New York Life Panel Offers Black Businesses Tips To Enhance

todayJune 27, 2024 20

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IMG 4198 L to R are Danielle Hines, CEO, CREED63; Nan Baldwin, VP of Chamber Operations, Birmingham Business Alliance; Leilani Rivers, Advanced Planning Consultant, New York Life; and Stacey Graham, Managing Partner of the Central Alabama General Office, New York Life.) by Jeffrey McKinney

June 27, 2024

New York Life panel offers strategies to help Black small business owners scale and generate individual wealth.

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Much like baseball, stellar triumphs in business are calculated by analyzing data for the players and the team. Those stats can help entrepreneurs apply actions to compete better, adapt quickly to changing business conditions, and even potentially spur steady revenue growth.

With a presence in Birmingham, Alabama, since 1902,  New York Life (NYL) recently conducted “Swing for Success: Driving Growth for Black Business Owners & Entrepreneurs” there. The panel, attended by 150 local small business owners and others, provided financial tools and strategies to help entrepreneurs scale up, accumulate wealth, and build economic prosperity for themselves.

The panel included Leilani Rivers, advanced planning consultant, NYL; Nan Baldwin of the Birmingham Business Alliance; and Danielle Hines, CEO and founder at CREED 63. Stacey Graham, managing partner of the Central Alabama General Office, NYL, was the moderator. The event included a fireside chat with former MLB player and business owner Dexter Fowler.

The nation’s largest mutual insurance company, NYL, is home to about 30,000 policy owners in Birmingham and nearly 85,000 in Alabama. In 2023, the firm provided $12 billion in life insurance protection and paid about $124 million to Alabama beneficiaries.

The insurer has about 1,500 Black agents providing life insurance, retirement income planning, and financial advisory services among its offerings.

The panel, presented during the week of Juneteenth and amid a tribute to baseball’s Negro Leagues, was timely, given some startling statistics on Black entrepreneurship. For instance, there were 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in America. Some 8 out of 10 failed within their first 18 months because of a lack of resources and funds.

According to a report from the City of Birmingham, Black residents account for 74% of the city’s population, but only 50% of businesses are Black-owned. In comparison, white residents compose 22% of the population, but 47% of the companies are white-owned.

The panelists talked about what helps them achieve, offering insights that Black entrepreneurs may do well to consider in establishing or sustaining their success. Some key takeaways included:


Graham noted in 2021, 161,000 US firms had employees with major Black or African American ownership, up from 124,000. In 2017, he said, their revenues soared by about 43% during that time. “Many of you in the audience contributed to that.” Hines was asked to share her experience running a small business and some of her biggest learnings over the years.

Among her responses, she said she always tells people that if your business is perfect when you start, then you started it too late. Secondly, she said you must have a team around you and understand when you’re starting your business, what you’re good at, and what your blind spots are.

She noted there were some things she lacked as a small business owner, which were very hard for her to overcome as she was growing and developing her business. “So, really understanding what your strengths are and identifying your weaknesses so that as you grow, you can really be this well-rounded small business and small business owner.”

Rivers added that, as an employer, you must invest in your team. She said that’s crucial to retaining good talent. “So, you want to make sure that you’re also giving them tools to succeed and further impact their potential goals and investing in their success.”


Rivers explained that employees can frequently get a job, automatically enroll in a 401(k), and gain an opportunity for employer matching. However, you don’t have that luxury as a small business owner. She stressed that the earlier an owner can start saving for retirement, the better off you will be. “It’s imperative to be proactive and not sacrifice having a comfortable life in retirement. You want to just knuckle down and try to make your dream come true with this business. You can do both, and financial empowerment begins as soon as you become educated on it and as soon as you start to take proactive steps.”


Panelists discussed how the Black community has roughly $1.8 trillion in buying power. Yet under a staggering 13% of African Americans will receive an inheritance. They also discussed the importance of wealth transfer, a hot topic. Rivers explained that life insurance as an asset — along with financial planning, having a will, and education — can help pass on a financial legacy and close the wealth gap.  If a salesperson approaches you, Graham’s advice is to challenge them. “You don’t need a product;  you need a plan.” Ask how does this fit into my overall plan? “That’s how you take holistic advice and planning and use it to your advantage and get you to where you want to go.”


As you grow your business, Baldwin suggests getting your name and brand out there to help you achieve success. But make sure that whatever you say you will do, whatever service you provide, or whatever needs you fulfill, do it because your reputation will precede itself. “I can’t say enough about building your brand through networking and relationship building.”

Business owner Hines of CREED 63 shared some comments on the panel discussion.

“Birmingham is a hidden gem with so much history. Events like this encourage and invigorate the city, specifically those entrepreneurs and small businesses that spend day in and [day] out creating spaces, services, and products.”

She added, “We are decades later from so many significant milestones and events, and our small business owners know and appreciate the shoulders we stand on. Events like this help facilitate intentional conversations, both of history, present, and future.”

Check out this site to gain more details about business planning resources.

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