How Coca-Cola is helping women get in the game of running a successful business

Eyvon Austin

Coca-Cola knows a lot of its consumers are entrepreneurs, which is why it started an online program in 2011 to give female business owners resources to help them break through barriers in business. Coca-Cola rep Eyvon Austin was in Birmingham today to discuss the program, which has a goal is to empower 5 million women around the globe by 2020.  (Photo: Chanda Temple)




By Chanda Temple 

In between a DJ cranking out beats and hair stylists creating coiffures at the Sixth Annual Natural Hair and Health Expo today, several hundred attendees were getting down to business – the business of being in business for themselves.

“If you are not at the top of your game in business, find someone who is,” said Eyvon Austin, programs director of supplier diversity for Coca-Cola North America. She was one of several speakers present to discuss how to be better in business. One way of doing that, Austin says, is to check out Coca-Cola’s STEP program (Supplier Training and Empowerment Program). It offers free, online training and resources to help women business owners with leadership, financial management, advocacy and more. The plan is part of the company’s bigger initiative, the 5 by 20 campaign, which aims to empower 5 million women around the globe by 2020.

“We hope that by providing these free tools and resources, it will give the next entrepreneur an opportunity to say,  ‘Hey, I can make this. I can do this,’ ” Austin said. “And then that empowers them to give that same level of empowerment to others.”

During part of her presentation, Austin discussed six ways women can transform their leadership in business. A main point: It comes from within.

Coca-Cola was one of the sponsors for the Sixth Annual Hair and Health Expo at the BJCC on March 11. (Photo by: Chanda Temple)

Coca-Cola was one of the sponsors for the Sixth Annual Hair and Health Expo at the BJCC on March 11. (Photo by: Chanda Temple)

Believe in yourself

If you don’t believe in what you are doing, how will others believe in it? You must engage the heart.

Have a compelling vision

Your vision sets you apart from the competition. Your vision has to be something that others believe in.

Have a winning team

Make sure that those rooting for you really want you to win. Look for those people inside and outside your family circle.

Instill collaboration

You can’t do it all by yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


Coca-Cola was a sponsor for today’s hair show. Pamela Cook, media and promotions manager for Coca-Cola of Birmingham, said it was important for the company to have a presence at today’s event because the company believes in serving the community. “We want to engage with you. We want to be where you are,” she said. “This hair show was important for our consumers, so it was important for us to be here as well. Every time you buy a Coke product, it really does reinvest back into the community.”


Invest in development

It’s important to stay up on the latest trends in your industry. How can you be better at what you do in your business and for your business? Also, stay on top of what you are doing in business.

Serve, then sell

Are you advocating outside of your business? Give back to the community. You never know who’s around you and listening when you are volunteering. People listen. Make sure that what they are hearing about you is good in any setting.

Other tips from Austin:

  • As an entrepreneur, you have to step up to your calling and take the lead. It’s not just enough to look up the stairs. You have to step up the stairs.
  • Don’t let other companies see your fear. Walk into your business and own it. Still lost on what to do? Find a mentor.
  • Join organizations that are in your industry. Check out the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the Small Business Administration, etc. Also, look into SCORE, which has retired business people ready to help you with your business plan, business ideas, mentoring and more. Go here to find a chapter in your area.
  • Remember to: Network. Network. Network.
  • Go online and Google “resources for small business owners.” See what’s out there from the convenience of your laptop, phone or computer. It’s FREE information.
  • Shut out the negativity. Negativity can drain you. And if you are drained, that’s not good for your business or for you. Also, take a hard look at what’s bringing the negativity into your life. Is it family, friends, a relationship, finances, etc? Review the cause and develop an approach to handle it. Your business and your life require balance.

At the end of Austin’s presentation, Coca-Cola held a drawing for one person to receive concert tickets to the Birmingham FunkFest in May and to the Steel City Jazz Fest in June in Birmingham. The winner was business owner Antwanae Thompson of AGB Ministries. The AGB stands for All things to glorify God, Buddy.”

Prior to today, Thompson said she had not heard about the STEP program. But now she’s ready to learn more. “This presentation will help me be more independent and help me with my entrepreneurial skills,” she said.

Chanda Temple is a veteran reporter now working in public relations. She blogs at Follow her on Twitter at @chandatemple.

Hair stylists display their skills at the hair show. (Photo by: Chanda Temple)

Hair stylists display their skills at the hair show. (Photo by: Chanda Temple)

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