The Stevie Awards Blog

Stevie-Winner Offers a Place of Hope and Healing for Trafficking Victims

Posted by Maggie Gallagher on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 @ 02:53 PM

 By all outward appearances, Jeanne Allert had everything going for her in the mid-2000s: a successful career as an internet consultant, an elegant home, and a sizable income. Inside, however, she remembers feeling an emptiness.

“I reached a point in my life where I said, ‘Is this all there is?’” Allert recalls in an online video.

Little did the American businesswomen know her life would forever change when she met a group of volunteers who were performing outreach to women caught up in prostitution. It was there, on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, United States, that Allert saw the magnitude of the sexual exploitation crisis—and the power of a helping hand.

samaratinOne particular victim moved Allert so deeply that, in 2007, Allert decided to launch the Samaritan Women, the mid-Atlantic region’s first residential care program for females ensnared in the domestic sex trafficking industry. It meant selling her lucrative business, putting her home on the market, and dipping into her savings to buy an abandoned 23-acre estate in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.

The organization started providing around-the-clock shelter, counseling, and medical care to women and girls who had been coerced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. As a Christian-based entity, it also began fostering spiritual healing in its residents, many of whom were suffering emotional trauma as a result of their experiences on the street.

Allert says the people who work at the homes often serve as the positive role models who have been lacking in the residents’ lives.

“When we show forgiveness, grace, and compassion, the women are observing our behavior,” says Allert.

According to Shared Hope International, girls as young as 14 to 16 are among the most commonly exploited. Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable, including those who have suffered child abuse or grew up in broken homes. They often find their victims through social media platforms and internet sites, as well as at schools and local hangouts.

Traffickers then offer the girls false promises of shelter and protection; instead, these girls face a cycle of physical and emotional abuse. By one estimate, roughly 100,000 American children are exploited in this manner every year. While getting accurate data is always difficult, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime makes it clear that sex trafficking is very much a global problem.

People in all walks of life know that freedom is a basic human right, and human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” says Linda Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Samaritan Women.

Addressing a Shortage in Care

Despite the enormity of the problem in the United States, Thomas says 17 states don’t have a single shelter program to serve this population. Another 11 states have only one residence. Allert, who earned the 2018 Silver Stevie® Award for Most Innovative Woman of the Year in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, is trying to fill that vacuum.

She and her team opened up two more homes for trafficking victims, enabling the group to create a full continuum of care for young women. Though limits exist to how many people the organization can impact directly, it’s trying to help other nonprofits meet this need across the country.

Toward that end, the group created the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance, which serves as a trade association for shelter programs across the country. Its goal is to improve the effectiveness of shelter care nationally through advocacy, networking, agency accreditation, and an annual conference.

Another new initiative, the Institute for Shelter Care, serves as a research, training, and equipping entity to help establish new shelter programs, to stabilize and to improve current programs, and to facilitate qualified research in order to advance national standards of care and best practices.

“Human trafficking is a problem both internationally and domestically,” says Thomas. “We have only scratched the surface of providing care and healing for victims across the world.”

Tags: women awards

40 Million Reasons to Keep Going

Posted by Maggie Gallagher on Wed, Feb 06, 2019 @ 05:31 PM

After raising more than $40 million in January during a series D funding round led by Al Fahim Group, a Berlin, Germany-based, automotive and travel conglomerate, 2018 was going to be a make-or-break year for Blacklane GmbH as it continued its expansion.

Jens Wohltorf, CEO and co-founder of Blacklane, highlighted the high-end chauffeur service’s vision and ambitions, declaring that “this investment accelerates Blacklane’s ability to bring end-to-end peace of mind onto the road and into airports around the world.”

Blacklane GmbH is taking an alternative approach to capital-intensive transportation start-ups, such as Uber and Didi. While those companies target growth and demonstrate scant regard for losses, Blacklane aims to create a highly efficient back-end system for managing rides and customer care. The system is a proven success, winning a 2018 Gold Stevie® Award for Technology of the Year. The system will ultimately allow Blacklane to beat its competitors on utilization rates and, therefore, prices.


While its funding levels and recorded losses pale in comparison to larger rivals, frugality and efficiency are of great importance in its domestic German market. By emphasizing these characteristics, Blacklane offers an attractive alternative to investors who are eager to give money in the transport innovation sector but are wary of the all-or-nothing strategies of other start-ups.

With its emphasis on ensuring sustainable growth, investors expected tangible deals and value-adding investments from Blacklane. The company delivered on this while demonstrating its potential. It earned the aforementioned Gold Stevie Award for its back-end technology, as well as a Gold Stevie Award for Transportation Company of the Year and a Bronze Stevie Award for its carbon-offset program in the Corporate Social Responsibility category in April. The company, however, did not simply rest on its laurels. In May, Blacklane announced its integration with the SummitLink booking tool provided by SummitQwest. This put Blacklane at the disposal of the platform’s corporate clients, who even have the option to choose it as a preferred service provider.

The company’s official goal for 2018 was to expand its services to 300 cities worldwide. It achieved this in early September when 32 more cities were added to its roster. According to Blacklane representatives, Limerick, Ireland, became the 300th city the company served. The remaining 31 cities were located in countries all over the globe, including France, Germany, Switzerland, India, Japan, and Malaysia. The careful selection of targeted regions again speaks to the company’s discerning approach, underscoring that Blacklane enters markets suited to its service rather than entering them simply to boost growth rates.

An August announcement swiftly followed wherein Blacklane introduced a “Green Class” to its services. Tesla BEVs became available for booking in 20 cities the company covers, including locations in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

“We welcome battery-electric, chauffeur-quality vehicles from all premium automakers to our fleet,” Wohltorf says. “Supporting business and leisure travelers with green travel options is essential to a healthy planet.”

While unlikely to generate significant extra revenue alone, the availability of a green option is of great importance to the company’s reputation in its domestic market, as well as any other markets that value environmental sustainability. As more people and countries grow concerned about the impact of climate change, a green transition is inevitable. By considering environmental concerns early on, Blacklane puts itself in a prime position to take advantage once that tipping point is reached in any given market.

In November, Blacklane then reached an agreement with the Shangri-La, an Asian luxury hotel chain. The agreement stipulated that members of the hotel chain’s Golden Circle loyalty program would receive incentives, including fare discounts and extra loyalty points for using Blacklane. This news coincided with the announcement that Blacklane opened an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Following the significant investment made by the Al Fahim Group in January, Blacklane then announced Emirates Airlines had selected Blacklane to provide its complimentary chauffeur service to first-class and business-class passengers in Bangalore, India; Bologna, Italy; Chennai, India; Delhi, India; Hyderabad, India; Milan, Italy; Mumbai, India; Rome, Italy; Stockholm, Sweden; and Venice, Italy. Both deals seem likely to give a significant boost to the company’s revenue.

In reflection, 2018 was a very successful year for the multiple-Stevie-Award-winning company. The funds raised at the beginning of the year were deployed gradually and strategically, and the company rigorously followed its strategy of sustainable growth. Investors are happy to see the funds allocated to Blacklane are being used to grow revenue and market presence, as well as to bolster the company’s green credentials. It remains to be seen whether Blacklane can manage to reduce its losses—or even to turn a profit—in 2018, let alone gain the upper hand over its larger competitors.

However, by seeking to differentiate itself from and to improve upon their rivals’ business models and by consistently pursuing its strategy of sustainable growth, day-one efficiency, and strategic partnerships, Blacklane certainly created an impressive foundation upon which it can build.

Tags: technology awards

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