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Deborah
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Interview
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IN - FOCUS
IN - FOCUS
Meet the
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JAMIE MITRI
Influ ential
WOMEN LEADERS
TO FOLLOW
Interview
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MAKING OPPORTUNITIES
COUNT
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
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Embracing Excellence
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
C O N T E N T S
DEBORAH SMITH
12
C O N T E N T S
JAMIE MITRI
24
C O N T E N T S
LAURYN PARKS
40
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
#MyJo
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urney
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Deborah
Smith
Co-Founder & CEO |The CenterCap Group, LLC
Cover Story
12 EXELEON MAGAZINE
Making
Opportunities
Count
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 13
ONE
of the striking factors that differentiates
leaders from each other is their ability to
in luence. Often held in a negative
connotation, having an in luence as a
leader conveys one's ability to drive
people's actions towards an aligned goal.
Powerful in luence enables leaders to
achieve effective results, as opposed to
coercion. It is worth noting that a high level
of trust and a high level of competence
accompanies one's level of in luence.
A person of in luence is someone who
people believe in and trust to guide them in
the right direction in order to attain the
desired results.
Women leaders across the globe are
asserting their in luential presence with
their ability to stand out and be the best.
These leaders are going past the pre-
conceived notions surrounding their
gender and creating stories that are
inspiring.
Deborah Smith is an example of one such
in luential women who has cemented her
presence in the inance space by
spearheading and establishing a boutique
investment bank – The CenterCap Group,
LLC.
Featuring as the Cover of Exeleon's
In luential Leaders to Watch, we look into
Cover Story
14 EXELEON MAGAZINE
Photo
Credit:
Kamara
Photography
Life is full of open and closed doors,
and I am big believer that to be
successful you need to be able to tell
the difference.
the journey of Deborah Smith and how she
made her opportunities count even at the face
of adversity.
WILLINGNESS TO EXPLORE
Growing up as a dairy farmer's daughter in
rural Australia, Deborah stood out from her
peers due to her background. She remembers,
“Education took a backseat to work, and
responsibility was a way of life back then. As
my parents used to say, “the cows don't milk
themselves!”
For Deborah, being part of her family
business as a dairy farmer was almost
inevitable. However, with the help of some
incredible mentors along the way, Deborah's
journey was opened to new possibilities. She
was the only one in her family to go to the
university after completing high school.
Looking back, she mentions “I recognize that
while I don't consider myself a risk taker, it
was the willingness to explore and take risks
that ultimately paved my way.”
Perhaps, it was this willingness to explore
that eventually led her into the inance world.
Back in law school, Deborah intended on
becoming a tax attorney. She explains, “I
loved tax law complexity coupled with the
challenge to ind answers buried within it.”
Although investment banking and finance
was not on her radar, she decided to take the
risk, switch gears, and show up for work.
Starting out as a banker at Morgan Stanley,
Deborah was almost convinced that her stint
in the inance domain wasn't going to last for
long. However, once she took on the job,
Deborah was determined to learn and
establish her reputation by being the best
version of herself.
Years later as a veteran in the industry,
Deborah looks back at her early days with
fond memories and a heart full of gratitude.
“Turns out I had quite a knack for numbers
and picked things up pretty easily, so I had
found the right career for myself.”
GRABBING THE OPPORTUNITIES
In 2005, Deborah joined Wachovia with the
deliberate intention of focusing on healthcare
banking. “I had been a utilities banker for
many years, and I wanted to try something
different.”
This period also happened to be the boom for
REIT transactions. Suddenly, Deborah was
seen making a lot of real estate transactions
and it eventually cemented her status in the
real estate banking space.
The emergence of the global inancial crisis in
2008 saw Deborah co-heading CBRE
Investors Global M&A business and led the
“ “
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 15
irm's negotiation and acquisition of a majority interest
in Wood Partners.
With real estate being at the heart of the global collapse,
one would assume it would be a smart choice to change
directions. However, never shying away from an
opportunity, Deborah decided to co-found a women-
owned boutique real estate investment bank – in the
middle of the global inancial crisis!
She explains, “When we decided to build CenterCap
during the great inancial crisis after co-heading CBRE
Investors global M&A business, it was really on the back
of the thought that a lot of organizations in the middle
market needed an advisor who also really understood
real estate itself. Our view from a client's perspective
was simple - how could anyone give us advice if they
really didn't understand what we did?”
Considering their extensive real estate knowledge,
expertise, relationships, analytical strengths, and hard
work, The CenterCap Group, LLC was born with the
simple, yet all-encompassing tagline – All Things Real
Estate.
“One assignment at a time, we built CenterCap, and the
next thing we knew, we had an of ice, a name above the
door, and a reputation for getting things done. It's been
quite a ride,” she mentions proudly.
Almost a recurring theme in her journey, Deborah
recognized an opportunity, grabbed it, and ran with it.
She perfectly sums this up with one simple statement,
“Life is full of open and closed doors, and I am big
believer that to be successful you need to be able to tell
the difference.”
ALL THINGS REAL ESTATE
The idea behind CenterCap is built around the concept of
'All Things Real Estate 'and the irm has committed itself
to stay true to that core principal.
“We consider ourselves to be sector leaders in terms of
our knowledge, expertise, and breadth of service
offerings. We do take a lifecycle approach toward our
clients and assignments.”
Furthermore, every assignment the irm takes upon is in
the context of building a long-term relationship. This
“Don’t make
decisions
based on
emotion.”
Cover Story
EXELEON MAGAZINE
16
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 17
Ins
EXELEON MAGAZINE
18
spiring
As a female entrepreneur, Deborah understands
the disparity in ratio when it comes to women
helming senior positions in the real estate and
investment banking space. Being one of the only
female-founded investment banks doing what it
does, dedicated to its sector, Deborah hopes to
be an advocate of change and inspire more
women leaders.
At CenterCap, Deborah has built a senior team
that has collectively been in the industry for a
very long time. With this collective pool of
experience comes the industry knowledge and
understanding of what can work and what can't.
“You get pretty wise about a whole host of
topics, decisions, strategies, and deal terms over
the years. We take pride in our success rate in
getting things done. The ability to adapt, switch
gears, change paths are critical for any
entrepreneur. Being stuck in your ways may
leave you in the past, focused on issues that no
longer matter with a mindset that is no longer
relevant.”
Change
emphasis has enabled CenterCap to build a loyal
client base and provide an array of services.
Deborah elaborates, “I think we are known for
taking on the complicated, the contrarian, and
the non “bread and butter” type assignments.
Sure, we can do the easy transaction processes,
but we're not afraid of doing something
different or complicated. We are pretty
con ident that we can spot an attractive
opportunity when it presents itself.”
Based in Stamford, Connecticut with a recent
expansion to Florida, The CenterCap Group is a
market leader when it comes to thinking about
the role of technology in real estate as well as
niche sectors like cold storage, senior housing,
manufactured housing, and logistics.
“Our deep knowledge translates into informed
advice, which we use to provide customized
guidance to companies looking to raise capital
or make strategic investments. Sure, we are
focused on transactions – we are bankers – but
we are more focused on delivering the right
advice and the right transaction as opposed to
just a transaction.”
She continues, “The former is a lot harder to do
than the latter. Sometimes our advice is that it's
not the right deal or the right time.”
BUILDING A BUSINESS
In many instances, Deborah has mentioned that
starting her business in the middle of the global
crisis was borderline crazy. However, for both
Deborah and her partner, the thought of
impending business failure never truly crossed
their minds. They were focused on their
strengths and had the willingness to work hard
to make it a success – and so they did.
Amidst the positives, the early days of the irm
was riddled with confusion as is the case for
every new entrepreneur. She recalls, “I laugh
when I look back, as there was a time in the
early days when I would be making
presentations and running excel spreadsheets at
Cover Story
EXELEON MAGAZINE 19
night and then turning around and
putting on my senior leadership hat
to explain it all the next day, with
strategy and growth ideas along
with it.”
With time and experience, Deborah
evolved her leadership style and
gained clarity when it came to
building a business. One of her
biggest learnings in her
entrepreneurial journey is to not
assume. She advises emerging
entrepreneurs to continually
evaluate their plans, modify, adjust,
and improve as new information
comes to light.
Always mindful of their women-
owned structure, Deborah re lects
on their fortune that Lisa Beeson,
an industry veteran, agreed to join
them in 2017. “Lisa had previously
run real estate M&A groups for
Barclays, Lehman Brothers, and
Wachovia Securities after a long
stint with Morgan Stanley's M&A
group. Her expertise with public
companies, including REITs, was
pretty much unmatched,” Deborah
says, “To have Lisa join us, both a
long-time friend and former
colleague, was a truly unbelievable
positive for us.”
Nowadays, Deborah oversees the
day-to-day proceedings of
CenterCap and the strategic growth
and development of the irm.
She also mentions, “I am also
intimately involved in our
consulting practice. I really enjoy
building relationships with
companies, iguring out what
makes them tick, their culture,
strengths, and weaknesses, and
then helping them to reposition,
switch gears, or grow. It's really
rewarding and incredibly
challenging. Every company is
different.”
Talking about how she ensures
work-life balance, Deborah quickly
points out her love for running. “I
run a lot. There is something
calming about putting one foot in
front of the other on the pavement.
I do some of my best thinking while
running; when I am actually not
trying to think at all.”
Being a parent, spouse, and an
entrepreneur, she understands the
dif iculties that one can face
juggling between the three. For her,
it's the clarity of determining what
you want to do, making the
decision, and then just going for it.
It's all in the follow-through.
BEING THE BEST
“We had our busiest year in 2022
and this year I am excited for what
we have going on and the pipeline
ahead of us. We are continuing to
grow all of our business segments,
but also a new avenue for us is to
explore making principal
investments ourselves.” Deborah
realizes that one of their core
strengths is the ability to
underwrite good management
teams and good opportunities. “We
are now looking to make some
investments in early-stage
companies, a market segment we
don't spend as much time in. It's
really exciting stuff,” she concludes
saying.
Going forward, Deborah hopes
CenterCap continues striving every
day to be the #1 advisor in middle
market investment banking and be
the best at every service they offer.
But she also looks forward to
building out an investment side of
their business, too. Her grand plan -
to do it all; and to do it all well.
One Book Entrepreneurs Must Read – “Grit”
by Angela Duckworth
One Productivity Tool / App that Everyone
Should Use – LinkedIn
One Quote that Motivates you the Most –
Onwards and Upwards
One Podcast / Course that you would
Recommend – Bloomberg Masters in Business
Podcast
One Investment Advice that you Follow –
Don't make decisions based on emotion.
Exeleon Shorts
Cover Story
EXELEON MAGAZINE
20
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
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24
Moss Guru
meet the
What was the idea that led to the start
of Moss Pure? What was the market gap
that you wanted to address?
I founded Moss Pure during a startup
competition at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in June 2020, called the MIT
Lebanon Challenge. Moss Pure won First
Place Startup in the competition in Track
1B Health, Energy, and Waste
Management. From there, the United
Nations invited me to compete in their
Development Programme in August 2020,
where it won the Top 10 Startup.
During the competition, I realized that
moss has several bene its. But there
weren't many companies that were using
live moss. Most moss companies use
preserved moss or dried moss, which are
no longer living. Because preserved and
dried moss are no longer living, they are
not able to improve air quality as only live
moss can.
In talking with customers and scientists, I
found that:
1. No other company was able to use moss
as an effective air ilter.
2. No other company was able to keep live
moss alive in indoor environments for
more than a few days.
3. Existing living walls and moss walls
used a great amount of water and
electricity and were bulky and required
time to assemble.
Using engineering and biology, I created
the irst and only live moss design that
improves your air quality and provides
therapeutic relief without needing any
watering, sunlight, or maintenance. I
wanted to create an aesthetically pleasing,
yet simple decor piece that anyone could
use in their everyday, modern space.
How Jamie Mitri used engineering and biology to create the first and only
live moss artwork that improves your air quality – Moss Pure.
IN – FOCUS
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 25
Talk to us about the science that went
behind the creation of the product.
A great deal of science is used in the creation of
our products. We are not simply just putting
moss on a wall frame. Although I have a strong
science background, I spent months and many
hours doing hands on research with moss to
engineer Moss Pure.
I formulated a multi-layered design of eco-
friendly materials that sustain the moss within
our product in any environment – indoor and
outdoor. Because of this, our products do not
need watering, sunlight, or electricity. Our
proprietary technology extends the life of live
moss from days to years. The multi-layer also
works in synergy with the live moss, so that the
moss uses toxic pollutants in the air as its food
source, therefore improving your air quality. Air
purifying plants take decades to purify the
surrounding air. Moss Pure's technology
enhances the air iltering capability of live
moss.
We are the only company that has certi ied
analytical results showing that our live moss
products improve your air quality within
minutes, capturing carbon dioxide, dust,
allergens, pet dander, VOC, metals and certain
bacteria and viruses.
I also worked with 150 customers in the U.S.,
gathering feedback on the aesthetics of our
design. I conducted prototype, alpha, and beta
testing with our customers to create the inal
Moss Pure products you see in our online store
today.
As the Moss Guru, what role do you play in
the day-to-day proceedings of the company?
I'm a very hands-on CEO. I am involved in every
aspect of the business in some way – whether
it's working with a customer on a custom moss
wall, helping assemble our products, pitching to
a distributor, sales, marketing, PR, accounting,
inances – you name it and I'm doing it or have
EXELEON MAGAZINE
IN – FOCUS
26
done it. I am able to combine my passion for
science and fashion and interior design every
day and I'm stepping out of my comfort zone
to grow the business.
Looking at your journey as an
entrepreneur, if you were to start again,
what would you do differently?
Absolutely nothing. Every milestone, every
mistake, every failure, and every success
accompanied a learning lesson, and I wouldn't
take any of it back. It has been such a
rewarding and amazing experience, even on
the crazy days.
What would be your advice for emerging
entrepreneurs bringing-in new and
innovative sustainable solutions?
Being an entrepreneur and launching a
business is dif icult in itself – let alone
creating an innovative product in an existing
market. When you create such an innovative
product, you have to make sure your
messaging is right so that you capture
people's attention and then you have to clearly
explain why you are different from your
competition. It's incredibly challenging but if
you know it's worth the risk and you are
consistent, the business will grow and
everything that you've worked so hard for will
pay off – and it is such an amazing feeling.
Finally, what does the future look like for
you and Moss Pure? What are you most
excited about?
I'm excited to get the word out about the
company and expand it. Moss Pure has such a
positive impact and story and I want to share
it with the world. We are also always learning
and growing, and we are releasing new
products with feedback from our customers.
My creative and intellectual mind is always at
work coming up with something and I love it.
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM
IN – FOCUS
27
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
EXELEON MAGAZINE
30
THE DOWNTURN OF
THE AMERICAN DREAM
Written By: Michaela Green, Licensed Realtor in Houston, TX
he American Dream” is
Twidely heard in big speeches
and is a selling point for the
public to aim for big and avail the
opportunity of becoming successful.
However, over the years, the
American dream has become a
nightmare for young adults,
especially millennials and Gen Z –
leading to the downturn of the
American Dream.
The general trend among the
younger generation is to acquire as
many 'assets' as possible. While this
releases dopamine and creates a
sense of achievement in their minds,
it is essential to realize that the
American Dream has been de ined
only in terms of material
possessions, encouraging Americans
to go beyond their limit and
eventually face a inancial crisis.
Since 2014, the average household
income has decreased by $2000 in
middle-class families, with an
average household debt of around
130% of the salary. Alarmingly, the
household savings rate is nearly
zero!
The last great recession happened in
2008 that had a lasting impact on
Americans. Millennials are drowned
mainly in student loan debts;
unfortunately, the median income is
the same as in the 1970s, after
considering in lation. Although a lot
more people are employed today
compared to the 1970s, still a fewer
percentage of them own their
houses. Even so, a third of them are
currently living with their parents.
We'll discuss some factors that
correlate with the lack of
“
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 31
EXPERT OPINION
homeownership among young
adults.
HOUSING BUBBLE
If you're aware of the Great
Recession of 2008, you must know
what a housing bubble is. For
those looking to investigate this
matter, let's make it simple for you
to understand. As the house
demand increases, the prices
follow an upward trend. This is
exactly what a housing bubble is.
Giving a brief history lesson,
investors shied away from stock
investments and turned to
economical mortgage rates,
increasing the demand for
st
property at the start of the 21
Century. Also, to incentivize non-
stock investments, fewer
regulations were put in place,
which implied that a high income
was not required to get a
mortgage; however, the turmoil
was not anticipated as those
payments accumulated with
interest rates rising at the same
time.
The investments were such that
when the buyers couldn't pay, the
lending organizations went
bankrupt, and the lending
structure crumpled.
This proved to be one of the
primary reasons for the slowdown
in the real estate market. Even as
America regained control of its
economy, property building did
not become as normal as it was.
THE GAP BETWEEN PROPERTY
PRICES AND INCOME
In the modern era, property prices
are insanely high. Additionally, the
average household income is
failing to maintain a constant ratio
with the rising prices. According to
bankrate.com, the median price of
houses grew 30% as opposed to
an 11% increase in median
household income in the last ten
years.
At the time, homebuyers enjoyed
the privilege of property costs
ivefold the mean salary. But after
the market collapse in 2008 – aka
the Great Recession – that ratio
increased to sixfold, that stabilized
eventually. Recently, the average
property costs have soared again
and are seven times greater than
the average household income.
For instance, the national median
home price was around $121,500
in the 90s. That was around twice
the average income of around
$50,000. Whereas in 2020, home
prices rose close to $359,000
while the median income is limited
to around $67,500.
This is one of the reasons why the
younger generation is inding it
extremely challenging to buy a
new property in the current era.
HIGH DEMAND, LOW SUPPLY
As of now, the millennials are the
most populous adult generation,
outnumbering boomers in 2019.
As the population of these young
adults increases, the need for
homeownership grows
simultaneously. To give some
perspective, before the COVID-19
pandemic, homeownership was
ever-increasing among millennials.
On the other hand, the older
generation have kept their ground
and continued residing in their old
homes. This creates a negative
supply and an increasing demand
for houses as fewer homes are sold
in the market, and more buyers
are looking for relatively
affordable homes.
The boomers are also cognizant of
the fact that the prices have
signi icantly risen, and taking
advantage of that, they are making
competitive offers which makes it
harder for the younger generation
to buy new property.
STUDENT LOAN DEBT
According to several research,
millennials are drowned in college
debt which is correlated with a
delay in homeownership. If we
take in to account the in lation, the
millennials are far behind
boomers in homeownership rates.
72% of student debt holders
believed their debt would delay
them from purchasing a home for
several months up to 8 years. More
speci ically, 19% of student debt
holders believed their debt would
hinder them from buying a home
for more than eight years!
Although we saw an increase in
homeownership among
millennials during the COVID-19
pandemic, there is still a void in
homeownership rates that needs
to be addressed. To ill this gap,
incentives should be given, such as
the Transforming Student Debt to
Home Equity Act of 2022. This act
provides leverage to students who
have cleared their student loans,
EXELEON MAGAZINE
32
EXPERT OPINION
such as subsidized mortgage
loans, and discounts on
government-owned homes along
with inancial aid for making
down payments.
FIRMS & ORGANIZATIONS
STEPPING IN
Considering the increasing home
prices and the harder it is to
afford a new place, large irms
and organizations have seen a
business opportunity. They have
bought single-family properties
for rental purposes.
This is not new, but seeing the
recent trends and lesser
affordability, the phenomenon is
growing. Smartly enough, the
investors have bought single-
family homes because that is the
type of irst-time house buyers
goes after.
CONCLUSION
Conclusively, homeownership
among the younger generation
has a sluggish rate compared to
the boomer generation due to the
pertinent factors that affect it. We
have discussed ive essential
elements that have caused this
gap in the market, and we hope
this helps you broaden your
perspective on the downturn of
the American Dream.
AboutMichaelaGreen
Michaela Green is a licensed real estate
agent with half a decade of experience
representing investors in buying and
selling property in the Greater Houston
area. Through her extensive knowledge
of the marketplace, Michaela is able to
represent investors in finding properties
that produce the highest return on
investment. Michaela founded 'The
Green Collective' in 2022, a company that
aligns her core values with her passion for
real estate. Michaela has with National
Assistants Ministers (NAM) to help
survivors of Hurricane Harvey start fresh
by selling their distressed properties and
help find a new homes.
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 33
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Murshidah
Said
36 EXELEON MAGAZINE
EMPOWERINGLEADERS,
CREATINGCOMMUNITIES
t is believed that our unique talent and
Igift leads us to our purpose. However,
it is merely a part of the whole truth.
Another signi icant part of this 'purpose' is
that it grows when we connect to
individuals. Maybe that's why in any crisis,
when we are struggling with ourselves and
our purpose, we often choose the path of
isolation. And when we bounce back on
our destined path, we ind others traveling
beside us, on the same way reaching for
the same destination — taking our
collective passion to a whole new level,
towards a healthy community.
Murshidah Said, Founder of the LOVE &
RESPECT Transformation Centre, is one
such transformational leader who strives
to drive purpose among individuals and
world leaders to add value to their
businesses, by creating a chain of positive
reactions in communities. Being an
entrepreneur, corporate trainer, life coach,
and keynote speaker for over a decade,
Murshidah is transforming corporate
leaders' and individuals' lives by guiding
them and creating ripples of positive
change in organizations.
FINDING THE 'WHY?'
Murshidah works closely with people on
an individual level to understand their
mindsets, 'WHY' — as in their purpose —
to help them in their course of life. It is
something she learned the hard way back
in 2006. At the time, her husband lost his
job and was not paid for the work. The
situation was so severe that Murshidah
was on the verge of being homeless with
only $0.50 in her pocket. Not to mention,
she was also taking care of her six-month-
old daughter.
Her daughter thus became her 'WHY'
factor in helping her ind purpose. Making
the best of available resources at hand,
Murshidah stepped into her superpower
and surpassed the challenging times in the
fastest manner possible. In less than two
weeks, Murshidah was carrying $5000 in
her pocket. She realized she had all the
resources; she just didn't use them
effectively.
The moment was nothing short of a
eureka for her, which became the
foundation bricks of her training business,
transforming people's lives for 14 years.
37
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM
IN – FOCUS
Searching for the 'WHY' factor
drove her to reach out to struggling
people who required the much-
needed breakthrough in their
business and leading their
communities. Soon, Murshidah
found herself managing a coaching
and mentoring platform wherein
she helped business owners,
startups, and professionals who
want to grow their business and
incomes, all the while doing good
and creating a social impact.
Besides inding the purpose,
helping people out of
uncomfortable situations and
witnessing a transformation also
drives Murshidah. Instilling
con idence, creating changes in
their lives, releasing old negative
beliefs, habits, behaviors, and
uplifting their communities to
success lifts spirit and brings peace
to her.
UP CLOSE, PROFESSIONAL, AND
PERSONAL
To ind out the 'WHY' factor in her
clients, Murshidah never opts for
any shortcuts. Beforehand, she
clari ies to the clients that she can
best serve them by getting to know
them professionally and personally.
She believes that only by
understanding the personal life and
the clients' mindset that she can
meet them where they are in their
business and personal life and help
them.
With the said approach, she
pinpoints why they are stuck in a
situation or are facing challenges in
growing personally and
professionally. At irst, she works
on releasing the mental and
emotional blocks of a client through
private sessions and later with
monthly forgiveness sessions.
Additionally, business owners and
individuals get to be a part of a
community with like-minded
individuals who accomplish great
things and form a network with
each other. The close, tight-knit
community results have led to
partnerships across sustainability
initiatives and the growth of
international business
opportunities for those who were
stuck state or community-wise.
Murshidah believes that when she
empowers leaders, when she inds
great qualities in them, backed by a
strong purpose, she creates a big
impact in the community. She
asserts, “When I coach people to be
the leader they are meant to be,
that is when they start to transform
not only in their personal and
business lives, they also transform
their communities. I believe
businesses can make the world a
much better place when the pro its
have a purpose of doing good for
the people, planet and the economy.
When positive transformational
leaders come out of these
communities too, they create
positive changes in their circles.”
GIVING BACK TO THE
COMMUNITY
Murshidah's humanitarian efforts
started as a weekend family activity
a decade ago. She also wanted to
educate her daughter to be grateful
38 EXELEON MAGAZINE
IN – FOCUS
and kind to those less fortunate. So
alongside her daughter, she started
visiting orphanages, either
contributing money and toys or
volunteering time to feed orphan
babies or play with the toddlers.
Later, the activity extended to
feeding the homeless and starting a
humanitarian project. Soon, others
were also keen to join Murshidah
and her family in these activities.
However, upon observing,
Murshidah realized that her efforts
are going in vain, and people are
still poor, homeless, or waiting for
handouts. Perceiving the situation,
she shifted her efforts towards
educating and training them on
overcoming the challenges. Success
touched upon her feet when she
found a breakthrough within the
refugee, homeless, small business
owners, and low-income single
mothers' community.
These people she led later became
leaders, de ining the life of others
for a better community. Instances of
such include a refugee who went on
to become a TedX speaker and a
single refugee mother who
commenced her own humanitarian
work for the community and beauty
business.
In essence, for Murshidah, giving
back to the community is not about
helping members inancially or
handing out food and things. She
raises them as leaders and supports
them in realizing their true purpose
and administering their
communities.
THE ART OF BALANCING
PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL
LIFE
Guiding us with her sharp analytical
mind, Murshidah reveals that the
secret around balancing personal
and professional life is setting the
priorities right, understanding
boundaries, and the utmost urgent
work we must focus on in daily life.
As an entrepreneur, Murshidah
knows that she cannot create an
empire herself. Hence, she would
have to rely on like-minded people
that complements her purpose and
her vision. She dedicates her
attention to her life, family,
business, and bene iciaries. And
when confronted with situations
incompatible with her strengths,
she makes sure to support the
people handling the work and focus
on what she's good at.
Murshidah's advice for young and
aspiring women entrepreneurs also
remains the same. She says that the
entrepreneurial journey will bring
all sorts of shiny objects to get
distracted by. However, you must
stay true to the purpose of your
personal and entrepreneur journey.
“Your 'WHY' will keep you resilient
and make you go through any
obstacles or challenges. Also, don't
forget to make a place in a high vibe
community of other women
entrepreneurs who can support you
and get a coach who can guide you
through the journey.”
LOVE & RESPECT FOR FUTURE
Murshidah is stepping into the
future with a vision; a vision to
have more communities around the
world that practices LOVE &
RESPECT in their cultures, business
practices, and organizations. She is
also quite con ident that she will
create and raise more leaders who
will do good for the environment,
human capital, and the community
through their businesses.
She concludes saying, “All this can
happen when the leadership is
based on LOVE & RESPECT and the
goal is to make the world better
through having conscious
businesses which also takes care of
the environment, eliminating
poverty and elevating human
capital.”
39
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM
IN – FOCUS
Interview with
Can you please introduce
yourself and your
background as a woman
entrepreneur.
My name is Lauryn, I
started my business as a
result of being racially
discriminated against in my
workplace and ired. I've
always had a great
relationship with second-
hand clothing, I've always
enjoyed buying & selling it.
I've loved making people
happy with clothes I've
picked and provided for
them!
After that traumatic
experience, I decided it was
time to go into business for
myself doing exactly what I
enjoy most – Buying &
Selling. Helping people by
providing clothing for them
to look & feel good in! Now
it's more personal & direct
when it comes to selling my
items.
Throughout the last year,
it's been all going uphill,
from selling to local stores
to inding myself in many
markets, vending, and
bringing my eccentric
clothing & energy to the
public eye. I enjoy people's
positive responses to my
inventory as I have a wide
range of sizes for everyone
to very
affordable/reasonable
prices! I am a small
sustainable clothing
business as of right now &
looking forward to what's
next for me!
Talk to us about your
brand. What is the nature
of your service or
solution?
I am in the business of
repurposing clothing. Think
“one man's trash is another
man's treasure” but for
clothing, where most of the
clothing I obtain, was
someone's “trash”
(Donation) and I am giving
these items another chance
at “life” by bringing them to
my racks & public events
for people to enjoy.
I prefer to market my
clothing as gender neutral
or unisex as well, as I'm
marketing towards the
queer communities. I want
to provide EVERYONE (All
sizes and identities) with
unique clothing at
reasonable prices. I want
the people to look at feel
good within them too!
Being a woman
entrepreneur, what are
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WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 41
EXELEON MAGAZINE
42
some of the biggest challenges
that you faced in your journey?
The main challenge I've faced but
not major challenge, is with my
business name. Occasionally but
not often, I will have to alter the
name of my business to make sure
all people are comfortable/not
offended! But even within those
situations, I've never received any
negative feedback on my business
name, nor suggestions to change it,
just that the word “bitch” may be
offensive to some women. Which I'd
understand if I was using it to refer
to them, but the business name is
“Bad Bitch Thriftin” which is a
reference to me.
Another challenge I've faced is
personal time management. It's
completely different from time
management during college life. It's
where you put more hours than you
even recognize into your business,
yet still feel like you haven't gotten
anything done. Its spending too
many hours as well as all of the
money you make, going directly
back into your business.
One more challenge I've faced is
within social media, it can be
dif icult to maintain multiple
moving pieces of a business and
still have energy left to update &
provide context to various social
media platforms on individual
items. Another challenge is a
physical one, having so many
clothes to bring to & from events is
a lot of physical labor that I'm truly
not built for but I have had help
along the way that I am so thankful
for.
My last challenge is with
competition. I do not view them as
competition because I am in my
own lane, but I am viewed as
competition and there are others,
male resellers, who are potentially
threatened by me and have
disclosed their dislike for me due to
my great “eye” for women's clothing
items. This is minor, I doubt there
would be any harm caused, but I do
get dirty looks and cold shoulders
from some men in common
thrifting spaces.
What according to you makes one
an empowering woman?
What's empowering to me is
someone who keeps going, no
matter how many challenges they
face. No matter their opposition,
internal & external struggles, a
woman who keeps going but also
knows when to take a break for
themself, is an empowering woman.
A woman who doesn't accept “No”
and inds another way, because
there is always a way to succeed in
your business. A woman who is also
very aware of their actions &
emotions is empowering. Someone
who tends to their needs and
doesn't ignore issues at hand, but
works through them & experiences
growth because of that, is an
empowering woman.
What would be your advice for
aspiring and emerging women
entrepreneurs?
Just do it! I ind that we can be our
own worst enemies, if you have any
dreams you want to see through,
just do it! There is no right time to
wait for, the best time is now!
Waiting for “the right time” is a
waste of time towards
accomplishing any goals/dreams
one may have!
Where do you see your business
or your brand in the near future?
I see my brand going nationwide, I
want to take it across the country! I
am currently working on setting up
in a shop to have my clothes on
display during business hours, but
that's a huge step up from just
events & vending markets.
This will be huge exposure for my
brand. Big dream, is to get a short
bus, renovate it for my business and
travel it around to different states
for different pop-up shops! I want
people in New York, ATL, Florida,
California, Arizona & Texas to be
shopping Bad Bitch Thriftin' I've
already sold to people in those
areas through online sales, I know I
can make a mark in some
communities in those states too!
Thank you so much. Do you want
to add anything else or any other
information?
Just wanted to thank you for this
opportunity to share my
experiences as a Black Woman
Entrepreneur. I speci ically say this
because I am Nonbinary but will
always hold the identity of a Black
Woman, proud and true as my
experiences are unique to Black
women. I am queer and I want to
bring my clothes back to my
communities as well as for
everyone and bring people together
through unique, thrifted & vintage
items. I also hope that its known
that the bitch in Bad Bitch Thriftin'
is very non-derogatory, a term of
endearment or even a reclamation
of the word itself for myself.
EXELEON EXCLUSIVE
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 43
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Interview with Holistic Practitioner
Nadia McKoy
Can you please introduce
yourself and your background
as a woman entrepreneur.
Hello! My name is Nadia McKoy. I
am a Holistic Practitioner and I
teach women how to have
healthy work/life/rest balance as
well as offer various services and
products to support that balance.
Talk to us about your brand.
What is the nature of your
service or solution?
Qveeng Bee's Luxury Care was
created in 2017. At the time it
was called Qveeng Bee's Honey
Pot and it was just a skincare line
that began as me testing products
on myself. I did this because
medicine wasn't working so well
for me, and my eczema was
taking a toll on my skin. My
friends started to take notice and
paid to try them. I then released
it to the community and the rest
was history!
Around that time and even before
then, I took an interest in
spirituality, psychology, and there
were plenty of people coming to
me for advice. I was pretty good
at helping others learn how to be
gentle with themselves and
sorting out their issues. From
then, I honed my skills in
coaching and creating and then
made an entire service/product
line to help my community.
A year later, Qveeng Bee's Luxury
Care was solidi ied, and I've been
building it ever since. Qveeng
Bee's now offers herbalism
through our all-natural products
for full body issues/goals, facials,
yoni steams, meditation sessions
spiritual reads, and more.
EXELEON EXCLUSIVE
EXELEON MAGAZINE
46
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 47
Luxury shouldn't just be about material gain.
Luxury also lies in feeling and how we take
care of ourselves too. Having the freedom to
do so whether it's a big or small gesture. I
plan to travel to different cities to assist
women all over the nation. Self-care is so
important in the world we live now, and it
can truly save several lives and/or make lives
easier if we take just ive minutes to
implement it daily.
Being a woman leader, what are some of
the biggest challenges that you faced in
your journey?
If anything, my gender as well as my age has
been a challenge. Most people I've tried to
work with respect me until they ind out how
old I am or assume how old I am just by
looking at me. There have been times I've
worked with someone older, and con lict
arose because just because I was
younger—how smart I was for my age wasn't
taken well.
I've also noticed that boundaries also aren't
taken too well as they should either. It was
almost as if, who am I to have them? There
have been projects that have had to be
canceled because I felt I needed to remove
myself due to there being a lack of respect.
What according to you makes one an
empowering woman?
I feel it's how people that truly rock with you,
respond to your work that makes you an
empowering women. Does it and your name
proceed you and has what you've put out
truly encouraged people? Has it made a
change? If so, you've done your job.
I also believe in leading by example because
it starts with you being yourself. Simply
being myself, showcasing how I use my own
techniques that I teach and showing how it's
changed my own life has done a lot for
others. I've felt good and I've wanted others to feel good. I have no
issue or restraints when it comes to giving my knowledge to
others.
People also enjoy a good story and want to know that they're not
alone, including me. When I feel it's necessary, I will disclose
personal life events that could've stopped me and how I responded
to them. It not only shows me how strong I am, but it also
motivates others and gives them comfort.
What would be your advice for aspiring and emerging women
entrepreneurs?
Be. Yourself! Being yourself is easy. And you have to not care about
EXELEON MAGAZINE
EXELEON EXCLUSIVE
48
strolling this journey alone because there will
be plenty of times when you'll have to. With
that, you have to know and take in that you
aren't for everyone, everyone isn't for you, and
that is completely okay!
Find out what your values are and stick to them
no matter what. You'll ind grounding in that,
and it'll show you who is truly supposed to be
around you. Be gentle with yourself—life is
hard enough and you don't need to be hard on
you as well. And get you a prayer life going. It'll
show up for you when you feel you have nothing
left.
Where do you see your business or your
brand in the near future?
I plan to have my products in a few stores that
are intentional about natural care. I'd love to
work with brands and people who are also in
the business of self-care like Tabitha Brown,
KeKe Palmer, Nats Locs as well as some of my
community sisters in and out of state.
I'd love to have pamper parties nationwide, and
I de initely wouldn't made if Qveeng Bee's made
it out of the country. Lastly, feature on a few
podcasts/electronic mags to spread knowledge
of holistic care.
EXELEON EXCLUSIVE
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Ka
—
EXELEON MAGAZINE
50
ailey Liller
I N T E R V I E W W I T H
M O D E L
— Can you please introduce yourself and your background as a
woman entrepreneur.
Hello, my name is Kailey Liller. I am a up and coming model from
Braddock, Pa. When I was 18, I was domestically abused, and it
caused me to lose sight of myself and my worth. After leaving that
relationship, I was homeless, and it took me a long time to ight to
gain my con idence and see my own worth.
Then, an old friend of mine asked me to model for her brand, and I
fell in love with being in front of the camera. It became a way for me
to take control back of my life and my body. Modeling allows me to
show off my creativity and express myself. Modeling is also my way to
inspire and show other people, that may have been in similar
situations as me, that there's always a way back to yourself.
Even if you're at your lowest point, as long as you take the time to
heal, you can do anything you want to do. You can make it back from
anything. I just want to continue to inspire and show others anything
is possible.
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM
RAW AND BOLD
51
Talk to us about your brand. What is the nature of
your service or solution?
I am currently working with local brands to promote
their products and businesses. I do photoshoots and
even walk in local fashion shows to help with promoting.
I love working with the local businesses because it
shows that there's a lot more to our city than just the
bad that happens here. I'm still in the process of growing
my brand and getting my name out there more.
Being a woman leader, what are some of the biggest
challenges that you faced in your journey?
As a woman, especially in the modeling industry, you
have to be very strong minded. You can't let a lot get to
you. You have to set boundaries for yourself and those
around you as to what is acceptable. You have to be very
protective of yourself, your brand, and the message you
want to put out.
Sometimes, there's men in this industry that do not
always respect the female models. I've experienced
shows where the man in charge had no care in the world
that female models were changing, and him being in the
room was making the group feel uncomfortable. I've had
men photographers try to be more than just the
photographer. Sometimes, it's other women that will
tear you down due to their own insecurities or ego.
Then, you have social media which can be very dark at
times. You have to be very strong minded, know your
self-worth, set your boundaries, and have an attitude
that nothing matters except your own growth. It's a lot
of mental discipline.
What according to you makes one an empowering
woman?
I think the de inition of an empowering woman is a
woman who has overcome obstacles and adversity
again and again and is still working on her growth, and
trying to strive to be the best she can. A woman that
shares her truth and her dark times to show others
there's always room to grow is an empowering
woman.
The de inition of empower is to make someone
stronger and more con ident especially in controlling
their life. An empowering woman is someone that
knows what she wants, and doesn't let anyone or
anything get in her on the way to her goals.
What would be your advice for aspiring and
emerging women entrepreneurs?
Be yourself. Tell your story. Don't let anyone change
you. As long as you're happy and passionate about
what you're doing, always chase that goal. Even things
that seem unattainable, they ARE within your reach.
Where do you see your business or your brand in
the near future?
I see my brand growing as I take these next few steps
in my career. I walk in LA Fashion Week on March
11th, and I'm hoping this opportunity opens doors and
puts new people in my life to continue to help me
grow and evolve in this industry.
EXELEON MAGAZINE
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RAW AND BOLD
53
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine
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Deborah Smith | Influential Women Leaders to Follow | Exeleon Magazine

  • 1. Embracing Excellence www.exeleonmagazine.com Deborah Smith Interview withModel Kailey Liller IN - FOCUS IN - FOCUS Meet the Moss Guru JAMIE MITRI Influ ential WOMEN LEADERS TO FOLLOW Interview withHolistic Practitioner NadiaMcKoy MAKING OPPORTUNITIES COUNT
  • 4. Copyright © Exeleon Media LLC. All rights reserved. The design, images, and content in this issue should not be reproduced in any manner or by any means, i.e. mechanical, electronic, recording, photocopying, or otherwise, without any permission from Exeleon Media. For any advertising related information, please contact info@exeleonmagazine.com. Submissions as well as contributions to the magazine are welcome. Take a moment and let us know about our magazine; whether it be about the design or a possible mistake, we would appreciate any feedback from your end. You can reach out to daryl@exeleonmagazine.com. 600 N Broad St 5 Middletown, DE 19709, United States +1 (302) – 569 – 9387 Editor-in-Chief – Art Director – Managing Editor - Creative Director – Contributing Editors – Content Curator – Daryl Yeung (Story-Tailor) Naomi Lam (Design Ninja) Matt Reis (Wordster) Adam Waring (Grafista) Ian O'Shea, Matt Hale, & John Riggs (Three Musketeers) Cathy G. (Explorer) Sales Josh Wilder (Cultivator) Mike Jackson (Marketeer) Katherine Price (Sustainer) Richard Dann (Facilitator) Project Manager – Marketing Manager – Senior BDM – BDM – Embracing Excellence
  • 6. C O N T E N T S DEBORAH SMITH 12
  • 7. C O N T E N T S JAMIE MITRI 24
  • 8. C O N T E N T S LAURYN PARKS 40
  • 12. Deborah Smith Co-Founder & CEO |The CenterCap Group, LLC Cover Story 12 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  • 14. ONE of the striking factors that differentiates leaders from each other is their ability to in luence. Often held in a negative connotation, having an in luence as a leader conveys one's ability to drive people's actions towards an aligned goal. Powerful in luence enables leaders to achieve effective results, as opposed to coercion. It is worth noting that a high level of trust and a high level of competence accompanies one's level of in luence. A person of in luence is someone who people believe in and trust to guide them in the right direction in order to attain the desired results. Women leaders across the globe are asserting their in luential presence with their ability to stand out and be the best. These leaders are going past the pre- conceived notions surrounding their gender and creating stories that are inspiring. Deborah Smith is an example of one such in luential women who has cemented her presence in the inance space by spearheading and establishing a boutique investment bank – The CenterCap Group, LLC. Featuring as the Cover of Exeleon's In luential Leaders to Watch, we look into Cover Story 14 EXELEON MAGAZINE Photo Credit: Kamara Photography
  • 15. Life is full of open and closed doors, and I am big believer that to be successful you need to be able to tell the difference. the journey of Deborah Smith and how she made her opportunities count even at the face of adversity. WILLINGNESS TO EXPLORE Growing up as a dairy farmer's daughter in rural Australia, Deborah stood out from her peers due to her background. She remembers, “Education took a backseat to work, and responsibility was a way of life back then. As my parents used to say, “the cows don't milk themselves!” For Deborah, being part of her family business as a dairy farmer was almost inevitable. However, with the help of some incredible mentors along the way, Deborah's journey was opened to new possibilities. She was the only one in her family to go to the university after completing high school. Looking back, she mentions “I recognize that while I don't consider myself a risk taker, it was the willingness to explore and take risks that ultimately paved my way.” Perhaps, it was this willingness to explore that eventually led her into the inance world. Back in law school, Deborah intended on becoming a tax attorney. She explains, “I loved tax law complexity coupled with the challenge to ind answers buried within it.” Although investment banking and finance was not on her radar, she decided to take the risk, switch gears, and show up for work. Starting out as a banker at Morgan Stanley, Deborah was almost convinced that her stint in the inance domain wasn't going to last for long. However, once she took on the job, Deborah was determined to learn and establish her reputation by being the best version of herself. Years later as a veteran in the industry, Deborah looks back at her early days with fond memories and a heart full of gratitude. “Turns out I had quite a knack for numbers and picked things up pretty easily, so I had found the right career for myself.” GRABBING THE OPPORTUNITIES In 2005, Deborah joined Wachovia with the deliberate intention of focusing on healthcare banking. “I had been a utilities banker for many years, and I wanted to try something different.” This period also happened to be the boom for REIT transactions. Suddenly, Deborah was seen making a lot of real estate transactions and it eventually cemented her status in the real estate banking space. The emergence of the global inancial crisis in 2008 saw Deborah co-heading CBRE Investors Global M&A business and led the “ “ WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 15
  • 16. irm's negotiation and acquisition of a majority interest in Wood Partners. With real estate being at the heart of the global collapse, one would assume it would be a smart choice to change directions. However, never shying away from an opportunity, Deborah decided to co-found a women- owned boutique real estate investment bank – in the middle of the global inancial crisis! She explains, “When we decided to build CenterCap during the great inancial crisis after co-heading CBRE Investors global M&A business, it was really on the back of the thought that a lot of organizations in the middle market needed an advisor who also really understood real estate itself. Our view from a client's perspective was simple - how could anyone give us advice if they really didn't understand what we did?” Considering their extensive real estate knowledge, expertise, relationships, analytical strengths, and hard work, The CenterCap Group, LLC was born with the simple, yet all-encompassing tagline – All Things Real Estate. “One assignment at a time, we built CenterCap, and the next thing we knew, we had an of ice, a name above the door, and a reputation for getting things done. It's been quite a ride,” she mentions proudly. Almost a recurring theme in her journey, Deborah recognized an opportunity, grabbed it, and ran with it. She perfectly sums this up with one simple statement, “Life is full of open and closed doors, and I am big believer that to be successful you need to be able to tell the difference.” ALL THINGS REAL ESTATE The idea behind CenterCap is built around the concept of 'All Things Real Estate 'and the irm has committed itself to stay true to that core principal. “We consider ourselves to be sector leaders in terms of our knowledge, expertise, and breadth of service offerings. We do take a lifecycle approach toward our clients and assignments.” Furthermore, every assignment the irm takes upon is in the context of building a long-term relationship. This “Don’t make decisions based on emotion.” Cover Story EXELEON MAGAZINE 16
  • 19. spiring As a female entrepreneur, Deborah understands the disparity in ratio when it comes to women helming senior positions in the real estate and investment banking space. Being one of the only female-founded investment banks doing what it does, dedicated to its sector, Deborah hopes to be an advocate of change and inspire more women leaders. At CenterCap, Deborah has built a senior team that has collectively been in the industry for a very long time. With this collective pool of experience comes the industry knowledge and understanding of what can work and what can't. “You get pretty wise about a whole host of topics, decisions, strategies, and deal terms over the years. We take pride in our success rate in getting things done. The ability to adapt, switch gears, change paths are critical for any entrepreneur. Being stuck in your ways may leave you in the past, focused on issues that no longer matter with a mindset that is no longer relevant.” Change emphasis has enabled CenterCap to build a loyal client base and provide an array of services. Deborah elaborates, “I think we are known for taking on the complicated, the contrarian, and the non “bread and butter” type assignments. Sure, we can do the easy transaction processes, but we're not afraid of doing something different or complicated. We are pretty con ident that we can spot an attractive opportunity when it presents itself.” Based in Stamford, Connecticut with a recent expansion to Florida, The CenterCap Group is a market leader when it comes to thinking about the role of technology in real estate as well as niche sectors like cold storage, senior housing, manufactured housing, and logistics. “Our deep knowledge translates into informed advice, which we use to provide customized guidance to companies looking to raise capital or make strategic investments. Sure, we are focused on transactions – we are bankers – but we are more focused on delivering the right advice and the right transaction as opposed to just a transaction.” She continues, “The former is a lot harder to do than the latter. Sometimes our advice is that it's not the right deal or the right time.” BUILDING A BUSINESS In many instances, Deborah has mentioned that starting her business in the middle of the global crisis was borderline crazy. However, for both Deborah and her partner, the thought of impending business failure never truly crossed their minds. They were focused on their strengths and had the willingness to work hard to make it a success – and so they did. Amidst the positives, the early days of the irm was riddled with confusion as is the case for every new entrepreneur. She recalls, “I laugh when I look back, as there was a time in the early days when I would be making presentations and running excel spreadsheets at Cover Story EXELEON MAGAZINE 19
  • 20. night and then turning around and putting on my senior leadership hat to explain it all the next day, with strategy and growth ideas along with it.” With time and experience, Deborah evolved her leadership style and gained clarity when it came to building a business. One of her biggest learnings in her entrepreneurial journey is to not assume. She advises emerging entrepreneurs to continually evaluate their plans, modify, adjust, and improve as new information comes to light. Always mindful of their women- owned structure, Deborah re lects on their fortune that Lisa Beeson, an industry veteran, agreed to join them in 2017. “Lisa had previously run real estate M&A groups for Barclays, Lehman Brothers, and Wachovia Securities after a long stint with Morgan Stanley's M&A group. Her expertise with public companies, including REITs, was pretty much unmatched,” Deborah says, “To have Lisa join us, both a long-time friend and former colleague, was a truly unbelievable positive for us.” Nowadays, Deborah oversees the day-to-day proceedings of CenterCap and the strategic growth and development of the irm. She also mentions, “I am also intimately involved in our consulting practice. I really enjoy building relationships with companies, iguring out what makes them tick, their culture, strengths, and weaknesses, and then helping them to reposition, switch gears, or grow. It's really rewarding and incredibly challenging. Every company is different.” Talking about how she ensures work-life balance, Deborah quickly points out her love for running. “I run a lot. There is something calming about putting one foot in front of the other on the pavement. I do some of my best thinking while running; when I am actually not trying to think at all.” Being a parent, spouse, and an entrepreneur, she understands the dif iculties that one can face juggling between the three. For her, it's the clarity of determining what you want to do, making the decision, and then just going for it. It's all in the follow-through. BEING THE BEST “We had our busiest year in 2022 and this year I am excited for what we have going on and the pipeline ahead of us. We are continuing to grow all of our business segments, but also a new avenue for us is to explore making principal investments ourselves.” Deborah realizes that one of their core strengths is the ability to underwrite good management teams and good opportunities. “We are now looking to make some investments in early-stage companies, a market segment we don't spend as much time in. It's really exciting stuff,” she concludes saying. Going forward, Deborah hopes CenterCap continues striving every day to be the #1 advisor in middle market investment banking and be the best at every service they offer. But she also looks forward to building out an investment side of their business, too. Her grand plan - to do it all; and to do it all well. One Book Entrepreneurs Must Read – “Grit” by Angela Duckworth One Productivity Tool / App that Everyone Should Use – LinkedIn One Quote that Motivates you the Most – Onwards and Upwards One Podcast / Course that you would Recommend – Bloomberg Masters in Business Podcast One Investment Advice that you Follow – Don't make decisions based on emotion. Exeleon Shorts Cover Story EXELEON MAGAZINE 20
  • 22. We Embrace Excellence! Exeleon Magazine features some of the leading players in business and shares their journey of excellence to inspire aspiring leaders across the globe. SUBSCRIBE
  • 25. Moss Guru meet the What was the idea that led to the start of Moss Pure? What was the market gap that you wanted to address? I founded Moss Pure during a startup competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June 2020, called the MIT Lebanon Challenge. Moss Pure won First Place Startup in the competition in Track 1B Health, Energy, and Waste Management. From there, the United Nations invited me to compete in their Development Programme in August 2020, where it won the Top 10 Startup. During the competition, I realized that moss has several bene its. But there weren't many companies that were using live moss. Most moss companies use preserved moss or dried moss, which are no longer living. Because preserved and dried moss are no longer living, they are not able to improve air quality as only live moss can. In talking with customers and scientists, I found that: 1. No other company was able to use moss as an effective air ilter. 2. No other company was able to keep live moss alive in indoor environments for more than a few days. 3. Existing living walls and moss walls used a great amount of water and electricity and were bulky and required time to assemble. Using engineering and biology, I created the irst and only live moss design that improves your air quality and provides therapeutic relief without needing any watering, sunlight, or maintenance. I wanted to create an aesthetically pleasing, yet simple decor piece that anyone could use in their everyday, modern space. How Jamie Mitri used engineering and biology to create the first and only live moss artwork that improves your air quality – Moss Pure. IN – FOCUS WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 25
  • 26. Talk to us about the science that went behind the creation of the product. A great deal of science is used in the creation of our products. We are not simply just putting moss on a wall frame. Although I have a strong science background, I spent months and many hours doing hands on research with moss to engineer Moss Pure. I formulated a multi-layered design of eco- friendly materials that sustain the moss within our product in any environment – indoor and outdoor. Because of this, our products do not need watering, sunlight, or electricity. Our proprietary technology extends the life of live moss from days to years. The multi-layer also works in synergy with the live moss, so that the moss uses toxic pollutants in the air as its food source, therefore improving your air quality. Air purifying plants take decades to purify the surrounding air. Moss Pure's technology enhances the air iltering capability of live moss. We are the only company that has certi ied analytical results showing that our live moss products improve your air quality within minutes, capturing carbon dioxide, dust, allergens, pet dander, VOC, metals and certain bacteria and viruses. I also worked with 150 customers in the U.S., gathering feedback on the aesthetics of our design. I conducted prototype, alpha, and beta testing with our customers to create the inal Moss Pure products you see in our online store today. As the Moss Guru, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company? I'm a very hands-on CEO. I am involved in every aspect of the business in some way – whether it's working with a customer on a custom moss wall, helping assemble our products, pitching to a distributor, sales, marketing, PR, accounting, inances – you name it and I'm doing it or have EXELEON MAGAZINE IN – FOCUS 26
  • 27. done it. I am able to combine my passion for science and fashion and interior design every day and I'm stepping out of my comfort zone to grow the business. Looking at your journey as an entrepreneur, if you were to start again, what would you do differently? Absolutely nothing. Every milestone, every mistake, every failure, and every success accompanied a learning lesson, and I wouldn't take any of it back. It has been such a rewarding and amazing experience, even on the crazy days. What would be your advice for emerging entrepreneurs bringing-in new and innovative sustainable solutions? Being an entrepreneur and launching a business is dif icult in itself – let alone creating an innovative product in an existing market. When you create such an innovative product, you have to make sure your messaging is right so that you capture people's attention and then you have to clearly explain why you are different from your competition. It's incredibly challenging but if you know it's worth the risk and you are consistent, the business will grow and everything that you've worked so hard for will pay off – and it is such an amazing feeling. Finally, what does the future look like for you and Moss Pure? What are you most excited about? I'm excited to get the word out about the company and expand it. Moss Pure has such a positive impact and story and I want to share it with the world. We are also always learning and growing, and we are releasing new products with feedback from our customers. My creative and intellectual mind is always at work coming up with something and I love it. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM IN – FOCUS 27
  • 31. THE DOWNTURN OF THE AMERICAN DREAM Written By: Michaela Green, Licensed Realtor in Houston, TX he American Dream” is Twidely heard in big speeches and is a selling point for the public to aim for big and avail the opportunity of becoming successful. However, over the years, the American dream has become a nightmare for young adults, especially millennials and Gen Z – leading to the downturn of the American Dream. The general trend among the younger generation is to acquire as many 'assets' as possible. While this releases dopamine and creates a sense of achievement in their minds, it is essential to realize that the American Dream has been de ined only in terms of material possessions, encouraging Americans to go beyond their limit and eventually face a inancial crisis. Since 2014, the average household income has decreased by $2000 in middle-class families, with an average household debt of around 130% of the salary. Alarmingly, the household savings rate is nearly zero! The last great recession happened in 2008 that had a lasting impact on Americans. Millennials are drowned mainly in student loan debts; unfortunately, the median income is the same as in the 1970s, after considering in lation. Although a lot more people are employed today compared to the 1970s, still a fewer percentage of them own their houses. Even so, a third of them are currently living with their parents. We'll discuss some factors that correlate with the lack of “ WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 31 EXPERT OPINION
  • 32. homeownership among young adults. HOUSING BUBBLE If you're aware of the Great Recession of 2008, you must know what a housing bubble is. For those looking to investigate this matter, let's make it simple for you to understand. As the house demand increases, the prices follow an upward trend. This is exactly what a housing bubble is. Giving a brief history lesson, investors shied away from stock investments and turned to economical mortgage rates, increasing the demand for st property at the start of the 21 Century. Also, to incentivize non- stock investments, fewer regulations were put in place, which implied that a high income was not required to get a mortgage; however, the turmoil was not anticipated as those payments accumulated with interest rates rising at the same time. The investments were such that when the buyers couldn't pay, the lending organizations went bankrupt, and the lending structure crumpled. This proved to be one of the primary reasons for the slowdown in the real estate market. Even as America regained control of its economy, property building did not become as normal as it was. THE GAP BETWEEN PROPERTY PRICES AND INCOME In the modern era, property prices are insanely high. Additionally, the average household income is failing to maintain a constant ratio with the rising prices. According to bankrate.com, the median price of houses grew 30% as opposed to an 11% increase in median household income in the last ten years. At the time, homebuyers enjoyed the privilege of property costs ivefold the mean salary. But after the market collapse in 2008 – aka the Great Recession – that ratio increased to sixfold, that stabilized eventually. Recently, the average property costs have soared again and are seven times greater than the average household income. For instance, the national median home price was around $121,500 in the 90s. That was around twice the average income of around $50,000. Whereas in 2020, home prices rose close to $359,000 while the median income is limited to around $67,500. This is one of the reasons why the younger generation is inding it extremely challenging to buy a new property in the current era. HIGH DEMAND, LOW SUPPLY As of now, the millennials are the most populous adult generation, outnumbering boomers in 2019. As the population of these young adults increases, the need for homeownership grows simultaneously. To give some perspective, before the COVID-19 pandemic, homeownership was ever-increasing among millennials. On the other hand, the older generation have kept their ground and continued residing in their old homes. This creates a negative supply and an increasing demand for houses as fewer homes are sold in the market, and more buyers are looking for relatively affordable homes. The boomers are also cognizant of the fact that the prices have signi icantly risen, and taking advantage of that, they are making competitive offers which makes it harder for the younger generation to buy new property. STUDENT LOAN DEBT According to several research, millennials are drowned in college debt which is correlated with a delay in homeownership. If we take in to account the in lation, the millennials are far behind boomers in homeownership rates. 72% of student debt holders believed their debt would delay them from purchasing a home for several months up to 8 years. More speci ically, 19% of student debt holders believed their debt would hinder them from buying a home for more than eight years! Although we saw an increase in homeownership among millennials during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a void in homeownership rates that needs to be addressed. To ill this gap, incentives should be given, such as the Transforming Student Debt to Home Equity Act of 2022. This act provides leverage to students who have cleared their student loans, EXELEON MAGAZINE 32 EXPERT OPINION
  • 33. such as subsidized mortgage loans, and discounts on government-owned homes along with inancial aid for making down payments. FIRMS & ORGANIZATIONS STEPPING IN Considering the increasing home prices and the harder it is to afford a new place, large irms and organizations have seen a business opportunity. They have bought single-family properties for rental purposes. This is not new, but seeing the recent trends and lesser affordability, the phenomenon is growing. Smartly enough, the investors have bought single- family homes because that is the type of irst-time house buyers goes after. CONCLUSION Conclusively, homeownership among the younger generation has a sluggish rate compared to the boomer generation due to the pertinent factors that affect it. We have discussed ive essential elements that have caused this gap in the market, and we hope this helps you broaden your perspective on the downturn of the American Dream. AboutMichaelaGreen Michaela Green is a licensed real estate agent with half a decade of experience representing investors in buying and selling property in the Greater Houston area. Through her extensive knowledge of the marketplace, Michaela is able to represent investors in finding properties that produce the highest return on investment. Michaela founded 'The Green Collective' in 2022, a company that aligns her core values with her passion for real estate. Michaela has with National Assistants Ministers (NAM) to help survivors of Hurricane Harvey start fresh by selling their distressed properties and help find a new homes. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 33
  • 37. EMPOWERINGLEADERS, CREATINGCOMMUNITIES t is believed that our unique talent and Igift leads us to our purpose. However, it is merely a part of the whole truth. Another signi icant part of this 'purpose' is that it grows when we connect to individuals. Maybe that's why in any crisis, when we are struggling with ourselves and our purpose, we often choose the path of isolation. And when we bounce back on our destined path, we ind others traveling beside us, on the same way reaching for the same destination — taking our collective passion to a whole new level, towards a healthy community. Murshidah Said, Founder of the LOVE & RESPECT Transformation Centre, is one such transformational leader who strives to drive purpose among individuals and world leaders to add value to their businesses, by creating a chain of positive reactions in communities. Being an entrepreneur, corporate trainer, life coach, and keynote speaker for over a decade, Murshidah is transforming corporate leaders' and individuals' lives by guiding them and creating ripples of positive change in organizations. FINDING THE 'WHY?' Murshidah works closely with people on an individual level to understand their mindsets, 'WHY' — as in their purpose — to help them in their course of life. It is something she learned the hard way back in 2006. At the time, her husband lost his job and was not paid for the work. The situation was so severe that Murshidah was on the verge of being homeless with only $0.50 in her pocket. Not to mention, she was also taking care of her six-month- old daughter. Her daughter thus became her 'WHY' factor in helping her ind purpose. Making the best of available resources at hand, Murshidah stepped into her superpower and surpassed the challenging times in the fastest manner possible. In less than two weeks, Murshidah was carrying $5000 in her pocket. She realized she had all the resources; she just didn't use them effectively. The moment was nothing short of a eureka for her, which became the foundation bricks of her training business, transforming people's lives for 14 years. 37 WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM IN – FOCUS
  • 38. Searching for the 'WHY' factor drove her to reach out to struggling people who required the much- needed breakthrough in their business and leading their communities. Soon, Murshidah found herself managing a coaching and mentoring platform wherein she helped business owners, startups, and professionals who want to grow their business and incomes, all the while doing good and creating a social impact. Besides inding the purpose, helping people out of uncomfortable situations and witnessing a transformation also drives Murshidah. Instilling con idence, creating changes in their lives, releasing old negative beliefs, habits, behaviors, and uplifting their communities to success lifts spirit and brings peace to her. UP CLOSE, PROFESSIONAL, AND PERSONAL To ind out the 'WHY' factor in her clients, Murshidah never opts for any shortcuts. Beforehand, she clari ies to the clients that she can best serve them by getting to know them professionally and personally. She believes that only by understanding the personal life and the clients' mindset that she can meet them where they are in their business and personal life and help them. With the said approach, she pinpoints why they are stuck in a situation or are facing challenges in growing personally and professionally. At irst, she works on releasing the mental and emotional blocks of a client through private sessions and later with monthly forgiveness sessions. Additionally, business owners and individuals get to be a part of a community with like-minded individuals who accomplish great things and form a network with each other. The close, tight-knit community results have led to partnerships across sustainability initiatives and the growth of international business opportunities for those who were stuck state or community-wise. Murshidah believes that when she empowers leaders, when she inds great qualities in them, backed by a strong purpose, she creates a big impact in the community. She asserts, “When I coach people to be the leader they are meant to be, that is when they start to transform not only in their personal and business lives, they also transform their communities. I believe businesses can make the world a much better place when the pro its have a purpose of doing good for the people, planet and the economy. When positive transformational leaders come out of these communities too, they create positive changes in their circles.” GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY Murshidah's humanitarian efforts started as a weekend family activity a decade ago. She also wanted to educate her daughter to be grateful 38 EXELEON MAGAZINE IN – FOCUS
  • 39. and kind to those less fortunate. So alongside her daughter, she started visiting orphanages, either contributing money and toys or volunteering time to feed orphan babies or play with the toddlers. Later, the activity extended to feeding the homeless and starting a humanitarian project. Soon, others were also keen to join Murshidah and her family in these activities. However, upon observing, Murshidah realized that her efforts are going in vain, and people are still poor, homeless, or waiting for handouts. Perceiving the situation, she shifted her efforts towards educating and training them on overcoming the challenges. Success touched upon her feet when she found a breakthrough within the refugee, homeless, small business owners, and low-income single mothers' community. These people she led later became leaders, de ining the life of others for a better community. Instances of such include a refugee who went on to become a TedX speaker and a single refugee mother who commenced her own humanitarian work for the community and beauty business. In essence, for Murshidah, giving back to the community is not about helping members inancially or handing out food and things. She raises them as leaders and supports them in realizing their true purpose and administering their communities. THE ART OF BALANCING PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL LIFE Guiding us with her sharp analytical mind, Murshidah reveals that the secret around balancing personal and professional life is setting the priorities right, understanding boundaries, and the utmost urgent work we must focus on in daily life. As an entrepreneur, Murshidah knows that she cannot create an empire herself. Hence, she would have to rely on like-minded people that complements her purpose and her vision. She dedicates her attention to her life, family, business, and bene iciaries. And when confronted with situations incompatible with her strengths, she makes sure to support the people handling the work and focus on what she's good at. Murshidah's advice for young and aspiring women entrepreneurs also remains the same. She says that the entrepreneurial journey will bring all sorts of shiny objects to get distracted by. However, you must stay true to the purpose of your personal and entrepreneur journey. “Your 'WHY' will keep you resilient and make you go through any obstacles or challenges. Also, don't forget to make a place in a high vibe community of other women entrepreneurs who can support you and get a coach who can guide you through the journey.” LOVE & RESPECT FOR FUTURE Murshidah is stepping into the future with a vision; a vision to have more communities around the world that practices LOVE & RESPECT in their cultures, business practices, and organizations. She is also quite con ident that she will create and raise more leaders who will do good for the environment, human capital, and the community through their businesses. She concludes saying, “All this can happen when the leadership is based on LOVE & RESPECT and the goal is to make the world better through having conscious businesses which also takes care of the environment, eliminating poverty and elevating human capital.” 39 WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM IN – FOCUS
  • 40. Interview with Can you please introduce yourself and your background as a woman entrepreneur. My name is Lauryn, I started my business as a result of being racially discriminated against in my workplace and ired. I've always had a great relationship with second- hand clothing, I've always enjoyed buying & selling it. I've loved making people happy with clothes I've picked and provided for them! After that traumatic experience, I decided it was time to go into business for myself doing exactly what I enjoy most – Buying & Selling. Helping people by providing clothing for them to look & feel good in! Now it's more personal & direct when it comes to selling my items. Throughout the last year, it's been all going uphill, from selling to local stores to inding myself in many markets, vending, and bringing my eccentric clothing & energy to the public eye. I enjoy people's positive responses to my inventory as I have a wide range of sizes for everyone to very affordable/reasonable prices! I am a small sustainable clothing business as of right now & looking forward to what's next for me! Talk to us about your brand. What is the nature of your service or solution? I am in the business of repurposing clothing. Think “one man's trash is another man's treasure” but for clothing, where most of the clothing I obtain, was someone's “trash” (Donation) and I am giving these items another chance at “life” by bringing them to my racks & public events for people to enjoy. I prefer to market my clothing as gender neutral or unisex as well, as I'm marketing towards the queer communities. I want to provide EVERYONE (All sizes and identities) with unique clothing at reasonable prices. I want the people to look at feel good within them too! Being a woman entrepreneur, what are EXELEON EXCLUSIVE EXELEON MAGAZINE 40
  • 43. some of the biggest challenges that you faced in your journey? The main challenge I've faced but not major challenge, is with my business name. Occasionally but not often, I will have to alter the name of my business to make sure all people are comfortable/not offended! But even within those situations, I've never received any negative feedback on my business name, nor suggestions to change it, just that the word “bitch” may be offensive to some women. Which I'd understand if I was using it to refer to them, but the business name is “Bad Bitch Thriftin” which is a reference to me. Another challenge I've faced is personal time management. It's completely different from time management during college life. It's where you put more hours than you even recognize into your business, yet still feel like you haven't gotten anything done. Its spending too many hours as well as all of the money you make, going directly back into your business. One more challenge I've faced is within social media, it can be dif icult to maintain multiple moving pieces of a business and still have energy left to update & provide context to various social media platforms on individual items. Another challenge is a physical one, having so many clothes to bring to & from events is a lot of physical labor that I'm truly not built for but I have had help along the way that I am so thankful for. My last challenge is with competition. I do not view them as competition because I am in my own lane, but I am viewed as competition and there are others, male resellers, who are potentially threatened by me and have disclosed their dislike for me due to my great “eye” for women's clothing items. This is minor, I doubt there would be any harm caused, but I do get dirty looks and cold shoulders from some men in common thrifting spaces. What according to you makes one an empowering woman? What's empowering to me is someone who keeps going, no matter how many challenges they face. No matter their opposition, internal & external struggles, a woman who keeps going but also knows when to take a break for themself, is an empowering woman. A woman who doesn't accept “No” and inds another way, because there is always a way to succeed in your business. A woman who is also very aware of their actions & emotions is empowering. Someone who tends to their needs and doesn't ignore issues at hand, but works through them & experiences growth because of that, is an empowering woman. What would be your advice for aspiring and emerging women entrepreneurs? Just do it! I ind that we can be our own worst enemies, if you have any dreams you want to see through, just do it! There is no right time to wait for, the best time is now! Waiting for “the right time” is a waste of time towards accomplishing any goals/dreams one may have! Where do you see your business or your brand in the near future? I see my brand going nationwide, I want to take it across the country! I am currently working on setting up in a shop to have my clothes on display during business hours, but that's a huge step up from just events & vending markets. This will be huge exposure for my brand. Big dream, is to get a short bus, renovate it for my business and travel it around to different states for different pop-up shops! I want people in New York, ATL, Florida, California, Arizona & Texas to be shopping Bad Bitch Thriftin' I've already sold to people in those areas through online sales, I know I can make a mark in some communities in those states too! Thank you so much. Do you want to add anything else or any other information? Just wanted to thank you for this opportunity to share my experiences as a Black Woman Entrepreneur. I speci ically say this because I am Nonbinary but will always hold the identity of a Black Woman, proud and true as my experiences are unique to Black women. I am queer and I want to bring my clothes back to my communities as well as for everyone and bring people together through unique, thrifted & vintage items. I also hope that its known that the bitch in Bad Bitch Thriftin' is very non-derogatory, a term of endearment or even a reclamation of the word itself for myself. EXELEON EXCLUSIVE WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 43
  • 46. Interview with Holistic Practitioner Nadia McKoy Can you please introduce yourself and your background as a woman entrepreneur. Hello! My name is Nadia McKoy. I am a Holistic Practitioner and I teach women how to have healthy work/life/rest balance as well as offer various services and products to support that balance. Talk to us about your brand. What is the nature of your service or solution? Qveeng Bee's Luxury Care was created in 2017. At the time it was called Qveeng Bee's Honey Pot and it was just a skincare line that began as me testing products on myself. I did this because medicine wasn't working so well for me, and my eczema was taking a toll on my skin. My friends started to take notice and paid to try them. I then released it to the community and the rest was history! Around that time and even before then, I took an interest in spirituality, psychology, and there were plenty of people coming to me for advice. I was pretty good at helping others learn how to be gentle with themselves and sorting out their issues. From then, I honed my skills in coaching and creating and then made an entire service/product line to help my community. A year later, Qveeng Bee's Luxury Care was solidi ied, and I've been building it ever since. Qveeng Bee's now offers herbalism through our all-natural products for full body issues/goals, facials, yoni steams, meditation sessions spiritual reads, and more. EXELEON EXCLUSIVE EXELEON MAGAZINE 46
  • 48. Luxury shouldn't just be about material gain. Luxury also lies in feeling and how we take care of ourselves too. Having the freedom to do so whether it's a big or small gesture. I plan to travel to different cities to assist women all over the nation. Self-care is so important in the world we live now, and it can truly save several lives and/or make lives easier if we take just ive minutes to implement it daily. Being a woman leader, what are some of the biggest challenges that you faced in your journey? If anything, my gender as well as my age has been a challenge. Most people I've tried to work with respect me until they ind out how old I am or assume how old I am just by looking at me. There have been times I've worked with someone older, and con lict arose because just because I was younger—how smart I was for my age wasn't taken well. I've also noticed that boundaries also aren't taken too well as they should either. It was almost as if, who am I to have them? There have been projects that have had to be canceled because I felt I needed to remove myself due to there being a lack of respect. What according to you makes one an empowering woman? I feel it's how people that truly rock with you, respond to your work that makes you an empowering women. Does it and your name proceed you and has what you've put out truly encouraged people? Has it made a change? If so, you've done your job. I also believe in leading by example because it starts with you being yourself. Simply being myself, showcasing how I use my own techniques that I teach and showing how it's changed my own life has done a lot for others. I've felt good and I've wanted others to feel good. I have no issue or restraints when it comes to giving my knowledge to others. People also enjoy a good story and want to know that they're not alone, including me. When I feel it's necessary, I will disclose personal life events that could've stopped me and how I responded to them. It not only shows me how strong I am, but it also motivates others and gives them comfort. What would be your advice for aspiring and emerging women entrepreneurs? Be. Yourself! Being yourself is easy. And you have to not care about EXELEON MAGAZINE EXELEON EXCLUSIVE 48
  • 49. strolling this journey alone because there will be plenty of times when you'll have to. With that, you have to know and take in that you aren't for everyone, everyone isn't for you, and that is completely okay! Find out what your values are and stick to them no matter what. You'll ind grounding in that, and it'll show you who is truly supposed to be around you. Be gentle with yourself—life is hard enough and you don't need to be hard on you as well. And get you a prayer life going. It'll show up for you when you feel you have nothing left. Where do you see your business or your brand in the near future? I plan to have my products in a few stores that are intentional about natural care. I'd love to work with brands and people who are also in the business of self-care like Tabitha Brown, KeKe Palmer, Nats Locs as well as some of my community sisters in and out of state. I'd love to have pamper parties nationwide, and I de initely wouldn't made if Qveeng Bee's made it out of the country. Lastly, feature on a few podcasts/electronic mags to spread knowledge of holistic care. EXELEON EXCLUSIVE WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 49
  • 51. ailey Liller I N T E R V I E W W I T H M O D E L — Can you please introduce yourself and your background as a woman entrepreneur. Hello, my name is Kailey Liller. I am a up and coming model from Braddock, Pa. When I was 18, I was domestically abused, and it caused me to lose sight of myself and my worth. After leaving that relationship, I was homeless, and it took me a long time to ight to gain my con idence and see my own worth. Then, an old friend of mine asked me to model for her brand, and I fell in love with being in front of the camera. It became a way for me to take control back of my life and my body. Modeling allows me to show off my creativity and express myself. Modeling is also my way to inspire and show other people, that may have been in similar situations as me, that there's always a way back to yourself. Even if you're at your lowest point, as long as you take the time to heal, you can do anything you want to do. You can make it back from anything. I just want to continue to inspire and show others anything is possible. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM RAW AND BOLD 51
  • 52. Talk to us about your brand. What is the nature of your service or solution? I am currently working with local brands to promote their products and businesses. I do photoshoots and even walk in local fashion shows to help with promoting. I love working with the local businesses because it shows that there's a lot more to our city than just the bad that happens here. I'm still in the process of growing my brand and getting my name out there more. Being a woman leader, what are some of the biggest challenges that you faced in your journey? As a woman, especially in the modeling industry, you have to be very strong minded. You can't let a lot get to you. You have to set boundaries for yourself and those around you as to what is acceptable. You have to be very protective of yourself, your brand, and the message you want to put out. Sometimes, there's men in this industry that do not always respect the female models. I've experienced shows where the man in charge had no care in the world that female models were changing, and him being in the room was making the group feel uncomfortable. I've had men photographers try to be more than just the photographer. Sometimes, it's other women that will tear you down due to their own insecurities or ego. Then, you have social media which can be very dark at times. You have to be very strong minded, know your self-worth, set your boundaries, and have an attitude that nothing matters except your own growth. It's a lot of mental discipline. What according to you makes one an empowering woman? I think the de inition of an empowering woman is a woman who has overcome obstacles and adversity again and again and is still working on her growth, and trying to strive to be the best she can. A woman that shares her truth and her dark times to show others there's always room to grow is an empowering woman. The de inition of empower is to make someone stronger and more con ident especially in controlling their life. An empowering woman is someone that knows what she wants, and doesn't let anyone or anything get in her on the way to her goals. What would be your advice for aspiring and emerging women entrepreneurs? Be yourself. Tell your story. Don't let anyone change you. As long as you're happy and passionate about what you're doing, always chase that goal. Even things that seem unattainable, they ARE within your reach. Where do you see your business or your brand in the near future? I see my brand growing as I take these next few steps in my career. I walk in LA Fashion Week on March 11th, and I'm hoping this opportunity opens doors and puts new people in my life to continue to help me grow and evolve in this industry. EXELEON MAGAZINE 52