CEO & President of Black Momma Brands Discussed Path to Entrepreneurship with SUNY Students

Vanessa Braxton reflects on building the first African-American owned and operated vodka brand, product expansion, and staying connected to her home state of New York

Brentwood, NY – On April 19, Vanessa Braxton, CEO and president of Black Momma Brands a division of B4MC Group, Inc., participated in the Suffolk County Community College’s Keeping the Dream Program Panel Discussion on Adversity, Leadership, and Success.

Joined by Owen Watford, business development manager of Retlif Testing Laboratories, and Steve DiArchangel, general manager for U.S. Lock a Division of Home Depot, Inc., more than a dozen students learned about the real-world equivalent of perseverance in the face of adversity.

“The panelists were selected based upon their particular expertise and charisma. Vanessa was specifically chosen for her success as an entrepreneur in the business world,” said Jason Cascone, assistant director of the Career and Transfer Center at the Michael J. Grant Campus of Suffolk County Community College. “Mrs. Braxton exuded an unbridled, straightforward passion to making her dreams, her family’s dreams, and the dreams of her employees come true. She offered the concept that business does not need to be devoid of values, and, in fact, for her, her values seem to come first.”

Led by Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Suffolk Community College Dr. Hector Sepulveda and Jason Cascone, the Keeping the Dream Program is an all-volunteer program where administrators and staff come together throughout the school year to cover topics of concern, conduct skill-building workshops, and mentor students.

“It was an honor to be invited to speak as a panelist for the Keeping the Dream Program,” said Braxton. “For more than fouryears, I’ve been building and expanding Black Momma Vodka which has led to the evolving Black Momma Brands. Through immense success and some shortfalls, my company has grown by leaps and bounds. The opportunity to share, what that journey has been like so far, was a full circle experience for me. Not only did I get to share my experience, I had the chance to hear the students’ experiences and goals.”

Mrs. Braxton attended public schools in Brooklyn, NY before earning a B.S. in Construction Management and Engineering from Pratt Institute. She later participated in the New York Executive Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and Consortium with MIT.

Before retiring, she worked in Corporate America and the Government Industry managing construction and engineering contracts worth more than $350 million dollars annually.

In February 2013, she launched Black Momma Brands with a signature line of vodka. Mrs. Braxton became the first African-American woman to be an owner-operator of nationally distributed vodka in the U.S. Since then, the company has grown to include Black Momma Mixers, Black Momma Teas, and Black Momma Flavored Agave.

“When I launched Black Momma Vodka, I had a clear vision of the product I wanted to create and deliver; a vodka smooth enough to stand on its own but strong enough to improve any cocktail. I wanted vodka as consistent in quality as I am and I went after that vision. Four years later, I don’t regret anything I’ve done or been through to get here.”

“[Mrs. Braxton] fit the description of a leader and a conqueror over adversity,” said Dr. Sepulveda. “She demonstrated how, through adversity and hard work, success does come to those that do not give up. She is a living example of everything the students were training for and taught throughout the year.”

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