Tag: Be Bold

Sharon Caples McDougle wearing purple floral top with chunky jewelry and smiling with red lips

2021 November Mag

2021 November Mag

Sharon Caples McDougle, is truly a modern day “hidden figure” who is not hidden anymore! Her long list of firsts show that shooting for the stars is possible. Her dedication to her country and her trailblazing, glass shattering contributions to science and space have not gone unnoticed.

Sharon Caples McDougle wearing purple floral top with chunky jewelry and smiling with red lips


Sharon Caples McDougle became a vital part of the the NASA family in 1990 where she worked in the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE) department. She began her career as a CEE Suit Technician and was responsible for processing the orange launch and entry suit (LES) assemblies worn by Space Shuttle astronauts. McDougle was one of only two women technicians and the only African American technician when she began her career.

Sharon McDougle wearing Hidden figure no more tshirt and large necklaceMcDougle is truly a modern day ‘hidden figure” who is not hidden anymore.  Everyone knows Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to go to space – but many do not know that another African American, McDougle, with her own list of firsts, was responsible for ensuring Dr. Jemison’s safety into orbit and her return to earth. McDougle was Jemison’s suit tech for her historic mission aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor September 12, 1992.

For over a year, McDougle trained along beside Dr. Jemison on all facets of working in zero gravity in her suit. Dr. Jemison has openly shared her respect and admiration for McDougle and once wrote, “There are so many incredible people who ensure that astronauts make it to space and back safely. Thank you, Sharon McDougle, for your hard work!”                             

NASA TAKES Notice

In 1994, McDougle was promoted to the position of Crew Chief making her the first woman and first African American CEE Crew Chief. In her new position, she was responsible for leading a team of technicians to suit up astronaut crews. McDougle had the honor of leading the first and only all-woman suit tech crew.  McDougle along with her team met the astronauts immediately after leaving the shuttle upon return from space.

In 2004, McDougle became the only woman and only African American promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE department. She managed over 25 employees who were responsible for training the astronauts on how to donn and doff their suits that were designed to save their lives and taught all the technical aspects of their suits worn into space on the Space Shuttle for the launch and recovered the crew upon landing. She held this position until the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. She continued working until 2012 to help close-out the program, ending an illustrious 22-year career with NASA.

Other notable astronauts McDougle helped train for lift off into space safely and recover upon reentry are Charles Bolden (former NASA Administrator), Frederick Gregory (1st African American Space Shuttle Commander), and Dr. Bernard Harris (first African American to perform a spacewalk). She even had the opportunity to suit up a few celebrities which included actors Tom Cruise and Candice Bergen.

During her career with NASA, she was recognized with the Astronaut “Silver Snoopy” Award, Space Flight Awareness Honoree Award, and the coveted Women of Color in Flight Award from Dr. Mae Jemison recognizing her as the first and only African American woman suit tech/crew chief in her field.

Prepared for Greatness

The Air Force prepared McDougle for her historic career with NASA. In the Air Force, McDougle was an Aerospace Physiology Specialist who was responsible for training the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 reconnaissance aircraft (“spy planes”)  pilots on high altitude operations. She performed hazardous duty as an inside observer chamber technician and as a chamber operations team member during hypobaric (altitude) and hyperbaric (dive) chamber operations. During the hypobaric chamber flights crewmembers learned firsthand how hypoxia affects their judgment while flying an aircraft. The crewmembers were taught and practiced how they would handle these types of situations and the importance of wearing all equipment correctly

McDougle also inspected and maintained flight equipment used for the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 missions. The equipment included full pressure suit ensembles (helmet, gloves, boots, etc.), harness assemblies, and survival equipment (seat kits and parachutes, and emergency oxygen systems). She sized and fitted crewmembers’ pressure suits, assisted crewmembers in donning and doffing their suits, and performed functional tests before takeoff. She also loaded the survival seat kits and parachutes into the aircraft, strapped-in the crewmembers before take-off, and recovered the crew upon landing. During her time in the Air Force, she was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and Good Conduct Medal

McDougle’s military training and her 22 years hidden working with NASA astronauts has given her a wealth of knowledge she shares while volunteering in her community and with several organizations. She serves as Vice President and Executive Administrator for Unveiled Aspirations – a women’s empowerment organization. Other volunteer activities include reading to children, cleaning community gardens, working in food pantries, feeding the homeless, and working in thrift stores, just to name a few.

A firm believer in mentorship and forever thankful for the teachers who inspired her to reach for the stars, McDougle is a TWST4Girls (Together We Stand Tall 4 Girls) mentor/facilitator for the Harris County Juvenile Corrections Department Program. She is also a mentor with the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship. The fellowship’s purpose is to give collegiate Black students their first Aerospace internship!

Hidden Figure No More

Sharon Caples McDougle Hidden figure wearing large black hat and animal print jumpsuit and beaded jewelryHer dedication to her country and her trailblazing, glass shattering contributions to science and space, have not gone unnoticed. McDougle has been recognized as a Mississippi Trailblazer at the 2018 Mississippi Trailblazers Awards Ceremony and Black-Tie Gala where she received two awards: The Calvin “Buck” Buchanan “FIRST” Award named for Mississippi’s first United States Attorney for the Northern District, which honors a Mississippian who holds the distinction of being the “first” in their profession, and the Dr. Cindy Ayers “Legacy” Award honoring a Trailblazer whose singular work and contributions will leave a legacy long after their lifetime.  

Other awards from her home state: McDougle was honored in the Inaugural class of Mississippi’s Top 25 Most Influential African Americans and the Living Legend Lifetime Achievement Award from the Moss Point Visionary Circle. In 2021, McDougle was recognized by Who’s Who of Mississippi Women with the Inaugural Dr. Helen Barnes Award.

The accolades continue, “That Girl” Natasha Lee and the city of Detroit honored McDougle at the “Make Your Mark Symposium.” McDougle received The Spirit of Detroit Award for exceptional achievement, outstanding leadership, and dedication to improving the quality of life and The Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan recognized her with the Leadership and Commitment of Excellence Award.

Loved Around the Country

She is not only loved in Mississippi but around the country! She was made an Honorary Citizen of Lake Charles, Louisiana by Mayor Nic Hunter and was a Remarkable Women of Houston finalist for CW39’s Houston Morning Dose News. McDougle is also a That Girl Brand Ambassador and a member of the Red Hat Society. Her Red Hat Chapter, Divas With Hattitude, recognized her as their very first Woman of the Year! She was also crowned as the 2019 Bluebonnet Queen.

McDougle has been featured in various publications, media outlets, radio shows and podcasts. She shares her inspirational story during speaking engagements, virtually and in-person, as keynote speaker as well as participating as a panel member at colleges and university STEM activities. McDougle recently became an author, penning her first children’s book titled “Suit Up for Launch with Shay!”  She also shares her story “Does God Love Me?” in the upcoming book Fearless Women Rock, Volume III.

McDougle is happily married to her husband Maronald, a diver for NASA. They have two adult children, Dominique, and Corbin. She and her husband are natives of Moss Point, MS, currently residing in the Houston, TX area.

Connect with McDougle via the web:

Facebook:
https://m.facebook.com/SharonMcDougleHiddenFigure/
https://m.facebook.com/SuitUpForLaunch/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therealshaymac/   

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/SharonMcDougle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcdougle_sharon

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharon-mcdougle-237465bb/

Website: https://smcdougle2.wixsite.com/sharoncaplesmcdougle

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0g5rjNOPjeM6XRffCTusgw/featured

The Wise Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOUYJ1RhgiI        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKf3iHvER-c

ThatGirl Merchandise  https://www.instagram.com/imthatgirlnatasha/   

  • Sharon Caple Mcdougle jumping in orange flight suit

  • Sharon Caple Mcdougle jumping in orange flight suit

  • Sharon Caple Mcdougle jumping in orange flight suit

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Charletta Wilson Jacks Cover

2021 October Mag

2021 October Mag

A southern girl with a soulful heart and a strategic mind equals the perfect power combination of being resilient and an unstoppable, progressive community leader.

Charlette Wilson Jacks is a community leader in green top with chunky green and gold necklace on a magazine cover


Charletta Wilson Jacks, a southern girl with a soulful heart and a strategic mind, currently serves as the Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the 60th Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Three words to describe Charletta – RESILIENT and PROGRESSIVE LEADER. This “home-grown Savannah girl,” has traveled the sidewalks and streets of many communities and cities to help them rise up, know their value and become the best that they can be. 

Ms. Jacks accumulated over two decades of experience with the City of Atlanta prior to her current position of Deputy Director of Government Affairs, beginning as a Senior Level Urban Planner committed to educating the traditionally disenfranchised citizens and neighborhoods on community engagement and the impact of public policy decisions on their quality of life.  During the first quarter of her tenure with the City of Atlanta, she was selected and honored as one of the “Mayor’s Top 100” employees, out of 8,000 staff, because of her commitment to customer service to the thousands of city residents.

Charletta Wilson Jacks is a progressive leader in yellow suit and coral layered necklacesThe “Go-To” Professional

Her unwavering professionalism led to Ms. Jacks’ appointment as the first African American female to be named Zoning Administrator for the City of Atlanta. Every community that has adopted development regulations has an official charged with the administration and interpretation of those rules. Ms. Jacks was that official, in a position with increasingly complex regulations for a major growing metropolitan city. As a result of her dedicated work and ability to engage and educate varying audiences of citizens, she is viewed as a “go-to” professional for development of large-scale multimillion dollar residential, commercial, and industrial projects.  

Ms. Jacks’ professional executive leadership experience includes construction management and high impact projects with several architectural and engineering firms. Her portfolio also includes the celebrated 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and her excitement goes into overdrive when she talks about the projects that have her imprint: Atlanta University Center Olympic Games venues at Morris Brown College (football field), Clark Atlanta University (football field) and Morehouse College (basketball arena), Ponce City Market, Redevelopment of Turner Field, Redevelopment of the Gulch and Atlanta Beltline, and the creation of development regulations for the sale of the Turner Field Stadium (now the home to the Georgia State University football team).

Charletta Wilson Jacks is a progressive community leader and smiling woman in fantastic orange knit suit with multiple strands of layered necklacesHelping Atlanta Rise

Atlanta has been on the rise, even in the midst of a global pandemic. With focused leadership, Atlanta has been able to continue its’ role as a vibrant city with an outstanding quality of life. A prosperous city like Atlanta depends on leadership and vision that stimulates and delivers solid development. Ms. Jacks is proud to be a part of that team. 

For the past four years, she has been instrumental in the unanimous adoption of the yearly municipal budget, averaging over $650 million. During the pivot because of the global pandemic, Ms. Jacks continues to look for new and innovative ways to provide leadership and strategic planning on community and economic development policy and implementation. Resilience is one of her core characteristics.

Mrs. Charletta Wilson Jacks is proud of the three HBCUs (Savannah State University, Howard University, and Clark Atlanta University) that poured into her and strengthened her belief that “People Matter and Education is indeed important.” Gaining and maintaining community and stakeholder trust is imperative for success and it matters. She understands the rules and counts it a blessing to be able to share her knowledge with others to ensure transformation and to ensure progressive investment in communities and people. 

Email: cwilsonjacks@gmail.com

Website: https://www.charlettawilsonjacks.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/charlettawilsonjacks/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharlettaWJacks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charlettawjacks


Large green stoneGreen Amber

Green Amber is both a natural and man made rarity. Like all Amber, Green Amber passes through the exact same process in its journey to becoming the semi precious beauty that we know and love. Green Amber has a deep and mesmerizing quality enveloped in a world of lore and history. In many cultures throughout history people believed that this green hue of Amber had the ability to bring good luck and immortality to its wearer. 

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Large necklace with black discs and a black excellence medallion

Black Excellence

Black Excellence

From the moment we spoke the words, “no justice, no peace” we knew that a cultural and iconic revolution had begun. The calls for racial justice over the last 36 months prove that we, as a people of color, still have a long way to go. But change is happening, just look around. There is excellence emerging in communities of color throughout the nation. 

Beautiful black woman wearing silver necklace with black lives mattr and black excellence charms

We see black-owned businesses such as Ellis Isle Tea growing their customer base. We see companies such as CurlMix creating marketing campaigns tailored for people of color. We see more black faces on television and in film. We see excellence!  

Achieving excellence isn’t always easy. The road is often paved with barriers and obstacles, failure and frustration. Nobel Poet Laureate Maya Angelou spoke of it in her quintessential poem, “Still I Rise”:

“Out of huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear the tide.”

Black excellence charm bracelet with pink and green beads

Black excellence reinforces the “can do” spirit in every person of color. It lifts up our contributions to community and family, it creates a legacy for future generations. It tells the world that we are here and Black Lives Matter, Black Voices Matter and when we rise we create, Black Excellence.

This small token of remembrance celebrates you, celebrates the journey, and celebrates our Black Excellence.

Shop our Black Excellence Collection.

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Woman in yellow dress wearing a large strand green beads

Put Your Beads Back On!

Put Your Beads Back On!

In the early 1920s, as the world finally started recovering from WWI, and the Spanish Flu pandemic was coming to an end, glitz was in. Women started wearing furs, fringe, bright colors, flowers, spectacular hats, and beads – lots and lots of beads. 

Check out the style of Rose Nell Johnson (Deborah’s mom and Cerese’s grandmother) on the right; and Rose’s sister, Ora Bell Wilson, on the left. These ladies made it look effortless!

Two women dressed up in mink stoles and jewelry from the 1920s

The most influential social movement of that time was the Harlem Renaissance. African American culture wowed the entire world in a celebration of music, dance, art, fashion, theater, and literature. They sure did WOW with their style!

Why? Because everyone was ready for some joy after years of fighting and quarantine. They had been reminded that life was fleeting and that we need to celebrate it while we can.

Two photos of women from 1920s-1940s dressed up in their fancies

[Harlem Renaissance women from the 1920’s and 1940’s]

Sound familiar?

It’s time to put our beads back on. It’s time to pull out the colorful, the joyful, the bold, the fanciful, the clothing and jewelry that makes us smile and feel fierce every time we catch our reflection in the mirror. We may not be done with this pandemic yet, but it’s not too early to remember that life is sweet and should be celebrated. 

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Woman in black dress on magazine cover with bold red lipstick and big turquoise jewelry on aqua green background

2021 September Mag

2021 September Mag

When Brittany Green isn’t advocating for women and children and using her extensive educational background to help students and her community achieve better literacy, it’s a wonder that she still finds time to run her own graphic design and branding company!

Woman in black dress on magazine cover with bold red lipstick and big turquoise jewelry on aqua green background


It’s back to school time for millions of school age children around the country! Education lessens the challenges you will face in life. The more knowledge you gain the more opportunities will open up to allow individuals to achieve better possibilities in career and personal growth. Education has played an important role in the career world of the twenty-first century. Meet Brittany Green, an educator with sass and class! 

Dedicated Advocator

Brittany Green, a native of Chicago, Illinois, is anSmiling woman in white top on white background wearing a pink long beaded necklace with a tassel educator with fifteen years of experience ranging from classroom teaching to district level administration.  Dedicated to improving student learning outcomes, Brittany is the co-creator of “Bridging the Gap for Struggling Adolescent Readers”, a professional development series for teachers of students with reading difficulties. Additionally, she is the author of “Therapeutic Approaches to the Treatment of ADD/ADHD”, a published research study.

Born and raised in Chicago, she moved to Mississippi to attend Tougaloo College and begin her career as an educator.  After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education, Brittany started her career as a Special Education Inclusion Teacher. She focused on individualized student achievement and education plans to support student success. Upon graduating from Belhaven University with a Master’s in Elementary Education, Brittany worked as an interventionist. She then served as a curriculum specialist for two years and the district liaison of curriculum for two years. She is currently earning her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Arkansas State University.

Brittany has a passion for serving students and has dedicated her life to spreading literacy within the state of Mississippi. She is an avid community leader and works continuously to establish and build relationships with other business professionals, civic organizations, and the community itself. An advocate for women and young girls, she is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a Girl Scout leader of Troop 5323, and active with MAE (Mississippi Association of Educators).

Not only an educator

Beautiful smiling women with daughter both wearing white tops and fun necklacesWhen she is not in the classroom, Brittany is busy designing and creating for business clients, universities, and non-profits. She is the owner of Classy Creations Studio, a freelance graphic design and branding agency that services fempreneurs and small business owners. As the owner, she leads and manages the overall operations of the company. She is also the co-founder of The Profound Brown, an organization empowering young women and men through literacy. She also serves as an Adolescent Literacy Coach and Research Consultant supporting middle and high school scholars across the nation.  

A military wife, Brittany is married to Major Justin Green and they have one daughter, Raelynn Austin. They currently reside in Mississippi and Major Green is serving a deployment in the United States Army.

Website: classycreationsstudio.com
Instagram: classycreationsstudio

PHOTO CREDIT: MS. DIG PHOTOGRAPHY; CREATIVE DIRECTOR: GENMA HOLMES

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smiling woman sitting on top of a roof looking down wearing a shiny silver tank top and jewelry

On Top!

On Top!

August 1 is National Girlfriends Day. The first Sunday in August is National Sister’s Day. August 26 is Women’s Equality Day. Clearly, August is all about celebrating sisterhood and women.

Toni Morrison once said, “A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.” We love that quote, because it gets to the heart of sisterhood. The idea that we can celebrate our shared experience while also making lots of room for our differences. The idea that there is grace in not needing or expecting our sisters to be a certain way, because we love them exactly as they are. Acceptance is the first essence of sisterhood.

woman sitting on top of a roof wearing a silver tank top wearing chunky orange beaded jewelry with blue sky in background

There is nothing more empowering than shining a light on the women in our lives, of putting our sisters up on top of that pedestal. When we reflect back to them their beauty and show them how magnificent they are, we make each other stronger, even when we are flying solo. No mantra of self-esteem can increase our confidence half as much as the awareness of a sisterhood that stands beside us, helping us face whatever life throws our way.

  • woman pointing while sitting on top of a roof in a silver tank top and jewelry

  • close up of woman sitting on roof wearing a silver tank top with a blue sky in background

  • smiling woman sitting on top of a roof looking down wearing a shiny silver tank top and jewelry

In a world that would have us compete for everything, sisterhood reminds us to celebrate each woman’s victory as our own. That’s how each of us can win every day, because every day, at least one of us is On Top.

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Smiling black woman wearing a black top with beaded necklace on cover of Cerese D magazine

2021 Aug. Mag.

2021 August Mag.

If you’re under the impression that financial planning is ho-hum, you haven’t spoken with Melissa L. George. Melissa, the owner of Melissa L. George & Associates, is a multi-certified financial professional who is passionate about her work.

Smiling black woman in a black top wearing a beaded necklace on the cover of Cerese D Magazine

If you’re under the impression that financial planning is ho-hum, you haven’t spoken with Melissa L. George. Melissa, the owner of Melissa L. George & Associates, is a multi-certified financial professional who is passionate about her work.

As a double minority in a white male dominated industry, she has carved out an impressive business by listening deeply to her customers and sticking to her principles.

Melissa didn’t have a straight path from college to the financial district, paved with a network of connections. Instead, she took nine years to work her way through college, taking classes when she had enough money, and pausing when she didn’t. 

It was at Georgia State, studying to be an accountant, that she realized math alone would not satisfy her career aspirations. She loved everything about math but couldn’t envision a career stuck in an office immersed in spreadsheets. She needed more human interaction.

She had been working for the city of Atlanta, starting at age 16 as a lifeguard and pool manager, then going full-time with the city after she graduated from high school. In her mid-20s she took a job at Victoria’s Secret as a store manager, and there she made one very important connection. As she tells it, “One day, I was talking to the mall manager about what I was trying to do, how I was trying to figure out which career path would combine my love of math with my love of working with people. He said he had someone he wanted me to speak with.” He introduced her to another African-American woman with a successful career in financial planning; the woman who would recommend her for her first financial job and who would become her mentor.

Until that meeting, Melissa hadn’t been aware of financial planning as a career path. But it was a perfect fit for her business degree, her people skills, and her entrepreneurial spirit.

smiling black woman wearing black glasses in a dark blue top with yellow fingernail polish

Melissa speaks of her first day as a financial professional; 30 years old and just 3 years out of college. “My first day of work I started with three other new hires: White men who were considerably older than me and already had careers. CPAs, engineers, they seemed like a more obvious fit for this profession.” Her new manager asked her “How are you going to get people to trust you? To trust that you know what you’re doing?” And Melissa admitted she wasn’t sure. She told her manager, “I’m going to be honest and forthcoming, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll just say so and go find the answer.”

“And maybe I’ll start wearing glasses.”

Melissa quickly realized that her retail background was a strength. Her service orientation, skill at reading body language, and ability to quickly establish rapport with customers were all abilities she could lean on while she learned the ropes of budgeting, debt reduction, risk management, insurance, and retirement planning.

Her customers gained confidence in her as she gained confidence in herself. As she shared the information about how to become financially secure and independent with her customers, she was learning too. “I’m very transparent,” Melissa shares. “I have always shared the mistakes that I’ve made right alongside the best practices that I’ve learned. And that transparency is important, because as a financial professional, you work hard to earn trust.”

Melissa offers a funny and apt trust analogy. She says that a person will make an appointment with a doctor, and without so much as checking the doctor’s credentials or history, will go into that doctor’s office and “snatch all their clothes off.” 

She goes on to say, “They’ve never met this person before, yet there they are with their feet in the stirrups. But they come to me and they are more guarded with their finances than with any doctor. So they give me a little information and a little money to work with, and I must earn some trust before they give me a little more information and a little more money to work with.” She understands their hesitancy. “I didn’t grow up with sound financial knowledge or education either. I understand the emotional attachment people have to their hard-earned money.” 

When she had switched from retail to financial services, she went from a salary to pure commission. This put immense pressure on her ability to earn an income while learning an entirely new career. “That was scary — a big step” she says. It wasn’t smooth sailing and she struggled. But she chose to believe in herself, and her willingness to take risks and invest in herself has paid off again and again.

Melissa worked six years for that first firm, learning the ropes and building skills. “But I was a captive agent, which meant I was limited in the products I could offer my clients.” In her 7th year she became a detached agent, which gave her more freedom to select products and offer services that she thought her customers needed, and in 2006 she founded MLGA.

DITCH THE COOKIE CUTTER.

“I don’t believe financial plans can be cookie-cutter,” Melissa says. “I craft plans for people based on their situation. Some people have children to consider, others have elderly parents they care for, or a family member with special needs. And more and more, I am working with individuals who own businesses, and we start by working on personal financial plans and then go on to work on business needs, operations and HR, and succession plans. Everyone’s situation is different.”

Ask Melissa about her personal family and friend support network, and she refers to her constellation which is her support system that she’s built over the years. When she talks about how she has developed her business, you can see that she’s built that constellation around her customers too. MLGA is a boutique firm with a powerful network of strategic partners. 

“I wanted to provide portfolio services, but to give the best possible advice you have to be glued to a computer screen monitoring the markets.” So, she formed a partnership with a company that only does portfolio management. She went on to create other partnerships that offer tax and legal services. Today she works with estate planning attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, and a wide variety of industry experts. “I want my customers to have the best financial advice there is,” so she’s assembled a network of specialists, all at the top of their game.

black woman standing in black top with empty picture frames in the background

This commitment to putting the customer first is evident in Melissa’s professional development choices as well. She has chosen to be a Certified Financial Fiduciary (CFF), which means she is legally obligated to put her clients’ financial interests above her own, and that she must disclose how she is compensated to avoid conflicts of interest in her recommendations. She is also a FINRA arbitrator, helping to resolve disputes between the investing public and the securities industry. Achieving these professional designations speaks to Melissa’s philosophy and ethical standards. 

Any conversation with Melissa includes frequent use of the word journey. College was a journey. Learning financial planning has been – and continues to be – a journey. Marriage? Ask her about marriage and you’ll get a chuckle out of her. 

“I’ve been married before,” she says. “I genuinely believe in marriage, and I’m willing to try it again, but if it’s not right, I don’t have a problem cutting the cord.” 

If there is a next time around, which she would welcome, she knows she will do a better job of listening to her gut. “When I know someone has been divorced, I ask them, were there red flags? And there always were. There were for me too. We make decisions and we make mistakes. That’s all OK. We just have to learn from those mistakes, or we will continuously repeat.” 

INVEST IN YOURSELF.

She says, “Now that I know myself well, I know my non-negotiables and deal-breakers; what I am willing and unwilling to compromise on.” So before committing again, Melissa plans to have a better handle on what the shared experience will look like. “How does a person respond when the bottom falls out? How do they treat their mother, sisters, and women in general? How are they with money management? How do they behave when they are sick? There are all these seasons you go through with someone in a long-term relationship. I think it’s important to date long enough to go through several seasons and pay attention to how each one is handled.” 

The season of the pandemic has been particularly challenging for Melissa. Since the beginning of 2019 she dissolved a significant relationship, her father died unexpectedly, she moved her mother in to live with her, the pandemic started, and both she and her mother have had surgeries. 

And during all that trauma, what Melissa decided to do was reclaim her health. “With the help of my personal trainer, I lost 60 pounds and I kept it off. I’m an avid runner. I work out, I eat well, and I’m serious about being healthy.” 

“I know how I want to ride out the 2nd half of my life.” she declares. “I don’t want to be one of those people on medications, hunched over, can’t travel. I plan to live long, be a Centenarian. But I know the next breath is not promised, so I’m making the most of my life every day.”

Black woman smelling white flowers

When asked to provide some advice to her younger self, Melissa says, “surround yourself with people who genuinely care about your well-being and listen to your inner voice. We have this innate spirit of discernment that God put that in us, and we need to learn to harness that. Build a strong inner circle. Mine is made up of my family, my lifelong friends, my sorority sisters. I know they are here for me, and I’m here for them. That’s everything. I’m Blessed!”

She continues, “Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t get caught up on where you’re supposed to be or to have accomplished by the time you’re a certain age. I didn’t understand that until I got much older why my trajectory had to be so different. But now I know that God’s plan for each of us is unique…God gives us exactly what we need to grow. So just pay attention to your own path, and the lessons you need to learn to graduate from one level to the next.”

Like the glasses she initially put on to convey confidence, but which she ultimately grew into, Melissa L George is a study in becoming what you set out to be. For her, financial planning is not just about the math, nor is it just about the money. It’s about relationships and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s about the journey.

Melissa L. George & Associates, www.melissalgeorge.com.

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2021 July Mag.

2021 July Mag

Discover how Regine T. Rousseau is blazing a path for black women in wine while sharing her passion and  changing the way people learn about wine, and making it fun!


The wine industry has been historically known to be exclusive, white and male. To further cement the industry’s image, the Association of African American Vintners reports that only 50 out of the 10,000 U.S. wineries are Black-owned. That is equivalent to .05 percent of the wineries! But according to the Wine Market Council Consumer Segmentation, Black consumers make up about 11 percent of wine drinkers in the country. While the numbers may be dismal in ownership, our July cover model, Regine T. Rousseau is helping shatter the glass ceiling, or in this case uncorking the bottle for a savory glass of wine with her company, Shall We Wine.

Regine is a wine and spirits expert, writer, presenter, and media personality who focuses on making wine knowledge accessible to people at all levels of proficiency. She was a nominee of the Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Wine Star Awards for Wine Educator of the Year, she’s earned prestigious certificates for International Sommelier Guild Level II, and Executive Bourbon Steward, Stave and Thief. Regine has traveled around the globe sharing her wine and spirits expertise. She has authored or been featured in articles in the New Yorker, Wine Enthusiast, Black Enterprise, Black Food and Beverage, Wine Spectator, the Zoe Report, Forbes and Chicago Tribune.

TURNING A HOBBY INTO A PASSION.

Regine fell in love with wine while studying abroad during college in Besançon, France and began her career as a salesperson for a wine distributor. While in this role, she noticed a disconnect between wine professionals and consumers. Making wine approachable became a central premise of Regine’s work.

In 2013, Regine established Shall We Wine, a wine and spirits experiential marketing, event planning, and education company. Working with national and boutique winemakers, distilleries, importers, and distributors, she increases brand awareness, reach, and revenue for clients through innovative and traditional approaches. These include in-person and on-line activations, events, sponsorships, videos, media and social media services, and speaker and influencer marketing. She and her team are masters at translating complex terminology into language that individuals of every level of wine expertise and interest appreciates.

Regine’s speaking engagements as a keynote and panelist, include Blacks in Wine Symposium, Wonder Women in Wine, I.E.E.M Conference – Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, SoloCEO Summit, tastings.com, and Association of Writers and Writers’ Programs. She is a blogger on reginerousseaum.com and shallwewine.com, has served as subject matter expert for VinePair, has been interviewed on You & Me Chicago, WGN Chicago, Windy City Live, and Great Day Washington. Regine has also moderated a virtual event for Gallo International Women’s Month.

Sharing wine in many languages.

Language is integral to Rousseau’s work as a poet and published author where wine and written word are often interwoven. In her book Searching for Cloves and Lilies: The Wine Edition, Regine illustrates the dynamics of personal relationships while pairing each poem with wine that echoes the mood of her writing.

Regine is recipient of the Wine Bloggers Conference Ethnifacts Diversity Scholarship, grants from McBride Sisters Collections and Allies for Community Business, and Knox College’s 2020 Alumni Achievement Award. She is fluent in French, Haitian Creole, and English.

Regine has a BA from Knox College, studied at L’Université de Franche Comte and Centre de Linguistique Appliquée.

Join Cerese D Jewelry as we toast this outstanding trailblazer as we continue to recognize amazing women each month! Cheers!

CHECK OUT REGINE’S WEBSITE https://www.shallwewine.com

Cover Image: {PHOTO CREDIT: MS. DIG PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC & LOLLIPOP PHOTO (TM);  CREATIVE DIRECTOR: GENMA HOLMES} 

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Picture of beautiful smiling black woman in white top standing in front of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business flag

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Graduation!

photo of smiling black woman in white top standing in front of a goldman sach 10,000 small business flag

In February we announced our acceptance to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, and after 12-long weeks we are celebrating! Deborah took on the task of tackling the program, with staff picking up the slack while she worked on her studies. We are now proud to announce that she successfully completed the program (she even has a fancy certificate to show for it!)

One of our clients that works with the Goldman Sachs Program recommended Cerese D Jewelry (CDJ) in December of 2020, we were selected to apply. We were interviewed by the 10k team, made some new friends, and were selected out of many dozens of applications to participate. We did our due diligence and spoke to at least 5 business owners that went through the program who encouraged us to accept the invitation. And we’re glad we did! 

They said it would be time consuming, and it was. The team was prepared not to see Deborah much as she would be spending a good amount of time for 3-4 months in class. The course had a lot of homework and was difficult, and sometimes frustrating (you know when you have to focus on the “un-fun” side of your business, eye roll) but the AH HA! moments made it so rewarding and gave her some new food for thought (and who doesn’t love food?!) In order to graduate, Deborah had to write a 5-year growth plan of how we would expand and scale the business. 

We got more than expected from the networking alone. Interacting with over 90 other scholars and sharing successes and challenges was great! As long as we keep up with the diagnostics that the program sends every 3-6 months, we’ll have access to the entire 10k scholars list through the 10ksb app. We are extremely proud to be part of this alumni group for many years to come! 

As a small, Black-woman-family-owned business run by serial entrepreneurs, we are always looking for new ways to innovate and manage our business and we are excited to share it with everyone (have you seen our video??) Celebrate with us, and feel free to open your own bottle of bubbles!


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2021 May Mag.

2021 May Mag.

If you want to get organized, training from an ex-military Sergeant is as good as it gets.


With more than 33 years of helping others organize and eighteen years running the Paris Love Productivity Institute formerly Organize With Love, Paris Love knows her way around a business. Not to mention, she’s also an ex-military Sergeant, so you probably wouldn’t want to argue with her about getting organized!

Paris Love, a former United States Army Sergeant, an accountability and productivity coach, affectionately known as The Drill Sergeant of Productivity is a highly sought-after speaker with tremendous talent for bringing order to chaos and pandemonium to her clients. She provides her clients with streamlined, efficient, manageable approaches to running their lives, homes, and businesses. After many years of working with a wide range of individuals in a host of settings, she has honed in on her specialty; helping overwhelmed professionals break through the barriers that keep them disorganized, disoriented, and dissatisfied in business, career, or life. Paris helps procrastinators do the things they always talked about but never get around to doing.

A nationally recognized productivity and organizational expert, her advice has appeared on numerous websites and in publications as well as appearances on the hit TV series, A & E Hoarders, and as an organizational expert with IKEA-Atlanta. She also has shared her organizational expertise as a columnist for Hope for Women Magazine. In addition to sharing her wisdom on television and in columns, Paris is a bestselling author with ten published books. She received Amazon’s top 100 Best Sellers in two categories and the TAZ award for her novel, Growing Pains. Her most recent book was published in 2020, A Woman’s Journey; Stories of Substance, Survival and Success with 7 other Remarkable Women.

Her high energy, loving but no-nonsense approach to life and living well has made Paris a hit with audiences from the West to the East Coast and from the North to the South. Paris has been featured on Focus AtlantaCW AtlantaMy Atlanta TV and OnlineOrganizing. Known for her motivational candor that produces results, Paris guides experiences that will increase well-being and overall success. Active on social media, Paris can be often found sharing advice to help others navigate the process of decluttering and organizing on Facebook Live and Instagram. Using her social media skills, The Drill Sergeant of Productivity launched a YouTube series, Declutter Across America, that is now in its third season.

“Too much is given, much is required.”

Paris believes in serving others by giving back to her country and community. She has been engaged in various professional and civic organizations that serve women and girls, military families, veterans, and business owners. She has led many groups locally, regionally, and national levels. A natural leader, her leadership skills were enhanced and polished during her service to our country. She has helped organize or lead the following associations: Founder and President of the Gulf Coast Women’s Business Association; Past Assistant District IV Director for the Alabama Federation of Women’s Club; and Past President of the Gulf Shores Woman’s Club. As a professional organizer, Paris was highly active in the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), a national organization that is dedicated to helping people and organizations bring order and efficiency to their lives. She was a Golden Circle member and held leadership roles as Past NAPO-GA Board of Directors; Past NAPO-GA Executive Board Member; Past Ambassador for NAPO and Past Co-chair on NAPO’s Membership Committee.

A staunch advocate for supporting women owned business, she is a current member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and serves on NAWBO’s membership committee. Paris is devoted to mentoring and sharing her knowledge she has learned along the way to encourage business owners to never give up on their dreams of entrepreneurship. She is the Ecosystem Ambassador for Bunker Labs and a mentor for the  Renew Entrepreneurial Center. She also mentors veterans at eMentor Leadership Program, a cutting-edge online mentoring program for military personnel, veterans and military spouses. 

In life, Paris believes we must continue to challenge ourselves to evolve and grow, personally and professionally. She is a proud graduate of Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWise) Program; a graduate of the Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) Program; a graduate of the Bunker Labs 20B cohort and a current member of the 21A cohort; and a graduate of Pre-Flight at the Entrepreneurial Center. In late 2020, Paris was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success. Paris is a member of the TAU Upsilon Alpha Beta Chi Honor Society and is currently enrolled in IVMF’s Larry Broughton’s Masterclass. In late April, she started the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program.

Paris’ love of life and her trailblazing abilities to bring people together has not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous nominations, accolades, and awards by her organizing peers, her fellow comrades, veteran service organizations, and women groups.  Paris was nominated for the 2005 NAPO-GA’s Organizer Choice Award-Volunteer of the Year; nominated in 2008 for the Business of the Year Award by the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce; was one of four finalists for the Vetrepreneur Award; a finalist for the 2020 Veteran & Military Spouse Entrepreneur Award for the Rosie Network; received Small Business of the Month by the Mobile Chamber of Commerce; received the Professional Development Award by the International Association of Administrative Professionals; and received Organizer of the Month by OnlineOrganizing; and received the Platinum Paperclip Award from NAPO-Georgia to name a few.

Never at a loss for words about sharing the joys of organizing, Paris has been heard on talk radio and podcasts around the country like CityCurrent podcast and Leverage Your Incredible Factor podcast. Paris is a recurring guest on the Connect Our Elders podcast. She was a sought-after speaker for women and professional conferences. She has been a speaker at NAPO’s Annual conference where she served as a panelist for “Ask the Organizer.”  Throughout the pandemic, demand for Paris to speak has increased exponentially! Corporations are recognizing the toll the pandemic has had on millions of individuals who are now working from home who are in desperate need of work/life balance and are overwhelmed with the disorganization in their homes that have suddenly become makeshift offices. As a mother and a grandmother, she understands firsthand, the importance of having balance between your career and personal life. And, keeping order in the home.

She is NaVOBA Certified Veteran Business, a Veterans Owned Small Business (VOSB) and has a Certification in Human Resource Management.  She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources and Business Administration from Keller Graduate School of Management and undergraduate degrees in Psychology from DePaul University and Fashion Design from Norfolk State University. She is currently in the final phrase of her doctoral degree in Advanced Studies of Human Behavior.

Sergeant Love was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She enlisted in the United States Army in 1989. She attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. Upon graduation, her assignments were in Arlington Heights, Illinois and Joliet, Illinois. A fun military fact, Sgt. Love was the only female in the Primary Leadership Development Course. As a veteran, she continues to serve her country by honoring and recognizing military families through advocacy, support, and her partnerships with Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs).

Officially designated by Congress in 1999, May is National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) and is a declaration that encourages U.S. citizens to observe the month in a symbol of unity. NMAM honors current and former members of the United States Armed Forces. Cerese D Jewelry salutes all active and reservists’ members, veterans, and their families for their service and sacrifice.

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