Kamirah Hamlett and Jumaanah Salaam met in college in New York. Over lunch at a TGI Fridays on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in 2016, they found out they shared a love of fashion and hopes of creating a brand.
That initial meeting helped them both realize the importance of networking, and they started attending networking events in the New York City region.
After attending such events, they realized similar events back home, in Atlantic County, were few and far between. They wanted to bridge that gap.
In 2017, YOUnite, LLC. was founded.
“There’s a lot of entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of college students in Atlantic City, and we wanted to bring (networking events) to our own community to create this women empowerment,” said Salaam, 25, of Pleasantville.
The business hosts women empowerment networking events twice a year, although the COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in that effort in 2020.
The women also created a mentorship program for young girls to get them motivated for their future. One of those events was held Friday at the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City, where the women spoke about the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and being mindful of what is posted on social media.
‘“We see ourselves in that girl,” Salaam said. “We were once that college student and then that working woman.”
Jaclyn Carter, 13, of Atlantic City, attended the speech and said the two women were very inspirational.
“It inspired me to set out to do what I want to do, more than what I did before,” she said.
Tiffani Brown, 15, also from the city, found the speech empowering, as well as the exercise the YOUnite women had the girls do, which included writing down their goals.
“It gets into your mind, and when you write it down, now I know what I’ve got to do. I just have to do it,” Brown said.
The networking events geared toward adults have a different theme, such as bridging gaps between different generations. The events include speakers, dinner, vendors and time to network and meet other women with similar interests.
“Although as women we are coming together, we want to still show the individuality,” said Hamlett, 27, of Atlantic City. “It’s not just entrepreneurs, it’s not just someone who works in law enforcement, it’s every different occupation. Everyone that attends these events can see themselves in one of the people, either on a panel, in the room or a vendor. The goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and connect with someone.
“What we want women to take from events is a new friend, a new mentor, a new business venture that they were sitting on,” she added.
Hamlett grew up in Atlantic City and went to college in New York for fashion merchandising and marketing and business management. Before being laid off due to the pandemic, she worked at Diane von Furstenberg in the online customer experience department.
Salaam grew up in Pleasantville and went to college in Virginia for textile apparel merchandising management. After Virginia, she went to New York and attended LIM College for fashion merchandising and supply chain management.
Before being laid off due to the pandemic, she worked for Nordstrom as a customer experience specialist.
A tug boat, a push boat and a barge were sunk about 5 miles off Beach Haven on Thursday to e…
For the YOUnite ladies, who now live closer to New York, women empowerment is always important, but especially now as we are about to see Kamala Harris sworn in as the nation’s first female vice president.
For Salaam, seeing women achieve their goals and be successful is crucial to young girls.
“You want to see that so you can say, ‘Look, I could be her, I could do that,’” she said. “Being from Pleasantville … the importance is when you leave, you always want to say, ‘This is where I’m from.’ Take ownership. I came from Pleasantville and look what I’m doing. (Hamlett) came from Atlantic City, look what she’s doing.”
“You can be something if you just take that leap,” Salaam said. “Just go after what you want to go after.”
Going forward, they plan is to bring their events nationwide to reach more and more women.
“We’re two women who came together with a common goal and passion to create a positive platform, whether that’s encouragement, women empowerment ... anything that you need to be uplifted to follow any dream,” Salaam said.