From Fashionista to Businesswoman
Then, last summer, she was approached to head up the new Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Black Chamber of Commerce. Since then, Thomas has organized a variety of workshops and events, including a meet-and-greet with Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje and Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber. "What I find is that [for] a lot of the African-American population, you have to bring things to them," she says. "A lot of people don't know how to research the Internet, or they don't know how to strategically prospect out resources or things like that."
Small businesses must be at least 51 percent black owned to join the chamber, although larger corporations like Google have also partnered with the organization. So far Thomas has recruited around fifty member businesses, including Joyful Treats Catering, LegalShield, and law firms McCoy and Associates and TGQ Law. "She's trying to make it something that will matter," says TGQ owner Terrence Quinn. "She's not just doing it to make another small networking group." Thomas says the Black Chamber is "definitely a second job"--forty hours of work per week--in addition to her full-time work for Farmers.
Mementoes from her days in celebrity fashion line the walls in her office conference room, and a signed photo of Beyonce ("Anistia--Thanks for the bathing suits!") sits on her desk. But Thomas says that phase of her life is over--she turned down an offer to design for Michael Jackson's planned 2009 farewell tour.