Entries in Denver (3)


Phoenix Jackson: A Marketing Expert's Message

Listening to your intuition is good business, according to Phoenix Jackson, owner of Phoenix Affect, Inc. Photo: Shanae Simmons. Turning those dime-a-dozen business ideas into competitive ventures in the marketplace requires more than a business plan and funding. It requires that entrepreneurs also be open to listening to their intuition, according to longtime business owner and marketing expert, Phoenix Jackson. 

"Money is not enough of a reason to pursue a business," says the owner of Phoenix Affect, Inc., a marketing and project management firm that she co-founded 11 years ago while earning a business degree at the University of Denver. "You need to know why you are in business.

"Your enthusiasm and aspirations will be necessary to see you through the ups and down of operating a business."

Through her company, formerly known as Nation Marketing Group, Jackson has helped to create the brand and public face of more than 100 individuals and businesses including celebrities, professional athletes, and small and large organizations. The company's services include business consulting, marketing and brand development, website development and event planning. 

Best practices from her career are detailed in her upcoming book, "Spirit of Business." Scheduled for release in the fall, the book offers tactical tools and worksheets on how business professionals can achieve what they want to manifest. 

Just turning the corner into her 30s, when she stands in front of an audience speaking about her upcoming book or marketing services, her successes all appear to have come easy. That perception would be the furthest thing from the truth for the woman who started practicing meditation and yoga at the age of 19. "I work hard to protect my peace and set aside time to listen to my intuition," says the self-proclaimed optimist, who tends to "feel that something good is always about to happen."

Raised by a single father from the age of eight, she experienced a lot of coming of age issues without her mother's guidance. Her father was a blessing, but she did miss a mother's touch. The Arkansas native moved around a bit with her father, who was in the military, and lived in Kentucky before arriving to Denver at the age of 12.  Later in her academic life, she juggled being a mother, a wife, student and entrepreneur. When she experienced divorce and became a single mom she had to adjust her lifestyle while staying on track with her life goals. 

The 2004 Daniels Fund Scholar earned the 2008 Daniels College of Business' Entrepreneur of the Year award for her efforts to start her own marketing firm with a new-born son at the time. Not long after graduating, she used her spare time and a grant from the Denver Foundation to spearhead a dance health initiative - building on African dance -- for women in northeast Denver that included daycare services. Her alma mater noticed and asked her to bring her curriculum to campus. Soon, at the age of 26, she was an adjunct faculty member at the DU Colorado Women's College. 

"Teaching was so fulfilling," says Jackson, who has since served as a guest lecturer at various colleges and universities in the state, and as a speaker at national events outside of academia. "I enjoyed teaching adults to nurture themselves and to love themselves. At the end of each quarter, women were crying about how much they had learned about themselves and their power over their bodies and their mind. I learned at that time that I'm happiest when I'm teaching."

Phoenix Jackson, the director of client relations for Phoenix Affect, Inc., tells women to understand the "why" of their business goals. Photo: Courtesy of Phoenix Jackson.Her teaching experiences have provided a taste of her end-goal to be a professor or professional lecturer, but for now she continues to make strides in the business world. In 2014, she was nominated for Denver Business Journal's Forty Under 40. The prior year, she was nominated for DBJ's Outstanding Business Women Award. These recognitions, among many others, speak to the personal touch she invests in her work with her clients. 

For five years, she has provided marketing services to Carson J Spencer Foundation, a Denver-based organization that works to prevent suicide using innovative methods to address root causes of suicide in schools, homes and businesses. Her company has produced the foundation's promotional collateral and developed their website, helping the organization grow within its brand. Now the organization is international including Australia and Europe.

She has also received mental health certifications to better inform her guiding role as a volunteer educator within the organization and as a board member, formerly serving as its chair of marketing and public relations.
Her marketing work with another client, the annual Helping Boys Thrive Summit, is two-fold, educating her as a single mom and informing leaders who work with youth. The annual event, scheduled to happen in Denver on June 9 at Regis High School, is tailored toward adults teaching adults how to deal with young men and boys of all races and socioeconomic level from the classroom to the playground.  

A Void in the Market
Jackson has combined her marketing expertise with her continuing desire to see women healthy internally and externally. In 2014, she created Phitnus, a fitness series offering dance classes led by certified instructors. The series also offers DVDs and multivitamins. With the latter, she specifically honed in on the void in the market as it relates to African American women.

"The market was saturated with soaps and lotions, but there were little to no vitamin bottles with black women on them," says Jackson, who worked with a vitamin company in California to develop ingredients for her products. She began shipping in 2015, and has clients as far as West Africa.

Today, like many women who are starting a new product business, her dining room table has become a mini-factory. The bottles are already full and secure when they come to her, but she likes to put her own special touch on the packaging before shipping them out to customers. Like many entrepreneurs, she says, "At the beginning you are investing more than what you are getting back." 

But she keeps going, because she focuses on her "why."

"I always tell women to seek that inspiration. Look at the why," she says. "Ask yourself 'What do I want?' and be prepared to work towards your goal one step at a time."

Learn more about Jackson's work at Phoenix Affect.

EspeciallyMe: Unstoppable!

EspeciallyMe™ Founder and Executive Director Patricia Houston surrounded by conference volunteers. Archive Photo: Courtesy EspeciallyMe.EspeciallyMe is not afraid to address real issues as demonstrated by the people chosen to speak to its participants over the years. This year is no different. The keynote speaker for the 18th Annual EspeciallyMe™ High School Conference, focusing on African American high school girls is Kemba Smith-Pradia. The theme is “Unstoppable!”

Smith-Pradia gained national attention in 1994 when she was sentenced to 24.5 years in federal prison, without the possibility of parole, for a first time non-violent drug offense. She served six and a half years in federal prison. Her case drew support from across the nation and the world in a crusade to reverse a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first time non-violent offenders. She was granted executive clemency in 2000 by President Bill Clinton after he reviewed her case and determined that an injustice had been done. 

On March 30, 2016, the wife, mother, national public speaker and author met with President Barack Obama at the White House. She and other commutation recipients from the George W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations were invited to the White House by the president to discuss the reentry process and resources needed to lead a fulfilling, productive life.

Kemba Smith-Pradia“Kemba exemplifies what we are capable of doing when we are focused on a goal and believe in our capabilities. She continues to work for those who she feels deserve another opportunity at life,” says Patricia Houston, EspeciallyMe™ executive director and founder. “In 2016, Kemba Smith-Pradia is still sharing her story to help educate young people in the importance of making good choices and how easy it is to get caught up in the criminal system's ‘war on drugs.’”

Smith-Pradia also served as the EspeciallyMe keynote in 2006. For more information on the conference, which takes place on April 23 at Gateway High School, visit EspeciallyMe.

Below is an article originally published at Canady’s Corner in March 2012 that further conveys the mission and commitment of EspeciallyMe. 

EspeciallyMe Annual Conference a Year-round Affair for Founder

April 28, 2012 marks the day when nearly 150 volunteers and mentors will connect with an estimated 500 high school girls to teach them how to listen to their inner voice and understand right from wrong in their daily lives.

The 14th Annual EspeciallyMe High School Conference The conference aims to steer them away from peer pressure and the tendency to emulate stereotypical images in the media. Meeting the challenge requires year-round commitment from Founder and Executive Director Patricia Houston. 

“Every single day there is a thought, somebody to contact and something to be done” in preparation for each young lady that attends the conference, and for the countless people they will inevitably touch as they move throughout their lives. On the big day, it all begins with a smile.

“Nobody should stand off by themselves,” says Houston, who annually tours college campuses from Greeley to Colorado Springs training mentors (high school students to business women) on how to conduct the workshops and interact with the participants at the conference. “We are teaching young ladies to feel welcome and to feel special.”

The participants bring perspectives from a range of family dynamics, including two-parent homes, single-parent homes, homelessness and parental roles where they may be the ones raising their brothers and sisters.

“We know that the message resonates with all the girls,” she says. “You can be a millionaire today and broke tomorrow. Value comes from ourselves not the money we have.”

Through the years, the conference keynote speakers have included African American women from a broad range of backgrounds. The list, to name a few: Claudia Jordan, Colorado’s first African American female judge; Shoshanna Johnson, the first African American female prisoner of war, Laila Ali, professional boxer and entrepreneur; and Wilma Webb, former First Lady of Denver.

With the demand from parents and educators, in 2007, EspeciallyMe began a biennial conference targeting middle school students. An estimated 500 girls participate in that event every two years. Also to meet a growing request, both high school and middle school conferences feature workshops for parents who want to attend. The subject matter is coordinated so that when parents and children go home they can be on the same page when they discuss the day’s experience.

Houston started the conference when she saw that there were a lot of messages in the media and the community saying what not to do, but few showing young ladies what to do. Today, no matter where she goes in Colorado, she runs into participants or people who have heard of the program. “I love that EspeciallyMe has become a household name.”

She adds, “We get a lot of emails and requests for information from other organizations on how to start similar programs. That’s great. We can’t have too much for our girls. If one person goes to two things, that’s a double blessing.”
“Black Women: Celebrating the Road Less Traveled” is a weekly online series published by Canady’s Corner to honor Black women who are making a mark in the world in their very own way. 

Dr. Allison Cotton: A Passion for Politics 

Allison Cotton, Ph.D. Photo: Karrie Davis Family Photography. Long before she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D, Allison Cotton was a daddy’s girl. That meant learning to hold her own in a political discussion about local, national and international issues.
She hails from a family of life-long, active Democrats, but it was her father who stirred her passion for politics.  

“My dad was always active, always going to meetings and watching political talk shows,” says Cotton, who officially registered to be a Democrat when she was a sophomore in college, and is currently seeking to be a Hillary Clinton delegate. 

If elected at the convention/assembly on Sunday, April 10, it will mark her second go-round. She served as a Barack Obama delegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Tears of joy flowed a lot for her during that convention, but no more than at the very moment when she became the second delegate to sign the petition to nominate him for president of the United States. Her name will be forever connected to the first African American president of the United States.
So, how do you top that? Rather, how do you come close?

Perhaps a repeat performance, but this time for the candidate who might stand in history as the first woman president of the United States. As she prepares for the Sunday vote, she is reflecting on her first journey as a national delegate. 

Being her father’s daughter, she naturally duplicated his habit of attending local political meetings, including city candidate forums, on a regular basis. When she saw the opportunity to be a delegate and have a more active role in nominating Obama, she jumped at the chance and was willing to fight for it. But she didn’t know how. She inquired, asking questions all along the way.

The process, lasting a couple of months, required completing lengthy paperwork, successfully passing a background check and attending meetings – some open, some closed. Though the process itself was not a secret, she chose to only tell her father of her mission.

“It was hard on him because he was proud of me and wanted to brag,” says Cotton, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1991, a master’s degree in sociology from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1995, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2002. But he respected her wishes, and was a partner in her mission. After every update to him, “he would say ‘Okay, what are we going to do next?’ ”

As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she also turned down a number of social and civic engagements. They noticed her absences. But she stayed her course, realizing that she was navigating a new process and really wouldn’t know how to answer their questions about it when asked.

“It is very competitive to run for a national delegate position,” she says of the many levels from caucusing to the actual election to national delegate. “You have to go through the motions.”

Becoming a delegate also required campaigning among other delegates for votes for the coveted position. She recalls, “A lot of people had campaign materials like candy, hats that lit up and all kinds of gimmicks to promote themselves. I just had a poster and handed out fliers.”

She also had years of being politically active. People already knew her. If not from that arena, they knew her as the author of publications ranging in subject from issues related to the death penalty, eye-witness identifications, lethal behavior and expert witnesses to issues around race class gender and crime. Some knew her from her regular attendance at spoken-word sets around the city, soaking up the poetry scene. Or maybe it was seeing her drive by with the windows down, music blasting and top open as she likes to do.

Dr. Allison Cotton at the end of the convention after Barack Obama had officially been nominated by the Democratic party. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Allison Cotton.Long story short, she made it to the congressional district level, where she was elected as a national delegate but then still chose to attend the state convention in Pueblo because she had been elected to serve as a state delegate as well. Each delegate had to give a two-minute speech to hundreds of participants at the congressional district convention. The professor of criminology did a variation of Obama’s slogan “Change We Can Believe In,” the chant “Yes, We Can,” and spelled out her name. She found out the next day that it worked!  Her name appeared on the Colorado Democratic Party’s website as one of the chosen few. 

Her mission was near complete, and now public. A Denver Post article announced the 70 national delegates and included a photo spread. She began receiving emails and calls from everywhere. 
“I was a celebrity for about two weeks,” says Cotton.

Once on the floor of the convention, she settled into the fourth row listening to speeches and fielding calls from friends and family, namely her dad, who had told everybody to watch her on TV. He was calling to get updates, and also to report sightings of her on TV. She remembers, “On one call he said, ‘I think I saw your arm.’ ” 

The Second Time Around
Last month, Cotton was elected to serve as a delegate to both the Congressional District Assembly and the State Assembly. On Sunday night, she will know if she has advanced to serve as a national delegate again.

But if she is unsuccessful there, she may also have a chance to be elected at the state convention in Loveland next week. As she prepares for the final vote, she knows that her journey has not been in vain. Though attending political meetings is natural for her, there was a time when she was one of a few black women in attendance. In recent years she has noticed more black women and black men in the room. 

She says, “I feel and I hope that I have contributed to the participation of more Black women in the political process, those who care about the country and government, reflecting our values.”
If she is not elected this time around, she hopes the spot opens up for someone who has not experienced being a delegate so that yet another person can be introduced to a new experience. 

The tenured, full professor of criminology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, didn’t feel equipped to answer questions on the first go-round. “Now I have the answers. Now I know.” 

Her experience has only added to political talk with her father. “We have spirited discussions about the candidates and the issues. But it’s a more mature discussion that we have now,” says the author, who has traveled as a two-time Fulbright scholar to conduct research in both China and Egypt, and holds a packed calendar of speaking engagements on campus and at community events. 
She can certainly hold her own. 
“Black Women: Celebrating the Road Less Traveled” is a weekly online series published by Canady’s Corner to honor Black women who are making a mark in the world in their very own way.