Hennessy Fellows Boot Camp – RECAP

July 28th through August 2nd, 10 Hennessy Fellows – MBA students from prominent Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – gathered in New York City for the Hennessy Fellows Boot Camp, a week-long, immersive experience at the LVMH and MHUSA offices. The boot camp focused on crucial competency areas, including leadership, communication, executive presence, accountability and influence, and business acumen. Ultimately, the boot camp worked as the first touchpoint in a year-long program geared towards celebrating and championing the next generation of African-American leaders. The Hennessy Fellows program is the first-ever HBCU graduate program with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF).

LVMH and other executives, influencers and entrepreneurs from across industries participated in the boot camp, networked with the Fellows and enjoyed customized sip and savor events. Hennessy Fellows had the unparalleled opportunity to gather insights from industry leaders while building their professional expertise and learning the language of how to unlock the c-suite.

The below highlights key sessions and speakers that contributed to the boot camp.

Jacqueline Long (Vice President Consumer Engagement at Moët Hennessy USA LVMH) kicked off the week with a powerhouse breakfast on leadership. Fellows learned more about her role at MHUSA and various aspects of her career. Following Jacqueline, leaders from across MHUSA and LVMH engaged the Fellows on lessons in leadership, best practices, and career growth. Participants included Donna Dean (SVP Human Resources, Moët Hennessy USA & Belvedere Maison), Barbra Katz (SVP Human Resources & Talent Management, LVMH), and Karin Raguin (Vice President Talent and Special Projects, LVMH).

After that, Fellows heard from Harry Williams (President & CEO, TMCF) and Charles Merinoff (TMCF Board Chair and Co-Chairman, Breakthru Beverage Group). They shared their career journey and strategies with the Fellows on how to thrive in corporate America. Day one concluded with executive remarks from Rodney Williams (President and CEO, Belvedere Vodka). The Fellows obtained a diverse perspective on what it takes to be an executive at a leading, luxury brand.

The day emphasized the importance of communication, a critical skill required of a leader. Brandi Boatner (Social Influencer Communications Lead, Global Markets, IBM) led the day with her “Power of Words” session. This session emphasized the importance of having a personal brand and understanding communication styles in the workplace. Imani Ellis (Founder, CultureCon) presented after Boatner, where she shared her journey of working full-time at NBC Universal and launching the marquee event, CultureCon. Imani equipped Fellows with a “Culture Toolkit,” which included strategies to bring your whole self to work. The afternoon transitioned into a Mad Men-style Pitchfest, featuring advertising industry maven Deborah Riley Draper (Account Director, Humanaut)Chris Gee (Managing Director, Digital Strategy, Finnsbury)Kevin Celisca (Entrepreneur, Forbes Under 30) and Dariq Charles (Entrepreneur, Goldman Sachs). Over the next three hours, the Fellows would be challenged to master the 60-second elevator pitch. After that, Fellows had to address a social issue in their community and pitch their solutions to a panel of judges during a pitch challenge.

After mastering leadership and communication, the Fellows learned the importance of executive presence and how to read a room. Influential speakers from different industries engaged the Fellows, including renowned body language expert Linda Clemons (Founder & CEO, Sisterpreneur, Inc.). Fellows grasped the “silent language of leaders” and Clemon’s best practices to thrive in the workplace. Marc Strachan (Board Chair, ADCOLOR), also spoke to the Fellows about the “Unwritten Rules That Make or Break Your Career.” The session included insider tips and real-world examples on the importance of executive presence and poise in corporate America.

Following the executive sessions, the Fellows explored LVMH brands (Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior Couture, LVMH Fashion Group, Fresh, Rimowa and LVMH Inc.) and experienced the Hennessy Brand with a Le Voyagemixology presentation.

Managing complex clients, teams, and organizations is a crucial skill set of business leaders – and the Fellows were able to learn about obtaining these skills firsthand. They heard from Dana Medema (General Manager, North America, Colgate-Palmolive) on what it takes to be a minority woman working in corporate America. George Spencer (EVP Business Development and I&E, TMCF) dived into his career trajectory, sharing how he turned obstacles into opportunities and encouraged the Fellows to do the same. During the session, the Fellows learned about the art of negotiating. After that, the Capstone project exercise kicked off with Vincent Hunt (Founder & CEO, The Better Design Co.) who provided a strategic framework for the Fellows to utilize as they work through the project.

Shortly after, Fellows enjoyed an intimate dining experience with Bernard Peillon (Chairman and CEO, Hennessy) and Giles Woodyer (SVP Hennessy, Moët Hennessy USA). Dining at New York’s famous QUALITY ITALIAN, Fellows learned tips for c-suite success and how to differentiate yourself from the rest.

Concluding the program, Fellows focused on business acumen. TMCF and Hennessy secured the renowned Boston Consulting Group (BGC) to challenge the Fellows to think like a leader. Lane McBride and Ian Pancham, both Partner and Managing Directors at BGC, led the morning sessions. Fellows worked on complex case studies, where they applied the skills they learned during the week and pushed their strategic abilities. Additionally, they learned how to identify the critical information needed to assess challenges and drive organizational growth.

Fellows participated in personal reflections and spoke about their Hennessy Fellows experience. From personal and professional growth to overcoming self-doubt and increasing confidence, not a dry eye remained during the reflections. The program concluded with a Hennessy VIP “Nightlife” Experience at New York’s iconic TAO restaurant.

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