Monthly Nuggets: Toni Patterson


Meet Toni

"If you want something done right, do it yourself."

Toni Patterson is a Brand Strategist & Designer and the Owner of Skye Media Group. Before pursuing a career as a Creative, Toni studied Business Administration and started a career in the legal field. After getting her creative feet wet with Web Design, Toni delved head first into what made her happiest. Skye Media Group specializes in Brand Strategy, Web Design, & Brand Design. Toni's latest business addition to her growing brand is Skye Soiree Brand Experiences, which conceptualizes and executes business events that reinforce your brand, grow your market, and spread your message.

Transitioning to a New Career & Entrepreneurship

What was your career before entering the Design field & entreprenuership?

When I started college I wanted to be an interior designer and publicist. At the time, those occupations weren’t as popular as they were now. I struggled to understand how I’d make a living as either of those. I pursued a more traditional course as a Business Administration major and focused on English and Writing.

By the time I graduated, I was working in the legal department at a mutual fund company and decided to get my Paralegal certification. I decided not to pursue a paralegal course because spending hours in the law library researching cases was not my idea of fun. I decided to stick with the legal, administrative, and office management track.

What sparked your interest in changing your career?

I always had an interest in technology and was a creative at heart. When social media communities like Friendster, Blackplanet, and MySpace became popular, I was excited to customize my profile with different colors, photos, music, and font. I felt a sense of control and instant gratification from adding HTML to a section and then seeing it change immediately on my profile.

I hesitated to change my career or even pursue web design because I had no training! I only had the desire and passion to learn, but still needed that push, so after getting encouragement from my support system, I started learning how to design websites.

What tools or resources did you use to navigate your career change and learn more about your desired field?

Photoshop was my friend! I would find different Photoshop tutorials and try to recreate the design. Mine would never turn out the same and it helped me appreciate that even though people are given the same tools, their interpretation and manipulation of those tools can create different designs. This is beautiful. When I started getting my first few clients, I designed their websites in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design platforms, so it was a lot of designing in Photoshop and drop and dragging layouts. I didn’t like that I had to design within the confines of those platforms where the code was proprietary. It meant that I truly wasn’t developing sites. I wanted to make websites from scratch and manipulate the code.

I would post questions in different code groups to get assistance with various issues. There was a web developer who started helping me to understand WordPress (I had transitioned from WYSIWYG editors), CSS, HTML, syntax, and other coding languages. He became a virtual mentor to me. I never met him or spoke to him beyond getting training, yet he assisted me for a year. I’m very grateful of the time and chance he took on me. It helped me to see a true definition of mentorship.

Did you find that skills from your prior career were and have been transferable? How did they help you in your new career field?

Being in the legal field helped me to put everything in writing and to account for what I do. It also helped me to work with different personalities and be confident about my work product. I’ve also learned to confirm, double-check, and remind. Communication and follow-up is key in this industry. It’s the true mark of excellent client service.

Becoming an entrepreneur can be daunting and you decided to not only switch careers but to become an entrepreneur in that field. What was that transition like?

I started my business while I was working full-time. Even though I was tired and frustrated from learning new things, I was energized and thrilled to be putting in effort to do something I love. The transition was gradual, but tough. There’s so much to learn with web and graphic design, but it’s more than designing. I had to learn how to run a business. Working in Corporate America helped me to see that I had to stay on top of my job. This was the path I choose and I wasn’t going to quit or do anything mediocre.

When I moved to a new city, I found myself in a new job that I didn’t like. Although I worked it, I wasn’t happy and was getting depressed with the situation. Then, a few months later they called me in and fired me. I didn’t flinch, but immediately thought “this is the out I’ve been praying for” so instead of crying, I began working on my business with a new focus and energy.

What are three tips you would give to those looking to change careers?

  • Before you make a career change into entrepreneurship, study your craft and industry.
  • Develop your strategy, unique sales advantages, marketing plan, target market analysis, communications strategy, and solutions.
  • Save money. Pay yourself first from your paycheck and put it towards growing or starting your business. Learn how to live without for a little bit and make investments towards your dreams.

Monthly Nuggets: Anthony Hales


Meet Anthony

"Beastmode 24x7. Beastmode isn’t a temporary mindset but a way of approaching life."

Anthony Hales is a Municipal and Regional Government Engagement Specialist and the President of Hales Government Solutions. Hales Government Solutions is a small consulting firm that provides research, communications and training services. Their primary clients are local government agencies. Clients of Hales Government Solutions include several local D.C. government agencies such as:

  • Department of Health
  • Office on Aging
  • Department of Employment Services
  • Office of the State Superintendent of Education
  • Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
  • Connect.DC - Digital Inclusion Initiative
  • Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia
  • Housing Authority


Growing Your Business While Still Working a 9 to 5

What have you learned about time management, company growth, and balancing everyday life while still working a 9 to 5?

Discipline is key. You have to really be disciplined in all aspects of life to make it work. Early on, I didn’t understand that. I was so focused on the work that I stopped paying attention to some of the close people around me who needed me.

It is always recommended to keep both your business and day job separate. Is it that simple? How do you achieve this? How do you keep both sides assured that they are your first priority?

Its not always simple. Truthfully, I don’t think you can be a great business person and a great employee at the same time. You have to pick one as a priority. Also, keeping both worlds completely separate becomes impossible once you grow to a certain point. Once you are running a business vs simply having a side hustle, there are just some things you will have to do during traditional work hours. I made the decision to be an mediocre to above average employee so that I could focus on trying to be a great businessman.

Has being an entrepreneur impacted your career positively?

Starting a business (I don’t believe you can call yourself an entrepreneur while still working a traditional 9-5) has forced me to grow and address areas of weakness that I probably would not have done on my own.

What are the top three things to consider before starting a business while working a 9 to 5?

  1. Understand if you have enough time to actually perform the work you are considering on the side.
  2. Understand that you cannot be both a great employee and a great business owner so you better know which way you want to go long term.
  3. Remember having a side business is like being a superhero. The people who know you in each life should only know you from that life.

Spark Your Personal Growth With These Self-Improvement Tips


As an entrepreneur, it’s important for us to find creative ways to improve our personal growth. We work almost 24/7 to keep our clients happy and deliver quality services. While we enjoy being our own boss, entrepreneurs find it difficult to self-motivate and work towards their own personal goals. Here are a few of our top tips to continue growing and learning throughout the next phase of your career. 

Prioritize Your Health

Your health should always be a top priority. Without a healthy mind and body, your business won’t be able to thrive. Take some time to step away from the computer, take a walk around the neighborhood or take a trip to your local gym. Self-care is extremely important, so listen to your body’s signals and give yourself time off when needed.

Invest in Online Learning

You can learn almost anything and everything online today. To stay fresh in your field, it's important to constantly seek out areas where you can improve or learn a new skill. It’s never too late to learn something new. Consider using the following online tools. 




Set Realistic Goals

Whether it is weekly, monthly or annual goals, take some time to really evaluate where you are in reaching those goals.  All entrepreneurs should hone their ability to identify and achieve realistic goals. An important part of reaching your goals is to keep them in mind often and stay accountable. You might also find it helpful to keep a journal or blog outlining your goals so you can honestly evaluate yourself at the end of each month. As you grow as an entrepreneur, you’ll be able to look back on your thoughts and be amazed by how far you’ve come.

Get Inspired

Inspiration can come from anywhere. It could be from your favorite book, public figure, or encouraging words from your mentor. Inspiration provides a new way of thinking, idea generating and influences creativity.  

How To Make Your Content Stand Out On Social Media


Social media has become over saturated with information as it continues to grow beyond the personal use of individuals and into sponsored content and online ads.

The days of competitive pricing to place an ad has decreased thanks to social media, as it provides an affordable option for advertisers. Social media provides everyone with the resources to create an ad and boost a post. It has become easier for marketers to reach their target audiences and customize their spending amounts based on their budgets. The readily available access to promote a product can certainly result in revenue growth. The downside to this accessibility is making your content stand out above the rest. Making sure your content is relevant and consistent is one way to stand out, but it’s also about your word choice. The right words and phrases have the power to persuade and engage your audiences.

Persuasive content should include words that will create visuals for the reader. This will affect the way your audience receives your message. Are your words passive, direct, or personal? A relevant message includes a call-to-action and determines what your audience should do. Do you want your audience to be informed? Or, do you want your audience to buy a product? Your word choice should lead your audience to feel a certain way that will encourage them to act.

A well thought out message can go a long way. Consider your phrases in addition to your word choice. You want to be sure your phrases aren't abrasive but inviting and conversational. Keep in mind an individual is exposed to an average of 5,000 ads a day. 

Persuasive content vs. Flat content 

“Parents, you’ll enjoy sharing these 5 interactive study tips with your children before their first day back to school! …” [Persuasive]

“Parents, introduce these 5 helpful study tips to your children before school is back in session! …” [Flat]

**The persuasive content insists you will enjoy the study tips and that they are interactive. It also gives you a visual of a "first day back to school".

**The flat content doesn't suggest that you'll enjoy these tips or what type of "tips" they'll be. It just lets you know the obvious--that the tips are helpful. 

“The holiday season is a time for celebration, but can also bring struggles for many families. Our job at Helpful Hands Ministries is to make the holiday season joyful for as many kids possible. You can be the reason a child smiles this holiday season when you donate to our Toy Drive fund…” [Persuasive]

"We'll need your help this quarter raising money for less fortunate children. Donate to the Helpful Hands MinistriesToy Drive fund today!...” [Flat]

**The persuasive content tells you the job of the organization and what the reader can do, "put a smile on a child's face" and how they can do it.

**The flat content tells you just what they need and how they need you to do it.

"Welcome! The doors to your “home for fashion” have officially opened. Strut by and shop at Elite Boutique for grand opening specials, trendy clothing selections..."[Persuasive]

"Our doors are officially open! Join Elite boutique this week for our grand opening specials and our great fashion selections!.." [Flat]

**The persuasive content uses a colorful verb that implies a call to action, "strut by" and tells you what their boutique is about, "home for fashion".

**The flat content gives you grand opening details without using colorful verbs or telling you what their boutique is about.


Power words that marketers use:

Amazing | Announcing, Create| Discover | Easy Enjoy | Exclusive | Free | Hurry | Improvement | Interactive | Introducing | Join | Now | Offer |  Quick | Remarkable | Results | Revolutionary | Rush | Sensational | Uncover

Phrases that get your audience's attention:

 “Discover how to…”

 “Hurry for your chance…”

 “Quick and easy ways to…”

 “Introducing our newest…”

 “Join our team as we…”

 “Learn how to (blank) with this interactive web series…”

 “You now have the chance to…”

 “Get quick results...”

 “Remarkable facts about…”

 "We’re announcing our new (blank) today at (blank)…”

 “Create memorable moments at our (blank)…”

“Listen, we’re giving away (blank)! All you have to do is... ”

Recap: 2017 Black Alumni Networking Expo

Engage, Educate, Implement & Collaborate were the four key components of success for the 2017 Black Alumni Networking Expo. With over 1300 guests, sponsors and vendors in attendance the event was not one to miss. Attendees received valuable insight from leading experts and influencers on topics including, business development, careers in media, health and wellness tips, and heard from speakers who played integral roles during the Obama Administration. A few members of the BBNE team had the privilege of attending the Black Alumni Networking Expo weekend of events and put together key points and quotes from attended sessions. 

The weekend kicked off with the B.L.A.C.K Panel discussion and dinner where panelist covered topics such as entrepreneurship, mentorship, following your destiny and mental health.  Panelists also touched on the need for black enterprises to work together. 

“The partnership that is missing is the one between the black entrepreneur and the black consumer”. - Kezia Williams, The Black upstart. 

The discussion at the B.L.A.C.K Panel and Dinner left audience members with the following takeaways 

  • Don't take no for answer. Make some noise.
  • Take rejections and turn them into an opportunity.
  • Use your day job and inspiration and turn into an opportunity.
  • You don't have to go at it alone. Get help.

The Black Alumni Networking Expo continued on Saturday with noteworthy workshops and seminaries given by experts in various fields.  Walter Ward III, the founder of the Mobile Business School, provided attendees with the tools to build a business from scratch and focused on the importance of learning how to do what you love. 

“Believe it or not a lot of executives grew up in a pipeline of thinking. They don’t know how the rest of business work, they know how their portion works, but they don’t know how the enterprise works.  Which causes a problem for a lot of executives because as they are moving up they can’t go beyond a certain level because they don’t have an enterprise view,” – Ward said. 

The Mobile Business School provides a "pop-up" MBA experience, for entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and creative professionals.From the session, attendees learned about the 3 core components of building a business; the customer, the narrative, and the numbers walking away with valuable tips and advice to continue to do what they love. 

With the rise of technology, BAN Expo offered A Career in Tech Panel Discussion to discuss trends in the tech industry, shared economies, entry barriers, being a tech entrepreneur, and career advice that reflected the audience's interests.  

The key focus of this year’s BAN Expo encouraged guests, vendors, and panelist to effectively create opportunities and collaborations within our community. The event brought together not just HBCU alumni but alumni who attended PWI's to create better partnerships for our businesses to succeed. For more information about the BAN Expo visit  Continue to follow our social feeds this month as we will be highlighting many of the businesses who were in attendance.

Monthly Nuggets: Marketing Professional and Author, Lori Flowers

Lori Flowers HEADSHOT 2017.jpg

Meet Lori

"Being an effective woman in business is something that is achievable, but takes a little time and consistent dedication."

Lori Flowers is a radio marketing professional with close to twenty years of experience; and Author of "A Seat at the Table: A Survival Guide for Women in Business," Lori prides herself on motivating women in business to be their best.  She resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband OJ.  

Lori Flowers is a radio marketing professional with close to twenty years of experience. Flowers is the Author of "A Seat at the Table: A Survival Guide for Women in Business," Lori prides herself on motivating women in business to be their best.  She resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband OJ.  


Marketing Professional and Author, Lori Flowers Shares 5 Tips on How to Be An Effective Woman in Business

Being an effective woman in business is something that is achievable, but takes a little time and consistent dedication. Believe it or not, it is the little things that can make or break you in business.

Here are 5 tips to be an effective woman in business:

Every effective woman in business communicates well. Communication is key in all forms. This includes in person, email and phone. 

In person, you literally want to put your best face forward. Be approachable, smile and extend a strong handshake. If during your face-to- face meeting you have been tasked with something, make sure that you write it down and follow up with the person.

Via email, make sure that you are getting back to people within 24 hours.  Even if you do not know the answer, reply back and let them know that you are working on it. Remember that it is hard to read the tone of an email, so make sure that you are upbeat and pleasant in your correspondence.  

On the phone, make sure that when you are conducting business that you are smiling. People can sense a smile over the phone.  Also, just like all of the other forms of communication, make sure that you follow through on what was discussed.

Every effective woman in business has a positive image.

An image is everything so be sure you are putting your best foot forward.  This includes their clothing, hair, makeup, and nails. The old adage of “Dress for the job you want” is still relevant and as a woman in business (any form of business), you need to take heed to this.

Every effective woman in business has an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 10-15 second pitch all about you. Whether you work for a corporation or own your business, you need to have a solid pitch that you can share with anyone you meet.  

The elevator pitch consists of:

  1. Your intro - Hello my name is___________ and I attend/or work______________________.
  2. What do you hope to do - In my current situation, I hope to be able to______________________________ and then advance to _______________.
  3. How can they help you?  It is my hope that we can__________________________________.  

Write out your elevator pitch and memorize it.  Make sure to practice it in the mirror.  After all, you never know who you will be in the elevator with next.    Be ready!

Every effective woman in business is a networker. Networking is extremely important as networks provide you those opportunities that you may not be privy to if you were not in that network. 

When attending a networking event, it is best to work the room and stay away from the people you came with. I mean, after all, you know them already. Once you connect with someone and get their card, it is always good to pull something personal about them from the conversation.  This little tidbit of information is what you will follow up with them on. For example, you meet Mary who is a VP at a major corporation. She just moved to the city and loves gardening. After you meet her at the networking event, follow up within 2-3 days.  In your follow up, send her a link to some great restaurants in the city and maybe even suggest a local nursery where she can look at purchasing plants for her garden. This is the start to organically building a relationship. Then, if you happen to need her for a recommendation or even consideration for a job opportunity within her company, she knows who you are and may even consider you.  

Every effective woman in business knows her industry and is always learning. She reads leadership development books frequently and knows the ins and outs of her industry or the industry she hopes to get into. 

One way that she grows and keeps learning is to seek out job descriptions of possible positions she would like to be in. If there is anything in that description she is not able to do, she learns how to do it. This keeps her learning and growing.

Women in business are constantly evolving. While these are only five tips, they can still make a difference. Be consistent and intentional about your professional growth and you will continue to rise to the top!






The Reason Why Your Company Website is Better Than Your Social Media Page

Websites today connect us to the world on a local and international level. Your company website is a tool for engaging potential clients, connecting with contributors, and a tool used to identify talent. Having a website is key because we can not solely rely on social media accounts to spread messages and here is why. With recent social media hacks, especially affecting Facebook users, businesses using it face the risk of potentially being hacked. Facebook business and group pages are automatically connected to one's personal account. Unlike LinkedIn, the businesses pages do not stand alone to engage new clients and audiences.  Nearly two in three U.S. adults with personal social media profiles believe they’ve been hacked, according to a 2016 survey by the Harris Poll. IF social media profiles are being hacked, you can only imagine the toll it takes to get those business pages back. This is one reason why a website is so valuable to anyone's business. 

Creating a separate website reduces the risk of losing your content on a digital platform. There are several tools to get your business online but there are key tools and techniques to getting it set up to reach your business goals.  BBNE provides services with your company in mind. We have the knowledge, time and capabilities to design a site that meets your business where it is and where it has the potential to go. From copywriting, photo selection to project management and custom design we've built a team that is ready to help shape your company's brand.  Social media will continue to be a component of your business (given the right security measures) but let's start with the most valuable form of communicating your brand with a reputable website.

Monthly Nuggets: Founders of Modish Moms


Meet Modish Moms
Courtney & Ciarra

"Being a mom is a job that you can clock in for, but never clock out for. It is important to support these women because we are the future."

Modish Moms is a DC based 501c3 nonprofit organization created for millennial mothers in pursuit of a better lifestyle, career and parenting opportunities. We provide information, support and resources for mothers balancing the many trials and triumphs of motherhood. 

Founders of "Modish Moms" Speak On The Balancing Act of Motherhood & Entrepreneurship

What are some unknown challenges mom's may face when in pursuit of entrepreneurship?

"Mompreneurs" face the challenges of balance, support and staying encouraged. It is important for aspiring mompreneurs to find the balance between motherhood, lifestyle and career. We have to make daily sacrifices that some women entrepreneurs may not have to make, because we have another person depending on us. Being a mom is a job that you can clock in for, but never clock out for. It is important to support these women because we are the future. That's what Modish Moms is all about. Supporting women who are, as Beyonce says, "strong enough to bare the children and get back to business".

What advice do you give to mom's who are building their own empires?

  1. Your business is your baby. Take care of it as such.
  2. Don't be afraid of the word "No." Not everyone is going to understand or support you, but that doesn't mean it can't be done! Keep pressing on!
  3. Connect with other mompreneurs. We are all in this together. There is a seat at the table for all of us.
  4. Seek Mentorship.
  5. Make sure you do all the legal paperwork FIRST: LLC, 501c3, Trademark, etc.
  6. If you need a team or help, don't be afraid to ask. Everyone needs a hand sometimes.
  7. Take care of yourself. You can't pour from an empty glass.

How can mom's balance their business pursuits with their day-to-day motherhood responsibilities?

Balance is difficult but doable. Find kid-friendly business opportunities. We attend all Mommy and Me events, because you never know who you are going to meet. Also, think of some things you like to do with your little ones and host your own events. For example, have a mommy movie night where you connect with other aspiring mompreneurs while the children enjoy a movie. Host events or meetings that are kid appropriate yet motivating for mompreneurs. You can also find balance by working when the kids are resting. Nap-time is an ideal time for moms to get work done. Mothers are selfless and are always working, whether its parenting or providing. Find time to say "thank you" to yourself for being the best mom while remaining true to yourself and reaching your goals. 

What business and support resources are available to "mompreneurs"?

Well, Modish Moms is definitely a resource! We love supporting and connecting with moms. We felt like there was no support for the millennial moms that want to get out there and change the world. To us, in this society, Modish Moms was necessary. Our goal is to create a community of mothers that support and empower one another in all walks of life. We will reach mother's and their supporters through community outreach and events. We want to inspire and empower young modern moms to explore life as a mother, all while achieving personal goals. We strive to provide unity and appreciation to all moms while recognizing their need for support. We plan to collaborate with other modish moms to create a conglomerate of mothers who vow to be the best mom they can be while remaining true to themselves. We also suggest connecting with organizations such as:

  • BlackGirlsDo: Celebrating black women through action and activities that foster sisterhood
  • M.A.R.C.H.H (Making Awareness Reach Challenging Hearts and Homes): Special needs resources for children and families
  • BlackGirlVision: Crowdfunding meets pitch competition for women of color entrepreneurs
  • EyeCStyleBrand: Connecting entrepreneurs in the DMV  through events and community involvement
  • District Motherhued: Organization for millennial moms of color
  • The Beacon DCAn initiative to make DC the #1 city for women entrepreneurs

Discover Your Brand


When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I wanted to jump head first into every project that needed my services. I would probably be happier reaching the client's goals before they even knew what their goals were or the basics of working with a public relations professional. Organically I started to introduce clients and potential clients, to what is known as a discovery call or meeting. Some clients didn't even know what 'discovery' meant but quickly learned why it was important for their brand. 

A discovery meeting or call helps us and the client form a meaningful relationship. Clients have the opportunity to share more about their business, background and their personal goals and objectives. All of this information helps us to work effectively. This is also an opportunity for us to learn more about your industry, target audience and competition. These meetings are meant to be open, honest and create a collaborative environment for both parties to share ideas and insights.  It is all about relationship building. During a discovery meeting, it's important, we lay some groundwork for this new relationship.  We learn: 

  • Client communication styles

  • Goals and objectives the client would like to achieve

  • Designated point of contact 

  • Prior marketing successes and failures we can learn from

In a discovery meeting we also set our clients expectations by implementing some simple to do's to ensure we are all on the same accord. We: 

  • Ensure measurable goals are attainable and achievable based on the engagement 

  • Establish check -ins regularly with updates and ideas for the project 

  • Define our roles and responsibilities

  • Create an outline for tasks and deadlines to be met between us and the client 

With these few steps we are off to a successful discovery in defining the purpose of your brand, business or next big idea.