These Are 7 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Must Watch

I can’t say enough about TED talks.  The concept of taking a few minutes to explore personal, important stories that connect us and help us become better versions of ourselves is just a magnificent wonder.  I’ve collected some of my favorite TED talks that promote ideas all entrepreneurs should consider.

TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

1. Steven Johnson:  Where Good Ideas Come From

Author Steven Johnson challenges the common misconception that problem solving is based on some brilliant moment of inspiration.  Rather, Johnson argues that it is hard work, preparation, and being connected to people with complementary skillsets that bring about solutions.

2. Reshma Saujani: Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection

This one’s not just for women, though it does emphasize the importance of inclusiveness for future success.  Saujani connects a willingness to boldly take risks to the evolution she’d like to see in the future of computer science.  Men and women alike can benefit from letting go of a fear of failure.

3. Tim Urban:  Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

Not only is Urban a champion of long-form writing in a world of listicles, but he is also seriously funny.  Urban urges viewers to take a more critical look at their procrastination tendencies in order to better prioritize their lives.

7 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

4. Dalia Mogahed:  What Do You Think When You Look at Me?

As our workplaces become increasingly globalized, it’s important to be cognizant of how we respond to people who are different from us, whether that’s in skin color, culture, religion, or political leanings.  Mogahed, a Muslim scholar, shines a light on the compelling reasons why empathy is a critical skill.

5. Bill Gross:  The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed

We all know that new businesses face a ridiculously high failure rate.  What Bill Gross has done is explore – in a masterful display of data analytics — what differentiates startup success from failure.  It turns out there’s one surprising factor that correlates with success.

6. Malcolm Gladwell: The Unheard Story of David and Goliath

Few writers are better than Malcolm Gladwell at taking the familiar and turning it on its head in a way that challenges all our assumptions.  Gladwell tackles the classic Bible story of the underdog who wins in spite of insurmountable odds and transforms it into a call to reimagine our understanding of power and its effects on our relationships.

7. Pamela Meyer: How to Spot a Liar

In addition to being flat-out fascinating, author Pamela Meyer’s exploration of the hundreds of lies we are told each day evolves into a compelling case for striving to become a more honest society.  Ethical entrepreneurs will enjoy the pep talk while simultaneously picking up tips that will help detect deception.

We all have stories, and in fact storytelling is one of the powerful rituals that unites us, inspires us, and reminds us there’s more to life than the balance of our bank accounts.  TED talks open our eyes and minds in ways entrepreneurs should embrace.

Oh — and here’s a bonus TEDx talk:

Mike Michalowicz: “Profit First” is better for entrepreneurs than “G.A.A.P.”

I would never put myself on the same level as the speakers above, but my talk explores a proven, practical strategy that can eliminate entrepreneurial poverty.  Enjoy.

21 Successful Mom Entrepreneurs to Inspire You

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s a popular time to give thanks for all that moms have done. There are plenty of moms who have made a huge mark on the business world as well. Here are some successful mom entrepreneurs who might provide some inspiration for others this Mother’s Day.

Successful Mom Entrepreneurs

Jakki Liberman

The founder of Bumkins Finer Baby Products is a single mom of four kids. She originally started the business, which sells a variety of baby items and accessories like bibs and bags, because she wanted fun items that her kids would love that would also promote a healthy lifestyle. Now, Bumkins has even partnered with companies like Disney and DC Comics to include popular characters in the company’s products.

Maia Haag

I See Me! Is a multi-million dollar company that provides personalized books and gifts for kids. Haag, who co-founded the company with her husband Allan, has created dozens of stories that can be personalized for each child. So kids can insert themselves into every story and become the star.

Erin Schurtz

Successful Mom Entrepreneurs - erin schurtz

When Schurtz first found out she was pregnant, she was concerned by some of the ingredients and warning labels on the protein bars and shakes that she used to consume. She wanted something to supplement her active lifestyle while still being safe during pregnancy. So she created Mommi, a daily supplement full of whey protein and prenatal vitamins.

Michele Welsh

Before founding SafetyTat, Welsh had an experience that a lot of parents are likely familiar with – that feeling of overwhelm when taking her kids to a crowded amusement park. So she wrote her cell phone number on their arms. And that’s where the idea for SafetyTat came from. The company provides temporary tattoos, labels and stickers that include your phone number and other relevant details.

Sally Jane Waite

Waite created her Sally Jane jewelry line after battling Stage IV colon cancer while seven months pregnant. The line features bumble bees as a main symbol in each piece. The idea is that aerodynamically bees should not be able to fly, but they do the seemingly impossible every day. So it’s a message of hope and inspiration. In addition, the company donates a portion of its profits to cancer research.

Jessica Kettle

Successful Mom Entrepreneurs - jessica kettle

Jessica Kettle first broke into the world of photography after a college course. She started by taking photos of children and families, but soon after made her mark as a wedding photographer. She also has a husband and three children in the Salt Lake City area.

Lisa Greenwald

Before founding Chewbeads, Greenwald was an avid jewelry collector who worked in J. Crew’s merchandising department. Whenever she held babies, she noticed how drawn they were to her jewelry. So she decided to create a line that’s specifically made for babies to play with and chew on. The company now creates teething rings, rattles and even bath toys.

Jacqueline Smith

Busy moms understand how difficult it can be to get and keep a nice manicure. A mom of boys, Smith understood this struggle and worked to find a solution for quick at-home manicures. So she created Palisade, which is like a painter’s tape for nails. The product is now available in Sephora stores around the country.

Debra Cohen

Cohen is the President of Home Remedies of NY and creator of the Homeowner Referral Network business model. A mother of two, Cohen wanted to create a way for homeowners to find pre-screened, reliable home improvement professionals. So she launched Home Remedies in 1997 and has since served thousands of homeowners.

Kwany Liu

The founder of Bundle Organics was a mom-to-be when she came up with the idea for her company. Her goal was to create a way to help moms stay healthy while helping with some of the common symptoms and ailments that go along with pregnancy and nursing. So Bundle Organics provides organic juices and teas made specifically for pregnant and nursing moms.

Barbara Edelstein

The co-founder of Partyology is also one of the country’s top radiologists. She found a way to balance her career and family life, while also helping to plan parties and events for family and friends. So that’s how she came up with the idea to start the Partyology party planning app.

Shayla Boyd-Gill

Successful Mom Entrepreneurs - shayla boyd-gill

Shayla Boyd-Gill is an entrepreneurial mom who has run several different businesses, from selling cheesecake to offering childbirth classes. She now offers business coaching services to help other entrepreneurial moms while also raising her five kids.

Allison O’Kelly

O’Kelly is the founder and CEO of Mom Corps, a national staffing organization for professionals seeking non-traditional careers. The idea is that busy moms can use it to find flexible or virtual options for employment so that they still have time to handle all the demands of taking care of busy families.

Julie Karlitz

The CEO of strap-its wanted to provide a way to keep teen girls fashionable without constantly exposing their bra straps. So the company creates a variety of fashionable straps that can be added to different outfits or tops.

Jill Salzman

jill salzman

Salzman already ran multiple other businesses before starting The Founding Moms, a collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. She also previously ran a music management firm and a line of baby accessories.

Lauren Anderson

Anderson and her husband James launched Made in Mechanicsville in January 2015. The company creates unique jewelry pieces from their small town of Mechanicsville, Virginia. They do all of this while also raising their baby daughter.

Nicole Davis

Davis is the founder and principal and Butler-Davis Tax & Accounting LLC. Before founding the business, she worked in senior accounting and financial reporting roles for other tax and accounting businesses. She is also the mother of four kids.

Susan Petersen

Successful Mom Entrepreneurs - susan petersen

The creator of Freshly Picked moccasins started her business because she was frustrated by the lack of well-designed baby shoes. She used some scrap leather that she bought at a garage sale to make her first moccasins, and tried them out on her own kids before eventually making Freshly Picked into a successful business.

Erica Zidel

Zidel started Sitting Around with co-founder Ted Tieken in 2010. The idea is to provide a platform for parents to trade babysitting services with other parents in their area. So everyone gets access to childcare that’s not outrageously expensive through babysitting cooperatives.

Lauren Thom

Thom is a single mother of three and the founder of Fleurty Girl, a retail business that sells clothing, accessories, home items and more. All of the items are inspired by New Orleans, where Thom resides and founded the business, and made by local New Orleanians.

Lisa Druxman

Druxman created an exercise routine for new moms after becoming a mom in 2001. Since then, her business, FIT4Mom, has launched numerous classes and events for moms or expectant moms aiming to stay fit and healthy.

20 Women Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World

It’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur. There are plenty of trailblazers making their mark on a variety of different industries. If you’re looking for some inspiration or any female entrepreneurs to look up to, take a look at the successful women entrepreneurs listed below and learn how they’re changing the world with their businesses.

Successful Women Entrepreneurs

Rebecca Minkoff

20 Successful Women Entrepreneurs - Rebecca Minkoff

The millennial fashion designer has built her own clothing and accessory empire by targeting young women and actually connecting with them on a personal level, mainly using social media and influencer marketing.

Alexa von Tobel

This entrepreneur actually dropped out of Harvard Business School before starting her business, LearnVest. Her goal with the business is to bring financial knowledge to the masses to help them make better decisions.

Weili Dai

Weili Dai is the co-founder of Marvell Technology Group, a company that makes semiconductors. The tech entrepreneur has won numerous awards and recognition for her ability to succeed in a male dominated industry.

Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim is an author, teacher and business expert. She provides coaching and consulting services to other entrepreneurs looking to boost their bottom line.

Leslie Blodgett

An accomplished entrepreneur, Leslie Blodgett has stood at the helm of multiple beauty brands, including Bare Escentuals and Shiseido.

Tory Burch

20 Successful Women Entrepreneurs - Tory Burch

This popular fashion designer has built a worldwide brand of shoes, handbags, clothing and more. She is also a philanthropist and has won several awards for her designs and business acumen.

Cher Wang

Cher Wang is the co-founder and chairperson of HTC. And her success is magnified by the fact that she does it all in the tech industry, a sector that has traditionally been dominated mainly by male entrepreneurs.

Angie Hicks

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a website that helps connect consumers with local service providers. She started the business back in 1995 and has since grown it into one of the most recognizable sources for finding service providers.

Shelia Lirio Marcelo

This female entrepreneur founded an innovative online startup to help people find child care, pet sitters and house sitters. Care.com is now one of the top sources for finding child care providers online.

Cynthia Ndubuisi

Cynthia Ndubuisi is the entrepreneur behind EverGlow, a company that makes biodegradable dish soap that’s derived from plants. She created the product because of some challenges faced by people in her native country of Nigeria. And she used the help of a mentor to build it into a recognizable brand.

Arianna Huffington

20 Successful Women Entrepreneurs - Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington founded the Huffington Post, one of the most notable news publications online. Since then, AOL acquired the publication. But Huffington remains involved in business endeavors and has another startup in the works called Thrive Global.

Erica Nicole

This entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of YFS Magazine. The news site focuses on providing informative content to young self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs.

Rashmi Sinha

This female entrepreneur created an online presentation tool that’s popular with a lot of small businesses — SlideShare. She’s been named as one of the most powerful female entrepreneurs in the world.

Sara Blakely

The founder of SPANX dealt with plenty of failure in the professional world before starting the wildly successful shapewear business. Now, it’s a globally recognized brand. And Blakely’s net worth has been estimated at about $1 billion.

Yang Lan

This entrepreneur is the founder of Sun Media, a Chinese media group. Her empire includes TV, newspapers, magazines and more. And she’s been named as one of the most powerful entrepreneurs in China.

Sophia Amoruso

Although her original entrepreneurial venture, Nasty Gal, folded earlier this year, Amoruso remains involved in the business world. She has a successful book, Netflix show and other projects in the works.

Debbi Fields

Debbi Fields is the female entrepreneur behind Mrs. Fields cookies. She started the business with just a small personal investment and built it into a large, nationwide brand.

Gisele Bundchen

Though Gisele Bundchen might be more well known for her modeling career, she is also an accomplished entrepreneur. Her skin care business, Sejaa Skincare, brings in millions each year.

Corri McFadden

If you think ecommerce reselling is just a hobby, think again. Corri McFadden has built a very successful business based on that concept. Her business is called eDrop-Off. And she and her team collect gently used luxury goods and resell them on eBay.

Mei Pak

Though she actually has a degree in mathematics, Mei Pak decided to go the entrepreneurial route instead and started Tiny Hands, a company that sells unique and handmade jewelry pieces.

 

What Are Top Performing Customer Service Companies Doing?

How well does your company’s customer service measure up? Salesforce.com recently released a survey of nearly 2,000 global companies that are leaders in customer service. The study looked at common service benchmarks, service trends for the year ahead, and the factors that define high-performing customer service teams. Here’s what the survey uncovered about top-performing customer service organizations, and the lessons for your business.

Top performing customer service companies …

  • Have three priorities: “always-on” service, personalized service and faster service. For a small business, outsourcing customer service can offer your customers 24/7 assistance, CRM tools can help you maintain records enabling more personalized service, and setting goals and monitoring results can improve response speed.
  • Value efficiency. Speed is still the number-one metric top performers use to measure their customer service reps’ success. When asked to name their top three metrics, 47 percent choose average handle time, 38 percent say the number of cases handled and 32 percent name customer satisfaction.
  • Empower customer service employees to do whatever is needed to make customers happy. Top-performing companies are more than three times more likely than poor performers to have empowered employees.
  • Are more likely to be heavy users of technology. For example, high performers are more likely to be providing service via mobile apps or to be exploring video streaming as a customer service tool.
  • Excel at predicting what customers need. You can use CRM tools as well as social listening tools to assist in these predictions.
  • Use analytics and dashboards to learn and improve. You can use these tools to measure your customer service team’s key performance indicators, as well as to collect and analyze customer feedback.
  • Tap into the power of self-service and community portals to enable customers to find their own solutions to problems. (That’s a smart move, because the same study shows Millennial consumers overwhelmingly use self-service options first before initiating any type of interaction with a customer service representative.) Creating self-service options can be simple, like putting up a list of FAQs or more complex, such as a searchable database of solutions.

Is your small business on track to be a top customer service performer — or are you already there?

SEO Company Busted for Fake Online Reviews

When consumers read online reviews of a product or business, such as those on Amazon, it is often difficult to figure out which reviews are legitimate, and if they should trust any of the opinions that they read online these days.

The situation is not helped by companies and marketers going out of their way to post hundreds of fake online reviews with the view of unduly influencing consumers’ buying decisions.

Just this month, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), an independent non-ministerial government department charged with investigating alleged violations o consumer law, cracked down on Total SEO & Marketing Ltd, a company the CMA says it caught posting over 800 fake reviews online between 2014 and 2015.

Total SEO Company Busted For Fake Reviews

During its investigation, the CMA said it had found that Total SEO, a search engine optimization (SEO) and online marketing company, had posted hundreds of reviews on behalf of 86 small businesses, ranging from car dealers and mechanics to landscape gardeners and other tradespeople, across 26 different websites.

Total SEO has co-operated with the CMA’s consumer law investigation and escaped a financial penalty. However, the SEO company has been ordered to remove the fake reviews it has already posted and will suffer the additional humiliation of having the CMA writing to its client base to caution them about the company and the illegality of asking firms to write reviews on their behalf.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said:

“With more than half of people in the UK using online reviews to help them choose what to buy, they are becoming an increasingly valuable source of information. Fake reviews can lead to people making the wrong decisions and fair-playing businesses losing out”

Back in the U.S., the New York state attorney general’s office caught 19 companies in 2013 for offering to create fake reviews after an undercover investigation in which employees from the Attorney General’s office posed as the owners of a Brooklyn yogurt shop that was trying to up its online ranking. The 19 companies identified  by the investigation agreed to cease manipulating sites like Yelp, and were forced to pay more than $350,000 in fines.

Authorities persistently warn companies against unfair or misleading business practices, such as falsely representing themselves as consumers.  These activities, they insist, hurt both consumers and fair-playing businesses. The CMA says companies in the UK found guilty of posting fake reviews can receive a heavy fine or, in some cases, see its directors given a prison sentence.

Individuals who write and post fake online reviews, or who blackmail business owners or companies with threats of posting negative reviews about them, can also find themselves in hot water. As recently as October 2015, Amazon sued 1,114 users it identified during an investigation conducted by company representatives who attempted to buy fake reviews from gig site Fiverr.

Similarly, William Stanley (a.k.a William Laurence, William Davis, William Harris and Bill Stanley) was this year sentenced to 37 months in prison after he was found guilty of threatening to write negative reviews and comments about the Dallas-based mergers and acquisition firm Generational Equity unless he was paid.

The court also ordered Stanley, who was initially recruited by the firm for SEO services and reputation management, to pay $174,888 in restitution to a dozen victims.

“Search engine optimization companies, PR and marketing agencies provide a valuable service to businesses, but they must do this lawfully. Our enforcement action against Total SEO makes clear that posting fake reviews about clients is unacceptable,” Arora added.

What Weakening Accelerator Companies Mean for Policy

The past decade has witnessed a dramatic rise in the rate of formation of accelerator companies. As the number of U.S.-based business accelerators has increased from one in 2006 to nearly 500 today, and the size and frequency of accelerator classes has grown, the number of high potential startups receiving financing from these entities has increased at exponential rates. But along with that rise has been a troubling trend: the quality of the companies coming out of accelerators has declined. For policy makers that pattern is an important signal.

Before I explain the policy implications, let me start with the facts. Over the past decade, companies in startup accelerators have declined on several dimensions. Today, the average accelerator company produces worse financial projections, has a poorer pitch deck, offers inferior information about customers, has a less developed product. and so on, than the average accelerator company a decade ago.

What Are the Policy Implications of Weaker Accelerator Startups?

Start-ups fall along a distribution of quality from incompetent founders with lousy ideas to the next. That distribution hasn’t actually changed very much in a decade. We know this because the odds of businesses failing at different ages have barely budged, and age-adjusted sales of the average company is approximately the same in inflation-adjusted terms now as it was then.

This pattern tells us something about what is going on. Accelerators are dipping deeper into the pool of potential companies. As they select a larger portion of the quality distribution, the average of what they have picked has fallen. The next Airbnb or Dropbox may still exist among companies coming out of business accelerators. But the fraction of accelerator companies that become unicorns is smaller than it was 10 years ago.

The Policy Implications of Weaker Accelerator Startups

The decline in the quality of accelerator companies points out an important dilemma that policy makers face. Most institutions to support entrepreneurship do not make start-ups better. The more successful institutions — accelerators, venture capital funds, or any other entity — just take a greater share of start-ups than the less successful institutions. As the more successful institutions take a larger fraction of new businesses, the average quality of the companies identified by those entities goes down.

This pattern has implications for public policy. If supporting institutions doesn’t actually improve the quality of start-ups, but instead just affects which ones are selected, then policy makers won’t get very much of a return on their investment in encouraging the development and formation of those institutions. If the money spent will only affect which institutions get the start-ups and not the quality of the companies themselves, then the kinds of outcomes that policy makers care about, like job and wealth creation, will not be changed.

But there are programs that policy makers can support that improve the quality of start-ups themselves. For instance, policy makers could, instead, spend money on training entrepreneurs to better evaluate business opportunities or design products or talk to customers. Government programs that improve the performance of new companies are a better use of resources than these other alternatives.

How To Discuss Money Goals With Your Other Half

Even the closest couples will agree that it is impossible to agree with each other all the time. And that’s what makes relationships special. Each person brings his or her own perspectives to the table. And if the relationship is a deep and mature one, both the individuals learn to move outside their own convictions and accommodate the other’s point of view on things like family, lifestyles, expectations, and of course, the big one: money.

Money can often be a long-standing cause of disagreement between couples. Money management is a deeply personal trait, like driving. Most of us assume that we know exactly how to spend and save. Hence, when a significant other criticises our financial habits, it can often lead to furious rows.

Like with any other disagreement between a couple, it is important to sit down and talk about money. Here’s how to approach that discussion with your significant other.

MANGOSTAR_STUDIO VIA GETTY IMAGES

1 Ensure that money management is a shared responsibility: A relationship is a two-way street, and the sooner you and your partner understand that, the better life gets. Just like other responsibilities, financial matters should be divided equally among partners. It’s unfair to expect one person to bear the entire financial burden of the relationship. The best way to ensure a comfortable and a mutually respectful relationship is to ensure that both partners contribute as equally and fairly as their finances allow them.

2 Understand each other’s goals and perspectives: Every individual is different and thus, what’s important to one person might not be important to another. The same logic applies to a relationship, and that’s why it’s important to understand and acknowledge each other’s goals and perspectives. What’s your spouse or partner’s five-year plan? How important is buying that additional Smart TV? These may seem like silly questions, but they hold the key to understanding each other’s long-term goals.

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3 Agree on how much to save and spend every month: Irrespective of who’s bringing in how much money, it’s important to agree on some spending and saving limits. Discuss with each other to arrive at a figure that you are comfortable with. If for some reason you can’t stick to the plan during a particular month, make sure you inform your partner about it.

4 Be open and transparent about all financial matters: Decisions like opening a joint savings account are important, so make sure you talk about it openly and clearly with your partner. If you would rather have separate accounts, always keep your partner in the loop in terms of your financial status.

 

5 Talk to an investment expert jointly: This will help you understand each other’s perspectives, choices and risk appetite and find common ground. It also creates a joint sense of responsibility, and allows facts and figures to dictate the conversation, rather than emotions.

Couples who agree on household finances are more likely to be satisfied overall with their relationship. The key phrase to remember here is ‘joint goal-setting’. It is important for two people to have a shared financial vision for their future and work towards achieving it. Mutual funds are a great tool for goal-based investing, as they allow users to select a time-frame, investment volume, and risk level that they are comfortable with. For more information on mutual funds and their benefits, check out the recent ‘Mutual Funds Sahi Hai’ campaign by The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) at www.mutualfundssahihai.com .

Money Money Money: Rising cost of higher education

It is that time of the year again when the young and restless are looking forward to an exciting start to their careers, the right marks, the right college and hopefully the right finances to back up all of those dreams. So whether you are a student or a parent, the question is, ‘Have you planned right for higher education?’ What are the do’s and don’ts as you go about pooling funds for your college? That is exactly what we discuss with personal finance expert, Harsh Roongta on this episoide.

Image result for Money Money Money: Rising cost of higher education

It is that time of the year again when the young and restless are looking forward to an exciting start to their careers, the right marks, the right college and hopefully the right finances to back up all of those dreams. So whether you are a student or a parent, the question is, ‘Have you planned right for higher education?’ What are the do’s and don’ts as you go about pooling funds for your college? That is exactly what we discuss with personal finance expert, Harsh Roongta on this episode.

Money market rates may limit Fed's balance sheet shrinkage: BAML

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve’s plan to start reducing the size of its balance sheet later this year may be limited by the resulting upward pressure on money market rates, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE:BAC) strategist.

The U.S. central bank has signaled its intention to reduce the size of its $4.5 trillion balance sheet later this year as it remains on track on a gradual path of interest rate increases amid an improving economy.

© Reuters. A police officer keeps watch in front of the U.S. Federal Reserve in Washington

“Given our expectation that most of the Fed balance sheet decline will be concentrated from foreign bank reserve holdings and lower Fed repo activity, the Fed may only be able to reduce their balance sheet by $1 (trillion) before funding markets materially tighten,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s head of U.S. short rates strategy Mark Cabana wrote in a research note on Thursday.

As the Fed pares its balance sheet, it will to reduce the amount of excess reserves in the banking system, which would likely put upward pressure on borrowing costs in money markets.

The Fed has yet to offer details on the amount it plans to taper its reinvestments in U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities and a desired size for its balance sheet.

The Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank’s policy-setting group, will hold a two-day policy meeting which will begin next Tuesday. [FED/DIARY]

Ypsilanti Schools surprises senior with new car at graduation

YPSILANTI, MI – Ypsilanti graduating senior Jasmine Brown left her high school commencement ceremony with not just her diploma, but a brand new car.

Brown, 18, was the first recipient of the new Ypsilanti Community High School “student achievement award,” which an anonymous donor set up through the Ypsilanti-Willow Run branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Shoshana DeMaria, president of the local NAACP branch, presented the award at commencement on Tuesday, June 13. She announced a four-year commitment to giving away a car to one graduating senior from YCHS or Ypsilanti’s alternative high school, Achieving College and Career Education.

“I’m so surprised. I didn’t know what it was going to be. I didn’t know I won this award,” Brown said, still in shock as the graduates began filing out of Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center after commencement.

Brown said she saw the black 2017 Ford Focus with a gold, sparkly bow on it from Gene Butman Ford parked in front of the Convocation Center when she arrived. But she had no idea it would hers by the end of the night.

Brown was randomly selected from a pool of 31 eligible seniors. DeMaria announced the award winner by student number first, and Brown was excited to receive the honor – before she even knew about the car.Image result for Ypsilanti Schools surprises senior with new car at graduation

To be eligible for the student achievement award in its first year, seniors had to have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0, have fewer than five full-day unexcused absences this school year, no discipline issues and have attended YCS for at least two school years.

The minimum GPA will increase in subsequent years, and community service and extracurricular activities will be a factor in determining the future recipients, now that students know they have a chance at winning a car when they graduate.

Superintendent Benjamin Edmondson hopes the new student achievement award will add incentive for students to continue changing the culture at the high school. He told the graduates Tuesday that this award is a sign of the community’s love for them.

“This is a game changer, for a school district where you have the community investing in the school and changing students’ lives,” he said.

In addition to the anonymous donation that purchased the car for Brown, other community members have donated toward the cost of insurance and gas, Edmondson said.

Brown, who is the daughter of Mark Sanders and Celestine Sanders, plans to study business management at Washtenaw Community College and then transfer to a four-year university to study fashion design.

She was one of 202 graduates in the Ypsilanti Community Schools Class of 2017 who accepted their diplomas at commencement, where the seniors chose art teacher Lynne Settles to give the keynote address.

The school district recognizes four valedictorians – one from each of the high school’s three small learning communities plus the alternative high school – and three of them spoke at the ceremony. The Class of 2017 valedictorians were: Cyncere Jackson, a student at ACCE; Joyceline Onyebuchi, of the STEMM Middle College; Marvin Zavala, of AC Tech; and Kevin Becerra, of New Tech.