Ladies, Get Your 20% Back: 3 Tips for Salary Negotiation to Close the Wage Gap

salary negotiation

It’s 2017, and women in the job market still make 20% less than men in most industries. (And, according to recent research, black women make even less—60 cents to the dollar.) Though the solutions start with managers and CEOs taking action to level the playing field, there are ways you can take back your power, and the key is in your salary negotiation mojo.

Sherry Sims, an experienced corporate recruitment professional who has worked to review and hire candidates for jobs at top companies including CVS and AT&T, knows the inside scoop on what to do when it’s time to negotiate.

“It’s best to talk salary and benefits when the employer extends an offer,” Sims says. “The more you speak up, the more confident you’ll become with negotiating.”

Read below as Sims, also the founder and CEO of the Black Career Women’s Network, shares three creative and smart ways to close the pay gap, one woman at a time:

 

Start with the right questions.

 

When a prospective employer starts talking benefits, speak up, or forever hold your peace. “Ask them, ‘Do you have an incentive compensation plan? If so, what is the criteria?’” Sims advises. “Inquire about their tuition reimbursement or an allocated budget for professional development programs. Ask about perks that promote work-life balance such as flex vacation or working from home. These are all valid questions and equal more dollars in your pocket as well as chances to avoid being overworked or getting burned out.”

 

If a promotion or raise is what you desire, be prepared with real “receipts.”

 

Sims advises gathering your documentation or notes of achievement for what you have accomplished or implemented. “How have you saved the company money, increased profits, or boosted the client base? Explain how you’ve added value within the last year. Share client testimonies,” she says. “You can start the conversation with, ‘Here are the reports to show [that] within the last 12 months I’ve been able to…’ and go from there. Your strategy should be to show what you’ve done and also, how to continue to keep adding value, saving money, and being profitable—your strongest skill sets.” Don’t be shy about this. Trust, the men in your office aren’t.

Also, use smart nuances when broaching the conversation. You can be bold and authoritative without being combative or seeming entitled.

 

Arm yourself against a case of low-balling.

 

“Here’s a corporate recruiter secret: They will start with the low or midpoint salary range, so if you reject the offer there is room to negotiate,” Sims says. “I know, because I was a corporate recruiter for over a decade.”

Sims advises women to conduct market research and gain knowledge of your professional value so you can ask for what you want. Base this on factors such as the average pay for that position in your location, your educational and training background, your work experience and your network. “It’s all about career empowerment, so why not start with getting paid what you are worth?”

A Single Woman’s Guide to Buying Her First Home

home

There was once a point in time when a single woman buying a home was unthinkable, and women sometimes would even face discrimination if they showed up at an open house without a mate. Today’s first-time homebuyer challenges for single women include uphill battles to prove credit-worthiness after a divorce or getting the same deal as a single male who, because of widespread pay inequalities, is paid more, thus opening him up to access to better loans.

Despite these challenges, today’s single woman is empowered and investing in her own slice of the American dream. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors reflects that single women comprised more of the homebuyers’ group in 2016 than in recent years. According to the NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Seller Survey findings, married couples still make up a large share, however, single females represented 17% of total purchases of homes, the highest rate since 2011.

If you’re hoping to buy a home and have decided not to wait for marriage, here are three steps to get you started on the right track:

 

1. Get to know your options and what you can feasibly afford. 

 

This is usually done in the pre-qualification process. According to Realtor.com’s Craig Donofrio, pre-qualification gives you a sense of “how much house you can afford,” and it’s a conversation you have with a loan officer about your current financial picture. Don’t be afraid to explore this. You won’t know what’s feasible if you don’t actually take the step to talk to someone. Don’t let hang-ups about being single stop you from exploring what it will take to buy a home. Also, if you’re not yet in the position to buy, you can create a plan, based on information from your conversation, to become ready to buy.

 

2. Invest time in courses, first-time buyer programs, and support groups.

 

Many financial institutions, nonprofits, and local government offices offer free resources for prospective homebuyers to learn more about the process, prep themselves for being attractive candidates for loans, or help them through the process with moral and informational support. It can be as simple as conducting a Google search for “homeownership classes,” and you’ll find many local resources based on your location. Also, if you’re already banking with an institution, tap into their free resources by meeting with a representative to find out about local events and panels on the subject. Oftentimes there are grants, down-payment assistance, and other tailored resources specific to first-time homebuyers who complete courses and programs.

 

3. Save, save, and save some more. 

 

As a single woman applying for loans or seeking ways to finance your home, it can be challenging when there’s only one income and one person’s assets to consider. Experts have touted the benefits of having more money to put toward a down payment, from easier approval experience to lower interest rates, and even if you decide not to use that full “Dream Home Fund” for the down payment, you’ll definitely be glad to have funds to cover expenses such as mortgage insurance, home inspections, cash reserves (which some lenders require), and moving expenses. Be deliberate in saving up as much as you can.

5 Smart Saving Tips for Single Women to Build Wealth

saving tips

All my single ladies, hands up—don’t be shy! It’s your time to not only to enjoy adventures and the freedom of being unattached but to also get your finances in order for your future—whether it includes a beau not.

In fact, the numbers are in your favor: more women are outliving men, snubbing social stigmas by buying homes without a spouse. Likewise, more women are waiting longer to marry, especially in the higher-earning groups. Being single is a great time to make investments and tap into the extra income you may have, before it’s time to buy diapers, pay school fees, or split extra bills with a mate. Or, if you are a single mother, it’s a great time to think about ways to enhance your financial outlook to ensure the future of your family.

“When you’re single, you have to fend for yourself financially at all times, versus having a spouse that can help contribute to the household bills. So, for single women, it’s even more critical to ensure that you have a healthy savings account, in the event of an emergency,” says Dominique Broadway, personal finance expert and founder of Finances De•mys•ti•fied.

Below, Broadway offers five more savings tips for single women to take charge of their financial freedom, one step at a time:

 

1. Determine a realistic savings goal based on your current financial picture.

 

“You want to sit down, look at all of your income and expenses, and determine how much you can actually afford to save every month,” Broadway says. “You can start with saving 10% of your income as an initial goal, however, once you do your budget, you will be able to determine if you can save more or less than that.”

 

2. Be clear on exactly why you’re saving and draft a plan.

 

“For example, if you want to create an emergency fund, you can set a goal of saving three to six months of your monthly expenses,” Broadway says. “Set the date of when you want to reach this goal, break the goal down into monthly or even bi-weekly amounts, start saving the amount automatically, and watch your savings grow. You can do this same strategy if you are saving for a house, trip, or whatever your heart desires.”

 

3. Find something or someone to keep you accountable.

 

“Apps like Dobot are a great tools that help you set a goal and plan to save toward it,” Broadway says. “Digit is great as well for enhancing your monthly savings by automatically saving small amounts for you, so you won’t even miss it. If you need more accountability, working one-on-one with a financial coach can ensure you don’t stray away from your goals.”

 

4. Create balance in terms of your savings goals and your social or dating life.

 

“Dating and your social life can hurt your finances if you let it,” she says. “It’s great to hang out and have a good time, just make sure that fancy brunch on Saturday doesn’t have you eating Ramen noodles for the next two weeks. Set a ‘Going Out’ budget that can keep you happy and entertained.”

 

5. If you get off track with your savings or hit a financial road bump, take action to change course immediately. 

 

“It’s important to identify what threw you off track so you can be alert if that issue rises again,” Broadway says. “Don’t beat yourself up about it, but make a conscious effort to get back in the game and reach your goals.”

5 Smart Saving Tips for Single Women to Build Wealth

saving tips

All my single ladies, hands up—don’t be shy! It’s your time to not only to enjoy adventures and the freedom of being unattached but to also get your finances in order for your future—whether it includes a beau not.

In fact, the numbers are in your favor: more women are outliving men, snubbing social stigmas by buying homes without a spouse. Likewise, more women are waiting longer to marry, especially in the higher-earning groups. Being single is a great time to make investments and tap into the extra income you may have, before it’s time to buy diapers, pay school fees, or split extra bills with a mate. Or, if you are a single mother, it’s a great time to think about ways to enhance your financial outlook to ensure the future of your family.

“When you’re single, you have to fend for yourself financially at all times, versus having a spouse that can help contribute to the household bills. So, for single women, it’s even more critical to ensure that you have a healthy savings account, in the event of an emergency,” says Dominique Broadway, personal finance expert and founder of Finances De•mys•ti•fied.

Below, Broadway offers five more savings tips for single women to take charge of their financial freedom, one step at a time:

 

1. Determine a realistic savings goal based on your current financial picture.

 

“You want to sit down, look at all of your income and expenses, and determine how much you can actually afford to save every month,” Broadway says. “You can start with saving 10% of your income as an initial goal, however, once you do your budget, you will be able to determine if you can save more or less than that.”

 

2. Be clear on exactly why you’re saving and draft a plan.

 

“For example, if you want to create an emergency fund, you can set a goal of saving three to six months of your monthly expenses,” Broadway says. “Set the date of when you want to reach this goal, break the goal down into monthly or even bi-weekly amounts, start saving the amount automatically, and watch your savings grow. You can do this same strategy if you are saving for a house, trip, or whatever your heart desires.”

 

3. Find something or someone to keep you accountable.

 

“Apps like Dobot are a great tools that help you set a goal and plan to save toward it,” Broadway says. “Digit is great as well for enhancing your monthly savings by automatically saving small amounts for you, so you won’t even miss it. If you need more accountability, working one-on-one with a financial coach can ensure you don’t stray away from your goals.”

 

4. Create balance in terms of your savings goals and your social or dating life.

 

“Dating and your social life can hurt your finances if you let it,” she says. “It’s great to hang out and have a good time, just make sure that fancy brunch on Saturday doesn’t have you eating Ramen noodles for the next two weeks. Set a ‘Going Out’ budget that can keep you happy and entertained.”

 

5. If you get off track with your savings or hit a financial road bump, take action to change course immediately. 

 

“It’s important to identify what threw you off track so you can be alert if that issue rises again,” Broadway says. “Don’t beat yourself up about it, but make a conscious effort to get back in the game and reach your goals.”

Global #BlackGirlMagic: 5 International Female Biz Stars to Watch

women business owners

It’s Women’s History Month, and as such, it is a great time to be a female and celebrate women. Despite the fact that there’s still a need for progress in terms of gender equality, women are still killing it in the business world.

According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express Open, between 2007 and 2016, African American women, in particular, owned 1.9 million firms, employed 376,500 workers, and generated $51.4 billion in revenue during 2016.

Globally, the numbers are just as promising, too. The 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report—sponsored by Babson College, Universidad Del Desarrollo, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, and Tecnológico de Monterrey—says that in four economies—Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, and Malaysia—women report equal or higher entrepreneurship rates than men. Likewise, the 2017 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs report shows that countries, including Uganda and Bangladesh, have the highest concentration of women entrepreneurs, despite very challenging economic and social conditions.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five female business stars of color to watch and learn from, as we celebrate women who are making boss moves around the world:

 

1. Yve-Car Momperousse, Founder and CEO, Kreyol Essence

 

(Image: KreyoleEssence.com)

 

A Haitian-American social entrepreneur, Momperousse has tapped into Haiti’s castor oil and other natural ingredients for her eco-luxury beauty brand Kreyol Essence. She employs people in both the Caribbean nation and in the U.S., with 90% of those employees being women. The company touts successes like hiring 350 farmers, women producers, and male workers, and even has a partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

Momperousse’s most recent boss move: She was one of 10 selected to participate in Sephora’s second annual Accelerate Cohort, out of hundreds of applicants from across the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Brazil. This will provide her with six months of mentorship from international industry leaders and business boot camp training.

 

2. Valrie Grant, Founder and Managing Director, GeoTechVision

 

(Image: Twitter)

 

Grant, a tech leader in the Caribbean, started GeoTechVision to provide spatial technology and business ICT solutions. With offices based in Jamaica and Guyana, GeoTechVision’s clients include the who’s who of Caribbean government and infrastructure management, such as the Office of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, the University of West Indies Land Management Division, and the Guyana Ministry of Public Works.

 

3. Chika Russell, CEO, Chika’s Foods Ltd.

 

(Image: Twitter)

 

An enterprising mother and wife, Chika Russell founded her London-based snack company, Chika’s Foods Ltd., to promote the vast, rich flavors of West Africa, with a healthy edge. She was once a contestant on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den, the U.K.’s version of Shark Tank. However, even after wowing the judging panel, she declined a £30,000 win, and instead opted to make a go of it on her own “because she wanted more of a ‘challenge,’” reports Daily Mail.

Today, this line of gluten-free, vegan-friendly snacks, infused with Nigerian spices and flavors can be found in grocery chains, like Whole Foods and Waitrose, and even in international hotels, such as The Ritz Hotel, London. The brand’s subscription service also offers the chance to support humanitarian efforts: the ‘Snack for Change’ initiative provides educational  resources to African children in need with each subscription sold.

 

 

4. Ellen Chilemba, Founder, Tiwale

 

(Image: Tiwale.org)

 

Tiwale is a for-profit social enterprise that empowers women in Malawi through entrepreneurship. Initially with a team of five teens, Chilemba launched Tiwale as a business education program, which included the distribution of microloans. According to the company, the first loan program helped 12 local women start businesses.

The organization offers a variety of programs that are each designed to support the entrepreneurial empowerment of women in Malawi. For instance, the Tiwale Design Project teaches women how to do traditional fabric dyeing and printing, and a portion of the revenue from the sale of these tapestries go toward covering school grant programs and microloans extended through the organization.

To date, Tiwale has trained 150 women in business education programs and has enabled 40 women to start their own small enterprises with microloans, according to its website. In a country where poverty and child marriages are still major issues, this is the supreme boss move.

 

5. Victoria Kisyombe, Founder, Selfina

 

(Image: Selfina.com)

 

Kisyonbe’s company Selfina is a for-profit social enterprise that helps women in Tanzania realize the dream of business ownership. Through an innovative model of microleasing, Selfina offers women loans without a focus on the typical eligibility factors, such as collateral and business experience.

Many of Selfina’s success stories consist of women becoming so victorious, that they were able to launch and sustain multiple businesses. The company also boasts results of providing more than 27,500 women with lease financing, leading to the creation of 150,000 jobs. In addition, more than $17 million has been made available to women through the organization’s revolving fund.

Surprising Number of Small Biz Owners Still Don’t Use Social Media

social media

It seems like the whole world is tweeting, recording video on Facebook Live, or Snapchatting their way into profits and brand credibility. But, according to a recent report, there is still a sizeable number of small- to medium-sized business owners who have yet to board the social media train.

Yeah, in 2017. Believe it.

In a recent survey conducted by Clutch, a Washington, D.C. B2B ratings and reviews firm, 24% of small business owners and managers indicated they don’t use social for their business, while 8% never expect to use the popular platforms. Forty percent of the survey’s respondents were companies with 10 or fewer employees, 27% with 11-50 employees, 25% with 51-250 employees, and 8% with 251-500 employees.

The findings of the survey also reflect that for those who use social media, Facebook is king. More than 90% of small businesses with a social media presence use the platform—one that also leads in general usage among all social media lovers. The second most popular channel is Twitter, which is used by 55% of small businesses.

If you’re a small business owner who has not yet tapped into what could be a gold mine of new customers, clients, and leads for you, here are a few facts that might change your mind about disregarding its value:

 

Your competitors are using it and many are winning.


Whether it’s gaining a foothold in consumer trust or finding ways to reach customers in locations they previously had no presence in, social media is a convenient and often low-cost tool for entrepreneurs. If you’re among the 24% not using social media, think about the more than 75% who are reaching customers you could have. Brands are even incorporating instant-access tools such as Buy Now buttons—a still emerging trend especially popular among millennials—direct web links to sell products or services. With this in mind, you can also get to know your competitors, how they operate, and the audiences they cater to in order to tap into those audiences yourself. Most platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, offer analytic insights that not only allow you to evaluate your customer and follower bases’ demographics but those of your competitors as well.

 

More consumers are using social media to drive their purchase decisions.

 

According to PwC’s 2016 Total Retail Survey, social media is a “major influencer of consumer purchasing decisions,” with 78% of global consumers indicating that social media influenced them in some way about what they’d buy or who they’d buy it from. Sixty-seven percent indicated that “either reading or writing social media reviews and comments influences their online shopping behavior.”

Knowing this, why not own the conversation and meet your clients and customers where they are: online? Experts recommend finding out what platforms our customers are most inclined to use, and starting with that one to update them on deals, events, and other aspects of your business that allow them to get to know you and offer their insights on your service or business. You can also use scheduling tools like Hootsuite, or even a consultant or freelancer, to manage your updates for you, to make updating when you don’t have the time, resources, or energy that much easier.

 

 

Surprising Number of Small Biz Owners Still Don’t Use Social Media

social media

It seems like the whole world is tweeting, recording video on Facebook Live, or Snapchatting their way into profits and brand credibility. But, according to a recent report, there is still a sizeable number of small- to medium-sized business owners who have yet to board the social media train.

Yeah, in 2017. Believe it.

In a recent survey conducted by Clutch, a Washington, D.C. B2B ratings and reviews firm, 24% of small business owners and managers indicated they don’t use social for their business, while 8% never expect to use the popular platforms. Forty percent of the survey’s respondents were companies with 10 or fewer employees, 27% with 11-50 employees, 25% with 51-250 employees, and 8% with 251-500 employees.

The findings of the survey also reflect that for those who use social media, Facebook is king. More than 90% of small businesses with a social media presence use the platform—one that also leads in general usage among all social media lovers. The second most popular channel is Twitter, which is used by 55% of small businesses.

If you’re a small business owner who has not yet tapped into what could be a gold mine of new customers, clients, and leads for you, here are a few facts that might change your mind about disregarding its value:

 

Your competitors are using it and many are winning.


Whether it’s gaining a foothold in consumer trust or finding ways to reach customers in locations they previously had no presence in, social media is a convenient and often low-cost tool for entrepreneurs. If you’re among the 24% not using social media, think about the more than 75% who are reaching customers you could have. Brands are even incorporating instant-access tools such as Buy Now buttons—a still emerging trend especially popular among millennials—direct web links to sell products or services. With this in mind, you can also get to know your competitors, how they operate, and the audiences they cater to in order to tap into those audiences yourself. Most platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, offer analytic insights that not only allow you to evaluate your customer and follower bases’ demographics but those of your competitors as well.

 

More consumers are using social media to drive their purchase decisions.

 

According to PwC’s 2016 Total Retail Survey, social media is a “major influencer of consumer purchasing decisions,” with 78% of global consumers indicating that social media influenced them in some way about what they’d buy or who they’d buy it from. Sixty-seven percent indicated that “either reading or writing social media reviews and comments influences their online shopping behavior.”

Knowing this, why not own the conversation and meet your clients and customers where they are: online? Experts recommend finding out what platforms our customers are most inclined to use, and starting with that one to update them on deals, events, and other aspects of your business that allow them to get to know you and offer their insights on your service or business. You can also use scheduling tools like Hootsuite, or even a consultant or freelancer, to manage your updates for you, to make updating when you don’t have the time, resources, or energy that much easier.

 

 

Twitter VIPs: 8 Money Experts to Follow to Upgrade Your Finances

money experts

Many of us spend a lot of time scrolling through, double-clicking, and constantly sharing content on social media. Hey, who doesn’t love a good cat frolic, viral Trump meme, food photo, or makeup tutorial? Why not add a few money motivators—some driven by experience and self-education and others by finance backgrounds and Wall Street boss moves—to your “I Need to Get My $ Up” list on Twitter? We know Facebook and Instagram are the big dogs on the social media block, but with Twitter, the knowledge nuggets are short, sweet, diverse, and clickable. Here are a few money experts to get you started:

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche
Millennial Financial Fitness Advocate & Blogger
@TheBudgetnista

A young woman with an amazing story of rebounding from unemployment, Aliche makes budgeting more relatable and fun—way more than the cringe-inducing idea of penny-pinching and cutting that late-night Amazon habit. Her quick tips and no-fluff strategies are golden—especially for young professionals fearful of the b-word.

Tai and Talaat McNeely
Marriage and Marriage Experts
@HisandHerMoney

There’s hope in the love department for some of us who ran up one—or five—too many credit card bills in college and have faced the cringe-worthy experience of explaining financial snafus to the future beau-for-life. One McNeely was great with money and the other wasn’t. Their tweets include a mixture of financial fitness humor, love, and money advice via video, and inspirational success stories of others.

Tarra Jackson
Economic Empowerment Educator & Consultant
@MsMadamMoney

Jackson brings her experience working in financial services, with positions ranging from bank training manager to vice president of lending, to interim president and CEO and mixes it with a nice curation of shared content on investing, debt reduction, and her #CashChat recaps detailing personal finance conversations with other money motivators.

Tonya Rapley
Personal Finance Influencer, Founder of My Fab Finance
@MyFabFinance

You won’t just find general finger-wagging tips on the ideal path to financial freedom with this one. Rapley gets into specifics like saving on your health insurance or building up savings while in debt. She also includes a nice mix of pick-me-up quips to help soothe the aches of money mistakes, daily financial obligations, and that hard, but well worth it journey up the wealth-building mountain.

Rich Jones & Marcus Garrett
Money & Work Advice for Millennials
@PayBalances

Two smart guys. An awesome podcast telling the real-deal on personal finances as they relate to work, home, and everything in between. This is the best place to get updates on their latest candid convos on career advancement, side hustles, debt reduction and how to maximize how you spend your day and your money.

Jonnelle Marte
Blogger, The Washington Post’s “Get There”
@Jonnelle

A personal finance reporter, she’s the lead writer for the Post‘s online money section. Peppered with political news and updates that more than likely will affect your pocket, her tweets also include articles on reaching specific savings goals, making great tax prep decisions, and millennial homeownership.

Chris Hogan
Author & Strategist on Retirement, Business and Leadership
@ChrisHogan

A former All-American football player, Hogan’s account is a one-stop shop for simple yet thorough advice on money management and saving, particularly in prep for retirement. It’s also where you can find quick updates on his latest Retire Inspired podcasts and #Daystarter memes that quickly remind you to stay the financial freedom course.

Amiyrah Martin
Family Finance & Budgeting Blogger
@AmiyrahMartin

A wife and mother of three, Martin tweets family friendly content on budget vacations, money education for children, back-to-school shopping, and cost-effective reviews that even single women or men or couples still in the honeymoon phase can benefit from.

5 Simple Boss Moves to Help You Confront Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt

We’ve all heard about, read about, or experienced the woes of student loan debt, and research has shown that black graduates, in particular, face an uphill battle with this. Recent research from Brookings indicates that when African American graduates earn bachelor’s degrees, they owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers— $23,400 as compared to $16,000. Then, during the next few years following their walk across that stage, the black-white debt gap more than triples to $25,000.

All is not lost, however. Experts say that, with proper budgeting and planning, you can conquer what may seem like a debt beast. You just have to put in the work.

 

Overcome the Fear, Gather Your Paperwork, and Pick up the Phone

 

Experts recommend that, instead of ignoring the huge sum owed, call your loan provider and find out your options. If you have private loans and you’re struggling to repay, being transparent with a lender, versus totally avoiding the issue and letting it snowball. Forbearance, deferment, and even forgiveness are all options you should ask questions about and take notes on to evaluate. What will each mean, in terms of interest, the length of time to repay, and its impact on your personal budget? Hey, it beats going into default and dealing with the nasty aftermath of wage garnishments as well as dips in your credit score.

 

Research Your Repayment Calculations Online

 

There are so many tools out there, and one major tool to start with is on the Dept. of Education’s federal student loan site. You can calculate your repayment amount and look into plans that include forgiveness of your loans if there is a balance owed after 10 to 25 years of repayment.

 

Get a Vetted Consultant or Adviser

 

Some companies specialize in consulting on strategies of repayment and offer personalized guidance. Though you must be sure to read reviews, do your research on sites like LinkedIn or the Better Business Bureau and even ask around for referrals. For financial advisers, be sure they’re certified or affiliated with a reputable bank. Also, many cities offer free credit and financial counseling services, so check online at your local government’s website for details.

 

Evaluate Creative Ways to Boost Your Income

 

Though the job market can be tough, there may be ways that you can bring in a little extra cash to devote solely to paying off your loans. Is there a side hustle you could commit to, or a part-time gig you could take on? What about freelance work?

 

Look to Your Employer

 

Some companies offer student loan repayment assistance and can pay up to $10,000 per year. If you’re a new hire, try factoring in your prospective payments and negotiating an amount that includes enough to cover them. Up for a promotion and raise? The same could apply.

Dropping Jewels: 3 Tips for Breaking Into the Diamond Industry

(Image: Philadelphia Diamond Co.)

Power couple Kenyatta and Nicole Black are the driving force behind the Philadelphia Diamond Co., and they’ve recently completed their latest innovation: introducing the Queen Cut® diamond, a rectangular-shaped diamond covered with facets that sets itself apart from your usual princess, cushion, or round cuts.

For more than a decade, the two have worked together to build a company in an industry that often caters to consumers of color who enjoy a bit of bling, but reflects few behind the business of cultivating, designing, and selling diamond jewelry.

Kenyatta, who grew up in a family jewelry business, brings more than 15 years of experience in design, repair, and replacements to the company, while Nicole adds her corporate marketing savvy, making the two quite the duo to reckon with in the industry.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the Blacks as they turn special focus on their latest innovation to get a few tips on how to break into the diamond business:

Watch the consumer and find out what you can offer that is unique and has potential for longevity. “In 15 years, we’ve grown steadily. Our high, prior to the 2008 recession, was close to about a half-million dollars in revenue,” Nicole says. “We reinvented and focused the business on what people are still buying today. Previously, we were a broad scale jewelry store, so we sold earrings and tennis bracelets—whatever you wanted in jewelry. … We looked at what part of the industry is still growing, and people will always get engaged, they’re still falling in love and they’re still getting married.” The company offers an affordable, luxury-customized experience for couples to make their special day (and engagement rings) unique and unforgettable. Nicole says their revenue is set to hit $1.5 million after the shift in their offerings.

Get educated and work in the industry to gain structured experience and build credibility. Kenyatta not only built up his knowledge while working for his family’s jewelry company, but he’s also a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America who has worked for national brands including Bailey, Banks & Biddle, Littman Jewelers, and Zales. “I love working with my hands in terms of design, and I attended a jewelry design school as well to learn how it’s all engineered and how you keep a good balance in jewelry. Just getting the experience in working for a lot of different companies and putting in my own ideas and designs [contributes to] what we do today.”

Strengthen relationships in the industry by getting to know the top players and attending industry-related events. “It is an industry that is not well-known unless you’re into it. It’s very closed and very relational,” Nicole says. “Philadelphia has one of the oldest—if not the—oldest Jewelers Row. These jewelers go back generations.” The couple has also been able to spark and build relationships based on the customized process of what they offer, working with a select group of cutters, diamond suppliers, and other industry leaders who they collaborate with for the final product. “Having mentors [is also important],” Nicole adds.