Members Success Stories

Category Archive

CAAAB’s Micro Loan Program

Monday, October 17th, 2011

CAAAB has recently been engaged by the Incarnate Word Foundation to start and manage their micro loan program for place-based micro businesses. Initially, the loans are dispersed to the Parents as Entrepreneurs program participants only however, plans are already on the way for advancing the loan pool to serve other small and disadvantaged minority businesses as well. The first recipient of this loan is an African American couple who operate a temporary barbeque stall at the corner of Cass and North Grand.

The couple received a $5000 loan at a minimal interest rate for over a two-year period to implement the first phase of their Barbeque Joint business plan, which included operating a mobile barbeque joint. With this loan they bought a truck, upgraded it, and installed the necessary compliances that met the City and Department of Health requirements. They officially inaugurated the business on September 23, 2011.

The Incarnate Foundation has further invested in CAAAB with additional $10,000 to use as micro loan for small community based businesses. The prospective candidate for this loan is Lavish, a braiding business. The owner of Lavish is also a Parents as Entrepreneur program participant. She is in Phase 2 of the program where she is being coached to develop a formal business plan.

The business plan is in the last stages of completion. It   includes operating a braiding shop along with a job training and placement program for teenage girls. The business plan so includes operating the Juice Box Corner Store franchise to promote healthy living in the community.

Community Accolades CAAAB Members and Affiliates

Friday, March 25th, 2011

In the past one month, numerous CAAAB members and affiliates have received awards and or been featured in community publications for their outstanding leadership skills and professional achievement. Below are the list:

Mr. Eddie Davis, President & Executive Director, CAAABAward: Outstanding Citizens Award, St. Louis Gateway Classic Sports Foundation
Keith Turner, CAAAB MemberAward:  Saluete to Young Leaders, St. Louis American Foundation
Two of our CAAAB members/affiliates, Shawn McKie (Juice Box Inc) and Marvin Woods (Project Controls Group) were featured in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly. These two leaders were chosen to represent the African American community as part of the Black History Month for the impact they were making as business leaders and as educators.

Veteran, Minority-Owned Small Business Recognized

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Jefferson City – State Sen. Robin Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis) recently recognized Project Management Solutions Group of St. Louis as one of the state’s most successful and highly esteemed enterprises.

MO Senate Recognizes Minority Owned BusinessThe organization has been distinguished as a service-oriented, veteran-owned, minority-owned small business that excels at program and project management in the fields of telecommunications, information technology, health care, supply-chain management, business operations, real estate development, and construction, according to a Senate Resolution issued by Sen. Wright Jones.

Specifically, the proclamation notes that Prime Management Solutions Group recently received a subcontract from the United States Army Human Resources Command for $480,000 and a $5.7 million prime contract from the United States Army Corps of Engineers for construction services at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center at Marion, Illinois.

As a result, Project Management Solutions Group has been recognized at the 2010 Client Showcase sponsored by the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers and the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers.

“Project Management Solutions is a tremendous example of the kind of business we are proud to have located in the City of St. Louis,” said Sen. Wright-Jones. “They’ve worked hard and found success, but they’ve kept to their roots in our community. I wish them nothing but success and hope they continue to thrive, progress, and grow as a business enterprise in the St. Louis area.”

Divine Dzion Makes Hose for Women of Color – All Colors

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

By Sandra Jordan Of the St. Louis American
Thursday, July 31, 2008 8:30 AM CDT

Talk about getting a leg-up on the competition!

A St. Louis couple came up with a “divine” business plan designed for ladies who meet any of the following categories:

  1. Find pantyhose terribly itchy or uncomfortable,
  2. Cannot find pantyhose in a color that compliments their own skin tone,
  3. Quickly get a run in their stockings before heading to their destination,
  4. Hate pantyhose with a passion, and only wear them when their life or livelihood depends on it, and/or
  5. Are career-minded or Sunday-go-to-meeting sisters whose idea of “dress for success” includes a pair of nylons.

Divine Dzion are pantyhose designed specifically to bring comfort and elegance to the legs of women of color. Any color.

Owners are the husband/wife duo of Al and Marcia Parks. Leg man Alvin is the affable pitchman for Divine Dzion while the equally lovely Marcia still works full time in the finance department at a St. Louis corporation.

The couple had been looking at entrepreneurial endeavors to develop together. Al Parks owned a tailoring shop in his younger days and had been working on the idea of a hip-hop clothing line – then P. Diddy puffed the fashion charts with Sean John for the stylishly hip-hop, and a list of other notables followed suit.

Undeterred, the couple continued brainstorming ideas for a product that would be a necessity, recession-proof, without a lot of barriers to enter the marketplace and that did not require a lot of start-up funds.

The idea for Divine Dzion poked through like an acrylic fingernail through a new pair of stockings.

“Marcia had a problem finding hose that matched her skin tone and finding hose that were comfortable,” Al Parks said.

“We wanted to make sure we had a product when you put it on your skin tone – it looked like you.”

“We’re going to develop a product as good as Hanes,” Marcia Parks said.

The Parks began speaking with other women about what they wanted in pantyhose, researching the competition and looking for a manufacturer.

Al Parks said they emailed letters to 130 hosiery producers, and got a response from one who was willing to take a chance on a start-up business.

“This guy took me under his wing,” Al Parks said. “We wanted to create a brand. Everybody else wanted to give us something off the shelf.”

‘God is a part of this’

That was the good news.

The bad news – the one manufacturer willing to give the Parks a chance was going out of business after 70 years.

You could say a little divine intervention spread a little saving grace.

“He found another manufacturer to run the line,” Parks said. “They passed the specs to the present manufacturer, and it was one of the ones that did not respond to me initially.”

After a year of product development, and much fine-tuning of the prototype by Marcia, who was the test model, the design for comfort and color was born to the only African Americans with their own uniquely-developed brand in the hosiery business.

The name of the product came easy.

“Divine Dzion – God is a part of this. This is a divine design invention,” Parks said.

Their hose line is designed exclusively for Divine Dzion, without the unnatural ashy gray or “old lady red” tint sometimes observed in stockings worn on black legs.

“The elasticity will allow women who are more ‘hippy’ to wear them and be more comfortable,” Al Parks said.

“The control top – we wanted something that wouldn’t suffocate you,” Marcia Parks said.

Amen to that.

The Parks said at least one wannabe rival tried to get their manufacturer to run a copycat line of their product under a different name, but the manufacturer refused.

Integrity still rules.

“God is in it. Everything went smoothly,” Marcia said.

“We listened. It just shows what happens when you listen,” Al Parks said.

Leadership Roundtable leads

Their pantyhose went into production in 2005 and Al left his job as a service manager for Southwestern Bell to devote his attention to Divine Dzion full time a year later.

They also credit tremendous help from the Center for the Acceleration of African-American Business, an affiliate of the St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable for office space and expertise in developing a business and marketing plan.

Divine Dzion pantyhose are sold primarily online at www.divinedzion.com individually or through a purchase club membership plan. Locally, the hose are sold in St. Louis at Afro World.

With names like “Honey Brown,” “Caramel” and “Almost Midnight,” the shades sound as luscious and seductive as they feel on the skin as reported by daily wearers and professed haters of pantyhose.

Test-marketed

Several women of varying sizes and skin tones on the St. Louis American staff put Divine Dzion pantyhose to the test with a near unanimous consensus.

“I really like them. The color was good. It was a great fit and I’m going to start buying those stockings,” said Loistine McGhee-Sutton, a longtime Hanes Silk Reflections fan.

“They were more sheer – that was nice,” said Angelita Jackson, who said the comfort and last equaled her regular brand.

“I love them! They look so natural, it doesn’t look like you have on stockings at all,” said Charmane Brown. “I want to get a pair of black ones now.”

Currently there are six sizes to choose from in control top day wear or ultra sheer. Divine Dzion is contemplating adding a tall line.

The Parks are also making the rounds at national and regional conventions and selling their product, most recently at the African Methodist Episcopal Church Quadrennial Conference in St. Louis and the Alpha Kappa Alpha 100th anniversary Centennial Boule in Washington D.C. They even created a commemorative AKA sport sock for the sorority.

As far as pantyhose are concerned, this reporter falls into four of the five categories listed above, but mostly “only wearing pantyhose if my life or livelihood depended on it,” which means I wear them during winter months, official occasions and if I can’t find a comfortable pair of knee-highs to wear instead. Admittedly, I am impressed. One day, work and an event afterward put me in a pair of Caramel hose for 14 hours. I actually forgot I had them on. No holes, no runs, and no tossing them in the nearest trash receptacle at first chance! I’m going for the Honey Brown next time – and a pair of the AKA socks.

A recent fashion show at Afro World in St. Louis allowed Al and Marcia Parks to see all nine shades of their pantyhose on the legs of nine models at the same time for the first time.

Like a proud artist who perfected his creation, Al beamed, “They looked transparent on the skin. They look wonderful.”

Divine Dzion pantyhose are sold primarily online at www.divinedzion.com individually or through a purchase club membership plan. Locally, the hose are sold in St. Louis at Afro World, 7276 Natural Bridge Rd.