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Spotlight on BGV Durham: Leadership Lessons

This February, our BGV Chapter Spotlight Series is focused on Durham! Our Durham Venture Board is comprised of five influential Change Agents who are committed to expanding opportunities for Black and Brown woman-identifying founders in the Triangle Area.


Kimberlee Blocker, Bria Davenport, Tatiana Johnson, Nicole Oxendine, and Joan Yabani are working to revitalize a city that was once known as the Black Wall Street. In organizing the Black Girl Ventures Pitch Competition Program, entrepreneurial training, programming and networking opportunities for Black and Brown women founders, our Durham Change Agents are poised to make a lasting impact in the local startup ecosystem. Here’s what they had to say about the most important leadership lessons they’ve learned.


“I see leadership as a service to others, nurturing the strength of each person and giving them space to work, and challenging growth through self-discovery.” - Nicole Oxendine

Nicole Oxendine, BGV Durham Venture Board Lead and Sponsorship/Partnership Manager, is the founder of Empower Dance Studio. With a background in psychology and dance, she is passionate about teaching, mentoring and philanthropy. Nicole credits her father for teaching her about how to be a good leader. “I grew up in a home with 5 siblings. We were taught that our voice matters, that we were part of a bigger picture and that by working together, we would be successful,” she said. “I see leadership as a service to others, nurturing the strength of each person and giving them space to work, and challenging growth through self-discovery.”



“As we develop a vision for our careers and lives, it’s imperative that that vision is bigger than individual pursuits of fame, fortune, clout and status.” - Tatiana Johnson

Tatiana Johnson, BGV Durham Chapter Finance Lead, is a producer, manager, and creative

Consultant. She is the founder of 1st Lady Management, a talent management and consulting firm which specializes in partnering with creatives to bring their artistic vision to fruition. Tatiana underscored the importance of having a vision for both your personal and professional lives. “My family and community have taught me that as we develop a vision for our careers and lives, it’s imperative that that vision is bigger than individual pursuits of fame, fortune, clout, and status. Those pursuits rarely have the power to sustain us in times of despair, doubt, fear, and frustration,” she shared. “However, a leader with a vision that includes creating space, resources and opportunities for generations to come gives power to that vision to live on well after their physical presence has left this Earth.”


“Talk less and listen more. You never know what you may miss out on or who you can learn from if you're always doing the talking.” - Kimberlee Blocker

Kimberlee “So Fab Kim” Blocker, BGV Durham Chapter Community Manager, is the host of the talk show "In The Diva's Den" and podcast "Fabulous Foolishness.” In addition to her work in media and entertainment, Kimberlee brings her effervescent personality to support youth through leadership development and mentoring. “The most important lesson I learned about leadership is to talk less and listen more. You never know what you may miss out on or who you can learn from if you're always doing the talking,” she said. “No one knows it all and no great leader got to be who they were by being the loudest in the room.” She also added that the high school girls she mentors make her a better leader. “One way I earned their trust was by simply listening to them.”


“Pick your battles. Sometimes things will play out better than you think.” - Bria Davenport

Bria Davenport, BGV Durham Chapter Program and Events Lead, is a blogger and the founder of The Girlfriends Pod, a platform that helps black women connect to their personal development goals by providing programming, resources and consistent support. Her mission is to create access and bring resources to her community. For Bria, being selective about what you focus your energy on is key. “A lesson I have learned about leadership is speaking up when needed and picking my battles,” she told us. “Everything doesn't need to be addressed and it's all about using your discretion to decide when it's a battle to fight. Sometimes things will play out better than you think.”


“Get up early, review your tasks, do your research, and never be ashamed to say you don't know something.” - Joan Yabani

Joan Yabani, BGV Durham Chapter Marketing Lead, is a strategist, a futurist and a connector. With a multicultural upbringing between Ghana, the Czech Republic, and the United States, she sees the world through different lenses. Joan is passionate about people, microeconomics and being a force for positive change. “The most important leadership lesson I learned was from my mother. In order to be a leader or seek a leadership position, you must always be prepared,” she shared. “Get up early, review your tasks, do your research, and never be ashamed to say you don't know something. By being prepared you bring your best foot forward and are able to help your team reach their goals faster and more efficiently.”


Don’t miss your chance to meet the BGV Durham Venture Board and mingle with the Triangle business community at the BGV Durham Chapter Launch Party on February 20! To learn more about the Black Girl Ventures Durham Chapter, visit the Durham Chapter.

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