Support for Success
Chasiti Shepherd - BGrace Media LLC Dr. Diana Gray - DSG Business Consulting Services Jacqueline McKinney - Community.com Terika Thompson - Clintac Clinical Consulting September MBJ - Home
By Minnie Lamberth
Supporting and strengthening female entrepreneurs in the capital city is a core element of The Lab on Dexter’s mission.
The Lab on Dexter opened on August 30, 2021, at 150 Dexter Avenue as a collaborative learning environment for entrepreneurs, tech and innovation professionals and others who simply wish to work in an innovative environment. “We’re at the intersection of tech and entrepreneurship,” explained Executive Director Dr. Nichole Thompson. “We’ve had a full menu of offerings over the past year. As we gear up to celebrate our one-year anniversary, we are developing more offerings to meet the needs of our community. Those programs will be for an early-starter entrepreneur and some programs will be for those who are already in business but may just need some support to close education gaps or scale their business.”
There are several impressive women business owners and professionals who are taking advantage of the Lab’s education and business development programs as well as other resources, and The Lab welcomes the opportunity to provide support for their work. “If you look at the statistics and data of business owners who started businesses during COVID, women were the leading force in those entrepreneurship efforts,” Thompson said. “We want to make sure we provide support for women leaders.”
Behind the Benefits
Co-working space is just one of the offerings available to women-owned businesses at The Lab. Meet the ladies currently making use of its multiple resources and learn more about what they do.
Chasiti Shepherd is president of B Grace Media, a public relations and marketing agency founded in Birmingham in 2012 that expanded to Montgomery in 2022. “We like to say that we’re transcultural story tellers, and we connect brands with people and get them talking,” Shepherd said. “We have all types of clients,” she added. “We work with organizations from pediatricians to politicians, and anybody in between.” This past January, the agency opened its second location with a move into office space at The Lab on Dexter.
With different types of businesses already at The Lab, Shepherd said, “It sounded like a prime opportunity for us to have office space and also network.” Her team has since been establishing itself in the community, making connections with the Chamber as well as local government and schools. “We’ve made some great connections and networked with some phenomenal people,” she said. “The goal is to stay in The Lab for at least two years and then just start looking for real estate to buy an office space downtown,” Shepherd added.
Check out more here: B Grace Media, bgrace.media
Dr. Diana Gray moved her DSG Business Consulting Services into The Lab on Dexter in December 2021 as a location for clients to meet with her for training and other startup support. Her mission, she said, is to “be a role model to other business owners or those who aspire to be business owners, especially those who are trying to transition from their 9-5 job like I did,” she said. “I brand myself as a ‘Passionpreneur.’ I believe in monetizing your passion,” Gray added.
Gray, who began her consulting work in 2016, has a long track record of following her passions. In 2006, she launched Arts in Motion, now known as Montgomery Arts Academy, which provides music instruction for preschoolers through adults. Currently housed at its West Third Street location, Gray said that it started as an afterschool music program. “When I transitioned from full-time teaching in Montgomery, I made it a full-time shop for myself.” Gray is a graduate of Huntingdon College and has earned additional degrees from Auburn, Jacksonville State, Liberty University and Northcentral University of Phoenix.
Check out more here: DSG Business Consulting Services, dianasgray.com
Jacqueline McKinney works for a start-up company based in Santa Monica, California, called Community.com. “Community provides leaders—we call our clients leaders—direct access to their fans,” McKinney said. That leader could be a musician, actor, politician or even a company—as long as they have fans or followers who opt to keep in touch through text messaging. McKinney is a software engineer. “I build out the features and software that run the platform,” she explained. She accomplishes these duties in Montgomery, operating out of coworking space at The Lab on Dexter, which provides her with a touch of her own community for her virtual work.
A graduate of Lee High School, McKinney earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Tuskegee University, where she was also in the ROTC. After a brief military career, she started her professional career in Ohio, then moved to Boston. “The most foundational piece of my career was working at Raytheon in the Boston area,” McKinney said. She was there for nine years, which included time for her to get her master’s at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After her career in Boston, she decided to come back home.
Check out more here: community.com
Terika Thompson classifies Clintac Clinical Consulting as “a very niche business.” Thompson provides project management and operational management on clinical trials for pharmaceutical and biotech companies. She’s been in this field for about 15 years, having gotten her start running clinical trials at a gynecology practice in Montgomery. “Then I went to work for a biotech company directly monitoring their clinical trials or doing quality management for their clinical trials, and it was just a natural progression from there.” Along with her work experience, she earned bachelor’s in biology and master’s in chemistry.
Since February 2022, Thompson has been able to accomplish this work from co-working space at The Lab on Dexter. “It gives me a break from working in my home office, gives me a new environment to work in, and the opportunity to break the silence in my home and talk to other people who are working
remotely.” Even if they’re not in the same industry, they may be facing the same struggle of working remotely, she noted. Along with Wi-Fi, chair, desk and printing resources, she said, “There are meeting rooms available. I do deal with very sensitive information.”
Check out more here: Clintac Clinical Consulting