Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Photo By : Duane Fernandez Sr. / Hardnotts Photography L.L.C
Inspiring youth, lifting the community, dedication to growth, longstanding perseverance, strong voices for the entrepreneurial spirit, and the beautiful curation of black lives is what the evening showcased and celebrated. The African American Entrepreneurs Association, Inc. (AAEA) hosted its 5th Annual Entrepreneurs of the Year Awards at the McGee Room inside the Daytona International Airport on December 13th, 2022. The McGee room was filled to honor these milestones. Distinguished guests included Commissioner Paul Reed, Councilwoman Barbara Girtman, Palm Coast Councilwoman Cathy Height, SBA Deputy District Director Jonel Hein, Cyrus Callum and Helga van Ecker of Volusia County Economics, CareerSources CEO Robin King, and Tortugas General Manager Jim Jaworski along with over 85 people in the room. It was a testament to the community's dedication to seeing
entrepreneurs achieve sustainability and lasting economic strength.
Honorees and Distinguished Guests
Mistress of Ceremony Cynthia Slater, President of the NAACP Daytona Branch, alongside AAEA Founder & CEO Leslie Giscombe, shared the inspiring and positive community impact that the local 12 businesses from the Volusia/Flagler community have been achieving. Ms. Cynitha Slater recognized honorees from the Daytona Beach and Deland areas that included the African American Museum of the Arts Deland, Mary Allen, Executive Director; CW Consulting Firm, Dr. Chester Wilson; Entrepreneurial Education & Training Experience at Daytona State, Dr. Sherryl D. Weems, AVP; Fifis Beauty Salon and Day Spa, Kim Moten & Ophelia Robinson; Hardnotts Photography L.L.C, Duane Fernandez Sr., Helping Hands Family Chiropractic, Dr. Aneesah N. Farris; and Kenneth Grant Inzpirations, James & LaToya Carey. Mr. Leslie Giscombe highlighted the Flagler-based businesses. A Plus Pharmacy, Dr. Bish Mahadeo; Betsy's Notary Services LLC, Betsy A Jimenez; Crab Shack 386, Jimmie & Kiona Gordon; and TCC Cleaners & Valet, James & Beth Smith. Coast Dental & Orthodontics, Dr. Vernon Gordon, once the only black dentist in Flagler County and father of Taraji Penda Henson, was a surprise guest of the evening. His wife, Mrs. Bernice Gordan, was one of the very first recipients for her inspirational support of her daughter and the help she had given Taraji on her journey. "Tonight is about the entrepreneurs reaching out into their communities and making a difference, and it is a blessing to be able to bring honor to them and recognize them," said Leslie Giscombe.
The AAEA Goes National
With the new growth of the association's national impact, Regional Director Julia Kline-Fuentes came in from Alabama to introduce and share recipients making waves in the minority entrepreneurial realm. Career Image Solutions, Reginald & Hennither Gant (Maryland); Constance Craig-Mason: Financial Expert, Dr. Constance Craig-Mason (Pennsylvania), from Genesis Preferred Solutions, Dr. Cassandra Bradford (Texas) and Raising Men Lawn Care Inc., Rodney Smith, Jr. (Alabama) were the first group to receive national recognition. Ms. Kline-Fuentes was excited to share the plans in place for several AAEA chapters throughout the United States to further the mission of the AAEA: to develop and create economic development through entrepreneurship within the underserved African American and minority communities through education, mentoring, workshops, group economics, & microfinancing opportunities.
Creating More Impact on the Minority Communities
As Ms. Kline-Fuentes finished her introductions, she focused on some of the most impactful programs for 2022. One was the newly launched aaeaBusinessRelief.com and associated grants for small businesses impacted by the latest two storms. She took a moment to recognize some of the most recent funding awardees in the room. The Volusia Birthing Tribe Pregnancy Clinic Corporation was one of Volusia's critical community services that had been damaged and had qualified for the AAEA Business Relief Funding grant program. Helping care for the underserved Volusia's wellness was a well-received impact point, and attendees Tabatha Seppala and Serena Burr brought information and shared with some guests the challenges facing our community. "Lifting businesses like the Birthing Tribe is just one of the joys of working and mentoring in the community," said Julia. "Helping people expand their passions and make a true difference in the lives of their communities in such a positive way is where my heart lies. The AAEA allows me to showcase these individuals and ensure they survive and thrive in the infancy stage of entrepreneurship." The evening was wrapped up and closed out by Mrs. Slater, and everyone left with smiles, awards, and an expanded understanding of the level of impact that was being achieved. Music for the evening was provided by violist Marcus R McKinnon, known as the Black Guy, White Violin.
Leslie F. Giscombe, MBA CEO & Founder