Birmingham, Alabama business owners recently got insight on success amid a backdrop of honoring the legacy of the Negro Leagues.

New York Life, the third-largest life insurance company and the largest mutual life insurance company in the United States, partnered with MLB to host the ‘Swing for Success’ event.

Photo: Photo Provided

The event also honored the legacy of of the Negro Leagues. Held at the Southern Negro League Museum, the event brought together local Black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with a panel of experts who offered valuable advice and tips on maintaining a successful business while planning for future retirement.

Zerlina Jackson, vice president of Media & Channels at New York Life, shared her enthusiasm with the audience, expressing how thrilled she was to hold the event at the historic Southern Negro League Museum, surrounded by its timeless memorabilia from the Negro Leagues.

“The legacy of the Negro League players has had a profound impact not only on baseball but on our American culture,” Jackson said at the event. “I can’t think of a more fitting place for this discussion.”

Panelist and moderator Curt Bloom, who had been the voice of the Birmingham Barons on ESPN radio for 32 years, led the fireside portion of the event alongside former Major League Baseball player Dexter Fowler, who was the leading speaker. Fowler, 38, played in the league for 14 seasons before retiring in 2023, winning a World Series with the Chicago Cubs in 2016 and also playing for teams such as the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels.

In addition to his professional accolades, Fowler is a recent graduate of Penn State University, where he completed his bachelor of science degree in organizational and professional communication. He used his knowledge and education to launch multiple business ventures, including his company Fowlball Productions and 400 Ventures. This experience has helped him make wiser long-term financial decisions.

“I don’t like sitting around and just talking,” Fowler told Blavity, emphasizing his proactive and engaging nature and hands-on participation, which is especially evident in his approach to his businesses. “I need to be somewhere and [interacting] with the people.”

When asked who supported him most as a teen baseball player drafted out of high school, Fowler credited his parents as his most prominent supporters and financial advisers. He said they taught him how to spend his money wisely and the true meaning of investing in places where you can watch your money grow.

Unlike many athletes who wait until retirement to plan for life after sports, Fowler said he was proactive in preparing financially from the beginning of his career. He recognized that his baseball career had an expiration date and took proactive steps to secure his finances, ensuring stability for himself and his family.

“When I started, I knew that baseball wouldn’t be forever, and I knew that when I was done playing, I didn’t want to work. I wanted to do what I wanted to do,” Fowler explained during the panel.

He continued: “I tried to sit down and educate some of the younger guys as I got older and tell them, ‘Hey, this money isn’t going to last forever.’ It might be good right now, like you’re getting paychecks all the time, but, you know, you still have 40 years after you retire to utilize this money.”

Despite his successful baseball career, proactive financial planning, and various business ventures, Fowler remains determined to achieve more beyond the diamond and help others succeed. “I want to help anybody willing to put in the work, willing to learn and willing to pass it along,” he said, concluding the fireside session.

Following Fowler’s insights on financial planning and career longevity, the next panel, moderated by Stacey Graham, managing partner of New York Life’s Central Alabama office, shifted focus to entrepreneurship and small businesses. The discussion explored strategies for generating wealth, ensuring financial security and leaving a lasting legacy.

Speakers, including Leilani Rivers (corporate vice president of Advanced Planning Group at New York Life), Nan Baldwin (vice president of Chamber Operations at Birmingham Business Alliance) and Danielle Hines (owner of CREED63) shared their expertise on navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship, building sustainable businesses and making prudent financial decisions to secure a prosperous future. The panel aimed to empower attendees with practical insights and actionable advice for achieving monetary stability and creating a lasting impact in their communities.

In addition to discussions on Black ownership and financial business planning, Graham provided advice to address millennials’ concerns about economic uncertainties and their financial futures.

“The hardest thing to do is save money,” Graham told Blavity. “Even as a millennial with multiple side hustles, it’s crucial to prioritize saving. Save 10% of your earnings, and if you’re young, consider investing in a Roth IRA or cash-value life insurance policies. [Those] policies grow tax-deferred, meaning you don’t pay taxes when withdrawing funds. So, if I had to give any advice to young people, I’d say to have a save-first mentality where you pay yourself 10% first and then pay everything else.”

Building on Graham’s advice, attendees, particularly local Black business owners, shared their own testimonials and experiences, highlighting practical applications of the financial strategies discussed.

Nolanda Hatcher found the Swing for Success event memorable, especially as a local architect and Studio 2H Design LLC owner in Birmingham.

“I’ve been in business for myself since 2002, and I always take something valuable from every business panel I attend,” Hatcher told Blavity. “I’ve learned something new or found something that resonates because I often needed to remember it.”

Another attendee, Carla Youngblood, noted that the panelists shared helpful advice that she could directly apply to her role as the operations director for Urban Impact.

“At Urban Impact, we provide services to entrepreneurs, and hearing the panel emphasize the importance of getting your numbers together as a first step resonated deeply with me — it’s something I preach all the time. It was reassuring to hear that echoed and to know we’re teaching the right things,” Youngblood told Blavity.

Jonni Clark, who has a private practice through New York Life, also weighed in.

“I can confidently say that I echo the sentiments of the panel,” Clark told Blavity. “We are truly empowering the community and individuals and families to optimize their financial positions.”