Last night I attended the SWEET Group Atlanta launch event last night to hear Nichole “Nicci” Gilbert talk about female entrepreneurship and her evolution from being a singer (in Michael Jackson’s 90’s trio Brownstone) to becoming a reality TV executive producer (TV One’s R&B Divas) and plus-size fashion designer (Curvato Clothing). SWEET stands for Successful Women Entrepreneurs and the Extremely Talented, and has chapters in Charlotte, NC and Richmond, VA. The event was sponsored by SMS Advisors in Charlotte (which Nicci uses).
Marshawn Evans, Esq., is an attorney, speaker, author, and former contestant on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice was the host and moderator. Lillian Lincoln Lambert was the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Business School in 1969. She is a partner with SWEET and has a fascinating story.
The word of the evening was “passion.” Everyone who spoke agreed that when it comes to your business, you have to be passionate about what you do or it won’t work.
Having it All: How Does She Do It?
Nicci started off telling us that in the past, she hasn’t always trusted her gut, but we should. In several episodes of R&B Divas, she told people that she’s really not into singing anymore, even though that’s what she’s best known for and people always ask her to sing. She’s able to do all the things she does now because she’s passionate, so it never feels like work. She admitted her difficulties: “I’m hard-headed, I hate to be told ‘No,’ or that I don’t have enough money to execute my plans.” She described herself as ‘crazy’ and ‘a space cadet’ and that’s how she can juggle so many tasks.
Nicci said, “The barter routine is the best ever (exchanging services instead of money). I choose not to focus on what is not right.” Lillian added that every obstacle has an opportunity attached to it. “I don’t like when people tell me I can’t do things.”
“Reality is Ratchet!”
Nicci: “I don’t know if ‘ratchet’ is a really a word, but everybody knows what it means so I’m gonna use it. Reality TV is ratchet! I thought about Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad’s character on The Cosby Show) and others that helped me develop as a person. I wondered, where is that kind of TV today? Black women fighting each other seems to be a ratings formula that the reality shows want to stick with, but I wanted to show images of positive Black women with solid marriages and businesses.” Nicci is an executive producer of the #1 rated show on TV One ever (R&B Divas, whose first season aired last fall), said that spinoffs are coming, including an L.A. cast. Season 2 begins shooting on MLK Day.
“Love and Hip Hop Atlanta (on VH1) had 5 million viewers, and we had 1 million. I don’t think we can get to 5 million because more people want to watch what’s wrong with people than what’s right.” She also added that “Branding is the key for reality TV to make sense.”