Michelle D. Jackson is President & CEO of PR Solutions LLC, a strategic marketing, social media management, and corporate event planning company. Over the last 20 years, she has developed strategic marketing plans for multi-million dollar for-profit organizations and small businesses; organized over 200 events including political fundraisers, conferences, international business competitions, charity fundraisers, real estate development fairs, health fairs, corporate tours and business roundtables; and, collaborated with hundreds of C-level executives at major public and private companies in the U.S. and abroad on high-profile economic development initiatives. She is also author of The Heart of a Man, an inspirational novel.
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The 2017 CyberMaryland Conference, held on October 11-12 at the Baltimore Convention Center,attracted more than 90 speakers from across the U.S. and abroad. The two-day event showcased thought-leaders, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan; U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen; Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh; NSA Deputy Director, George Barnes; US Cyber Command Director of Corporate Partnerships and Technology, Capt. Ed Devinney; Cofounder of Gula Tech Adventures, Ron Gula and McAfee VP, Brett Kelsey.
The conference’s theme, “Leading the Cyber Generation,” exemplifies the event’s goal of providing a platform where industry leaders can collaborate and educate future cyber warriors with one objective in mind – the protection of public and private critical infrastructures.
This year’s event offered eight forums and more than 25 sessions. It attracted media coverage from The Baltimore Business Journal, The Daily Record, WBAL-TV, Fox 45 Baltimore, The Cyberwire and more.
PR Solutions LLC today announced the winners of the second annual i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Five teams consisting of youth entrepreneurs, 13 to 19 years-old, walked away with cash and in-kind prizes after successfully completing a six-month web-based competition that included three rounds of scoring, group virtual coaching, one-on-one mentoring and a finale pitch event.
This year’s winners are:
First Place – PrepUP. Developed by Akhilesh Khakhar, a 17-year-old Brooklyn, NY high-school student, the free test preparation app brings students together on social media platforms to study for the SAT and ACT college preparatory exams. The app offers an interactive, live, head-to-head match between its users. Prize: $2,000 non-equity investment, title of i.Invest 2017 Youth Business of the Year and a one-hour consulting session with Don Morrison, serial entrepreneur and chairman of deal flow at BlueTree Allied Angels and former president and CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.
Second Place – Face the Facts. Created by Jason Kao and Chauncey Lau, both 17, of New York, NY, Face the Facts creates apparel for environmentally conscious consumers and display graphics in a way that supports a social issue while raising awareness. Prize: $1,000 non-equity investment and a one-hour consulting session with Don Morrison, serial entrepreneur and chairman of deal flow at BlueTree Allied Angels and former president and CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.
Third Place – Software Flow. Daniel Mousavi, 14, of Great Falls, VA., along with his younger brother, designed a board game and interactive game app – Immigrant’s Nightmare and Immigrant Challenge – to address the immigration crisis around the globe. Prize: $500 non-equity investment.
Community Investment Award – Official Clutch Band. Birmingham, AL musicians, Timothy Huffman, 19, and his brother, Wesley Huffman, 17, help form the ensemble, Official Clutch Band. Performing a wide genre of music ranging from bebop, jazz, smooth jazz, R&B classics and Motown hits, the band released its first cd in 2016. Prize: $250 non-equity investment.
i.Invest ‘Rising Star’ Award – HoverHouse. Riley LeHane, 13, of Rhinebeck, NY created a hoverboard party pop-up and equipment rental company. Prize: $100 non-equity investment.
In addition, all the winners will receive a one-hour marketing consultation with PR Solutions LLC, a strategic marketing and public relations firm; the opportunity to be a vendor and/or speaker during the #EYECON Youth Conference in May 2018 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD; and, the chance to participate in a “Ask the Start-Up Attorney” no-fee virtual consulting session with Cherin Law Firm located in Pittsburgh, PA.
“The i.Invest competition was an amazing learning experience,” said first-place winner, Khakhar. “What really makes it different is that, over the course of six months, the companies progress and iterate while being guided by mentors. i.Invest provides the mentorship and feedback young start-ups need when they are initially pivoting and choosing a track to follow.”
To download PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App for free, go HERE. To view the virtual finale pitch event, go HERE.
The 2018 i.Invest competition will open for online applications, March 1 – May 1. Applicants must be between the ages of 13-19 and have a demonstrable product or service to compete. The application fee is $29. To receive event updates and for sponsorship information visit, the i.Invest website or contact Michelle Jackson at email@example.com.
LaToya Staten, Chief Collaborator, LaToya C. Staten & Associates
Matthew Miessau, Analyst, Epidarex Capital
Mike Capsambelis, Product Manager, Google
Mojdeh Bahar, Assistant Administer for Technology Transfer, USDA
Natasha Muhammad, Program Director, Urban Alliance & Executive Director, EYE for Change
Omar S. Muhammad, Director of the Entrepreneurial Development & Assistance Center (EDAC), Morgan State University
Professor Jim Liew, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
Regina Tillery, Director and CIO, Maryland Department of Commerce
Rex Willis, Founder & Information Technology Consultant, Hi-Tek POS
Roger London, CEO at Corporate Links
Ryan Makhani, Founder, BuildMyIdea.org and Mentor, Good Works Houston
Shrenik Jain, Founder, Beacon Health – i.Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year
Timothy Taylor, CPA
Vernon Lee, Founder, Brightwood Management Partners, LLC
About PR Solutions LLC
PR Solutions LLC is a strategic marketing and corporate event planning firm that specializes in working with new and established ventures to build viable business models and to integrate innovative marketing tools into for-profit and non-profit business strategies. PR Solutions is the parent company of the i.Invest competition. To learn more, visit http://www.prsolutions123.com.
Michelle Jackson, CEO of New Orleans-based PR Solutions LLC, discusses the Big Easy’s economic drivers, including workforce development and the emerging tech start-up community, in the September issue of Biz New Orleans Magazine.
Jackson is the owner of PR Solutions LLC of Louisiana, a strategic marketing and corporate event planning consulting firm, Founder of the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition and Executive Director of LifeSkills Foundation, a 501 c3 organization dedicated to advocating for youth entrepreneurship. Before moving to New Orleans, Jackson worked for six years for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) where she held the positions of Director of Federal Facilities, Director of Boards and Commissions and Director of the Office of Strategic Industries and Innovations, the agency’s first department dedicated to working with start-up companies in high-tech industries. Jackson led the policy development effort to create the InvestMaryland program, a first-of-its-kind legislative initiative that raised $84 million for seed and early-stage ventures and the InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s first international business competition for advanced technology startup companies. Jackson is a military wife and published author. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from The University of Alabama and Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University.
The relationship between a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and its client is essential to the success of a co-employment arrangement. The responsibilities of a PEO make relationship building critical to the development of an effective human resources strategy. Good PEOs help move the needle on business growth, making their insight and advice on matters beneficial to the clients they serve. Of the countless services provided by a PEO, the team at Delta Administrative Services (DAS) found that the sustainability of manager-employee relationships, training, managing documents and the implementation of employee policies and regulations are key HR areas growing businesses should focus on.
Since opening its doors, DAS has worked with companies across the Gulf Coast as a HR outsourcing provider. Over the years, the DAS team benefited from, as well as educated, business leaders on ways to strengthen employee relations, hire highly-skilled employees and stay in compliance with employment laws. Here are three key take-aways that have helped DAS honed its skills in the HR industry:
#1 Enforce Equality in the Workplace. The employer/employee relationship can be complicated. At times, it is difficult for employers to exemplify fair and equitable treatment to their entire staff. Because employers interact with their employees daily, they often develop a close net, family-oriented rapport. However, there are times when an employer makes accommodations for one employee and not others. DAS’s responsibility as a PEO is to encourage the development of rules of engagement between employers and employees and to help maintain the client’s mindset in work and compliance mode rather than friend and buddy mode. Although it can be a struggle to ensure that employers steer clear of this behavior, a PEO’s mission is to work towards providing companies the skills and knowledge needed to avoid potential employment conflicts.
#2 Build Good Relationships First. Deciding to establish a co-employment arrangement with a PEO is an important decision to make. Handing over confidential information and trusting the PEO to implement an effective HR strategy is critical to long-term business success. A key take-away from DAS’s interactions with its clients is the importance of establishing a strong business-to-business relationship. The team’s experience, after many years in service to the business community, is to first, create an environment that ensures trust and promote collaboration.
#3 Documentation is a Wonderful Thing. Good documentation is critical to a HR department. Written and retained records of employment events, company policies and HR practices are instrumental to implementing the HR process. Tips for documenting disciplinary action is one of many insights the team at DAS has educated clients about. To avoid the mishandling of documentation for disciplinary actions, DAS recommends the following tip to management team members who often are required to provide verbal warnings to employees: During or immediately following a disciplinary meeting with an employee, email yourself the details of the meeting and copy the employee. Be sure to have them reply to you. By doing this, you will have a timestamp and the employee’s acknowledgement.
PEOs play an important role in a company’s HR team development. However, as the industry evolves, finding new ways to handle personnel challenges is the key to future success.
New Orleans’ Staffing Agency Ranks Among America’s Top Companies with Three-Year Sales Growth of 42%
NEW ORLEANS, August 16, 2017 – Inc. magazine today ranked Delta Personnel, Inc. on its 36th annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment— its independent small and midsized businesses. To view the listing visit the Inc. 5000 website.
Delta Personnel, a woman-owned full-service temp, temp-to-hire and direct hire staffing solutions agency, was recognized for its three-year 42% growth. With over 40 years in service, Delta is one of the oldest staffing agencies in the Greater New Orleans area. The company has worked with local and national leading organizations including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hilton of New Orleans, NFL, NBA, Essence Festival and Textron Marine.
“It is a privilege to join the ranks of Inc. 5000’s exceptional companies and to be recognized as a leader in business growth,” said Teresa Lawrence, CEO, Delta Personnel. “Our mission is to work within the community to support business sustainability and help companies grow. This recognition inspires our employees, clients and the New Orleans community to continue to strive towards economic progress.”
The 2017 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year average growth of 481%. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue is $206 billion, and the companies on the list collectively generated 619,500 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.
About Delta Personnel, Inc.
Delta Personnel opened its doors in 1968. Today, the company services clients throughout the Gulf Coast region. The company’s mission is to help businesses build contingent workforces by recruiting and retaining talent in fields, including industrial, hospitality, professional services and IT support. With over 900 employees, Delta Personnel is a major supplier of workers to the New Orleans area. To learn more, call 504-833-5200 or visit our website at www.deltapersonnel.com.
For more information about Delta Personnel, Inc. contact:
In 2017, Dr. Chadd Carr, Managing Partner, 6massive Holdings, LLP joined i.Invest as a judge and mentor. Bringing with him over 18 years in the fields of cyber investigations and intelligence, Carr has also founded and exited several services and product-based companies. His extensive experience in business development and dedication to youth entrepreneurship has been an asset to helping i.Invest prepare the next generation of business leaders.
Tell us about your current position, why you do what you do and how it prepares you to mentor youth and youth entrepreneurs?
6massive is a company focused on conceiving, developing, and taking to market those technologies that the world will want tomorrow. As a Partner at 6massive, I am directly responsible for a portfolio of up to 10 technologies, each with its own development cycle and market strategy, all operating in parallel. My portfolio ranges from advanced cyber threat intelligence tools, to career apps based on artificial intelligence, to learning and certification services for federal contractors, to socially-driven mobile apps. Usually, to expedite the go-to-market timeline, we often seek outside investment capital, which means I spend a great deal of my time pitching angel and accredited investors. I am also a college Professor dedicated to teaching, motivating, inspiring, and mentoring the next generation of industry giants. I have found success in converting this experience into a roadmap our younger generation can consider as they set out to capture their dreams.
What was the very first business you started and why?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as far back as I can remember. I’m sure my parents can go even further back. From buying a bag of candy and selling handfuls to classmates in elementary school, to borrowing lawnmowers from neighbors and sharing a percentage of revenue with friends who actually cut the grass, to buying and re-selling things on eBay, I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. And it was never (and still isn’t) about how many dollars I could collect that motivated me. It was the actual process of creating value where value didn’t exist before. One of my favorite quotes came from one of my favorite TV shows, Discovery’s Gold Rush, is “You’re already millionaires. The only thing is, you gotta get it out of the ground.” With imagination, perseverance, and insane work ethic, there are almost infinite paths to success, however you define it.
What three things should all young entrepreneurs be prepared for before they create a business?
#1 It’s hard work. Really hard. Entrepreneur Lori Greiner [from TV Show Shark Tank] said it best, entrepreneurs are “the only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks.” It’s a lifestyle, not a profession.
# 2 It can be lonely. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones trekking paths others don’t see value in. A lot of what they do doesn’t make sense to others, therefore, a lot of feedback and guidance they receive from others aren’t necessarily positive. Non-entrepreneurs like to classify outcomes as either a “success” or “failure.” Entrepreneurs typically classify something as “that worked”, or, “it didn’t work… that time.”
#3 Commit to building yourself, before you build your product. Your best brand–your most important brand–is yourself. Investors do not invest in businesses or technologies. They invest in the people behind them. Build credibility through personal and professional relationships, education, and proven history of hard work. Those three components provide the nutrients from which your “product” will eventually grow from and thrive. Also, the product you begin with, most likely, won’t be the same product you will end with. However, the two constants throughout that evolution, will be your health and your family. Protect those. Nurture those. Despite whatever path the product takes, in the end, what you will value above all else, will be those two things.
Tell us about your biggest business failure and success.
I don’t believe in failures. Even though I’ve had things that didn’t work at a particular time, under a particular set of circumstances, I’ve also walked away smarter and better prepared to tackle the next challenge. Success… failure… both are part of the journey, but neither are a destination. My wins are simply byproducts of an amazing, resilient, and incredibly patient family. If I had to name one success, it would be that I’ve been able to strike a healthy balance between my entrepreneurial insanity and helping foster a loving family.
Why is nurturing entrepreneurship important to you?
How does the saying go… in society, 97 percent of people who said it could not be done, work for the 3 percent who said it could be done? Something like that. As a father, I’ve always told my kids, “you can either spend your time aiming for the corner office or some fancy title (which someone else has built), or, you can spend your time creating those corner offices and titles.” Both paths have their own pros and cons, but I wanted my kids to grow up in a world where both were interchangeable and equally possible. Only through observable entrepreneurship can that happen.
Special thanks to Dr. Carr for his dedication to i.Invest Competitions. To learn more about the competition visit, www.i-investcompetition.com.
Akhilesh Khakhar, 17, of Brooklyn, NY is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. Akhilesh’s company, PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App, is revolutionizing the world of testing by bringing students together on social media platforms to study for the SAT and ACT.
Tell us about your business.
PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App is a free iOS test preparation app that provides an interactive, live, head-to-head match between its users. Users can take customized ACT and SAT practice tests, solve Questions of the Day, and view in-depth answers and explanations to thousands of questions.
What inspired the creation of PrepUP?
Two years ago, I suffered from a concussion that caused my brain to work and think differently. After months of physical therapy, I discovered that genuine interest and competitions were important in learning. I took this newly found knowledge and applied it to the development of a testing platform that would allow me to impact how high-school students studied for college-preparatory exams. I am proud to say that I am a 99-percentile scorer.
Test preparation is incredibly expensive for most households, yet is necessary to achieve the high scores required by top universities. PrepUP provides the service at no charge for everyone who needs it while bringing people together to study and compete in a fun and educational way.
How will PrepUP impact the world?
PrepUP’s impact within the field of education and college-prep testing is groundbreaking. The venture will make B2B connections with established test preparation companies and school districts throughout the country. Students can download the application for free as part of their syllabus and lesson plans with its unique ability to personalize practice tests and tailor-made Questions of the Day. PrepUP is making studying fun and free at the same time.
What are the next steps for PrepUP?
Earlier this year, PrepUP became available at the iTunes app store. PrepUP is seeking to raise $50,000 to optimize the application and make it available for all mobile platforms.
Jason Kao and Chauncey Lau, both 17, of New York, NY, are one of the teams competing in this year’s i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. As co-founders of Face the Facts (FtF) and students at Stuyvesant High School, Jason and Chauncey combined their passion for environmental awareness and fashion to create message t-shirts to support social causes.
Tell us about your business.
FtF creates apparel for environmentally conscious consumers and display graphics in a way that supports an environmental issue while raising awareness. For example, if someone wanted to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of carbon dioxide emissions on ocean acidification, instead of purchasing traditional activist apparel, they would buy FtF’s Ocean Acidification t-shirt, a scatter plot of shellfish and plankton populations versus world carbon dioxide emissions. The plot would show an obvious negative linear correlation between sea life and carbon dioxide emissions. Despite using complicated algorithms to create the graphic, the data visualization of FtF’s apparel are not only intuitive to the eye, but bring awareness to social and environmental issues facing the global community.
What inspired the creation of FtF?
Our goal is to change the aura of mistrust created in both modern-day media and politics regarding environmentalism and climate change by incorporating art, design, statistics, and storytelling into our clothing line.
What challenges will FtF need to overcome to be successful?
FtF’s target audience lives in New York City, a fast-paced cultural Mecca with a population of 11 million. Inhabitants of the five Boroughs are bombarded and overstimulated by both media and social marketing daily. FtF will create eye-catching graphics that grab the attention of activists.
How will FtF impact the world?
FtF will provide activists everywhere the opportunity to display irrefutable and indisputable evidence regarding their cause, and combat skepticism to the misinformed public.
What are the next steps for FtF?
FtF’s goal is to raise funds to start the production of our apparel line.
Timothy Huffman, 19, and Wesley Huffman, 17, of Birmingham, AL, are one of the teams competing in this year’s i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. The brothers took their performance talents, avid love of music, and eccentric repertoire and created their family-friendly ensemble called, Official Clutch Band.
Tell us about your business.
Official Clutch Band performs a wide genre of music ranging from bebop, jazz, smooth jazz, R&B classics and Motown hits. The band, accompanied by two lead vocalists, provides both live music and DJ/party music services for one affordable fee.
What inspired the creation of Official Clutch Band?
Our love of music fuels our passion to excel in the music business. Inspired by the late Dr. Frank Adams, Sr. a charter member of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and achiever in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, we want to carry on his legacy of providing good music for people to enjoy.
How will Official Clutch Band impact the world?
Although the target audience lives in Birmingham, Alabama, the band hopes to demonstrate music’s social impact by exposing and engaging audiences to different genres during each performance.
What are the next steps for Official Clutch Band?
Securing a fan base and making music accessible will be the key to the band’s success. The next steps are to make our music available on iTunes, Spotify, LiveStream, Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud for promotions and exposure. Also, we are seeking $10,000 in investments. The funds will be used to purchase equipment, distribution, promotion, advertising and sponsorship.
Tarata Konneh, 18, of Philadelphia, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. Tarata’s enthusiasm for travel spun the globe before landing in Guinea, West Africa, where his company, Konneh Transports, will help traveling entrepreneurs reach their destination.
Tell us about your business.
Konneh Transports’ concept is based in solving the problem of easy and convenient 520-mile travel between Conakry and N’zerekore for entrepreneurs on business trips. The company’s mission is to provide comfort and a healthy traveling environment with licensed, up-to-code drivers, and inspected vehicles as well as enhance opportunities and accessibility in the Guinea region of West Africa.
What inspired the creation of Konneh Transports?
Konneh Transports was created after I took several trips to Guinea. While traveling like a local, I experienced harsh conditions in unreliable vehicles, and heard the laments and complaints of fellow travelers varying from dangerous conditions in the beds of trucks, overcrowding, and sanitary concerns.
How will Konneh Transports impact the world?
Konneh Transports’ accessibility will help expand the job market, create jobs, help natives secure employment, as well as invest in their community.
What are the next steps for Konneh Transports?
The company is seeking to raise $65,000 to purchase a vehicle, video monitoring inside the vehicle and to cover other expenses. In the coming years, we will work to expand services throughout the countries in West Africa, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Mali.