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Mid-June 2022 Pi Cohort Spotlight
The Nest Tambien

This month we will focus on our new Legacy Cohort Members Antonio and Heather Appling, Co-CEOs of The Nest Tambien Restaurant in Bellflower, CA. The Nest: Tambien opened June 2021. Yes, you read that correctly. Building out the space during 2020 was no cake walk and opening during 2021 had its own set of challenges; but The Nest: Tambien is well on its way to becoming a neighborhood favorite.

INTRODUCING:  Servando Orozco…A highly successful entrepreneur, mentor, and family man…

Servando Orozco is the CEO of Orozco’s Auto Services that was founded in 1999.  When he met Gary Polk in 2016, he had only three business locations and now he owns five locations. He also grew from 25 to 40 employees.  On a family level, Servando has three beautiful children, a cute dog, and a loving wife of 25 years.  For Servando, family is first and foremost.  He resides in Signal Hill, CA.

Top Quote by Servando

“Any business is people business.”

How does Servando teach social entrepreneurship as a mentor for Pi? 

As a social entrepreneur, Servando’s mission is to help people with business ideas, those who are starting their businesses, and those who are already in business by mentoring them. 

  • He helps Pi cohorts with creating the roadmap and guidelines to develop their enterprises based on his experiences of being a successful social entrepreneur. 
  • He speaks at colleges and coaches entrepreneurs on their presentations and pitches. 
  • He gives advice to those who are entering the entrepreneurial phase. He advises them on possible challenges and obstacles they might encounter in the journey and how to tackle some of them. 
  • According to Servando, entrepreneurs must surround themselves with better or more innovative people and have good relationships with people—employees and customers. 
  • The mindset of someone with one business location is different from that of someone with five business locations.
  • He always tells people who wants to open businesses to find someone who shares the same vision they have. 

Servando’s success story is still in the making…

In 2018, Servando became a qualified franchisor. As a franchisor he has license to sell his name to other entrepreneurs, called franchisees, and then earn royalties from their sales results. His dream is to have 20-25 locations in the next 20 years.  To help him achieve this strategic goal, he is currently grooming his son, Andrew Orozco, to succeed him as CEO by May 2028.  

How Servando is involved with the Polk Institute?

He joined the Polk Institute as a Mentor in September 2020 when Pi was first formed.  He became a Charter Legacy Cohort member in February 2021. 

What are the benefits of being with the Polk Institute? 

According to Servando, 

    • The Polk Institute helped him to know business accounting better, gaining a great understanding of financial data and how useful it is in business. 
      • He said, “Not many people understand financial data and know how to analyze and interpret financial data but being with the Polk Institute helped him to understand  business accounting concept.”
      • Understanding accounting to him means taking note of sales, costs, margins, expenses, assets, liabilities, equity cash flow and finance. All these factors help business owners to understand and have a full view of their business standing. 
      • Knowing financial status helps you focus on the important key points in financial statements. They act as a point of reference, like if there is a slow down or a loophole you can easily identify where the problem is coming from by verifying it on the statements. 
    • The Polk institute has been a blessing and helped him to develop as a leader and to improve the working environment of his people. 
      • He also learned how to develop the job description. The unique job description is described as follows: 
        • set the company goals, 
        • find, and hire the right people, 
        • develop assistance to monitor and measure performance, resources, and 
        • human resources for every position in every department of the company, develop people as they are the biggest assets you have and know how to secure the assets of the company. 
      • The job description is considered important and one of the key factors that needs to be there is to identify the minimum acceptable performance for each position. Not to the person but specifically for the position, it does not matter what state the employee is in, the requirements should be met. 
    • He has four T’s: Training, Transfer, Tolerance and Terminate. 
      • It is one of Servando’s values to employ people who are hungry, humble and smart. The greatest of these is hungry, when someone is hungry they work so hard to satisfy that hunger, but when someone is lazy, he going to be lazy forever and it’s very hard to change, when they had the need and satisfaction. 
      • It is a big challenge for him and everyone else who is in business to foster people to adapt to your vision. Not everyone is trainable or coachable. 
  • It is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your employees and focus more on their strength(s) without pushing or focusing too much on their weaknesses. 
Darrow’s New Orleans Grill

INTRODUCING CEO and President, NORWOOD CLARK Jr. Darrow’s New Orleans Grill


Norwood Clark was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He went to segregated schools from elementary through collage. He graduated from Grambling State University (a HBCU) where he was a standout baseball player. Norwood has been sacrificing his life to make the world and his communities a better place. Norwood’s personal and professional mission is making positive changes in the world. His goal is to help people in need through his business activities. He has lived his life through the help of other people from all walks of life and this has compelled him to do better and live a purpose driven life. 

How did you connect with the Polk Institute?

In 2015 Norwood decided to relocate to Carson CA and rebrand his business name to Darrow’s New Orleans Grill. In 2016 he first met Gary Polk at the CSU, Dominguez Hills. In February 2022 Norwood joined the Polk Institute as cohort as part of the Charter Legacy Cohort member. 

Norwood’s Background

Norwood opened a food and candy manufacturing company back in 1988 in Beverly Hills and became a Starbucks vendor supplying them with Southern candy products. They opened their first eatery, Uncle Darrow’s, on February 4, 1994 in Los Angeles. Their clients were celebrities like Nancy Wilson, Halle Bailey, Jasmine Guy and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. They opened his second eatery when he moved his operation to Marina del Rey, CA. Their clients now coming from all over the world, and including professional athletes from the Dodgers, Lakers, and L.A. Kings. He was in business in Marina del Rey for 16 years. Norwood decided to close the Marina del Rey eatery due to a ruthless landlord who did not care about their success, but respected money more. The landlord did not care about the positive impact their business was making.

Now he is in a new market and location Carson California, a suburb of Los Angeles California whereby many of their clients are celebrities. Norwood did not allow that negative situation to change who he was despite losing 95% of the first business generation clients.

Norwood’s View on Ethics

Norwood’s ethics are as follows

  1. Respect yourself and others, if you can be honest with yourself, you can be honest with your company.
  2. Have your own demarcations which cannot be crossed by anyone.


    Norwood’s success story-Who You Know!

    Meeting Magic Johnson roused many successes in Norwood’s business career. He first met Magic Johnson when Magic opened his movie theaters, the Magic Theaters in Los Angeles. The relationship led Norwood to enter partnership with Starbucks and they opened 30 Starbuck stores. Norwood was also cited in the New York bestselling book called “32 ways to be a champion in business” by Mr. Johnson.

    What is top benefit of being with Polk Institute

    The Pi has been a magnet to likeminded and creative people, those who share great vision and mission to transform the world, people with the same type of passion and commitment. It is very rare and hard to find one another, and the Polk Institute played this role magnificently. The Polk Institute has highly contributed more to who Norwood is today.



If you can find one person who believes in you, you can rock, and that person is you, Believe in yourself!


(Website Under Construction)

My name is Rosario Vigil, and I would like to tell you a little bit of my business experience.

I was around 10 years old when I make my first attempt, my parents had a little shop in our home town, and one day I decided that I wanted to earn my own money, I ask my mother if she allowed me to set a table by their shop and sell my own snacks, she said yes and I borrowed the equivalent of 10 dollars for my supplies and I think it lasted the school vacation, probably about a month. It was an incredible experience, the feeling of earning my own money. 

Later in life that feeling was very useful when a set of circumstances make me leave a secure but
unfulfilling job, I was 25 and I had a 4-year-old daughter. 
With zero financial or business knowledge, with a lot of fear but with a lot of passion, I decided that it was time to take control of my circumstances and I started a real business.

  • How are you involved with the Polk Institute?

 I was part of a business created by for woman, for several reasons the project did not do well, and the two partners left, the remaining partners decided to start looking for answers, what went wrong?   What could we have done differently? We had a mess, financially, legally, we wanted to learn from our mistakes and try again and that’s when my partner Anika, was told by a
friend about the Polk Institute and Gary Polk. We sign up, had an interview, and we got in.

  • Please tell us one of your best success stories.  

At the Polk Institute I am acquiring the knowledge and the tools to become a real entrepreneur. My business partners and I, are already putting these tools and knowledge in practice and very soon we will open our new business venture, Nik and Ro.

  • What is your top benefit of being with the Polk Institute?

  I will say that this is more than that, it is realizing that if education is expensive, ignorance is catastrophic. During the course I learned that I was not an entrepreneur, I owned my job, and it is a big difference. 

The unlimited access to an incredible team of very supportive and knowledgeable professional from all different business area, people who are willing to share their wisdom regardless of skin color or social, economic, or cultural differences.


  •  Please give us one of your favorite quotes:

Failure is an incredible opportunity to revise our goals, as long as we don’t give up.

INTRODUCING: Jeffrey Heubusch…Chief Marketing Officer for the Polk Institute…

Jeffrey has a background in marketing and communications, business development and senior management. He is the founder of JCH Consulting Group.  He has worked with six other nonprofit organizations and consulted with about seventy or more nonprofit organizations through the years. Besides nonprofit organizations, Jeffrey worked in education, law, real estate and all combined make up about 15 different organization that he has consulted with.  In most of nonprofit organizations, he worked as a volunteer with a heart open to help communities.

The second part of his career has been the corporate side, primarily in technology firms, based in the United States and Europe. He has over 30 years of experience overall. On a family level, Jeffrey has one beautiful daughter who just received her MBA in May, and a loving wife of 25 years. Jeffrey and wife are both born and raised in the Washington D .C. area. 

 Top Quote by Jeffrey

“The Polk Institute is run and controlled by great leaders” according to Jeffrey,  “Great leaders are those who inspire, help individuals, small and larger teams to maximize their personal and team efforts.”

Jeffrey’s goals for the Polk Institute…

  • Jeffrey’s marketing goals align with the organizational mission and vision of the Polk Institute, to serve social entrepreneurs help make the world a better place and to launch 1,000 social entrepreneur…SHIPS by 2032.    
  • Working with a world class and talented marketing team consisting of Devon Blaine, Alice Taylor, Jason Clark, and Lillianna Najera.  It is Jeffrey’s goal to create the  best possible marketing, communication, and development strategies through technology. He wants Pi to be that innovation-driven enterprise that Gary has  quoted often..
  • In terms of social media outreach, improving our website, working with customer relations management systems is another key goal for Jeff.  
  • Finally Jeff wants to credit our existing marketing team for being so talented and dedicated to the Pi brand and cause before his arrival
  • The second goal that Jeffrey has is to build awareness that makes the Polk Institute a household name nationally, then globally.
    • His team is looking for media exposure, partners They must remember that Pi Cohort targets underrepresented Black and Brown entrepreneurs as their main audience, so finding talented volunteers to serve as trainers, mentors, and business supporters and other organizations who want to partner with the Pi is critical to our sustainability. 
  • Finally, he has a goal to pull together all the experience of these people and make it a seamless process. Making sure that everything is customized and thrilling especially to those who are going to join Pi. 

How is the Pi important to Jeffrey?

At a professional level: 

  • The Polk Institute can be a lifeline for the betterment of America’s society and economy, especially for our targeted Black and Brown people. 
    • The Polk Institute helps people to participate in their communities, lifting startups and small business to grow, help people create business legacies that will put food on their tables for generations to come.
    • Under his leadership, the team will also  help in creating a global interface for Pi and a betterment of society.

At a personal level: 

  • Jeffrey appreciates being with the Polk Institute and the time taken to help people especially those coming to ask for assistance relating to business development and advancement of their businesses and communities. 
Michael Manahan - CFO

INTRODUCING Mike Manahan, Co-Founder & CFO Polk Institute.

Michael Shawn Manahan was born in Vancouver, Canada.

Mike’s  background


I immigrated to the United States (legally) in 1990 with my wife and two daughters. Like many, I came to the US seeking economic opportunity. It just seemed to me at the time that there were more opportunities to earn money and create wealth in the US than in my home country. Thankfully the US has provided me with over 30 years of income earning opportunities, including work as a CFO, consultant, author and educator.  I am also very lucky to have worked with about 200 management teams, and met a lot of very wonderful people.  Like many immigrants I came to the US for the opportunity, but I have now come to appreciate that the opportunity is a function of the American system, and the American attitude, based on the fundamentals of personal freedom and liberty, and the belief that everyone is entitled to participate in American prosperity.

How did you connect with the Polk Institute?

I was fortunate enough to meet Professor Polk at California State University where we are both professors.  At the time Gary was heading up the South Bay Entrepreneurial Center and he recruited me to help the Center with its programs.  Later I helped Gary with a number of programs and events when he was heading up the Innovation Incubator at the University.  When Gary suggested that I join him in founding the Polk Institute, it was just a natural extension of our common interests.

Mike’s  View on Ethics

Unfortunately, I see a decline in the moral and ethical behavior of Americans, from the people in government and the board room, to the people on the factory floor. While we have always had characters that behaved poorly, it seems there are more of those than ever before. I am not sure why this is happening, but this moral and ethical decline will not bode well for America, or the world. Ethics begins with a clear understanding of right and wrong, and we seem to have blurred those lines. It’s not okay for one person to behave poorly, because of that person’s background and circumstances, but it is okay for another person to behave poorly, because of that person’s background or circumstances. The fallacy of many people is that they think you can somehow legislate ethics – as if some words in a statute will make people act in an ethical manner.  It doesn’t work that way. Ethical and moral behavior comes from self-regulating one’s own desires, beliefs and actions. Each of us, regardless of what the politicians and so-called leaders do, have a responsibility to conduct ourselves morally and ethically, and even further, to ensure what we do is done in a way that it avoids the perception of unethical behavior or conflict of interest. The good news is that I believe that when people act ethically and morally, it rubs off on other people. Doing the right thing sets an example. Other’s take note and follow suit. Each of us needs to set the moral and ethical example for those in our circle of influence to follow.

Mike’s success story!

I have had thousands of successes.  Those successes include raising two wonderful daughters, starting a number of businesses, writing books, running three marathons, reading a ton of great books, helping many companies and management teams achieve their goals, earning the trust and friendship of many tremendous people, I helped one government agency put two public company executives in jail for stealing shareholder money and help another government agency put a controller in jail also for stealing money, and so many other things.  However, along with those successes I have had plenty of failures.  I have lost money on business deals, gotten fired from jobs, failed to complete my doctoral program, and had a civil suit filed against me by Uncle Sam.  I have a drawer full of stock certificates in what I thought were great companies that are totally worthless.  I think my greatest success is really my attitude – the fact that even when things have been their darkest, I was always confident things would get better.   

What is the top benefit of being with Polk Institute?

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey.  Yet research shows that both learning, and business success are enhanced through collaboration and team activity. Entrepreneurs often struggle because their advisors, partners and employees often have vested interests, and thus their advice contains bias. The Polk Institute allows entrepreneurs to associate with and learn with other entrepreneurs, educators and successful people who have already made the mistake and learned things the hard way.  The top benefit of the Polk Institute is that the collaborative learning community approach should allow the savvy entrepreneur to significantly increase his or her chances of success.

Mikes Quote:

According to Mike:  “We can best help people by adhering to the fundamental concept that individuals, pursuing their own economic interests in free markets, will create more prosperity for more people than can ever be achieved through government regulations and a planned economy.”


Grecia Iniquez - Director Cohort Recruting
  1. Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience?

Hi there! 🙂 I am from SoCal and have been in learning and development and training for the last decade. I work with several joint programs in California including CSULB, LBCC and Fortune 100 and 500 companies. I develop curriculum, programs, teach and train for both in person and online for 5-150+ people.

I love traveling, adventures and trying different foods while learning about new places and cultures. 

I assist with recruiting, marketing, and financial literacy here at Pi.  I look forward to hearing about the new business models people will implement this year and how new solutions are being created to better our lives.


  1. How did you connect with the Polk Institute?

Good people find good people lol! I was connected via our very own Alix Williams! 


  1. What is your success story?

It’s still in process! Ha, but I do define success by both soft indicators such as feeling passionate and joyful about what you do, but also by crushing personal financial targets. I am so blessed to have found a field that I love and am excited about everyday. Helping people achieve their goals and connecting them to resources is super rewarding for me. I have a great schedule, lots of flexibility and my success lies within growing the programs and courses I create each year!


  1. What is the top benefit of being with the Polk Institute?

I have to pick just one?! Ha, honestly, I love seeing everyone living their best life. I hear amazing business pitches, solutions, and passions that people have. It’s great to be a part of a team full of leaders living their full potential. I also get direct mentorship and advice myself when needed from our very own Gary Polk and the rest of the leadership team! Lastly, I also love the annual summer bash 🙂


  1. Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.


My name is Kelly Mangundu, I’m a Zimbabwean by nationality, currently living in South Africa. My charismatic parents taught me to constantly go for it, and my desire has always been to own my own company and be in charge. I pondered the question,…

“Why not develop something new that can affect the communities and people around me,” after earning my bachelor’s degree in 2019. I got the notion to create a drop shipping business, but I had no funds to do so or to pay for website subscriptions. Meeting business-minded individuals like Gary L. Polk inspired me to work harder and more effectively. I’m now striving to launch a business that will change lives and have a good influence (AllstarSoya).

172 (correction from Newsletter article, yes 172 is correct) foster kids (2 girls) who have come through our home. I am a twin, which created some problems, but that’s another story. My father a professor of psychology and my mother a legendary homemaker. I had many jobs throughout my life but the best experiences were being a probation officer and a substitute teacher in the criminal justice system. Oh, I can’t forget my acting journey, which was eye-opening, character building, embarrassing, and short lived but helpful in many ways (public speaking). Years later I decided to use the behavioral techniques I learned over the years to create a business where I could reach more people. The business was called Final Step International. A personal and professional company that helps people overcome old nagging limiting beliefs, stereotypes, in order to fulfill one’s natural God-given talent.

Tracey Brown - Facilitator, Mental Fitness for Entrepreneurs

My name is Tracey Brown, I was born and raised in Southern California and still live here. I was a pretty happy kid and loved to swim and be in the ocean…

I’m told I always had a positive outlook when I was young, even after I was severely burned at the age of 8 years old. I call that time my first “remembered” trauma. The accident required a long hospital stay and 10 years of surgeries that were needed as I grew. I was in student government and a good athlete in High School, 4 years varsity in 3 different sports, I tell people I “played big” even though on a good day I’m 5’2” My sports were volleyball, basketball and softball. At the age of 21 I joined the US Coast Guard. I went to boot camp in January 1983 and by March of that year I was stationed at Group San Francisco underneath the Oakland Bay Bridge. (which I believe is no longer a functioning Coast Guard Base) I was a small boat crew member and the swimmer when someone needed to go into the water for a rescue or recovery. These were the days before the Coast Guard had a swimmers school, in fact shortly after I was re-assigned locations, the Coast Guard began using the Navy swimmer’s school until they built their own. After I was stationed in San Francisco I went back East for school and was trained in marine safety, these were the early days of the Environmental Protection Agency and we worked closely with them on oil spills and environmental issues as well as safety of life at sea. Today, I wear a few hats author/speaker/facilitator as well as continuing my Scar Tissue Therapy in a part time capacity.

Tell us about yourself and your experiences: I’m a LA native and Mother of two;  Ameena (17) and Tealynn (10).  I am a proud Alumni of CSU Dominguez Hills (BA: Communications: Public Relations) and CSU Los Angeles (MA: Communication Studies).  I began my insurance career in 2005 as an Allstate Claims Trainee.  I spent 15 years and seven months as an Allstate employee, where I learned how insurance contributes to the health and stability of our communities and economy.  My first 12 years was  in the Claims department, where I led multiple adjuster teams to include the most severe Litigation and Attorney-Represented cases.   In 2016, I was promoted to the Operation Claims Service Leader for the CA Regional Claims Department.  In that role, I was responsible for managing the budget, staffing and operations for the Claims offices that consisted of 1200 employees in the state of California.  In 2017, I began my training and licensing to become a Field Sales Leader.   As a leader, consultant and coach, I was responsible for leading a team of business owners to the finish line each year.  In 2019, I was assigned as the Field Sales Leader for the 39 Exclusive agents located in the South Bay Los Angeles Area. The annual earned premium for these agencies amounted to over 160 million and I was able to lead the market to achieving, stated plans in Auto, Specialty Lines, and Homeowners. In 2021, I began my entrepreneurship journey by purchasing Sam Bingham’s Allstate agency in Westchester.  I have hired and trained over 12 sales professionals, while retaining 91.33 % of the customer base, growing 9.66% and finishing 2021 as the top agent in the market.  Today, the Harvey-Egans Insurance agency is the only Allstate agency owned by a black woman in Los Angeles County .  Our mission is to help customers understand what they must do to protect themselves with adequate insurance and to provide education and financial preparation.  Education begins inside the agency, ensuring that each member of the team understands protection and the financial ramification when there is a lack of proper protection.  Our team is customer-focused and driven to grow the business.

How did you connect with the Polk Institute? Gary called me to connect one of his students interested in starting an insurance agency.  He completed a virtual introduction and after discussing my background he invited me to attend the Legacy cohort meeting.

What is your success story? Finishing top in the market as a new agent is definitely a success,  but I’m reminded often that I’m here for a reason. When I’m able to educate and increase protection levels for long-time customers, I feel relieved.  But when my native Los Angeles people call or come by and say, “I had to make sure you are real,” or “I’m so proud of you,”  the level of joy is unmeasurable!

What is the top benefit of being with the Polk Institute? I truly enjoy  the transparent environment, where we discuss and problem solve.  Everyone is so vulnerable and willing to share and embrace.  This cohort was something I didn’t know I needed.  I have developed and grown so much as a leader and entrepreneur.

Would you give us one of your favorite quotes?  “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work Hard”

It’s a reminder that we all have everything that we need.  We have to focus, strategize, use our resources and work hard!



6820 La Tijera Blvd Ste 104 Los Angeles CA 90045

310-338-8003 office  CA License #0L91408

For product disclosure and other information, visit

Lillianna Najera - Social Media / Newsletter

I am from So-Cal and I am currently getting my bachelors in business administration with a concentration in marketing at CSUDH. I am currently working at a restaurant while I do part time work with the Polk Institute. With my degree, I hope to either create my own management company or become a freelancer myself. I like traveling, tuning into my creative side, and being outdoors. I create social media content for the Polk Ise Instagram account. I also create the two newsletters that get posted every month. I look forward to what the future has in store for me, both in my education and in my career.

Stacey Okutake /Mas & Nobu
Alice Taylor - Director of Fundraising
I’m a third generation Baker. My grandparents started the bakery/restaurant in 1956. In 1980 my mom and brother took over and put the emphasis solely on baking Southern style desserts for the community. In 2008 myself alone with my husband and sister, took over the bakery.  Today the bakery has over 100 Mom and Pop eateries and delivers too 21 well-known grocery stores throughout the Los Ángeles area.  
I attended UCLA and I have a degree in sociology. I spent the last 25 years coaching Track and Field. My experience as a professional athlete and coach has given me the drive, focus and determination to push the bakery forward. I grew up at the bakery, being around my grandparents and my mom and brother has given me the love that I have to continue this legacy.
I’ve been involved with the Polk Institute for about a year. We meet every month and it’s a learning experience for me every time I’m there.  Being around other CEOs is comforting, as well as challenging.
The Bakery‘s best success stories was naming our Pecan and Sweet Potato Pecan pies after my mother and brother.  Our pecan pies are named after my mom, Alberta’s Old Fashion Pecan Pie.  We soon came up with the name Greg’s old-fashioned Sweet Potato Pecan Pie, named after my brother Greg.   Naming the pies after them was a way to honor their sacrifice and vision for the bakery.
The benefit of being with the Polk Institute is the camaraderie you have with other CEOs of businesses. You never feel judged, but encouraged. Being with the group is a wealth of information.
Favorite quote.
The future is now, not a year from now.
Terri Batch - Advisory Board CHAIR
For the past 20 years I have worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, supporting U.S. businesses with exporting their products and services. I’ve worked with a variety of industry sectors, such as architecture and engineering, food companies, and advanced manufacturing.  I also have supported small businesses exporting products to China. I have served as a Global Team Leader for the Design & Construction Sector and the Global China Team.  I am currently supporting historically underserved business communities with exporting as the Director of the Global Diversity Export Initiative.
 I serve as the chairperson of Polk Institute’s Advisory Board.
One of my best success stories happened recently.  In December, I planned and executed two events on the margins of the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington, DC.  The events were to support African diaspora companies with business opportunities on the continent.  We very successfully engaged with the National Black Chamber of Commerce for an event that focused on creative economy exports to Africa. I planned another event for African diaspora businesses in the main Commerce building in Washington, DC.  This event which featured an African diaspora panel and an audience of majority African diaspora companies was the first time this type of event occurred at the Department of Commerce main auditorium.  Many connections were made, and the two events laid the groundwork for further engagement on the African continent this year.
One of the top benefits of being with the Polk Institute is the opportunity to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The Polk Institute is a place where Founders and Business Leaders can gain the skills that are needed to be successful in their business endeavors. I am proud of the work that the Polk Institute is involved in and proud to be a part of the team that supports businesses in South Los Angeles.
One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
My name is Nika Cherrelle and I own The House of Cherrelle. The House of Cherrelle is a social enterprise that focuses on all aspects of sexual health and awareness. We create a world free from the shame. Our mission is to empower everyone to enjoy their sexuality.
This is our 12 year in business the first 10 years were spent in development, both of the products and of myself. In the last two years we have moved into distribution.
I have no formal business education or training. My background is in fine arts, which has given me the vision and creativity to build the organization that I have.
I am a proud member of the Polk Institute ‘s second cohort. I am using this incubator program as a way to scale my business from a simple one person operation to a fundable company. Since I began working with Polk Institute , I have developed a much deeper understanding of the intricacies of business practices, and how to grow my company’s revenues and scale our operations.
My proudest moment in business is when I shipped out the very first product. Years of development and research and study. All came down to this one moment. The day I got to make my very first customer smile. Many people believed in me before our company launched and it was the sweetest moment when I knew that I was sending something out that people have been waiting for.
My favorite part about the Polk Institute is the community. Not only is this a powerful Network of incredible individuals who are of the big things in the world, but this program also teaches us as entrepreneurs how to be a part of our community how to give back and how to build strong connections. 
Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?
Unfortunately, I have two😄
Do not go where the path my lead, go where there is no path and blaze a trail -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Art is not a mirror to reflect the world but a hammer in which to shape it. -Vladimir Nabokov.

I am the founder, president CEO of The Blaine Group, Inc., and was named by the Los Angeles Business Journal recently as “one of the most influential marketers in Southern
California.” Formerly an actress and model, I established The Blaine Group, Inc., a Beverly
Hills-based full-service communications agency specializing in public relations, crisis
management, marketing and advertising. One of my career highlights was being elected as a delegate to the first White House Conference on Small Business, then appointed to the Second Conference by then U.S. Senator Pete Wilson. Then I was elected by my peers to co-chair the
California delegation.
As a total communications agency, we have implemented consumer, trade, and financial public
relations; investor relations; and advertising efforts and have provided marketing strategy, based
on conducting market research, for a diverse range of companies and organizations. We have also
created and managed special events and fundraisers and have directed community relations projects. In addition, The Blaine Group provides a variety of special communications services to its clients. These include managing crisis situations; conceiving and    coordinating seminars and
press conferences; event and party planning; developing master plans and collateral materials;
proposal, article, letter, and speech writing; conducting surveys; and publishing newsletters and
brochures. We both create and implement.
Today our client base encompasses a wide range of businesses and industries with particular
emphasis on business-to-business communications, publicly-held companies, technology-based
businesses, the medical and healthcare fields, environmental-related firms, consumer products,
publishing, fashion and beauty, continuing education, non-profit organizations and trade
associations, and the world of show business.

The Blaine Group has had the privilege of implementing public relations activities for the Polk Institute Foundation since its inception. That includes placing articles in the media, arranging
talk show and podcast interviews, speaking engagements, supporting its events, and all other. We
adore the management team and its commitment to its mission: “Serving Social Entrepreneurs to
Help Make the World a Better Place.” I enjoy interacting with the cohorts who are so committed to their businesses and the success thereof. Personally, I appreciate people who are passionate about what they do. That’s everyone surrounding the Polk Institute! Need I say more?

Success stories…there have been a few. I also put a high priority on figuring out what could go awry… and preventing it. I have learned a great deal about how to do that! Here’s one I frequently share with new team members… so they will start thinking, “What could go wrong? How do I prevent that?” Imagine having the responsibility for planning a reception for about 300 people in the newly redecorated California State Capitol Rotunda. Invited guests included all state legislators, delegates to the state conference on small business, and local media. Our client, Glendale Federal, that provided small business loans, was the host; their economist was set to speak. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it. What could possibly go wrong? Thinking about it the night before, it became obvious! I planned and packed accordingly for the trip to Sacramento the next morning.

Consider that:

*We’d invited all of the state senators and assembly representatives, the governor and
lieutenant governor. About 65% of them planned to attend.
*We’d invited the 200+ small business owners from throughout the state of California who
were delegates to the conference. We had positive RSVPS from 90% of them.
 Our reception was being held the night prior to the start of the three-day State Conference
on Small Business.
 We’d invited the local press and prepared a press kit that our client had approved. Copies
were assembled and would be available for the 10 to 15 members of the Sacramento media who indicated they’d attend.
* Because the event was being held in the beautifully-redecorated state capitol rotunda,
we’d worked with a number of vendors to arrange the party.
* Glendale Federal had purchased the wine in San Francisco at a good price. We’d advised that it be shipped in Coke or 7-Up cases so it would be received at the Capital building.
* A local caterer was providing the appetizers. I had worked with them to select the menu.
* The capital cafeteria was delivering ice.
* A constituent of the Assembly Small Business Committee Chair was providing wine glasses.

When the Vice President we reported to at Glendale Federal arrived, I walked him around. Everyone was setting up. It was beautiful. He was pleased. What could go wrong?

It was apparent to me, with all the disparate duties, that no one would take the responsibility for one item. I was correct. I possessed the only corkscrew!
My message to my team…, always be the one to remember the corkscrew! Or whatever is called for in the situation at hand.

As stated earlier, what I love most about working with the Polk Institute is all the terrific people we work with. I so appreciate their hard work and commitment. It makes all the effort not just
worthwhile but also rewarding.
Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?
I LOVE quotes so choosing just one is truly a challenge!
“If it is to be, it’s up to me,” definitely comes to mind.

1. Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business experience?
I am the Founder, CEO and CTO of Corp. an AI Building Optimization company. We use AI and Machine Learning to remotely connect to and optimize Retail and Commercial customers buildings, which enhances comfort and saves energy. Buildings use 40% of the energy in the world, and; absent a system like ours, typically waste 30% of that!
I have been in the building Automation industry for over 35 years, starting with Honeywell back in the late 80’s as a Field Service Technician.
2. How are you involved with the Polk Institute?
I am part of the legacy (CEO) Cohort at Polk Institute. 
3. Please tell us one of your best success stories.
Using AI we saved one of our retail customers with over 1,300 stores $2.1M last year! A tremendous undertaking and one of the largest projects of its kind.
4. What is your top benefit of being with the Polk Institute?
Interaction with other owners/CEOs. They serve as a “sounding board” of peers. Gary Polk likes to always say “It’s lonely at the top!”. This is true. Polk Institute gives us business leaders a “safe” place to share our individual experiences, both business as well as personal; at times.
5. Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?
Regarding AI and Automation:
“The Factory of the Future will have two employees. A man. And a dog. The man is there to feed the dog. And the dog is there to make sure that the man doesn’t touch the equipment”
Warren Bennis

1. Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business experience?

I have over 25 years of business experience working with various companies ranging from small “mom and pop” businesses to large multinational corporations.  I have run operations with 5 to 100 employees. 


My current position is the principal attorney/owner of Paxterra Law PC, a boutique law firm that works with companies and entrepreneurs in areas of business/corporate compliance, litigation, tax, and estate planning.


2. How are you involved with the Polk Institute?

I am the general counsel for Polk Institute.  I also teach the Legal Basics course.


3. Please tell us one of your best success stories.

We had a client who was running an international business, and where the IRS had disregarded all the taxes she paid overseas.  The first attorney abandoned the case after a year without helping, and the client had been languishing with garnishments and liens on their home for several years.  While it took over a year, we were able to help the client resolve the situation, and now the IRS owes our client money and has to pay it back with interest. 


4. What is your top benefit of being with the Polk Institute?

Helping small business owners realize that they have a lot more options and paths to success than they think they do.


5. Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?

“If you can’t answer why you’re doing something, you haven’t thought it through yet.”

Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your business experience?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA.  I grew up in Venice Beach area of LA and loved the beach vibe as a youngster.  To this day I still enjoy taking a walk on the boardwalk.  An ideal day would be to take a walk with loved ones. 

I joined the US Navy at age 22 to “see the world” in 2002 and that I did.  My boyhood dream was to join and serve in the military.  I was Inspired to join by watching war movies and documentaries.  While I have enjoyed many war movies, my two favorite war movies are “Blackhawk Down” and “My Brothers War.”  Platoon was also very good. 

I Served for five years and worked my way up from a Deck Seaman to a Gunner’s Mate.

My favorite military memory was many, but to pick one would be sailing into Norway during deployment and seeing Norway up close for the first time was, “pretty awesome.”     


How are you involved with the Polk Institute?

I am a member of Pi Cohort-2 program.  I am the CEO & Founder of Salty Sailor and working on the development of a video game that specializes in accessible hardcore first-person shooters (FPS).



Please tell us one of your best success stories.


Pulling into Croatia aboard the USS Hue City (only ship named a battle in Vietnam) and experiencing the culture of Croatia was amazing. Aside from the beautiful women, the environment, and friendly people. The food was good, and the cost was better.   I remember standing guard shack and one of the Croatian soldiers taught me how to talk to Croatian women. 


What is your top benefit of being with the Polk Institute?

The quality of training and education on a Tuition-Free basis is great.  Everyone at Pi seems to care about me and my cohort members.  Facilitators have real-world experience and transfer their knowledge and experience.  Also, the comrade developed between my classmates is awesome.  The bonding, mutual support of helping each other is amazing.   


Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?

“Treat others as you like to be treated” (The golden rule)

Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your business experience?

 I am the Founder of Sellion Brand Development, creator of the ‘Get the Money Right’ seminar for new product entrepreneurs, the ForeCal Forecasting Tool, New Product Express wholesale selling platform and co-founder of CannaMax brands.  

Currently I serve as Managing Partner at Sellion LLC., a Business Growth & Development agency founded in 2002 as a platform to help companies & entrepreneurs bring their new product ideas to market. The versatility demanded in my responsibilities over my 35-year career has required a deep portfolio of skills coupled with a combination of training and hands-on experience in a variety of disciplines.

I am a veteran of the US Marine Corps, having had the privilege of serving our country honorably.    

How are you involved with the Polk Institute?

I am a Subject Matter Expert with a concentration on the retail marketplace, sales & distribution.  

Please tell us one of your best success stories.

Most recently, working with Femi-Secrets to expand their distribution into Ahold (Giant Foods).  

What is your top benefit of being with the Polk Institute?

I have the opportunity to share my experiences & relationships to help entrepreneurs succeed.  

Would you please give us one of your favorite quotes?

“Everything You’ve Ever Wanted is on the Other Side of Fear” – George Addair (American Philosopher)