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Flying High: Rexy Rolle Changing the Game in the Airline Industry

NNPA NEWSWIRE — She’s climbed the corporate ladder, but nothing was handed to her – Rolle clearly has earned her wings. “My family instilled a very strong work ethic in me as a child. We strongly believe in the principle of big faith and hard work,” Rolle said.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Although she acknowledges setting “big goals,” Sherrexcia “Rexy” Rolle said the magic really happens in the small steps it takes to reach those ambitions.

“That’s where the victories are won, in your daily to do list,” said Rolle, whose boardroom and classroom accomplishments likely turn as many heads as her modelesque looks.

At 30, Rolle serves as vice president of operations and general counsel of Western Air Limited, her family’s company and the largest privately-owned airline in the Bahamas.

She’s climbed the corporate ladder, but nothing was handed to her – Rolle clearly has earned her wings. “My family instilled a very strong work ethic in me as a child. We strongly believe in the principle of big faith and hard work,” Rolle said.

Western Air, a commercial airline that operates daily scheduled and on-demand flights to major destinations throughout the Bahamas, including Nassau, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Bimini, Abaco, and San Andros, also provides charter services to the Caribbean, Central and South America.

In business since 2000, Western Air was founded by Rolle’s parents, Rex and Shandrice. The airline conducts an average of 42 flights per day, 365 days a year and has a team of 165 employees.

“My dad was a private pilot at the time and my mom was an international business major, just graduating college,” Rolle said.

“My Mom and I went to Andros for my great grandmother’s funeral and on our return, we were stuck at the airport for almost the entire day. I remember her and I saying, that there must be a better way to travel from one island to the next,” she said.

“It wasn’t difficult to convince my Dad who is an aviation enthusiast. We sought financing for one aircraft and the aircraft financier believed so much in the idea and offered to finance three aircrafts, zero down as a package,” Rolle continued.

Rolle’s family wasn’t rich, as her dad was one of 13 children who came from very humble means. “My parents’ journeys, the good and the bad, inspire me and are what makes me believe that I can do anything with God, hard work and dedication,” she said.

Rolle, who is originally from Mastic Point, Andros in the Bahamas, grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. After attending eighth and ninth grade in Andros, she attended Montverde Academy, an international boarding school.

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Rolle completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Ottawa in Canada where she excelled in a joint honors program in Political Science and Communications. Later, Rolle earned a Masters in Mass Media and Communications at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. After graduating from Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego, Rolle was admitted to the State Bar of California.

Rolle, who also has done some modeling, enjoys a passion for music and entertainment.

She enjoys acting, singing, songwriting and dance and promises to soon “unveil her growth artistically, and put [her] long-standing love for all things music and entertainment to good use.”

She’s working on new music she believes will be a hit. “Music enhances our consciousness. Depending on what I’m listening too, it makes me think about where I am in life, and what I’m doing.

“I’ve listened to songs that have made me feel fearless, songs that have inspired my thoughts on love and relationships, songs that have strengthened my daily hustle, or encouraged me not to take life so seriously and of course, songs that make me dance instantly. Music inspires me in more ways than one,” Rolle said.

Still, her beginnings at Western Air proved quite humbling.

She started as a baggage handler and worked her way up to vice president of operations, eventually orchestrating several strategic acquisitions for the airline – the first of which were two Saab 340A and a multi-aircraft deal with Embraer for the acquisition of three ERJ 145 LR 50-seater jets.

Rolle also is training to become a pilot, having logged more than 44 flight hours.

“When I realize what an impact Western Air plays in people’s lives on the daily, it certainly motivates me to keep pushing and progressing to better their experience,” Rolle said.

While her family counts as role models, Rolle said she’s also inspired by Oprah Winfrey, who is the “Aunty in my head.”

“She inspires me because she seems to have mastered the art of balance and remaining in a state of gratitude, all while being courageous in various business and creative pursuits,” Rolle said of the Talk Show queen and magnate.

Life and her achievements haven’t been without obstacles, Rolle said. However, she noted that obstacles only serve to propel one forward because “once you’ve survived it, it sets the precedent to similar challenges.”

“I’ve faced the most obstacles when we sought to do things that were never done before. For example, when I was spearheading the opening of Western Air’s Grand Bahama Passenger terminal we got major push back on a number of levels because it was the first of its kind in the Bahamas,” she said.

“A passenger terminal with its own security screening, acting independently from the airport itself. Our ability to conduct such operations was challenged by major players in the industry.

“To say the least I had to cut our way through a number of legal red tapes, take the risk and seek approval from the authorities in the position to validate our right to operate.

“Opening the passenger terminal was a pivotal point for our company and was instrumental in securing market share on that route. I was a fairly new attorney at that time. While it was a bit intimidating, it was a rewarding experience.”

Rolle said she refuses to allow negative stereotypes to affect the way she does business or carries herself.

As a successful black woman attorney and executive in the airline industry, Rolle isn’t easily intimidated.

“For some, a lawyer or a VP of an airline should look and act a certain way, perhaps more conservative, perhaps older, white and male. But I thrive on being unapologetic about who I am,” Role said.

“My hair is big, my heels are high, but my opinion and work ethic is strong. I also understand there is a misconception that working in a family business is easy or that things are handed it to you. But we believe in demonstrating your individual value and earning your stripes,” she said.

Rolle continued:

“It’s an uncommon opportunity that I feel blessed to be a part of, but responsibilities are great. As long as I am producing results for the betterment of our passengers and our staff, I’m not moved by any pushback or resentment.”

Business

100 Diverse-Owned Oakland Businesses Could Receive a $10,000 Grant from Comcast

Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland can apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue 100 grants for a total of $1 million.

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Comcast RISE/Courtesy of Comcast

Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Asian American small business owners in Oakland can apply for a $10,000 grant from the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, which will issue 100 grants for a total of $1 million.

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must:

• Have established business operations for 3 or more years

• Have one to 25 employees

• Be based within Oakland, California city limits

The Investment Fund is the latest extension of Comcast RISE – which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment – a multiyear, multi-faceted initiative launched in 2020 to provide people of color-owned small businesses the opportunity to apply for marketing and technology services from Comcast Business and Effectv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable. If a business is not eligible for the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, applications are also open for marketing and technology services. In fact, 228 businesses in California have been selected as Comcast RISE recipients.

“Like many others, my small business was impacted by the pandemic. Thanks to the Comcast RISE program, I can reach new audiences,” said Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness and Oakland resident. She has benefited from the program twice, once with the production and placement of a TV commercial and then with a technology makeover.

“The application process was much more straight forward than other grants. I encourage my fellow eligible business owners to apply for the grant and the other benefits.” To help drive outreach and awareness about Comcast RISE and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded a $50,000 grant to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

“The economic effects of the global pandemic have been felt worldwide, including significant impacts here in Oakland,” said Barbara Leslie, President & CEO, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. We know that our small, local, woman-owned and Black, Indigenous and People Of Color businesses – who are responsible for creating the beautiful tapestry we call home – have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. We applaud Comcast’s vision, through the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, to ensure that small businesses that exist today can be a part of Oakland’s economic and social fabric both tomorrow and for many years to come.”

Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched last year. In June 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multi-year plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.

Grant recipients will also receive a complimentary 12-month membership to the coaching program from Ureeka, an online platform for entrepreneurs, to help them build skills, gain more customers and become financially stable. Eligible businesses can apply online at www.ComcastRISE.com from October 1 through October 14, 2021 for one of the 100 $10,000 grants. More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.

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Mayor Breed, Supervisor Mar Launch Grant to Support Storefronts Impacted by Vandalism

Up to $2,000 in financial relief available to repair storefront vandalism at neighborhood businesses

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SF Storefront Vandalism Grant Program Banner/Photo Courtesy of City of San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development

Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar announced Wednesday the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant program, which provides up to $2,000 in financial relief to restore and repair damages from vandalism at neighborhood storefronts. The program launches during a time when many small businesses are recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Opening and operating a successful small business in San Francisco was becoming increasingly difficult, and the pandemic has made it that much harder,” said Breed. “It has never been more critical for us to provide support to our small businesses in every way that we can, which not only means making it easier to open and operate a small business, but also providing relief when they face challenges. With the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, we are letting our small business community know that we have their back and will fight to ensure that they can continue operating for years to come.”

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant provides financial relief to restore small businesses impacted by deliberate actions that result in the destruction or damages of storefronts. This program will offer either $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the total cost incurred to repair physical damages. The $1 million program is designed to serve more than 500 small businesses with gross revenue of less than $8 million that can provide proof of damages from vandalism incurred since July 1, 2020.

The fund will directly support small businesses with financial relief in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done. The fund will also allow small businesses to make improvements that enhance security and prevent crime. This includes replacement locks, a new security gate, fixing an alarm system, adding new lighting, replacing windows, etchings on windows, and many others. Improvements are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, based on fund availability.

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is one tool in preventing crime and improving safety in neighborhood commercial corridors. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) also funds programs to help small businesses and neighborhood organizations improve safety through ambassadors and activations to increase foot traffic and community patrols. The fund is not meant to replace the loss of stolen goods and does not include damage to shared spaces.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in burglaries and vandalism in every neighborhood targeting small businesses already struggling with unprecedented economic challenges. As we work to prevent these crimes and strengthen safety on our commercial corridors, we must also respond immediately to provide relief to mom-and-pop businesses with direct and tangible support as they recover from these incidents,” said Mar. 

“Following requests from businesses in the Sunset, I worked with Mayor Breed and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to create the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant and secured an initial $1 million funding allocation,” said Mar. “The fund will provide financial relief to small businesses in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done, including direct costs of property damage or getting a replacement lock or new security measures.”

To apply, eligible businesses are asked to provide receipts, photos of damages and furnish a report from the San Francisco Police Department or from 311 in the case of graffiti. Applications can be found by visiting oewd.org/VandalismRelief.

“On February 26 at 4:00 a.m., a burglar managed to break into my small business without activating the alarm. An hour later an opportunistic looter came into my store and stole additional merchandise. Small businesses are already hurting hard from the pandemic and these crimes are a gut punch to small businesses,” said Michael Hsu, owner of Footprint on Taraval.  

“Since hearing about the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, I’ve put in my application to get up to $2,000 to help provide some relief to my business. We need more programs like this to support small businesses in our neighborhood that are struggling from being victims of burglary and vandalism. I’m thankful for our city leaders for initiating this program. Together with the community and leaders, we will get through these tough times.”

“Since the pandemic, I have heard so many stories from small businesses that have been burglarized or vandalized. As a small business owner, myself, I feel and understand their pain and loss,” said Albert Chow, president of People of the Parkside Sunset, a Taraval merchants and residents association. “The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is a safety net that is critical to ensuring that our small business owners are able to recover.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has provided immediate and ongoing support for small businesses, including making available more than $52.8 million in grants and loans to support more than 3,000 small businesses, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in fee and tax deferrals, and assistance applying for state and federal funding. This includes legislation introduced and signed by Mayor Breed to waive $5 million in fees and taxes for entertainment and nightlife venues and small restaurants.

“As we reopen and rebuild, many of our small businesses continue to struggle to make ends meet. These challenges can feel almost insurmountable when small businesses also become victims of vandalism” said Kate Sofis, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.  “San Francisco’s Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant will help alleviate the financial hardship caused by deliberate acts of damage to property. It is one of many tools the City has to support our business community and the vibrancy of our neighborhoods as we work together towards economic recovery.”

“The San Francisco Post’s coverage of local news in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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A Store for ‘The People’ in East Oakland

The People’s Store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.; Sundays and Mondays 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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The People's Storefront, Photo courtesy of realtor.com

The People’s Store, located in East Oakland, is a boutique that sells small batch African clothing, jewelry, crystals, and sage along with natural personal care products.

Customers rave about the natural shea butter, black soap and oils that are found in the store. The owner sells products wholesale and retail.

Located at 2366 High St, Oakland, CA 94601, they can be reached at  (510) 698-4371. The owner supports the local community, supporting small, local entrepreneurs by stocking the shelves of The People’s Store with their products. Check out their IG for giveaways, events and discounts.

The People’s Store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.; Sundays and Mondays 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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