By Graziella DiNuzzo
Sherrill Mosee’s mother was a young teenage mom with a desire to go to college. “She was accepted to the University of Penn but my grandmother said she couldn’t go. She said she couldn’t afford to keep the baby and go to school,” explains Mosee. The reality of her mother’s lost life opportunity would become the catalyst for Sherrill’s life journey.
When Sherrill was laid off from her engineering job at Lockheed Martin, she decided it was time to follow her desire to help women succeed by finding solutions to life obstacles.
In 1998, Sherrill formed Family Care Solutions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting higher education among low-income women with children. More specifically, Sherrill’s organization awarded over $3 million in childcare scholarships to help women stay in school while earning a college degree. “We supported over 500 student parents and had a ninety percent graduation rate,” boasts Sherrill. “Today, these moms are accountants, teachers, business owners and more. I get invited to their children’s weddings and graduations.”
“Unfortunately, when the economy crashed in 2008, I lost a lot of government funding and had to close my doors to the nonprofit,” explains Sherrill. “However, I was committed to supporting those students who were already in the program until they all graduated. It was during my time working with the moms that I noticed them struggling with their book bag and diaper bag. I was also doing the same thing, commuting to work while carrying my purse, laptop, lunch bag, and shoes in a plastic grocery bag.”
Photo credit: Tracy Glover
Plato is credited for the famous proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” No doubt, MinkeeBlue’s birth in 2014 filled a great need.
“I originally started designing diaper bags because of my work with student moms and I wanted the name Pinky Blue but the domain was taken. I liked the sound of Pinky Blue so I literally went through the alphabet and landed on M for MinkeeBlue,” laughs Sherrill.
MinkeeBlue bags are designed to fit everything a woman will need to get through her busy life - from morning through night, and all in style.
Visit the MinkeeBlue website and you will see several videos of Sherrill demonstrating how easily everything fits into one stylish tote or backpack. You name it and it all fits neatly and accessibly - laptop, small purse, shoes, lunch bag, and a jacket, with seemingly room to spare. See Video.
“My engineering degree provided the training to guide my critical and analytical thinking. It also helped me to design the structural folding shelf in the middle of the bag to withstand the weight of objects without collapsing. I’ve been issued two patents for the functionality,” says Sherrill.
\MinkeeBlue was nurtured at the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator giving Sherrill access to Wharton business experts and fashion business luminaries.
Elissa Bloom is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s. “Every year we select designers who are interested in taking their product to the next level by offering a year-long designers-in-residence program. We connect designers with education, resources and business strategies to grow their brands. Sherrill had a very unique product – we are always looking for designers that have a unique value proposition.”
Over the course of a year, the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator helped facilitate the connections Sherrill needed to move to the next level. “We connected her to The Workshop at Macy’s in NYC, which teaches women and Minority Owned Businesses how to sell to retail,” explains Bloom. “Sherrill was also given office space at String Theory Charter School.”
“It’s so great working out of String Theory,” says Sherrill. I get to work with High School students, teaching them about entrepreneurship and sharing my experience as a business owner in exchange for the office space. The students apply for social media internship opportunities with MinkeeBlue. It’s a great opportunity to work with students again.”
Sherrill took advantage of every opportunity to grow, including entering the reality TV show, America’s Big Deal.
“I got an email about a new show created by Joy Mangano, the founder of the Miracle Mop. The show highlighted small business owners who had an opportunity to make a two-minute pitch. There were four contestants and whoever sold the most products during the show advanced to the next level. I won!” exclaims Sherrill.
Sherrill’s winnings amounted to a $100,000 purchase order from Macy’s. “I was on the premier show in October 2021 and won the first pitch competition. Things just lined up,” says Sherrill.
MinkeeBlue is now available for purchase in ten Macy’s stores and online. Sherrill was on hand at Macy’s Herald Square on December 2, 2022 to greet her new customers and answer questions.
MinkeeBlue has been featured on the Today Show, the Katie Couric Show and QVC. “She has the drive and perseverance to succeed in the fashion industry,” adds Bloom.
In August 2022, Sherrill received an email and a survey inviting her to participate in the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia’s signature event, “Bringing the World 2 PA.” Every year, the WTCGP arranges meetings with export ready Southeastern PA companies and Authorized Trade Representatives who work and live in various markets around the globe.
“Sherrill was great at following-up. I received her survey and she requested to meet with several representatives,” says Dale Foote, WTCGP Trade Specialist. “On September 12th, Sherrill spent the day in several meetings, and we now have work orders in process with Canada, Mexico, Australia, the UK, Czech Republic and India.”
“I first learned about the services offered by the WTCGP while attending a workshop offered by Small Business Development Center at Temple University,” says Sherrill. “While I sell direct to consumers online and have customers from all around the world, I am looking forward to securing a distributor in a global market.”
Sherrill admits that her road to entrepreneurial success hasn’t always been easy, “but nothing beats a failure but a try," her mother would always say.
After 13 years of dedicated service, Conlin will step down from her role later this year.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Linda Conlin to Transition as President of The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia
After 13 years of dedicated service, Conlin will step down from her role later this year.
Philadelphia, (July 28, 2022) – The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP) announced today that President Linda Conlin will transition out of the role she has held after 13 years of service. The WTCGP Board has appointed a Committee to conduct the search for a new president.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity at the WTCGP to continue to work in a field that I know and enjoy with a supportive Board and talented team – all dedicated to helping our small businesses and communities grow through global trade,” says Conlin. “Despite the challenges that the global economy has faced these last few years, I am optimistic about the future and the ability of the WTCGP to bring the benefits of trade to more small businesses, including minority- and women-owned businesses, expanding the impact to more communities in the Greater Philadelphia region.”
During her tenure, the WTCGP became recognized as Greater Philadelphia’s preeminent nonprofit trade services provider, as well as a leading member of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA), made up of more than 300 members worldwide, where Conlin served on a number of advisory committees and councils. Under her leadership, the WTCGP became one of the most effective economic development organizations and catalysts for economic growth and job creation in the region. Over the past thirteen years, Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey companies assisted by the WTCGP’s trade team recorded a total of $1.7B in increased export sales, supporting and generating thousands of family-sustaining jobs through global trade.
“As Chair, I have had the great honor of working closely with Linda and have seen firsthand the incredible impact she has made on our organization. I want to sincerely thank Linda for her tireless dedication to the WTCGP, and I look forward to her future support of the WTCGP and initiatives she championed,” says Gary Biehn, Partner, White & Williams and Chairman of the WTCGP Board. “I am confident that Linda will continue to make an impact in our communities and the international work that has been her passion.”
Having previously served as Assistant Secretary for Trade Development in the U.S. Department of Commerce and later as Vice Chair of the Export-Import Bank, Conlin brought to the region her knowledge of trade and trade policy, leveraging her prior experience to forge important partnerships with leading international trade agencies and departments, including the Export-Import Bank, the World Bank, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, to name a few. Through these partnerships, the WTCGP expanded access to trade finance and other services for local exporters.
Lauren Swartz, President & CEO, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia remarks, “Linda’s leadership has empowered a group of diverse, thriving businesses across our region to become stronger, more stable and grow thanks to expanding sales around the world. Her impact, as a sage mentor and ready partner, on those of us working to grow the local economy through trade will be long lasting. The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia remains a pillar of our region’s economic development strategy and Linda’s leadership will be missed!”
Over the past thirteen years, the WTCGP received over $3M in grant support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, providing resources essential to the support of the region’s small business exporters. Under Conlin’s leadership, the WTCGP remained a leading Regional Export Network Partner with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, accounting for up to one-quarter of the state’s overall export results.
“Linda Conlin has been a leader and a driving force behind the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia for over 13 years,” John Curley, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Sandmeyer Steel, recounts. “Her international experience and vision of trade have enabled many Pennsylvania companies to participate in global markets.”
To highlight the importance of trade as a tool for local economic growth and family-sustaining job creation, Conlin oversaw the production of events like the WTCGP’s Annual Global Business Conference (GBC) and World Trade Centers Day Awards Celebrations, bringing together the best of thought leadership in the industry to Philadelphia’s business community and recognizing companies for their global achievement.
“… Linda is truly a one-in-a-lifetime leader who could always be relied upon for her incredible knowledge on matters of international trade as well as for her impeccable organizational talent,” says Robin van Puyenbroeck, Executive Director - Business Development for the WTCA. “I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Linda and to receive her counsel on many matters, for which I am very grateful. While Linda will be dearly missed in the day-to-day I know she will never be far away from the WTCA – or from contributing to the promotion and facilitation of international trade.”
In its 20th anniversary year, Conlin has positioned the WTCGP well for the organization’s next decade and beyond, with the launch of its new, Selling to the World initiative, aimed at expanding exports for the region’s small- and medium-sized businesses with a focus on opening global opportunity to minority and women-owned enterprises.
The WTCGP board, staff, members and partners with whom Conlin has worked over the years are thankful for her dedicated leadership and commitment to its mission of “bringing growth and prosperity to businesses, communities and neighborhoods in Greater Philadelphia and worldwide through global trade and investment.”
Applications for the role of WTCGP President may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia: The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP) is a nonprofit, membership-based organization that accelerates global business growth for companies in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. Since 2002, WTCGP has served as a catalyst for regional economic growth and job creation, helping area companies generate over $2.2B in incremental export sales in the region. WTCGP is a member of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA). Visit wtcphila.org.
The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia’s 20th Annual World Trade Centers Day Awards Celebration to Honor Prominent Local Business Leaders
Pennoni is a 56-year old, multidisciplinary engineering firm, which serves markets from traditional, government and education to emerging energy and design-build. Pennoni proudly states that its success stems from the ability to approach engineering challenges from a wider spectrum of angles, and its combination of talent and experience generates unprecedented solutions for diverse and iconic projects around the globe.
As a member of the WTCGP for over 20 years, WTCGP has witnessed Pennoni’s proactive approach to creating a collaborative work environment where every employee has a voice. Pennoni welcomes candidates, current employees, and clients to embrace differences and grow together.
Erika’s LinkedIn page, chronicles the almost weekly DEI zoom conversations she has been invited to attend as an expert. She serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Shipley School as well as the Board of Directors for the Center City Proprietors Association, and is co-founder of The Philadelphia Diversity Professionals Consortium. But Erika is never too busy to volunteer as a mentor to young women, or act as a regular volunteer in her faith.
Erika’s leadership in the DEI space began in 2007 as Director of the West Oak Lane Jazz and Arts Festival and the Director of Community and Government Affairs for the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation.
As Senior Diversity Coordinator for Ballard Spahr law firm, Erika helped contribute to the pipeline of diverse lawyers. Most recently, Erika worked as The Pennsylvania Convention Center’s Diversity & Inclusion Manager, “I was able to cultivate a strategy that had a focus of three key elements, supplier diversity, workforce development and supporting the diverse conventions and conferences.”
Numerous written reports say the same thing, and 15Five.com sums it up, “when you make DEI a priority, every facet of your organization benefits, including the bottom line.”
But there can be challenges.
Erika warns that if you don’t do important initial first steps, corporations may find themselves spending unnecessary time and money on consultants and conducting trainings that don’t align with the overall strategic plan and organization’s culture.
“The greatest challenge is the scale of their program and trying not to boil the ocean. A lot of times employers want to make a real impact and make it quickly and largely through making statements, conducting a lot of trainings, programs and initiatives. It may be hard for the company to manage all of those programs and have them feel organic to the culture of the organization. It’s like when you are trying to graft a plant or flower to make a hybrid, the process is very delicate and if done correctly, the process allows the two plants to work together to make something new and strong. It is the same concept with starting a successful diversity, equity and inclusion program. There must be an understanding or assessment of the existing structure and culture of the organization then you can begin to graft the elements of a DEI program into the DNA of the organization. You do this through a detailed assessment of the organization that can include a review of the policies and procedures, current programs, interviews of key stake holders, focus groups, surveys of the workforce, and then goal and strategy mapping.”
For corporations looking to rollout a DEI plan, Erika advises hiring an experienced DEI officer who is well versed in the principles of the work such as bias and cultural competence but also understands the strategy and business case behind implementing a successful DEI program.
“The support of senior leadership is a must, and the program must be routed in an established business element of the organization. For example, at Pennoni I am the first DEI officer and I report directly to our Vice President of Human Resources, Joyce Hess. I also have a dotted line to our Chief Operating Officer, David Pennoni and our Chief Executive Officer, David DeLizza with the full support of the Board of Directors. When the DEI officer is connected to a fundamental business element like Human Resources and the Operations Department, they have access to the necessary data and the overall operations of the organization.”
What can we expect to see at Pennoni in the coming months?
“Our next steps will be to add structure to our current activities and create a diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan based on our overarching three pillars of Excellent Reputation, Profit and Growth and our values of Honesty, Integrity and Service,” Erika smiles.
Congratulations Erika and Pennoni!
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The 17th Annual Global Business Conference: Proving Greater Philadelphia is Positioned for Success in the International Business Landscape
Robin van Puyenbroeck, Executive Director of Business Development, World Trade Centers Association, kicked off the conference as emcee. Robin effortlessly moved the conference along on point and on time. Next, our President, Linda Conlin, Ronald C. Anderson, Dean, Fox School of Business, Temple University, and Michael Rashid, Director of Commerce, City of Philadelphia, delivered welcoming remarks to more than 150 attendees.
Our first speaker of the day, Derek Burleton, Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist, TD Bank Group, took on the task of giving a global economic outlook for 2021. The detailed presentation showed a promising future for American companies, especially those located in the Greater Philadelphia Region.
Next came the first Keynote of the conference, "Exporting Fearlessly – Reducing Risk and Expanding Sales" with Judith D. Pryor, Member Board of Directors, Export-Import Bank of the United States and Linda Conlin. The pair reminded the audience of how EX-IM, through local banks and the WTCGP, offers export finance products to increase sales and minimize the risk of buyer non-payment.
Our second Keynote saw Osagie Imasogie, Co-Founder and Senior Managing Partner, PIPV Capital, and Stephen S. Tang, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, OraSure Technologies, sitting down for a free-flowing fireside chat. The two spoke candidly on the lasting global impact of COVID-19 and strengthening the contribution of the region’s life sciences sector and entrepreneurial class.
Following a short intermission, Gary P. Biehn, Board Chairman, WTCGP, welcomed the audience back and introduced our newest panelists. Moderator Richard Deeg, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, Temple University, led the "Markets in Transition" panel featuring nationally recognized experts Craig Allen, President, US-China Business Council, Marc Mealy, Senior Vice President - Policy, US-ASEAN Business Council, and David Hamod, President and CEO, National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. Regardless of the challenges faced in these markets – the countries in these regions are open for business.
Closing the conference with a bang, our member companies shared why exporting is good for the bottom line and the lessons learned - the “good, the bad and the not so ugly“ side of exporting, led by moderator Tifphani White-King, JD, EA, Principal, National Tax Practice Leader, Mazars USA. Panelists John M. Curley III, Vice President of International Sales and Global Marketing, Sandmeyer Steel Company, Barrett Fisher, President, Van Horn, Metz & Co., Inc, and David Whitman, CEO, Sunhillo Corporation, all agreed that resiliency pays off.
We take this time to reflect on another successful Global Business Conference and to offer our sincere thanks to our speakers for taking time to share their expertise and up-to-the minute intelligence on what’s happening in international business today, the sponsors who supported us financially, and the professional and student attendees who tuned in.