Now she helps others to find work
At a time when many people are aggressively searching for employment, it helps to stand out from the crowd.
Alethea Crockett, president and CEO of AT Your Career Services is striving to help her clients put their best feet forward during their job search.
Crockett has more than 20 years of experience in providing career counseling and human resources management in the areas of finance, health care, law and nonprofits.
In December, Crockett launched AT Your Career Services, a professional development and human resources outsourcing agency based in Center City. The agency offers resume and curriculum vitae design, career counseling, recruitment, talent management and employment retention services.
As a result of being laid off, Crockett was spurred to start her new business venture.
“It actually pushed me to do for myself what I had been doing for companies for years,” she said.
“I’ve been a consultant for many years, so I wanted to do this for a long time.”
Despite the challenging economic environment, Crockett says it’s the ideal time to start an agency that specializes in career counseling and human resources.
“It’s the right time, right now, because people need the service,” said the Philadelphia native.
“I want to see people do well. It’s my passion to get people to see what they can’t see — and that’s their potential. I want to see people succeed and that makes the difference in how I approach my clients.”
She often encounters people who have become disheartened because they feel stuck in a particular field. To that end, Crockett helps her clients realize that they have skills that can be transferred into other areas.
She offers some key advice for those seeking employment in this competitive job market.
“In these times, I tell people ‘open your mouth.’ Right now is the time to talk — to network,” said Crockett, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in education.
“We are in times where you have to reach out, you have to put the pride aside and open your mouth. These are difficult times, and they call for drastic measures, and you just really have to get out there.”
Crockett has taken her own advice to heart, as she seeks to build her client base.
She says it’s important that people have their resumes reviewed.
“Your résumé is your first representation of you,” she stressed.
“Have someone look over your résumé so that they can see something that you can’t see.”
For those who are successful in landing interviews, Crockett says it’s important that they dress professionally, regardless of the particular position they have applied for.
She also stressed the importance of doing homework on a prospective employer in preparation for an interview.
“Do your homework prior to going in for an interview. There is no reason for you to go into an interview not knowing about a company,” she said.
When Cindy Colis needed help fine-tuning her resume and job interviewing skills, she turned to Crockett for assistance. Prior to working with Crockett last August, she had been on several interviews but was unsuccessful in netting a job. She had been searching for six months.
“I was out of the loop for a while, and my résumé was kind of antiquated,” said Colis.
Armed with a revised résumé and interviewing techniques, Colis was finally able to net a new position.
“She just helped tighten everything up. She gave me some great tools. I would recommend her to anyone,” she said of Crockett.
Over the years, Crockett has been giving professional guidance to Dr. Tamika Thomas, a psychologist. She recently assisted Thomas by revamping her curriculum vitae.
“I think just her years of service in the HR field gives her a eye for how things should be structured as it relates to resume and CV writing. My CV was really geared toward my getting my internship, and I needed to translate that over into professional development and she did wonders with my CV,” said Thomas.
“She’s efficient. She gives you the document in the time frame in which she says she is going to give it to you, so I appreciated that as well,” she added.
Crockett is currently offering a free resume critique as a part of her company’s Shape Up Your Career campaign for 2012.
For information about receiving a free resume critique visit www.atyourcareerservices.com
Consumers seeking a unique shopping experience can head to the National Alliance of Market Developers 10th Annual “Buy Black” Shopping Expo.
The expo, which will be held December 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at First District Plaza, 3801 Market Street, offers consumers a mix of products and services from nearly 50 businesses. Businesses from Washington, D.C. to New York will be represented at this regionally targeted event.
The shopping expo features department store quality products in an environment where consumers can directly interact with the entrepreneur who has created the item and receive affordable prices. A variety of sectors will be represented including clothing and apparel, jewelry, educational products, personal care products, professional services and performing artists. The expo will also feature food vendors, entertainment and educational information.
Through the event, NAMD is working to increase the dollars that circulate within African American-owned businesses.
“The annual NAMD Buy Black event provides an opportunity for those that want to support Black-owned businesses to participate directly by identifying and patronizing these vendors and business owners on site,” says Norm Bond, NAMD chairman.
Bond refers to the expo as a grassroots approach to economic development and job creation.
The concept of supporting Black-owned businesses is being touted at a time when African-American purchasing power is growing. A report released by Nielsen and the National Newspapers Publishers Association indicates the collective buying power of the African-American population is projected to be at $1.1 trillion by 2015.
Nationwide, Black consumers spend billions of dollars per year. However, Bond cited statistics indicating that 95 percent of these dollars are spent with non-Black owned businesses.
“More people are recognizing the need to get these Black dollars turning over within businesses. We need to move the needle,” says Bond.
“As the Black unemployment rate has continued to climb, I think people are realizing that there’s not going to be any specific program coming out from the federal level, the state level or the local level to drive those numbers down so more people are starting to realize that we are going to have to do this ourselves — we are going to have to create our own jobs.”
Tables for vendors are still available for the upcoming expo. Admission to the expo is free. For information, visit www.namdphiladelphia.com.
United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Greater Philadelphia Cares have merged, effective Jan. 1.
This merger of missions will provide meaningful volunteer and community engagement opportunities for individuals, community groups and corporations throughout the region.
As a result of the merger, UWSEPA will form the Community Action Center, which will engage and mobilize individuals in support of service, as well as promote community involvement, throughout Greater Philadelphia. The center will also provide a seamless connection through which the nonprofit sector can provide volunteer opportunities and volunteers can connect to important issues and needs in their communities.
“We know this partnership will only serve to strengthen the culture of volunteerism that is ingrained in our region,” said Jill Michal, president and CEO, UWSEPA.
“Together, we’ll be better equipped to connect the ‘want’ of volunteers to the real needs of the region, mobilizing this powerful force to drive real impact in our community.”
Martin Molloy, CEO of Greater Philadelphia Cares, will become director of the Community Action Center at United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. All members of Greater Philadelphia Cares’ board of directors have been invited to serve on United Way’s Civic Engagement Vision Council, which oversees the organization’s civic engagement work, and will help the organization determine the expansion of existing programs, and the development of new programs, moving forward.
GPC Board Chair Erica Atwood will also serve as member of UWSEPA’s Community Impact Strategy Committee, which oversees all of UWSEPA’s community investments.
“For close to 20 years, Greater Philadelphia Cares has played an important role in connecting volunteers to opportunities throughout the Philadelphia region,” said Erica Atwood, specialist, External Affairs & Community Engagement, Office of the Mayor; chair, Board of Directors, Greater Philadelphia Cares.
“We know that this role will only be enhanced and strengthened by partnering with an organization as community-minded as United Way.”
UWSEPA is part of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and in people’s lives.
Christopher Abbott has parlayed a love for cooking into a burgeoning business venture.
As the owner of Chef Kristov and Company, Abbott specializes in offering personal chef and catering services.
Depending on their needs, Abbott cooks meals for clients at their homes or delivers ready-made, custom tailored meals that he cooks in his kitchen. When consulting with first-time clients, he gathers information about their food preferences, health needs and dietary restrictions. Clients can choose from a vast selection of beef, fish, poultry, pasta and vegetarian dishes. On the catering side, Chef Kristov caters for dinner parties, meetings, small receptions and weddings.
Abbott uses his business as a platform to educate people about the importance of healthy eating and adopting a healthier lifestyle.
“I put my name out there as a healthy chef. My chef work is a ministry to me. My thing is, people need to survive. God wants us to live our life to the fullest,” says Abbott, who is a South Philadelphia native.
He doesn’t consider churning out tasty fare as mundane work. For Abbott, the art of cooking is a labor of love.
“This is my passion. I love food. I love to cook,” says Abbott, who juggles running the business with his daytime job as a technical analyst for Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis LLP.
Prior to launching Chef Kristov and Company in November 2010, Abbott garnered years of experience in the food industry. His background includes catering for La’Petite Bakeries and serving as a catering assistant for Simply Delicious Caterers. Abbott is also a former co-owner of Gumbo For Da Soul.
Abbott says consistency is critical to ensuring that his business is successful.
“My thing is if you give the people what they want and they like it, they’ll keep coming back,” he added.
His efforts are paying off for his clients.
For almost a year, Abbott has been preparing dinners for his long-term customer Todd Rose, president and CEO of Telrose Corporation.
“His food is — first and foremost — outstanding. It’s well prepared. It’s always fresh, and it’s very healthy for me,” says Rose. “He’s really customer first and customer oriented.”
Rose regards Chef Kristov’s services as being very cost effective.
“It’s actually saved me money on my grocery bill,” Rose added.
Abbott left a good impression when he catered a New Orleans-style dinner at the home of William Dixon during Northwest Mt. Airy Neighbors Association’s “Eat Your Hearts Out” event. The event, which was sponsored by Chestnut Hill Hospital, was held last April and enabled participating Mt Airy residents to invite neighbors to dinner at their respective homes.
“Chris did a fabulous job. He turned it out,” Dixon said of Abbott’s services.
“He’s very professional. He’s got a great vision and I think he’s got great potential to be of the great chefs of Philadelphia. I’m just a fan of his across the board,” he said.
While Chef Kristov and Company just marked its first year in operation, Abbott has mapped out a vision for the future. He plans to open a Philadelphia-based Louisiana-style restaurant in the fall of 2012.
For Janet Curtis, what began as a hobby has morphed into a successful business venture.
In 2000, Curtis started concocting shea butter creams and body washes in her kitchen for her personal use. Three years later, she was ready to open a shop in Chestnut Hill.
Curtis launched her business with the goal of offering high end products at an affordable price.
Today Jahaya’s Organic Skin Care and Healing Spa offers approximately 30 natural products.
The shop’s wooden shelves display handmade soaps in the scents of lemongrass, oatmeal, lavender and peppermint; natural face washes; astringents; vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy and acne prone skin facial toners; anti-aging facial creams; pumpkin masques; shower butters; shea butters; shea butter creams; foot scrubs; hair growth and emu oils.
“There’s a little bit of something for everybody,” Curtis says of her shop’s offerings. “Natural products give you instant gratification.”
One product that she can barely keep on her shelves is the Mango Passion Tea Shea Butter — mixed with Curtis’ blend of special ingredients.
“It’s very alluring to the opposite sex,” says Curtis, who noticed many of her female customers’ mates encouraged them to purchase the shea butter after smelling it for the first time.
“That’s a shelf staple. If I don’t have that, people have a major attitude.”
Now Curtis is gearing up for the holidays, when she offers another popular seasonal product — a white chocolate raspberry mousse. Custom gift baskets are also available during the Christmas season.
Throughout her years in business, Curtis has used her own skin as a testing ground for her natural products.
“Some of the things I test on myself because I have very sensitive skin,” says Curtis, who has a background as a health educator for children.
The shop, located at 8138 Germantown Avenue serves as the place where Curtis mixes and bottles her products. When she first started out, Curtis would mix products at home -where she admits the process had a negative impact on her kitchen.
Shoppers might even wander in while she’s in the midst of bottling a new batch. Curtis has also incorporated body detoxing at Jahaya’s.
While interacting with her customers, Curtis takes the time to educate them about the benefits of using certain natural ingredients on their skin.
“There’s so much false information out there about good products,” she pointed out.
After years of concocting products, Curtis still has a passion for what she does.
“I always enjoyed doing it. I still enjoy it,” she said. “After eight years, I still lie in bed and wonder ‘can I do that?’”
Preliminary plans are in the works for Curtis to develop a skin care line, inspired by her granddaughter, for ‘tweens and teens.
The Mt. Airy resident was drawn to Chestnut Hill’s close proximity to her home.
Jahaya’s has outlived a number of businesses on the Germantown Avenue shopping corridor. Curtis credits her staple product offerings for enabling Jahaya’s to survive a tough economic environment.
“I make staple products. Either you’re going to go to CVS or Rite Aid and buy a cream or you can come here and buy a cream for a comparable price,” Curtis says.
“People will always put aside money for beauty care products. They may feel bad but they’re not going to look bad.”
A program geared toward putting women entrepreneurs on the path to significant growth is coming to Philadelphia.
Nonprofit organization Count Me In will host the Make Mine a Million $ Business “M3 1000” program Sept. 25 and 26 at the Doubletree Hotel, 237 South Broad Street.
The initiative aims to inspire women business owners to reach $1 million in revenue.
“It’s life changing,” Count Me In Founder Nell Merlino says of the program, which has traveled to 30 cities around the country.
“Most women business owners work in isolation. Only 70 percent of women-owned businesses even have an employee, so we offer them an opportunity to get really good feedback. It’s mainly an opportunity to learn how to present your business in a way that banks, investors, customers and potential employees will understand very quickly what you do.”
According to Merlino, 30 percent of the women who have come through the program actually hit the $1 million mark in revenue.
“There are either women have recently started a business or women who have been in business for a long time who are stuck at a revenue level and they’d like to be making more money and we know how to help them do that,” said Merlino.
“We are totally focused to moving you to $1 million in revenue. We don’t just want people to come and join us, we want people involved with us so that they can make more money and create more jobs for people in their community.”
During the event, participating entrepreneurs will have opportunity to do a two-minute pitch about their business to a team of judges and experts. The competitors have the opportunity to win six-hours of business coaching and a $1000 gift card from American Express.
The two-day event offers workshops on a various topics such as financing, business etiquette and social media and features presenters such as Melinda Emerson, SmallBizLady, Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, Jen Groover, media mogul and business expert; Cheryl Walker-Robertson, protocol and etiquette expert and Holly Landau, leadership expert.
Merlino noted that 70 percent of women-owned businesses in the U.S. have $50,000 or less in annual gross revenue.
“We decided by looking at those numbers and learning that only 2.6 percent earn a million that we wanted to set people’s sights high,” she said.
Due to the economy, Merlino has seen many women who were working full time and running their business on the side have had to move their business to the forefront.
“The importance of this has really heightened,” Merlino said.
“It’s one thing if you were doing something and you liked doing it because you had extra money to put away. If you had something you like doing on the side, it may become your full time thing.”
After Diane Floyd was laid off from her full-time job last year, her business Meal Makers, Inc. became the main source of revenue. Founded in 2001, Meal Makers specializes in making customized dinner meals and teaching people how to cook.
Floyd has been attending pitch parties in Philadelphia that give women who are planning to attend M3 1000 a chance to practice their business pitch and receive constructive feedback in a small setting. For Floyd, the pitch parties have provided her with a chance to learn from others and network with other business owners.
She plans to pitch her Meal Makers during the M3 1000 event.
“By going to these pitch parties it’s been very helpful. First in hearing what other people do and how they’ve progressed,” said Floyd.
“It’s been a learning process. They give you encouragement as well as critiques as to how you can improve what you’re saying and what you need to include in the pitch itself.”
To register for the upcoming event, visit www.makemineamillion.org.
Citizens Bank encourages consumers to establish their savings goals and consider some budgeting strategies as part of a financial tune up for 2012.
“The beginning of a new year is the perfect time for consumers to review their finances and to conduct a simple financial tune-up that can help them recognize any patterns they want to change or new opportunities to save in the year ahead,” said Daniel K. Kilpatrick, Citizens Bank president and CEO for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
“We encourage our customers, and all consumers, to take the time to review their records for 2011, write down their financial goals and start thinking about their household budgets for 2012.”
The bank suggests the following checklist for an annual checkup: identify financial goals for the year, build a budget, eliminate or reduce debt, establish automatic savings by having part of your paycheck direct-deposited into a savings account, evaluate your retirement savings strategy, check your credit reports and seek advice from a banker, financial adviser or accountant.
These financial tips will help consumers identify opportunities to end 2012 in better financial shape than they started.
The following programs are also available to Citizens Bank customers as they pursue their financial goals in 2012: GoalTrack Savings, a program that offers bonuses to customers; CollegeSaver accounts that offer financial incentives to families saving money for college; Homebuyer Savings, a program that offers $1,000 toward the closing cost of a Citizens Bank mortgage to savers who have saved $100 a month for 36 months; and the Value Plan, a program that offers a new set of features for checking accounts.
Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania is a state-chartered bank with dual headquarters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It is a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group, Inc. a $131 billion commercial bank holding company headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island.
Hassan F. Johnson, chief executive officer of ThaTrunk, has developed a savvy mobile application geared toward connecting creative professionals such as musicians, authors and artists to their consumers.
“We give them a better sales channel to distribute content to and sell merchandise,” Johnson says of ThaTrunk’s application.
“There is a great need for creative people to sell their content on the individual level as well as the e-commerce level.”
ThaTrunk uses mobile commerce and geocast technology to help digital creators resonate with their fans and consumers. For example, the company’s mobile application enables musicians to geocast their music live from stage.
“Since we have the platform, I can see our business taking off and really working with large entertainment companies,” says Johnson, whose firm seeks to raise $750,000 in capital.
Johnson, who hails from Austin, Texas, represented one of 14 tech start-up firms who participated in the recently held DreamIt Ventures Demo Day event.
Demo Day offered participating entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas before an audience of angel investors and business executives. The diverse array of start ups ranged from specializing in offering mobile applications for printed coupons to developing a system designed to streamline the supply procurement process for contractors to offering an online platform designed to connect voters with political candidates.
The companies represented bright entrepreneurial talent and included students and alumni from top academic institutions.
Companies who participated in the DreamIt Ventures business accelerator program spent the last three months working out of shared office space in the University City Science Center. The accelerator program provides selected participants with up to $25,000 in seed capital, donated accounting and legal services and mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. This marked the fourth year that DreamIt Ventures held a program in Philadelphia. The initiative was also held in New York over the summer. In the last four years, DreamIt entrepreneurs have raised more than $25 million.
Five of the participating companies were selected in partnership with Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast Corporation as part of the Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP). MEAP was established to address the lack of minorities in the startup community. MEAP is the first investment initiative from the $20 million fund created by the NBCUniversal transaction that is committed to expanding opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. The five startups that participated in MEAP included owners who are African American, Asian, Hispanic and Indian.
According to William Crowder, managing director, MEAP, the five companies were chosen from hundreds of applicants.
“The goals with those companies were no different than the goal that we had with all of other companies. We wanted to give them the same things that we feel are critical for young startups to be successful,” said Crowder.
Crowder noted that similar business accelerator programs are cropping up in cities across the country.
“It’s really critical that we get more minorities into these programs. They need to have these opportunities and more importantly they need to start looking and applying for these opportunities. It’s just such a critical experience for them to have,” Crowder stressed.
Participating MEAP African American-led firms include ThaTrunk; Kwelia, a service that allows property managers to optimize their prices using rental market data and metaLayer, a visual search company that summarizes online data and prioritizes relevant content.
The application process for the next Philadelphia-based DreamIt program opens on May 17, 2012.
For information visit www.dreamitventures.com.
Nakia Stith aims to create safe and healthy community environments.
Stith, the president and CEO of security services firm Top of the Clock, has launched a sister company, ResilienC.
The new risk management firm has pioneered a new approach to ensuring that environments are safe in facilities, school and communities.
“It really was an outgrowth of TOTC. It’s been bubbling under the surface for a while. We just realized that we needed to be more effective and that we could do more,” said Stith.
“Over and over again, we found that many of our traditional security customers needed more than uniformed guards. They needed a holistic approach to safety that addresses not only protection of people and property, but prevention and emergency preparedness.”
Through its comprehensive approach to public safety, the new company offers the following services: assessment of threats to public health, safety and wellness; health and safety planning; safety training services; safety management services and uniformed guard services. ResilienC will partner with TOTC to provide uniformed guard services for its clientele.
When ResilienC conducts an assessment of community or property for a client, the company reviews aspects such as incident management, visitor screening, staffing and training and technology integration.
The firm collaborates with its clients to develop a safety strategy and a comprehensive plan to address areas of vulnerability.
“We don’t just come like regular consultants and drop all the problems in your lap,” says Stith. “We don’t just assess and recommend; we dive in and accomplish. That’s different, and better, than other approaches to environmental safety.”
ResilienC’s services are geared toward school districts, government and healthcare agencies, property management companies, residential and retirement communities, colleges and universities.
“Many communities — whether they are apartment complexes, schools or entire neighborhoods — lack the organization and ability to bring about changes. At ResilienC, we make that happen by going in and engaging people who are most at risk.”
This marks an exciting time for Stith and her management team.
“It’s exciting right now to look at the growth and the opportunities and to really be able to offer these comprehensive solutions. We realize how important public health is and how safety and security really play into public health, and that’s where ResilienC will really be an aid to TOTC,” Stith added.
Stith’s new venture comes as Top of the Clock marks its 20th anniversary. Founded in 1991, by Stith’s father, Gregory Stith, TOTC started out as a firm that provided security to small nightclubs throughout Philadelphia.
When Stith stepped in as the firm’s CEO in 2001, she was faced with having to rebuild the company’s infrastructure.
TOTC has grown into a leading security services firm that provides security plans and staffing for public building, schools and multi-unit housing facilities. The West Philadelphia-based firm now employs approximately 130.
“We’ve had consistent growth. We’re happy to celebrate 20 years in business in this economy. We look to generate more business so that we can generate more jobs,” says Stith, who just wrapped the firm’s annual planning process for 2012.
Stith says good client relationships and always striving to redefine the company’s competitive advantages are two factors that have enabled TOTC to be successful.
As TOTC moves forward, the company seeks to tap into the areas of homeland security and federal government contracting by expanding into the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. markets.
Restaurateur Keven Parker is gearing up for his latest business venture.
Next month, Parker will open the doors of KDP Lifestyle and Luxury Suites — a home store and a boutique hotel on South Street.
Located on the first floor of 1310 South Street, KDP Lifestyle will offer shoppers an array of home décor goods that reflect Parker’s eclectic style.
“The store is going to be a reflection of my lifestyle, a reflection of the things that I like,” says Parker, who has a passion for interior decorating.
The upper-floor luxury suites, which have been appointed by Parker, are outfitted with small kitchens and marble bathrooms. The stylish suites are geared towards guests who seek to stay long-term.
“A boutique hotel gives you the feeling of going to a small boutique shop as opposed to a bed and breakfast that is very structured. When you go to a boutique, you expect a certain sense of style,” he says.
Parker initially set out to launch KDP Lifestyles two years ago, however he felt the concept needed further tweaking.
“I’m at this point because it’s the right time,” says Parker, who is known as the dynamo behind of Ms. Tootsie’s RBL (Restaurant Bar & Lounge) and Simply Delicious Caterers.
After Parker and his mother, Joyce Parker, launched Ms. Tootsie’s 15 years ago, the eatery became known for serving up tasty soul food offerings.
Parker aspires to create a destination by offering guests an opportunity to dine, sleep and shop in the same location.
“It’s really about creating a brand. It’s really about helping people understand that it’s more than a restaurant, it’s more than just a boutique hotel, it’s more than just a store,” says Parker.
“It’s really about creating a destination. When people come to Philadelphia, they want to look for the destination places to go and that’s my ultimate goal. The goal is to sell the entire experience — to eat, drink, sleep and shop.”
An invitation-only grand opening is scheduled for November 3 at KDP Lifestyle.
Parker and his mother were working on launching KDP Lifestyle and publishing a cookbook with her recipes before she passed on July 23.
“I knew that what my mother gave me was powerful. I knew that what my mother gave me, the book of recipes and family techniques was powerful and I knew that people would want it,” says Parker.
“I stand on solid ground because of the foundation that my mother has built. I know that we had a vision as a team and we got to fulfill the vision.”
Parker’s vision goes well beyond the border of South Street. Franchise packets will be available, enabling Ms. Tootsie’s locations to be launched in Atlanta, Ga. and Washington, D.C. He’s also planning to publish his mother’s cookbook and a book highlighting his success as an entrepreneur in 2012.
When Parker opened Ms. Tootsie’s 15 years ago, he encountered many naysayers who claimed that he would not be successful on South Street. However Parker’s strategic investment paid off and he would prove the naysayers wrong. Prior to Ms. Tootsie’s expansion, it was common to see diners waiting outside until they could snag a table. Today Ms. Tootsie’s RBL can accommodate more than 200 people and host more than one function in its various lounges.