UPS’s Longitudes Radio takes you on the path to the future with industry leaders and influencers, authors and startup innovators chiseling away at the next big idea. Conversations dig into trending topics, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, as well as game-changing developments in e-commerce, sustainability, trade and logistics that are reshaping the global economy and the way we'll live in the world of tomorrow.
How Business Can Redefine the American Dream
We’re closing out our three-part podcast series exploring the Black business landscape by going back to the beginning — the founding of the United States — and examining a not-so-simple challenge: How do we rewire the American Dream for Black people?
To answer that question, we welcome Nat Irvin, Assistant Dean of Thought Leadership and Civic Engagement at the University of Louisville, to Longitudes Radio. Irvin argues that business is uniquely suited to dismantle systematic racism and fuel a more equitable society.
“The American Dream is being reborn. And I don't look at it as a negative at all. It's part of evolution,” Irvin explains. “But there's no guarantees that our democracy is going to work. History shows that democracies generally fade out. And so if ours is going to work, we're going to as a country have to embrace all of its citizens, and they have to be vested into the dream itself.”
One way to do that is through empowering Black entrepreneurs to follow their business dreams, giving them access to financial capital — and most importantly, the opportunity to recover from failure.
“If you look at the history of America … it's all about losing. It is all about failures,” he says. “All about businesses starting and failing. That's how we got America. It was all about people trying ideas, and they fail. But they got another shot.”
Given social unrest and a global pandemic, Irvin argues that it’s up to businesses to rise to the challenge of the moment. Business leaders can no longer sit on the sidelines and wait for societal change — they must articulate their values, bring stakeholders together and ultimately drive tangible action.
In fact, Irvin says a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic is the chance for a “fundamental reset,” an opportunity for us to reexamine what truly matters and how we’ll live in the world of tomorrow. An accelerant of such transformation, Irvin says, is enabling younger generations to redesign our social contract.
“I think that communities need to focus on the next generation of young minds,” he says. “That's where we've got to change the trajectory of America.”
If you missed it, check out part one in our podcast series on Black business, a conversation with former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. You can find part two, a chat with entrepreneur Yelitsa Jean-Charles, here.
What Can a Doll Teach Us About Black Business?
When Yelitsa Jean-Charles was a young girl, she didn’t see any dolls that looked like her. In fact, when her parents tried to give her a non-white doll, she cried because it wasn’t “the pretty one.”
She didn’t know it yet, but in that moment, a business was born.
Today Yelitsa is the founder of Healthy Roots Dolls, a toy company that creates dolls and storybooks to empower young girls and showcase the beauty of our diversity. In this episode of Longitudes Radio, part two in a three-part series on the Black business landscape, she shares her entrepreneurial journey and how those feelings of childhood disappointment ultimately paved the path for her future success.
“I grew up and started to feel less like a princess and more like a pumpkin because I didn't see people celebrated for having hair that looked like my own,” she remembers. “I saw an opportunity … with our Zoe doll and her powerful hair full of curl power.”
Like many aspiring entrepreneurs, at first, Yelitsa struggled. And she encountered skepticism about her ideas and her ability to translate that vision into a profitable company.
But she kept grinding, learning new skills, figuring out what worked — and what didn’t work. She aligned herself with mentors who believed in her business and supported products more representative of the people who ultimately purchase them.
Despite her successes, Yelitsa still has doubts, grappling with her place in a system that has long denied business opportunities to people of color.
“Even with all the accolades, even with all the traction, I still often question the validity of my business and the opportunities that I can pursue,” she admits.
Yelitsa remains hopeful that her story will inspire other women of color to pursue their business dreams.
“My goal in life, my purpose in life, is the liberation and economic freedom of Black women through education and financial literacy,” she says, goals she’s now achieving one doll at a time.
Ultimately, however, the long hours, lack of sleep, self-doubt and yes, triumphs, all bring Yelitsa back to her early days … without a doll that looked like her.
“What they're playing with,” Yelitsa says of children today “should represent the world and the people that they're going to interact with so that they can learn about others.”
If you missed it, check out part one in our podcast series on Black business, a conversation with former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
Black Business and Transportation Equity
Whether at the local or federal level, Anthony Foxx knows perhaps better than anybody how transportation can forever transform a community — for better or worse.
As U.S. Secretary of Transportation for President Barack Obama and the former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, Foxx strived to modernize the American transportation landscape, recognizing how such an agenda could serve as a great equalizer for communities of color.
“There’s a reason why we use the phrase ‘other side of the tracks,’” Foxx, now Chief Policy Officer at Lyft, says in this episode of Longitudes Radio. “These systems were used as dividers, and it’s very apparent when you go back into history … infrastructure was weaponized to reinforce the ideas of what was important in a city, who was important in a city and who wasn’t.”
The conversation with Foxx kicks off a three-part podcast series exploring how we can create more business opportunities for Black entrepreneurs — both today and tomorrow. In upcoming episodes, we’ll examine the Black business landscape through the eyes of an up-and-coming small business owner and take a more academic look at systematic, pervasive challenges unique to the Black business community.
As for Foxx, he highlights how the coronavirus pandemic brought certain policy challenges to the forefront, what has changed since his days in the Obama administration — and what hasn’t — and whether we’re on the verge of a truly breakthrough moment in the pursuit of a more just and inclusive society.
“There is a much richer conversation occurring in this country about racial unrest and the legacy of slavery and things that were subterranean,” Foxx says. “But they’re very much on the surface and in people’s minds today.”
And what about futuristic technologies like drones, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence? Foxx says we’re on the verge of a “transportation revolution,” a movement that will allow opportunistic businesses to pivot alongside society at large.
On a personal note, Foxx harkens back to his adolescent years, when he was told he had to be “twice as good” as his peers simply because of the color of his skin — and whether he still possesses that mindset as a father now.
“I don’t want him to feel like he has to be perfect,” Foxx says of his message to his 14-year-old son. “I want him to be comfortable being himself, and I want him to be comfortable saying what he thinks … if we can give our kids the gift of owning their perspective and their worldview and being comfortable in that, that would be a great step forward.”
Adaptive Tenacity and Small Business Resiliency amid Coronavirus
Connie Matisse had all kinds of plans for her business. Then coronavirus hit.
Like many entrepreneurs grappling with how to move forward during a global pandemic, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of East Fork faced a simple yet scary question: What’s next?
In this episode of Longitudes Radio, Matisse takes us behind the scenes of her Asheville, North Carolina-based pottery company, explaining exactly how the company switched gears to get ahead of the coronavirus crisis. It all began with one of the company’s core values, something East Fork founders refer to as “adaptive tenacity.”
“Our business has always been tenacious and very adaptive,” Matisse says, adding that pivoting quickly came naturally to her workforce. “Nobody has this preconceived notion of how business is supposed to be done.”
Such a mindset served the company well following the coronavirus outbreak, when in March, East Fork achieved its highest-grossing month since launching.
Matisse attributes that success to “running a business with crisis in mind since the beginning,” as well as nurturing and fostering a loyal and passionate customer base — a commitment on full display with the company’s more than 120,000 Instagram followers (she also shares some social marketing tips for small business owners looking to bolster their digital strategy).
What else can entrepreneurs learn from the East Fork experience during these disruptive times?
First, they need to be open and transparent with their own people. And now, more than ever, company values matter, as does customer feedback, which Matisse is using to reshape the East Fork of the future.
Matisse also shares some personal stories about trying to avoid burnout when the line between work life and personal life is blurrier than ever, dispels some myths about authenticity and finally, in the spirit of adaptive tenacity, reevaluates that newly complicated question: What’s next?
Healthcare logistics in the age of coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic is changing daily life as we know it. Society at large is grappling with how we live and work during a time when the only certainty is more uncertainty.
Behind the scenes, however, transportation and logistics workers move the healthcare supplies and medicines needed to fuel an effective response to a global problem.
Two experts with decades of healthcare logistics experience between them — UPS Healthcare President Wes Wheeler and Rob Feeney, CEO of Medvantx, a home delivery pharmacy — join Longitudes Radio to discuss the supply chain ramifications of coronavirus and other crises.
No longer an academic exercise, logistics leaders are responding in real time to a black swan event. They’re tackling questions of monumental importance: How to ensure medical deliveries for people and hospitals most in need? How to facilitate testing for coronavirus? And what is the role of telemedicine?
Logisticians are tapping into lessons from previous pandemics to get patients what they need, when they need it. They know if there’s any breakdown in the healthcare supply chain, it has a domino effect in communities spanning the globe — they must create a truly frictionless and transparent experience.
There are a number of factors, however, aiding healthcare logistics today, including the direct-to-patient supply chain and enhanced cold chain solutions. Such innovations are effectively moving healthcare from reactive to proactive, utilizing technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to anticipate needs before they even arise.
With its recent realignment, UPS Healthcare delivers high-quality visibility, tracking and management options for critical healthcare shipments. Wheeler and Feeney look at the “network within a network” for UPS Healthcare products and services, as well as how the company’s Medvantx partnership will drive in-home treatments.
Looking forward, they also explore the development of coronavirus vaccines and how UPS will evolve amid the pandemic. We know this much: Whether coronavirus or any future healthcare challenge, logistics will be at the center of the solution.
The Reality of Duality
Most of us don’t have just a single face. We have many different faces for different people and different environments.
But when we talk about diversity and inclusion in the corporate space, a common sentiment goes something like this: Bring your authentic self to work.
But really, who does that?
Nobody — at least not in those simplistic terms — argues UPS Executive Communications Manager Janet Stovall, chief speechwriter for CEO David Abney.
Stovall moderated a recent panel discussion at UPS’s headquarters on the topic of authenticity and duality and how the concepts overlap.
She chatted with UPS Chief Human Resources Officer Charlene Thomas, a leading figure in the company’s efforts to build a diverse workforce around the world in which employees reflect the communities they serve.
Stovall also spoke with Valerie Rainford, national diversity expert and author. As former head of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Leaders strategy, she oversaw a nearly 50-percent increase in black senior executives during her tenure.
In their wide-ranging conversation, the panel explores the nature of authenticity, common misconceptions about it and how the corporate world can incorporate duality to improve not just business but society at large.
Authenticity thrives in organizations truly committed to unlocking the power of diversity — a commitment, the corporate leaders remind us, evidenced by inclusion across every level of the organization.
Ultimately, the panel says, authenticity comes down to how you exhibit and communicate your duality to the world. They each speak to the all-too-common experience of being the only person who looks like them in a meeting, whether with colleagues or C-suite leaders.
But how do you leverage that experience to bring something to the room that nobody else can? How do you tap into your authentic self to create value for your company — and actually recognize and champion what makes you unique?
Really enjoyed listening
Thoughtful ideas and good conversation, looking forward to future episodes!
Update: I have been listening for 2 years now and I love the broad range of topics they discuss, I continue to learn new things. Keep up the good work!
Good conversation, thought provoking topics
Great stuff about the present and future of not only UPS, but the digital age and how it’s shaping supply chain and logistics for the future.
There is nothing wrong with diversity. It appears that the focus was on your ladies personal feelings. I have an Asian family and I don’t hear them complaining. Why doesn’t UPS focus and let us know about the new processes and less talk about the Blacks and Latinos being left out, anyone who works at UPS regardless of color truly works hard. Telling everyone your doing well with the 4 out of 11 - the emphasis should have been “we have a great UPS team of 11”. This was bathroom talk that should have happened at the local bar, not UPS podcast.