Black History Now-Meet Sonia James Pennington

In celebration of Black History Month, I’m conducting weekly interviews on local Black Entrepreneurs-Making History today!

This is my 5th and final year I’m presenting this series as an exclusive interview series. So, I switched up things a bit and expanded into reaching out to people whose work expanded into the greater Philadelphia region as they are more location independent.

My guests are willing to share some tips and advice for aspiring business owners and community leaders who are willing to step up and make things happen for themselves and those around them. I would like to introduce to you all my special guest of the week…

Meet Sonia James Pennington-Artistic Director, and Choreographer


In this interview Sonia shares with us:

1) What prompted her to open up a dance studio and pursue the path of the arts even though she had originally chosen the path of law as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey.

2) How she handles obstacles and roadblocks such as lawsuits that threatened to take her company from her.

3) And how she currently defines and measures success as an ever evolving entrepreneur.

Check Out Our Interview Here:


You can find out more at:

Tune in next Saturday for my next guest entrepreneur. 

Until next time…Peace!


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Black History Now: Meet Naimah Holmes

As I mentioned in my post Black History Now-2012, I would like to introduce a Gen-Y entrepreneur defining success on her own terms!

Meet Naimah Holmes; Local Craft Business Owner!

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Naimah Holmes, I’m 27, and live in New Jersey. My company is called DMae , it’s a unisex line of hand-painted, uniquely designed clothing and accessories. 

What do you love most about what you do?

Being able to share my creativity with my customers, hearing that someone really enjoys their purchase.

What prompted you to start your own business?

I found I’ve always loved a grass roots business over those that are mass produced. With a small, or indie business you’re likely to get more use out of the product, you have something that’s unique, and you know what’s gone into producing the item. Where is you go to the mall, or a chain you know that thousands of the same item were made in 4-6 different colors, in 4 sizes. You’ll see the same thing everywhere. That also challenges you to make something your own.

How did you get started? DMae stared out as a hobby, I was going to a concert with a friend and found a blank tee I decided to draw a collage onto a few hours before we left for the venue. I then began doing pieces for friends as gifts every once in a while, and one caught the eye of a local boutique owner in town called Rue Couture. I did a line that was exclusive to their shop, and a few years later I decided to take the leap and make DMae a reality.

What were the first steps you took towards making your dream into reality? I began searching online for info on establishing a business, and weighed my options as to if I wanted it to just be a hobby, or if a larger scale was right for me. It took ALOT of research, and a few tears out of frustration, but, I’ve done it.

How do/did you handle obstacles and roadblocks? I talked it out with friends, read about starting a craft based business, and read blogs of women I admire. Specifically women who own their own businesses, who’ve been through the same situation: FreckledNest  MooreaSeal   LuneVintage  to name a few.

Who had/has the most impact on your life? My grandmother Dora Mae Holmes, she was my biggest cheerleader, and the reason I keep going, hence the name DMae.

Where does your inspiration/motivation come from? I’m inspired by art, fashion, and design. I’m finding in art specifically I’m drawn to clean lines, pop art, hyper realism, there’s just so much to devour. I never get tired of learning about different art forms.

How do you define and or measure success? Success for me is enjoying what I’m doing. When it becomes a chore, or I have to force the creative process it isn’t worth it anymore, and I’ll never allow that.

Where do you see yourself and your business 10 years from now? 10 years form now DMae will be my full time job. I hope by that time I’m able to travel to different craft shows, have a local store front/studio space

What advice would you like to give to other aspiring entrepreneurs? DON’T. GIVE. UP. Never give up on your dream. Don’t allow yourself to be envious of those who have something you don’t, go after what you want and make it a reality. You can do this, it may take longer than you thought but in the end it is all worth it. Being able to share your craft with others is a great gift.

Author’s Note: I met Naimah quite some time ago (like 10 years *cough*) and was elated to find that besides a love for good music, we had entrepreneurship in common. I ordered a custom tote from her shop and received some of the best customer service, I’ve had in a long time. Even the package wrap was detailed with personalized detail. I could tell she put love in her craft.

Free Entrepreneurship Training

If you haven’t noticed, there has been a lot of talk about Entrepreneurship in the news. Why, you ask? Simple answer, unemployment rates are still high so the demand is great for those who can create jobs.  Sadly, the many people who have great ideas, services, and/or products aren’t sure how or when to get started. Well, a few weeks ago while attending a social networking event; I came across an organization that provided Free Entrepreneurial Development Training! Now before I go any further, this program is a local Southern Jersey/Philadelphia resource geared towards serving people of this region. However, don’t be dismayed, perhaps it’s destiny that you read about this particular program, maybe it’s time you became the person who steps up to the plate to create a similar agency in your area. Either way, let’s have a look inside what this program has to offer.

The nonprofit organization that provides free entrepreneurship training is called LAEDA– Latin American Economic Development Association, Inc. LAEDA has been around for about 23 years. (By the way, no you do not have to be Latin American to participate in their programs.) LAEDA was established to create small business ownership opportunities for all minorities and progressively develop the commercial marketplace in the City of Camden and beyond. The training program is a small piece of the bigger picture that offers budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to fine tune their ideas to best serve Camden, NJ. While taking their intensive training course, program participants will learn many things including: Marketing, Accounting, Technology training, and how to create a Business Plan, just to name a few. As a bonus, all graduates receive ongoing support including free seminars that are scheduled throughout the year.

I couldn’t believe they offered this program for free! There just had to be a catch. My curiosity led me to a phone conversation with the friendly and knowledgeable coordinator I met at the event, as well as the program coordinator who was extremely engaging and helpful.  I asked some questions and they had no problem supplying the answers. So here are a few facts you may not notice on their website:

  1. The program is not just for Camden Residents however, they ask that your business help serve the city of Camden in some capacity.
  2. You have to be accepted into the program, which there is a process that leads you to a face to face interview with the program coordinator and the CEO to see if you fit the criteria for program approval. If you don’t, they explain what you need to work on so that you can apply again more prepared.
  3. The general criteria isn’t as scary as you think it is, they just require that you have a business idea that is viable, feasible, and that you’re willing to do what you must to turn your dream into reality.
  4. When you are put on a very brief phone hold you are delightfully entertained with a compilation of fun Latino music that makes you want to dance in your seat.

In all seriousness, the program looks extremely helpful and the staff gave me the impression that they really care about their program graduates.  They even work with you if you develop stage fright about your business idea and decide to come back to them years later. Just read the testimonies.

So what are you waiting for? Dream Big, Soar High! If you know any more resources for Entrepreneurship training in New Jersey and beyond don’t be stingy, share the resources you never know if the next Bill Gates may come out of one these programs.

Starting Over


Reclaim, Rebuild, Renew, was the theme I chose for myself earlier this year. I chose this theme and wrote out a goal list which I am determined to accomplish. I’ve learned, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” One of the goals on this list was to start this blog and post at least once a week for a year. As I’ve stated in my about section, I decided to blog as a way to find my voice. I also wanted to share any positive experiences I encountered on my journey as I start over again after a divorce. Although my voice is of a young woman, I have already experienced major losses in life that many don’t encounter so early on or at all. Loss is not uncommon for a child from the city of Camden, NJ.  I was raised by a single mother, abandoned by an alcoholic father, managed to be the first in my immediate family to participate in a high school graduation ceremony, and graduate college by the grace of God. In my early twenties I had a promising career path. I owned a house in the “burbs,” I was married and life seemed perfect.

Divorce changes everything.  It doesn’t matter what age you experience divorce or who initiated the divorce, it can really devastate everything you ever believed about yourself and the world around you.  I felt like I was a failure. I had tried so hard to become everything I thought would make a respectable citizen and break the vicious cycle of never amounting to anything children born in poverty often embrace. I never realized the very ambition that helped me accomplish really awesome things would be the same ambition that would lead me to feeling completely empty inside. Although I wished I could have realized I wasn’t living authentically before I was married, losing what’s comfortable forces you to wake up and pay attention to life. I would be telling stories if I didn’t say that living life out loud is both scary and exciting at the same time.

When I first started trying to find my own path I often worried that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or talented enough. I worried that pursuing my passions would be a waste of time. I even felt intimidated by my sisters conquering their quarter life crisis who seemed so much bolder than me. I am now better at silencing negative Nellie, embracing my own special gifts, and believing that persistency prevails. Even if we fall down, we don’t have to stay there. Looking at failure as an opportunity to grow is truly a liberating experience. As a bonus, I’ve learned that some of our greatest industry leaders have come to the point of homelessness yet became the millionaires they are today. So even though starting over can get overwhelming at times it’s not too late to dust yourself off and try again.

Black History Now: Meet Diera Shaw

As promised in my post Black History Now , I would like to introduce Entrepreneur Diera Shaw!

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

I think of myself as a Jill of Many Trades. I work for Philadelphia Academies in its Business and Community Relations Department overseeing its volunteer efforts.  I am a minister at New Beginnings Worship Center.  I also have a couple side hustles, which include public speaking with a program I started called young.savvy.successful and selling jewelry on Facebook at Eco Chic Jewelz.

What do you love most about what you do?

I am pretty imaginative, so all of the work I do has been born out of some idea that I conjured up.  I love my flexibility.  I love the variety of work that I do.  But ultimately my goal is to start my own non-profit that has a counseling focus.

What prompted you into entrepreneurship?

I like the idea of being able to leave my mark on something and really develop an idea around my own values.  Working for other organizations and causes can be great, but you are often limited to someone else’s vision.  Building my own entity allows me to let my creative juices flow and craft my own vision and mission.

Why did you choose to pursue this career path?

I am still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.  But, whatever I do, ministry is by far at the forefront.  I never once thought I would become a minister so this is definitely a God-led calling.

How do you handle obstacles and roadblocks?

Prayer and perseverance.

Who has had the most impact on your life?

Too many people to count.  I am thankful for those that have had both a good and negative impact.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I daydream a lot, and often times that is when new ideas are born.

How do you define/measure success?

I am getting better at setting measurable goals.  But overall, just knowing that I am in the will of God despite what my circumstances may show.

What is the one action you have taken that has accounted for most of your success?

Learning to trust God.

Where do you see yourself and your business 10 years from now?

I would really like to go back to school for counseling so that I can open my own practice and nonprofit.

What advice would you like to give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Develop at least a minimal plan as a guide, but be open and willing to change and adjust as necessary.

You can follow Diera at