Cheyney University Welcomes Alumni Entrepreneurs

Angelitta Anderson

April 9, 2014

The ELC Lecture Series recently highlighted the businesses of three Cheyney University Alumni Entrepreneurs:  (top l. to r.) Christina Clark ('97), Vonda McPherson ('87), and (bottom l.) Marissa Gadsen ('01).

The ELC Lecture Series recently highlighted the businesses of three Cheyney University Alumni Entrepreneurs: (top l. to r.) Christina Clark ('97), Vonda McPherson ('87), and (bottom l.) Marissa Gadsen ('01).

On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, the Entrepreneurial Leadership Center at Cheyney University concluded its spring Lectures Series with the presentation of successful Cheyney Alumni Entrepreneurs.  Sharing their personal journeys from CU to successful entrepreneurship were Christina Clark ('97), owner of Clark Entertainment and Sports; Vonda McPherson, ('87), owner of Vonda K’s Catering; and the husband of Marissa Gadsden ('01), owner of Eden’s Touch Bread Company.  Clark sent her husband in her place after giving birth ahead of schedule earlier in the week. 

"Cheyney University Alumni proved once again that, 'when thou callest alma mater, never shalt thou call in vain,'" said Sharon Cannon, Executive Director of CU's Economic and Workforce Development Center. "The journey of three amazing women from Cheyney University to successful entrepreneurship was enthusiastically shared with students, staff, and alumni. The resounding theme of the evening was the acknowledgment that each entrepreneur credits their professional and entrepreneurial success to the foundation provided to them at Cheyney University."

Clark said she started her entertainment and sports business with the maxim, “Do Something Different to Make a Difference.” Under the alias, “The Boss Lady,” she later took on the role of vice-president of marketing and operations at Orlando, FL’s number one urban nightclub, JJ Whispers. There, she said, she successfully produced arena concerts and events that would include a host of A-list celebrities like Idris Elba and athletes such as Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard. During this time, Clark Entertainment and Sports (CES) formed its own multi-faceted event and brand management company targeting celebrities, athletes and corporate branding. 

“If it wasn’t for Cheyney, I definitely wouldn’t be the success I am today,” Clark told students gathered in Vaux-Logan Auditorium. “I am eternally grateful to my hospitality advisor and professor, Bill Williams, who taught me the art of networking.  Cheyney University gave me the chance to fulfill my hopes and dreams by providing a quality education, imparting social skills and by offering the unique privilege of attending an HBCU. I am a living legacy, I am Cheyney!”

Gadsen told Cannon just a couple of days before the event; “if anyone knows how much I love Cheyney University and the role it has played in my success, it’s my husband. He hears me talk about Cheyney all the time.” James Gadsen represented his wife and her business well. He told how the company delivers fresh baked goods at affordable prices and offers a variety of breads that peak consumers' interests. Before starting the business, his wife actually spent a dozen years working in the broadcasting industry as a radio personality. She owns a publishing company, too, and assists him with his own entertainment business. 

Former seasoned sales executive McPherson surprised students by telling them that she spent a decade working for Fortune 500 corporations before venturing out on her own.  One day, McPherson says, she had an epiphany, took a leap of faith, and left the security of a successful corporate career to follow her dream of owning a restaurant.  She now owns  a catering company and three restaurants including Shack’s BBQ in Elizabeth, New Jersey’s bustling downtown business district, and Vonda’s Kitchen which provides a unique dining experience--unlike any other restaurant in Newark, New Jersey.

Students learned that they should never be too high while being successful and never too low when things are not going well.  Instead, they should remain somewhere in the middle. Balance, the guests said, is the key to being a successful entrepreneur.