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Women In Tech Demo Day NYC

Candid WIT Demo Day

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Tech Demo Day NYC hosted by Capital One in partnership with Women Who Code and AngelHack. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Capital One over the last year to spotlight some of their amazing associates and their corporation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, so I was honored to attend their Demo Day. In a nutshell, Women in Tech Demo Day is an opportunity for smart and talented women to come together and pitch their tech-savvy ideas (whether it’s for an app or a web-based destination) to solve specific challenges that women in tech and business face.

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This year’s theme was about solving the problem of unconscious bias and gender discrimination, whether it be in the workplace or elsewhere. As someone who primarily operates in the style and beauty industry, it was a refreshing change to be surrounded by so many brilliant tech-focused women. The teams could create projects in advance and use the time during WIT Demo Day to continue working on their ideas and were expected to present their projects to professional judges on pitch day. It was really incredible hearing the different presentations. I literally wanted to download every app – very cool.

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One of the most touching parts of the Women in Tech Demo Day was hearing tech start-up founder and current Capital One employee Asmau Ahmed share her experience as a woman of color trying to secure funding for her startup venture Plum Perfect. Her experiences, as she explained, were not unique as many women (and women of color in particular) face these hardships. People just simply don’t believe you’re capable and inherent bias prevents them from taking a risk on you, regardless of how talented and innovative you are. Part of hearing these truths was disheartening. I mean knowing that she literally took her photo off of her LinkedIn profile to get more meetings with investors is a sad but true reality. But on the other hand, it was incredibly empowering to hear that she fought through adversity and eventually secured Series A funding for her idea.

Here’s one of the best takeaways from Asmau’s speech – a list of ways YOU and I can make a difference when it comes to women getting investment funding for their brilliant ideas:

1. Become an investor.

Now this may sound nearly impossible or like a far cry from anything you can do to help women get more funding for their businesses but it’s absolutely not far-fetched. Every time you make a purchase or support a Kickstarter from a women-led businesses, you are inherently making an investment in that business. You’re helping to keep the lights on, or providing raw materials or helping that business develop a new team. Your financial support is so important. If you can do BIG, by all means please do! Find a small company you believe in and pledge your support. But all investments – big or small – help.

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2. Advocate for having more women and diversity on boards.

Most of the decisions that are made to invest, from venture capitalist firms, are coming directly from their boards. It’s typically a group of investors and more likely than not, that board is comprised of wealthy white men. Diversity is severely lacking in this arena. Do what you can to be an advocate for more women and people of color being included in the decision-making. The more of us there are making these decisions, the less bias and discrimination.

3. Get the men in your lives to become allies.

This is often underestimated as well. Having strong support from men is really important. At the end of the day, the industry over-indexes in male support and dominance. Once we can change and defy perceptions about what you have to “look like” in order for you to be considered capable, more opportunities will open up.

4. Amplify your voices by helping each other.

This is a BIG ONE. I’m always preaching about the importance of collaboration over competition. Partnership and collaboration is so incredibly important, especially among women. We’re so much stronger as a unit. Asmau made such a great point by stressing that we have to stick together.

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5. Never settle. Don’t give up!

This was a great point to end on. At the end of the day, the strides that are being made in various industries, including the tech industry, are being made because there were women (our predecessors) who refused to give up.

Think about how much further my daughter’s generation will be if we push hard enough to open doors for women and girls everywhere NOW. I’m hopeful that with events like Women in Tech Demo Day, more women will get the exposure they need to make substantial changes in this industry. Thanks to Capital One for having me and for pledging their support to such an incredible movement.

Interested in attending WIT Demo Day? They’re headed to D.C next! Click here to register for tickets to attend or to pitch your ideas. Get in FREE with my code: “WITDDwithChristina”

I was invited to attend Women in Tech Demo Day on behalf of Capital One and was compensated for my time. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company. For more information on Capital One Careers, click here.

LBS Mompreneur Diaries (Working Mom Edition): Asmau Ahmed

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I’ve partnered up with Capital One for another “Working Mom” edition of LBS Mompreneur Diaries, featuring women of color who are killing it at work and at home. Capital One is consistently recognized for its exceptional workplace culture and for supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives across the entire organization. That’s why I’m excited to present this series, because Capital One gets it. They’ve been ranked on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” and Working Mother Magazine’s “100 Best Companies” to name a few.

Hopefully you read and loved our last interview with Alicia Thompson. This week’s featured mom is Asmau Ahmed. As a mother of two and an engineer turned entrepreneur, Asmau Ahmed is the founder of tech startup Plum Perfect and now a leader in Digital Project Management at Capital One. Asmau founded a venture-funded tech start up whose groundbreaking visual search and recommendation engine she nurtured from an idea to a product embraced by top retailers, major brands, and consumers in over 150 countries. Asmau is one of only 12 black women to have raised more than $1million in VC funding. We talked about her transition from entrepreneur to intrapreneur at Capital One, how she achieves work/life balance, the importance of STEM education, and how she’s helping to close the tech gap for women of color.

 

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Why did you want to become an engineer?
I’ve loved the sciences for as long as I can remember. My dad was an aeronautical engineer so I’m sure that was part of my influence. My mom nurtured my love for science at an early age and supported me. She actually turned our laundry room into a chemistry lab for me.

As someone who has been an entrepreneur, what insights are you bringing to your role at Capital One?
Most entrepreneurs thrive on the concept of having an idea and being able to see that idea turn into a product or service that people eventually engage with. With Plum Perfect, I started out with an idea to build a visual search engine that would utilize social media to build commerce and advertising. It was just a concept. Part of why I joined Capital One is that I’m able to do that same thing here. I get to have an idea or concept, build it out, and then see it go to market. I didn’t want to be at an organization where that concept got lost. At Capital One, there really is a culture of innovation.

Can you share how you bring balance to your life, managing family and work?
That was huge for me when I was contemplating this role. It was critical for me to be able to maintain balance. Most people say you’re never able to create true balance but I wanted to feel like there was an end to “work” and a start to “home”. I wouldn’t have joined the Capital One team if I didn’t feel that balance was supported. That’s the culture we have here. There were times that I wasn’t able to achieve that as a full-time entrepreneur. I remember there was an entire week that went by and I would leave for work before my son woke up and get home after he went to bed. That’s when I realized that lifestyle was not sustainable long term.

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With that said, it is a busy home and work schedule and I have obligations outside of those areas as well, like Plum Perfect. Capital One encourages me to maintain my ideas and experiences outside of my role here. I have worked at many organizations before, and I don’t think I would have the same level of balance that I do now if it wasn’t for Capital One.

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Why is STEM education important, particularly for little girls of color?
When people say STEM careers, most people think of engineering. But it really affects everything we do today. Whether you’re a writer, or a doctor or a driver, STEM careers affect and touch everyone. Having a STEM foundation will be important in participating in this new technology wave. Tech is defining an evolution in so many areas, even medicine.

Particularly with girls of color, there is a tech gap today. The tech industry can be biased. We build technologies based on our personal experiences. So when you have mostly white men building these technologies, you’re going to find a huge gap between what applies to us (as women of color) and what applies to them. And that gap is widening daily. I spoke recently at digitalundivided’s 2017 BIG Demo Day sponsored by Capital One. And there were so many brilliant ideas presented, by women of color, that might have gone unheard if it weren’t for organizations like that. So, it is important for us to have people in the driver seat who can build and cater to our experiences.

[Capital One is also proud to continue to support Black Girls Code. If you aren’t already involved, visit http://www.blackgirlscode.com/ to volunteer, donate, and learn more.]

What advice would you give to an up & comer who wants a STEM career?
Just get started. If you don’t have an engineering background, it’s ok. You don’t have to know how to code. If you know how to logically think through the execution of your idea, start there. That’s what coding is. Refine your idea and hire talent to help you. Get educated and stop second guessing yourself.

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As someone who has filled both roles, do you have any advice for entrepreneurs turned intrapreneurs and vice versa?
Build a team around you that understands how to build your business. As women of color, we face unique challenges that are hard to navigate if you don’t have the right partners in place. Surround yourself with the right people. You need the right investors, clients, and colleagues. One of the reasons I joined Capital One is because there is a culture of diversity and inclusion here. They were looking for people like me. For entrepreneurs that are looking to exit, look for workplaces that have the right cultural fit and figure out how you can cater to their market and help them increase enterprise value.

Is she inspiring or what? Be sure to keep up with our LBS Mompreneur Diaries series to keep up with other inspiring mommies. Leave a comment below if you enjoyed this!

This post is sponsored by Capital One. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company.

3 Reasons To Tell Your Unique Story

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“No one is you and that is your superpower.” We have all read and been temporarily inspired by the meme, but how many of us really believe that what we have to offer is special? Author, blogger, and Power Day speaker Ty Alexander’s story of success, loss, and continuous healing is truly exceptional. By penning her book “Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died” and being transparent with her blog Gorgeous in Grey she has managed to share her story with others that need the encouragement and support of knowing they are not alone. Unsure about why the world needs you to step and share? She’s got great three reasons for you. Check them out below!

1. It’s Therapeutic

I never realized how insanely therapeutic talking through my story could be. Each time I tell it I become more aware of how far I’ve come. When I start with “I slept on couches when I first came to NY” or when I realize I’m saying “I did my first commercial” I’m wowed at my journey all over again.

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2. It’s helping others

When I shared that a part of my journey included losing my mother, women who had been through the same experience began to reach out. I realized that it only takes one conversation with one woman to make them change their ideas on death and grief. Sharing my story gave them permission to live independently from that grief. Sharing our stories reminds us that it’s ok to live beyond that story and that story isn’t our only existence in the world.

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3. It’s proves we are not alone.

Not only did I realize I was giving women permission to live independently but I was a constantly reminder that they weren’t alone in this. When we are going through the fire it’s hard to see others on the sidelines cheering for us. It’s hard to see that we aren’t the only ones in this race.

Want more tips on how to help others and yourself by sharing your unique story in 2017? Join us on January 7th for the 2nd annual BrownGirlsLove Power Day!

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5 Reasons You Need To Attend #BrownGirlsLovePOWER Day

 

bgl-power-dayToday officially marks 7 days until BrownGirlsLove Power Day 2017! I can’t even express how EXCITED about this I am. It’s our 2nd Annual Power Day and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. Don’t believe me? Here are 5 reasons you need to attend #BrownGirlsLovePOWER Day 2017.

1. The Swag Bags

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What’s a dope event without amazing swag bags right? I’m proud to announce that our sponsors like Motions Hair, Capital One, Canviiy and more will have amazing products for everyone to take home. Prepare for beauty products, hair products, stationary and much more.

2. The Stories

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I’m a storyteller at heart. That’s why I created LoveBrownSugar. To tell my unique story and the stories of other people in my community of beautiful brown girls. So one of the things you’ll experience at BrownGirlsLove Power Day is unique and heartwarming stories from women you admire, speaking openly and honestly about their journeys. From the speakers to attendees, Power Day is a judge-free zone and we get to tell our own authentic stories so we can grow together.

3. The Speakers

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When I say we have some of the dopest brown girls on the planet who will be in attendance at Power Day, I’m not exaggerating. These women are people who inspire me daily. They are the top influencers, expert, business owners, brand builders, editors and more. They are the cream of the crop and they’re ready to dole out information to anyone who’s prepared to listen. More than anything, they’re REAL. These women are authentic and I chose them because I know they won’t sugarcoat. They will give it to you straight no chaser. So be prepared to learn from the best. Click here to read more about our speakers.

4. The Sisterhood

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By far, one of my favorite things about #BrownGirlsLove events are the bonds that are formed by the women who attend. Some women form new friendships, meet new business partners, become each other’s accountability partners and more. You never know who you’ll meet at a BrownGirlsLove event. But you are, without a doubt, bound to meet beautiful brown girls who are just like you and who want to see you WIN.

5. The Saturday

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There’s absolutely no coincidence that I chose the FIRST Saturday of 2017 to host BrownGirlsLove POWER Day. There’s something very special about the first week of the year. It sets the tone. It gets you revved up. And if you’re making an investment to be at an empowerment event on your very first weekend of the year, you must mean business. There’s also no coincidence that Power Day falls on the 7th day of the year. Seven is a very special number. It’s God’s number of completion. It means perfection at its core. So don’t sleep on the amazing things that can happen on Day 7 of 2017.

So what more could you ask for in an empowerment event? Have you snagged your ticket to Power Day yet? 

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3 Tips For Fab Finances in 2017

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We are only one week away from our 2nd annual Power Day! We’ve asked some of our amazing speakers to provide you guys with a few tips to kick off 2017 with POWER! First up is Tonya Rapley of My Fab Finance with 3 Tips for Fab Finances in 2017! Check them out below:

1. Take Regular Financial Assessments

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Start with your first assessment during the first week of the year. That’s a given! But then regularly check on your expenses, and your progress. It’s better to realize that you’re behind on your goals in June, than to let the entire year pass you by leading to disappointment in December. Things you should assess include: your credit score, your purchase categories, your savings, and retirement savings progress.

2. Question Your Spending

All too often we buy out of habit and not out of understanding. I’m not saying don’t buy things. But you should ask yourself questions before you buy. Questions you should ask: “Do I really need this?”, “What purpose will it serve?”, and “Am I buying this to appeal to others or is it a legitimate investment in my goals?”. These questions are helpful in combating unnecessary purchases.

3. Join a Community

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Accountability is powerful. It binds you to the relentless pursuit of your goals. When you align yourself with others who are committed to achieving the same goals, a healthy competition and camaraderie evolves that can super-charge your focus. In my Triumph Club, members celebrate each others’ financial successes and learn from one another. While your immediate circle might not be on the same financial page as you, it’s helpful to a be a part of a community that understands your journey.

Want more awesome tips like these? Join us for the “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds” Panel on this Saturday, January 7th at Power Day 2017 in NYC! Click below to purchase tickets:

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LBS Mompreneur Diaries (Working Mom Edition): Alicia Thompson

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I’m excited to partner with Capital One on the second post in our “Working Mom” edition of LBS Mompreneur Diaries, featuring women of color who are killing it at work and at home. Capital One is consistently recognized for its exceptional workplace culture and for supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives across the entire organization. That’s why I was so excited to work with them to offer this series, because they get it. They’ve been ranked on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” and Working Mother Magazine’s “100 Best Companies” to name a few.

Hopefully you read and loved our interview with working mom Kenya Paul. Our second featured working mom is Alicia Thompson, Manager of Supplier Diversity at Capital One. We talked about her role as a working mom to two beautiful children, what she hopes to teach them about diversity and inclusion, and advice that every mom should consider when picking a place to work.

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LBS Chic: 4 Tips For Living Your Best Color Full Life

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This post about the Color Full Lives podcast is sponsored by State Farm®. All opinions expressed here are my own.

As you all know, I am incredibly passionate about women of color looking good AND feeling good. I’ve also made it one of my personal missions to help positively change the perceptions of women of color in the media, so I am really happy to team up with State Farm to talk about the Color Full Lives podcast series.

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LBS Mompreneur Diaries (Working Mom Edition): Kenya Paul

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For those of you who have been following the LBS Mompreneur Diaries series here on LoveBrownSugar, you know I’ve been using it as a platform to share my personal tips and tricks for success balancing work and life as a full-time mompreneur. There are so many working moms out there, many of whom function as intrapreneurs, managing teams and taking on important management roles within an organization on top of managing small teams right at home! It requires the same balance and support to have a successful corporate career as it does when you run your own business.

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So I am proud to partner with Capital One for the very first “Working Mom” edition of Mompreneur Diaries to chat with some women of color who are killing it at work and at home. Capital One is consistently recognized for its exceptional workplace culture and for supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives across the entire organization. That’s why I was so excited to work with them to offer this series, because they get it. They’ve been ranked on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” and Working Mother Magazine’s “100 Best Companies” to name a few.

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LBS Mompreneur Diaries: #SmallButPowerful Moves That Make History

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I’ve dedicated much of my career as a digital influencer to smashing stereotypes and showing the world that women of color are powerful, productive and pretty while doing it. I’ve created platforms that inspire women of color to be great, allow them to know that they’re not alone and that challenge stereotypes. My most dedicated “follower” of all the thousands of you who follow me daily is actually my little princess Cadence. She’s not only seeing what I do online but she seems me in action each day as I work hard to provide for her and balance the responsibilities of motherhood and entrepreneurship.

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It is SO important for me to set an example for her but also to encourage her to live out her dreams, defy stereotypes, set new records and excel in everything she loves. So I am really honored to have partnered with Tide Pods on their #SmallButPowerful campaign featuring record-breaking powerhouse Simone Biles. As the most decorated American gymnast of all time and being a young black female, she has truly inspired so many young women who may have never thought they could do the impossible. Her dedication, hard work and perseverance are just the characteristics I hope to instill in Cadence. Check out Simone’s commercial with Tide here.

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On the same evening that Simone Biles and the Final Five took gold at the Olympics, Cadence and I had the opportunity to meet and take a class with Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes. Dominique partnered with Tide Pods in support of Simone Biles, to showcase the evolution of power. They were featured in the Tide Pods’ Evolution of Power commercial, showcasing the amazing transformations of history-making gymnasts over the years and comparing that to Tide’s progression from a powder detergent to now being available in its small but powerful liquid pod form.

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Dominique is the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics! I remember growing up and watching Dominique on TV and being so proud that she looked like me. So it was a really proud moment getting to introduce her to Cadence and getting to chat with her, as she’s also a new mom. Her daughter is just a month younger than Cady! I’m excited for Cadence because she had the opportunity to watch another young, black woman make history in gymnastics, the way I did with Dominique. After seeing gymnasts like Simone Biles excel at the Olympics, I decided to enroll Cadence in a toddler gymnastics class just to see if she would enjoy it. Turns out, she loves it! Check it out here:

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You’re Invited: BrownGirlsLoveBrunch LA

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Brown Girls are taking over the world! From the Miss USA stage to the CDFA awards they’re speaking up, speaking out, and celebrating themselves and one another. Christina created the #BrownGirlsLoveBrunch tour to give brown girls a chance to connect with and learn from one another in a social setting. After a successful three city tour in 2015 Christina has continued her mission of encouraging and supporting her fellow entrepreneurs this year.

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This is cause that is close to her heart. After all according to Forbes brown girls are “three to five times more likely to start a business than their white counterparts” if we can do all that on our own one imagine what we can accomplish by working together!

Related: 3 Reasons to Join Us for #BrownGirlsLoveBrunch!

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The next stop on the tour is the city of angels. Los Angeles’s #BrownGirlsLoveBrunch will be held at the beautiful Le Petit Paris.

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Here attendees will receive an entree, bottomless mimosas, and a FREE swag bag full of fabulous goodies from our amazing sponsors like EDEN BodyWorks, Ouidad and Kinky Curly Yaki.

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They will also participate in an intimate discussion about entrepreneurship, and brand management with Christina who will share her experiences on her seven year journey of converting LoveBrownSugar from a personal style blog into a thriving business.

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The #BrownGirlsLove community is all about women and girls of color coming together on and offline. So whether you want to learn more about building a personal brand or you’re just getting started with the process of figuring out to turn your passion into your profession come out and connect with us at the very first BrownGirlsLoveBrunch in LA!

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