Moving Our Travel Business Forward at the Black Enterprise FWD Conference in Charlotte, NC 


Starting a business as a couple is exhilarating, challenging, promising and scary. It can be hard to separate the ups and downs of the business from the relationship and vice versa. Recently, Black Enterprise invited us to share our journey with This Is Leaving on a panel entitled; From Couple to Co-Preneurs” at the inaugural FWD small business conference.  

The three-day event was held at the Charlotte Convention Center and attracted aspiring, existing and veteran business owners and entrepreneurs. Malinda and I were as excited to offer the insights and lessons we’ve learned with our startup; as we were to hear from other entrepreneurs who have faced the triumphs and challenges that may lie ahead. 

Fellow panelists Lizzy and Devon Morris, co-founders of Bearded Eagle Consulting, and moderator Alfred Edmond Jr.,  Black Enterprise Sr. VP Executive Editor-at-large, dropped plenty of gems. Devon and Lizzy encouraged us to let data be the deciding factor when it comes to the pros and cons of our business disagreements. Alfred, also a “Co-Preneur” likened the TRUST, HONESTY and RESPECT needed to thrive as a couple to the key ingredients required for a successful business partnership. He and his wife Zara Green co-authored Loving In the Grown Zone” both a book and a relationship education consulting practice.

Devon Morris, Lizzy Morris, Malinda Williams, Tariq M. Walker, Alfred Edmond, Jr.

We thoroughly enjoyed the give and take of the panel and walked away with plenty of insights to aid us in building a successful business while maintaining a healthy relationship.  But the insights and information didn’t stop there…


Shelly Bell. CEO, Black Girl Ventures

Given the impending launch of our first retail offering through Malinda’s She’s Got A Habit  section of our site; we made a point to sit in on Thamar Campbell’s breakdown of the retail industry from his perspective as Director of the Market At Macy’s, an in-store boutique marketplace that features established and up and coming brands in select locations around the country. Additionally, the company offers The Workshop at Macy’s program–an exclusive retail vendor development program designed to give select high potential minority- and women-owned businesses the tools to better succeed and sustain growth in the retail industry. Both are great resources for small business owners— and extremely helpful to know about. 


After our panel Tariq and I met, mingled with attendees and got our share of insights from panelists on a wide range of topics including marketing, retail and financing. I sat in a number of panels with Kimberly Hairston-Hicks, CEO and Founder of Good Beauté, skin-care brand formulated for melanin-enriched skin types. She’s a friend, colleague and fellow entrepreneur and it was wonderful to connect with her, learn and network together.  It’s been my pleasure to serve on the board of her company, supporting Kimberly and woman and a product that I believe in and incorporate into my own daily skincare routine.

We spent quality bonding time and took plenty of notes in the Master Your Message Online panel with entrepreneurs Maya Elious and Emmelie De La Cruz – two powerful and savvy business-women who shared their respective expertise on content, marketing and sales development.  In another session, Black Girl Ventures CEO, Shelly Bell’s offered candid and actionable advice on raising venture capital…lord knows capital is key to all business success. Kimberly and I left the appropriately nicknamed Queen City feeling empowered, inspired and energized, for plenty of to-do’s for our businesses.

Malinda Williams, Kimberly Hairston-Hicks

Setting aside my personal fondness for the Black Enterprise — having previously worked at, or with, the brand for over a decade of my career— the FWD conference was well-attended, well-conceived and well-executed. The panelists and topics were relevant and covered a good deal of ground ranging from celebrity enterprises to financial planning for small business owners.

There was also a plethora of sponsors and small business coaches available to offer specific tools and resources for folks all along the ownership spectrum. The attendees that Malinda and I spoke to, shared our enthusiasm for the information and networking opportunities on hand. Congrats to Publisher, CEO Butch Graves and the entire BE Team. And kudos to the excellent content and programming of Chief Content Officer, Derek T. Dingle and the Editorial team. It was our pleasure to attend as presenters and entrepreneurs. 


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