tonight.” He also touched on his own Cajun and Creole heritage, saying, “If you look at southern cuisine and Cajun and Creole soul food, it was about making the best of what you had and adapting.”

Check out the Juneteenth dishes in the slideshow below.

 

menu

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Freedom vs. Emancipation: The Celebration of Juneteenth

Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, declaring all slaves as legally free, it actually took years before the news traveled to all parts of the country, writes Henry Lous Gates, Jr. in his piece What Is Juneteenth?. It was also harder to enforce the Executive Order in rebellious Southern states like Texas where there were few Union troops. As a result, African American slaves were still working on plantations as late as 1865, while 250,000 people were still enslaved in Texas.

However, on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Gen. Gordon Granger, traveled to Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved people were free. Granger issued the call with “General Order No. 3,” which he read to the people of Texas. It read as follows:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Newly freed slaves rejoiced in the streets following the announcement of the order. In 1866, freedman organized the first June 19, or Juneteenth, celebrations. Today, it is observed in 45 states as a holiday that celebrates freedom. To commemorate the holiday, people engage in customary activities such as barbecuing, rodeos, fishing, prayer services, and baseball games. The day also serves as a time for reflection and an opportunity for Americans to trace their family roots.

For more information about Juneteenth visit www.juneteenth.com and What Is Juneteenth? by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Editor’s Note: This article originally published on June 19, 2017.

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Top Content Creators Ink Historic Deal with SAG-AFTRA to Back Streaming Service

It looks like the actors guild is getting into backing the business of streaming. SAG-AFTRA recently announced that they have reached a historic agreement with ZEUS, the new subscription video on demand streaming service founded by television executive producer Lemuel Plummer and co-founded by social media superstars King Bach, Amanda Cerny, and DeStorm Power.

content creators

CEO/President of Zeus, Lemuel Plummer (Image: Instagram)

 

“We are thrilled to partner with the extraordinary members of ZEUS in providing union coverage for their original and innovative platform. King Bach, DeStorm Power, and Amanda Cerny are amazing content creators whose fresh, exciting voices are breaking new ground in the industry,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “Together we are taking the next, natural step into the future of entertainment production and distribution.”

Combined, the three influencers have an audience of almost 70 million followers across all social media platforms. The agreement will provide coverage for content produced by ZEUS and a pathway to SAG-AFTRA membership for ZEUS content creators. This is amazing news for the creators. This protects them from unfair deals, provided they become a part of the union and provides the basic coverage that productions get for being a part of the union.

“This partnership with SAG-AFTRA will establish ZEUS as a major player in the industry as we launch our network,” says Plummer, CEO and president, ZEUS.

What can we expect content-wise? According to a recent press release, the ad-free streaming service will feature exclusive, premium original scripted and unscripted series and video content conceived, produced by and starring a giant roster of the most popular social media influencers, including Cerny, Power, and Bach. The variety of content will stretch from comedies and dramas to dance, talk, and fitness programs. With the reach of these influencers, there is already a baked in audience totaling over 120 million social media followers.

“From the beginning, David White and SAG-AFTRA’s staff understood our vision of building a platform for creators and by creators, to provide our audiences with a unique streaming experience,” said Power, content creator, partner and co-president, ZEUS. Bach adds, “ZEUS is a game changer for the digital space. We can’t wait to unveil ZEUS to our fans.”

The streaming service will be available July 13th on Apple, Amazon, and Google Play.

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Paak House Partners with Beyond the Streets to Bring Foster Students Access to the Arts

Recently, Anderson .Paak partnered with Beyond The Streets, to provide foster high school graduates from United Friends and The Department of Children and Family Services a day full of creativity, artistry, and empowerment. The event took place at a 40,000-square-feet downtown Los Angeles location comprised of street art, sculptures, and photography curated by graffiti historian Roger Gastman and was brought to the students by the Brandon Anderson Foundation, under the Paak House initiative.

Upon arrival, the students were greeted by notable hip-hop artist Anderson .Paak. Throughout the day they were exposed to a one of a kind gallery experience, which featured the street art of heavy hitters in the graffiti community. Additionally, they had the opportunity to participate in a hands-on workshop with special guest and notable graffiti artist, Slick. At the end of it all, each student was sent off with jackets provided by Levi’s, Netflix subscriptions, a Paak House T-shirt, and top of the line artistry tools.

 

Anderson Paak

Beyond the Streets, Foster High School Graduates with Anderson .Paak, Los Angeles City Commissioner Mike Davis, .Paak House Co-founder and Director Carrie Lyn Taylor (Image: .Paak House)

 

Los Angeles City Commissioner, Mike Davis dropped by and paid a special visit to the installation on behalf of the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and Sen. Holly J. Mitchell to honor Paak House with a proclamation for their outstanding service in the Los Angeles community.

The day concluded with an intimate lunch provided by sweetgreen between the foster students and Anderson Paak. Paak left the students with a supportive message, “whatever you guys are doing keep doing it because it’s gotten you this far and I’m here for all of you, not today but forever. My team is your team so that means Dr. Dre… everyone! We got you all!”

The Brandon Anderson Foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to serve and uplift the youth in underserved communities through financial literacy, music, artistic endeavors, and spiritual wellness. Paak House is deemed a “safe haven” for the next generation, forming key alliances with neighboring organizations to make a larger impact. 

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Entrepreneur and Celebrity Hairstylist of Zendaya Offers Career Advice

Chances are if you’ve ever swooned over Zendaya’s edgy and wavy chopped cut, Laverne Cox’s chic wavy tresses, or Rihanna’s iconic bob, Ursula Stephen was the visionary celebrity hairstylist behind the look. Beyond her celebrated hair work on red carpets, fashion editorial shoots, and concert stages, she’s a Unilever global haircare brand ambassador, and the owner of “Ursula Stephen The Salon” in Brooklyn, New York. And believe it or not, Stephen had her cosmetology license before she had a high school diploma. We caught up with her to get some career advice on leveling up in the industry.

Very early on you knew what you wanted to do in your career. However, did you envision this level of success? And what decisions have enabled you to succeed as a business owner and go-to hair expert?

I never thought that far ahead. Career was a really big word for me. It wasn’t until I got into cosmetology school and started working in salons that I started to see the possibilities. My teachers were very instrumental in this. They opened my eyes to stylists like John Atchinson, who reached levels I didn’t know existed. Saying “yes” is one of the top three ingredients. I always said yes, even when I was unsure of what was to come.

Can you share any traditional career advice you heard as a young adult, but are glad you didn’t follow?

I’ve never really listened to the “you’re young, you have time” advice. I believe the younger, the better. Take opportunities when they are presented to you—it shouldn’t be based on age or statistics. Once seeds are planted, they take time to grow. Find your calling early on and go hard so you can enjoy life.

You work with a lot of celebrities and major brands. What if a client is adamant about a new look but you think it’s a bad idea. How do you say no to a client?

We never say no. The client is always right. There is always a way to marry what they want with what will work, and that’s what makes me #UrsieOnHair.

 

celebrity hairstylist

(Image: Ursula Stephen)

You have an amazing portfolio, which includes your work with diverse hair textures and styles. What are some of the things you’ve done in your career to help you understand the needs of different textured hair types?

I owe that to my teachers. While in school, I was fortunate enough to learn from a diverse group of teachers and that taught me that at the core, it was all about hair. I learned to cut fine hair textures and took those skills and techniques and practiced with friends with textured hair in my mom’s basement. The rest is history.

celebrity hairstylist

Zendaya Met Gala (Image: Ursula Stephen)

What are some of your favorite celebrity hairstyling moments that you’ve recently experienced? I’m still on a high from the Met Gala. I love working with clients that I can push the bar with and that is Zendaya! Her Met Gala look was inspired by the power of Joan of Arc and opulence of Versace, who dressed her that evening. The gown looked like armor and chainmail, so we knew we needed a strong beauty look as well.

When it comes to growing your career, what do you think is the most overlooked skill you need to succeed?

People skills. You should make your clients feel comfortable and want to be around you. You can be one of the best artists, but if you don’t give off positive energy, it’ll be hard to keep the momentum going.

 

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