Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Name That Tune: Song Chemistry Reveals The Formula Behind the Hits

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Ever wonder what goes into the making of a chart-topping song? Well, SongChemistry.com, an online song-analyzing tool breaks it down for you. The song analyzing service is now a hit itself with a following of amateur songwriters, professional producers, music scholars and students, DJs, and just plain music lovers. It also offers a lyric search option that allows you to locate songs just by the lyrics. Their database includes Pop, Rock, R&B, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Country, Blues, Dance, Latin, Reggae, International, Classical, and Religious, ranging from 1929 to 2012. We talked to one of the co-founders of this unique online portal, Michael R. Crump, senior vice president, business development for Musical Innovative Products.

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Cassandra Mills Introduces Makeup Line ‘Haute Face’

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Cassandra Mills is a seasoned businesswoman. She had a successful career as a music industry executive, having worked for the likes of Time Warner Entertainment. Then she built her own entity, Cassandra Mills Entertainment.

Now she has ventured into a whole new arena—the beauty industry. Mills has launched Haute Face, a lush line of makeup geared to literally every hue. Mills said the idea was prompted from her own need. For years she searched in vain for makeup foundation to match her skin tone.

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Corporate Attorney Trades Law for Media

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Frederick Mwangaguhunga was once a corporate tax attorney. With a passion for entertainment, he quickly transitioned into a young, aspiring entrepreneur. In 2006, he founded Mediatakeout.com, an urban celebrity gossip page for young African Americans. 
Unsure of where his career would take him, he decided to post stories about sports and news to see what caught the eyes of viewers. After months of posting, he discovered that the majority of his viewers preferred urban celebrity gossip.

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African American Business Owners Give Back

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The true measure of wealth in a community is in its ability to produce those willing to “be” the return on the investments that others made before them. Today’s African-American business owners provide this return by garnering a sense of pride and productivity in their communities, giving young people a direct object of aspiration and, more practically, providing a place for (often) disenfranchised people to secure employment. A community with multiple small business owners can actually be seen as a sign of a healthy community.

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Columbia Pictures Exec Offers Advice to Young African Americans

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Devon Franklin is an ordained preacher, published author and recently was promoted to Vice President of Production at Columbia Pictures—a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment. He has worked behind the scenes of major productions such as The Karate Kid, which grossed over 300 million worldwide, Jumping the Broom, Pursuit of Happyness and most recently Sparkle starring the beloved Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks. Franklin credits all his success to God and doesn’t let his accomplishments in Hollywood get in the way of his Christian faith.

Devon’s latest book Produced by Faith details his journey to success in show business without compromising his faith “one of the reasons I wrote the book was to demonstrate how faith really works,” he explained. Devon recently spoke with tnj.com to discuss his new position at Columbia while offering advice to young African American entrepreneurs.

Tell us about your journey to becoming vice president of Columbia Pictures.

I started as an intern in college. I interned for a management company that managed Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Sean Combs, Jennifer Lopez and a bunch of other incredible talent. I interned my four years of undergrad, when I graduated I became an assistant at Will Smith’s company. I did that for about a year and a half and then Tracey Edmonds gave me my first executive job in film. After some time, I left there to go to MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and MGM was my first studio job and about 6 months into being there, they sold the company to Sony. I came over to Sony as part of that overall transaction and I been at Sony for 7 and a half years and just recently I got promoted to vice president.

Tell us about your job description. Can you green light films?

No. Only the chairman has green light power, Michael Lynton and Amy Pascul. My job is to report to my boss who is the president, I bring materials, I say “this is what I like,” and if he likes then we both advocate to the chairman that they should green light it.

What’s your work schedule like, how are you able to travel and simultaneously promote your new book “Produced by Faith” while being the vice president?

Here’s the good thing about one being an executive there’s development and there’s production and then there’s post production, right now I’m in development season. So scripts are being written and I’m waiting for scripts to come in, so that freezes up some time.  Plus most of my traveling is on the weekends.

Did you ever have a moment where you doubted yourself as you were moving up?

Yeah, absolutely! Part of overcoming that is going back and remembering all that God has brought me through, and then trying to get prospective in whatever moment I’m in and ask myself ‘am I blowing this out of proportion?’ Sometimes we have a limited perspective of whatever moment we are in; sometimes I have to get the bigger perspective to remind myself that I just have to push through this.

How can one go about figuring out the career path that God has for them?

When you close your eyes and visualize the version of your life that brings you peace, what does that look like? It also starts with a prayer, you have to really pray and seek God and his will. I would encourage someone who is in a difficult time and needs guidance to fast it has incredible power. Remember to ask yourself, what do you do well with the least amount of effort? What are you naturally drawn too? What are you passionate about? There’s no one thing, it’s a combination of things. Some people know immediately what they want to do, but you have to seek and search out that purpose. I know that for me I didn’t understand immediately, but I had to ask myself ‘what am I passionate about?’ Once I understood that, the question was ‘why do I have these gifts and what am I going to use them for?’ It is one thing to figure out what you want to do, the other questions is why do you want to do it? I see a lot of people in their gifting but aren’t clear on their purpose.

With that said, how do you know when you’re going down the wrong career path and going against your purpose? 

For me when I was directing my own life without God, nothing I did worked. I caused more confusion, I caused more frustration, the more I thought I was moving forward I actually wasn’t, I had no confidence. The moments I took over, I would mess up because I’m doing things out of His timing. There was no order. A lot of times when we take the directors chair away from God, we enter a season of frustration and confusion. We think we know better. How can we direct our lives when we didn’t create the story? There are things you can’t bring into your life unless you let God do it.

You recently mentioned that you were celibate for over 10 years and remained committed to your purpose. Why do you think that is such a big controversy? 

Anything that goes against the norm will be lauded or ridiculed. It doesn’t make it any less true. You have to decide what you want out of life, and then you have to make decisions based off what you want. I see people say what they want then they make decisions that go against that. For me personally, Heaven forbid that there’s a purpose on my life that depends on me honoring God in everything I do, Heaven forbid I choose not to honor Him in some area of my life and it prevents me from reaching my purpose. At the end of my life could I reconcile never becoming who I was suppose to because of certain personal choices I made. Would those choices have been worth it? I sacrificed that because I didn’t want to stand in the way of what God created me to do and if that calls me to be ridiculed then so be it.

In your book you touched on the moment of frustration in your life. There’s a scene where you are in the bathroom stall of your job crying out to God. What advice do you have for the young African American entrepreneur who may be in the same season of frustration?

On a spiritual level, you have to remember to ask this question, ‘Okay God, why are you sending me through this?’ In the frustration of not being where you want to be and not seeing how you are going to get there, you can lose the reason you’re in the moment to begin with. What I realized in that bathroom moment is that there are things I needed to learn that were critical to what I’m doing now. So those critical moments are there to prepare you for what’s coming next. On a practical level, look at everything that you’re doing: are you doing the most that you can, how is your rolodex, who do you need to meet, who have you not met yet? Every single day you have to wake up and go after it, and you also have to understand patience. There are some things that just take time, you have to be forgiving of yourself, and you cannot beat yourself up. That development time is good because when you have that foundation and you been through some stuff and you learned from it, when you are where you want to be, you will have the knowledge and wisdom and the mindset to be able to manage it better, had you not gone through what you’ve been through.

Meet Idris Ayodeji Bello: Afropreneur

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Idris Ayodeji Bello calls himself “Afropreneur.” And the term, coined by the 33-year-old Nigerian entrepreneur, is catching on. Bello is a self-made tech innovator, and, in fact, has founded various tech initiatives with the goal of encouraging entrepreneurship and empowering communities across Africa.

 He co-founded the Wennovation Hub in Lagos, Nigeria, sort of a technology think tank that encourages entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into businesses.

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What are the traits of a highly successful entrepreneur?

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What sets a successful entrepreneur above the rest of the competition? What is it that makes an excellent leader and how can you create a significant impact on the lives of your employees, customers and the industry in general? If you want to be among the most successful entrepreneurs in your chosen niche, you absolutely need to understand what sets these people apart from all the others. Try to emulate the way they do things.

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The Gem Project: Empowering Youth Through Educational Tools

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The Gem Project, a non-profit organization that aims to empower young people by giving them useful educational tools, was inspired by a personal experience. “The initial spark came after learning that my mother was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during my sophomore year at Rutgers University,” recalls Amanda A. Ebokosia. Her mother survived the cancer, and Ebokosia further developed her idea for the Gem Project, based in Newark, New Jersey. “As I learned more about how the cancer affected young people, I wanted to create a program that educated my peers about issues like this– but compelled them to act and grabbed their attention,” she explains. Thus, the group´s motto: “We Captivate to Educate.”

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Beyond Rap: Ludacris’ Portfolio Shows His Flare For Smart Investing

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These days rappers aren´t merely making music; they are building empires. Jay-Z. Sean Combs. Dr. Dre. These are the first names that leap to mind. But there are others, such as Ludacris.

Ludacris (Christopher Bridges) has quietly built his businesses around his music fame. According to Forbes, he is worth $12 million, amassing wealth from various ventures including Soul By Ludacris headphones, a cognac line called Conjure, voiceovers for RadioShack, music sales, roles in films, and other ventures. The rapper owns a small equity state in Soul By Ludacris and half ofConjure.

“Ludacris was very smart, and it’s obvious that he had the big picture in his mind from the beginning. After his rap career took off, he began to musically align himself with people like Usher and Chris Brown who appeal to a broader audience. Then he moved into movies doing projects such as The Fast and the Furious series, Crash and New Year’s Eve, while still releasing albums that continued to sell well. As Ludacris moved from being solely a rapper to diversifying his music base and gaining new fans through film and television, his audience grew and thereby his pool of fans grew. By being strategic about his career choices, Ludacris curated a diverse and vast fan base that he was then able to market a diverse array of products to,” notes Reni Somoye, director of Client Public Relations for Tara Dowdell Group, whose clients include Essex County Economic Development Corporation and Genesis Companies Real Estate Development & Construction.

Business actually isn´t anything new to Ludacris. He studied business management at Georgia State University before his hip hop career. He had the entrepreneurial spirit from the start. When he couldn’t get signed as a recording artist, Ludacris, who working in radio for a brief period, sold his own music. He released his debut album, Incognegro, by launching his own label, Disturbing Tha Peace. And he literally sold tens of thousands of copies from the trunk of his own car. He later signed to Def Jam records and pumped out hit album after hit album. His first Def Jam album, Back for the First Time, sold more than 3 million units. His second in 2001, Word of Mouf, sold nearly 4 million copies; his third, Chicken-n-Beer, earned multiplatinum certification.

His acting efforts also proved successful–he picked up an Academy Award as part of the cast of Crash in 2004. And now, Ludacris, whose new album, Ludaversal, is due out this fall, is showing he has the business skills as well.

“Ludacris’ portfolio choices were absolutely good ones. They were all calculated risks. Ludacris, for the most part, doesn’t seem to be an innovator but he is good at recognizing what markets are doing really well and then moving in for his share of that. For example, he launched his Soul By Ludacris headphones after the wildly successful launch of Dr. Dre’s Beatz by Dre. He launched Conjure, his cognac company, after the success of Diddy’s Ciroc vodka,” says Somoye.

Like Ludacris, anyone can diversify their portfolio—or extend their brand. “It’s important to understand your brand, regardless of whether or not you’re famous. What are your interests? What are your strong points? Once those are identified, figure out where you can invest in order to monetize those interests,” explains Somoye. “Like Ludacris, be smart and strategic. If you’ve seen something that other people are making money off of and that you’re interested in, definitely find a way to invest in it also. Take calculated risks and, above all, keep the big picture in mind. Know what you want your portfolio to look like and make business, and personal moves that will open doors to get you there.”

But, as explains financial planning expert John Graves, building your brand is different than diversifying a portfolio. “An expansion of a franchise is different from diversifying a portfolio,” says Graves, editor of The Retirement Journal and author of The 7% Solution. “It is expanding upon an existing base of customers, rather than upon an existing base of capital.”

Examine what your financial needs are and add investments to your portfolio that will fulfill these needs. “Your portfolio should be built to your situation–Income or growth or both, depending upon time to retirement,” Graves points out. “Design the portfolio to match your need: if you need $3,000 monthly, then design it to do so.”

Besides flexing his financial muscles, Ludacris is readying the next generation of Bridges to be financially smart. With his help, his 10-year-old daughter, Karma, has launched her own business. She started an educational website called KarmasWorld.com.

Angela Burt Murray Discusses New Site, CocoaFab.com

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In 2012, former Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine Angela Burt Murray, along with digital media strategist Shelly Jones Jenning, launched CocoaFab.com—an entertainment and style website for women of color which covers celebrity news, beauty, fashion and more. TNJ.com recently spoke with Murray to discuss her transition from print media to digital and how the idea of Cocoafab.com came about. She also offered advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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