Caesars Corporate Citizenship Blog

Three Ways Corporate America Can Advance Gender Equity on International Women’s Day and Every Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day, celebrating social, economic, cultural and political achievement for women. In honor of this day, Caesars Entertainment is sharing the perspective of Jan Jones Blackhurst, one of our inspiring female leaders, on how companies can advance gender equity.

The recent surge of the #MeToo movement is not a discovery of a new problem, it’s a long-needed vocalization of an issue that’s always been omnipresent in women’s lives  Finally women who have been victims of harassment can come forward without fear of cultural alienation or even being fired for using their voice. I believe there are some core ways business leaders can combat sexual harassment while also addressing its root cause: the enduring lack of equality and equitable distribution of power between men and women.

  1. Create a Strong Zero-Tolerance Culture

When women experience the abuse of power in the form of sexual harassment, fear of retaliation can make them hesitant to speak out. But how to create an environment in which women (and men, too) who are subject to harassment aren’t afraid? I believe the onus is on the company to foster a culture of zero tolerance for intimidation, including that of a sexual nature. At Caesars Entertainment, that’s the culture we do our best to create for everyone, from our guest room attendants to our corporate office employees to our entertainers.

Companies small and large should outline concrete steps to be taken if those boundaries are crossed, which ideally leads to workplaces in which employees can feel safe, protected and empowered.

  1. Set Goals and Measure Progress

In an industry where we have 50-50 representation at the entry level, but less than 22% women at the executive level, we’re taking a first step by addressing manager-level and above employees. By striving to achieve 50% women among our corporate- and casino/hotel-level managers by 2025, we will establish a strong pipeline of female leaders, set up to break the industry’s glass ceiling.

Until companies are willing to set bold goals and actionable plans around gender equity, there isn’t a way to hold people accountable to their role in achieving equity. Another useful way to advance diversity and inclusion is through the introduction of something like Caesars’ new Equity Councils at the Corporate and Regional levels, which are taskforces of leaders, guided by external experts, who will help implement our gender equity initiative and support activities such as the rollout of unconscious bias training across Caesars management teams.

  1. Live Your Values

Supporting women in business means advocating for those beyond the walls of any given company. For example, procurement executives can look to their supply chains, or IT leaders can establish behavioral expectations among partners. Why not ask about the percentage of women at the manager level? And what about at the executive level?

Ultimately, we need a gender equity and equality index similar to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, which evaluates companies based on how well they support LGBTQ employees. There are 609 companies on the 2018 list, including Caesars Entertainment. I’d love to see corporate leaders striving for a spot on a similar, gender-focused index – because it takes changing policies and practices to improve scores on lists like these.

Jan Jones Blackhurst, Executive Vice President, Public Policy & Corporate Responsibility, Caesars Entertainment

Celebrating Black History at Caesars Entertainment

February is Black History Month and Caesars Entertainment is bringing African American voices together from throughout the company to remind everyone of the importance of recognizing black Americans’ contributions to our communities.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet

Caesars Entertainment employees from the Diversity & Inclusion team and the Chorus Business Impact Group (BIG) celebrate at the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet on January 20.

Each year, Caesars Entertainment partners with the community to both celebrate and honor the legacy of the civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., recognizing the progress that Dr. King achieved for African Americans and all people of color.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet is a chance for the Las Vegas African American community to honor Dr. King while discussing the challenges African Americans face today. In fact, it’s the premier celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Las Vegas.

Hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Las Vegas, with Parade Grand Marshals Pastor Kelcey West and Tya Mathis-Coleman emceeing, the banquet took place at The Orleans Hotel & Casino. Chorus was in attendance along with our Diversity & Inclusion team. “The banquet is a huge highlight for our Chorus Business Impact Group as well as a significant contribution to professional development,” says Agnes Cook, Diversity Relations & Social Equity Manager at Caesars Entertainment.

The Banquet is a fundraiser to support disadvantaged black students attending college through the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Las Vegas scholarship fund. Caesars served as a banquet sponsor; this year, the banquet raised more than $4,000, which will provide college scholarships for local African American students.

Living Our Values

In honor of Dr. King’s dedication to the dignity of all people, HERO volunteers and team members at Horseshoe Hammond conducted a drive to collect shampoo, soap, lip balm, feminine products, deodorant and other necessary items. According to Dawn Reynolds Pettit, Regional Vice President of Human Resources, “Hygiene items are often forgotten about when items are donated to shelters and community centers and we know there is a great need. It’s small, inexpensive items like these that can restore self-worth and pride.” The donations will directly benefit more than 150 local people in need through Greater Hammond Community Services.

Horseshoe Hammond team members Jessica De Perio and Vanessa Salazar with 300+ hygiene items collected.

Serving Our Community

Chorus, Las Vegas’  Business Impact Group,  brings together team members for networking to provide opportunities to help out in the community and, importantly, to help Caesars achieve its diversity and inclusion goals. To support homeless youth in the Las Vegas Valley, Chorus will be partnering with Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth to host a dinner at the organization’s center in February. HERO volunteers will serve something that homeless youth might not often get to enjoy—barbeque—and also help to pack lunches and spend time with the young people.

Fostering Diversity & Inclusion

Caesars Entertainment embraces social justice and racial-gender equality for all. We partner with a broad scope of nonprofit partners advancing African Americans throughout the U.S., including NAACP, National Urban League, 100 Black Men, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Black Journalists.

In 2017, 37% of managers at Caesars Entertainment locations were minorities, compared with a national average of 22%. As just one example of bringing more African American candidates in the door, we partner with My Next Career Path Staffing, a Las Vegas-based business owned by local entrepreneur Renee Boyce. In addition to working with Renee to hire diverse IT professionals, we sponsor continuing leadership education to help him continue to grow his business.

Meet Seema, Who Supplies Horseshoe Baltimore With Chicken

Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to diversity extends into our supply chain. From the chicken served in meals at Horseshoe Baltimore to the VIP ride that gets you there, many individual companies provide products and services. Whenever possible, we try to support companies run by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and more – what’s known as “diverse suppliers.”

We sat down to chat with business owners to learn about what they do and we’re featuring their stories here on the blog. Read on to meet Seema Singh, CEO of Foodco USA.

Caesars Citizenship Blog: Thanks for speaking with us today, Seema. What does Foodco USA do?

Seema Singh: We provide chicken and other poultry to Horseshoe Baltimore, so any chicken dish that you eat at any Horseshoe Baltimore restaurant uses our chicken.

CCB: Yum! We’re big fans of the Old Bay garlic butter chicken wings at Guy Fieri’s Baltimore Kitchen.

SS: This probably isn’t a surprise, but I’m a huge fan of cooking. Chicken and garlic are my favorite ingredients to use – you can make so much good stuff with those two things!

CCB: Tell us about your story as a female business owner and CEO of Foodco USA.

SS: Foodco USA is a family business. My parents migrated to the U.S. in 1974 – my dad is a civil engineer and received a green card to work on the Baltimore airport. My mother and aunt joined forces to open the first Indian grocery store in the Baltimore area. Seeing success, they opened two more stores in the area and ultimately an Indian food distribution company, India Foods.

We purchased another food distribution company in 2000 and named it Foodco USA, expanding beyond the Indian food market.

Today, we have 162 customers, including Horseshoe Baltimore.

CCB: Besides the chicken you sell to Horseshoe Baltimore, what other products do you have?

SS: All kinds of things, from grocery items to desserts to fresh produce. Our Indian heritage is still part of the business – for example, the World Bank is one of my customers and I taught their food service team how to prepare some Indian dishes. Their employees loved it!

CCB: That’s a really nice personal touch. Do you have other advice for people on how to run a business?

SS: In addition to personalized service, it’s really about the quality of your work and the service you provide. To be honest, Horseshoe Baltimore could get the same chicken from my competitor, so it’s really all about how we present it and the relationship we have.

Also – I’ll say that it’s a challenge being a woman running a business, especially an Indian woman. So that plays into it too.

CCB: Agreed! Lots of our employees and managers are women of color so it’s important that we support advancement of women everywhere.

What would you be doing if you weren’t running a business?

SS: I love infants, so I’d find a way to work with them, either in a hospital or daycare or something like that. My hobby is cooking, though – it’s a huge early-morning stress reliever for me. I start at 4:00 a.m., my kids wake up to the aroma, come downstairs and have a countertop full of entrees to start their day.

CCB: That’s a delicious stress reliever indeed!

Our HERO Stars: Latonya, Feliz & Melissa


Caesars’ team members are big fans of sharing their expertise, creativity and passion to make a difference in our communities. This quarter, we are proud to recognize three outstanding HERO volunteers who exemplify our company’s values: Latonya, Feliz and Melissa. These caring, hardworking team members will each receive a $500 check to share with a nonprofit organization of their choice.


Latonya Anderson, Table Games Dealer HORSESHOE TUNICA

Latonya’s Cause: Breast Cancer

A five-year cancer survivor, Latonya, known around Horseshoe Tunica by her nickname, Ladybug, has made it her mission to bring better understanding of breast cancer prevention to the community of Tunica. Volunteering a whopping 240 hours in 2017, Latonya supported the local American Cancer Society walk with tireless zeal. She partnered with local radio stations, food vendors, clinics and more to recruit the event’s highest turnout ever. In addition to building awareness, the American Cancer Society provided blood pressure checks, information on breast self-exams and information on mammogram appointments.

“The struggle is real and the fight continues,” says Latonya, noting that many people in the community go without seeing a doctor and don’t realize they have cancer until it is too late. For her colleagues, her willingness to share her journey with breast cancer is appreciated. In the words of her manager, Cynthia Smith, “Latonya vows to continue the fight and continue to spread awareness about cancer to whoever will listen. Whether she helps one person or many people, it is worth it to her.”

Feliz Leyba-Rivera, Convention Services Manager, HARRAH’S AK-CHIN

Feliz’s Causes: Health and Wellness, Human Services

With 63 hours of volunteer time in 2017, Feliz threw her heart into many causes, with a keen focus on cancer patients and survivors as they were especially close to her heart. She created the Crochet for a Cause class to help her team members learn to crochet handmade hats for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Feliz’s passion for spreading awareness meant that family, friends and guests also got in on the action, making or donating hats. With an initial goal of crocheting 200 hats in 2017, Feliz and her colleagues surpassed that goal to donate hats to 357 children with cancer.

When she’s not busy crocheting to support cancer patients, Feliz volunteers with organizations including F.O.R Maricopa Food Bank, American Cancer Society, United Blood Services and Ak-Chin Social Services, to name just a few.

In the words of her colleague Jane Stimmel, “Feliz is such an extraordinary asset to our team and our company!” We couldn’t have said it better.

Melissa Yadao, Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Specialist, CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT

Melissa’s Causes: Health and Wellness, Disaster Relief, Human Trafficking

Melissa has the distinction of being nominated by not one but two of her peers for the HERO Star award. In the past two years alone, Melissa has volunteered more than 100 hours in medical assistance with Hope Medical Mission, a group of medical professionals who travel around the world to create pop-up clinics for disadvantaged people. She also took time off work after Hurricane Harvey to travel to Houston and help rebuild homes.

Melissa also volunteers in the Las Vegas community, helping the city’s homeless population and participating in human trafficking education. Last October, Melissa raised the most money for the human trafficking organization A21 out of anyone in the Las Vegas area! Finally, Melissa lends her support to the church, Calvary Chapel. As if all this isn’t enough, Melissa is a tireless recruiter of fellow HERO volunteers.

Latonya, Feliz and Melissa are stellar examples of serving our communities and we are so lucky to call them our team members!

A Look Back at October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Champs

Each October, Caesars team members across the U.S. rally together to raise funds and awareness supporting breast cancer. From our beloved Battle of the Bras to educational seminars, there’s both fun and learning for all.

Some properties go all in, with something going on nearly every day of the month amounting to $379,345 fundraised companywide. Here are this year’s three biggest winners in the competition for a combined $25,000 donation, from the Caesars Foundation to local American Cancer Society chapters.

Here are this year’s three biggest winners, who competed for a combined $25,000 donation from the Caesars Foundation for their local American Cancer Society chapters.

First Place: Horseshoe Tunica and Tunica Roadhouse

Our Tunica, Mississippi, locations laced up their shoes for breast cancer awareness and research, participating in not one, not two, but three walks, drawing more than 280 walkers. Tunica team members joined the Breast Cancer Awareness walk, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides walk. Team members also walked off Chef Tammy Britton’s delicious Cakes for the Cure, which are served weekly as a fundraiser in the employee dining room.

With more than 960 tickets sold, Tunica’s Battle of the Bras set records, as well, including attracting its first international bidder, a guest from British Columbia, Canada, in the silent auction. The property also raised more than $110,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Tunica set aside time for serious topics, too. The two Tunica locations conducted four webinars for more than 100 friends and family members on topics such as breast cancer symptoms and breast cancer in men.

Second Place: Horseshoe Hammond

Horseshoe Hammond rallied around Making Strides, collecting donations from guests in a large pink ribbon bin. Guests enjoyed pink table felts and a pink chandelier on the casino floor, to promote breast cancer awareness. Men also got into the spirit during Battle of the Bras, adding boxer shorts to make it Battle of the Bras and Bros! To top off the month, team members hosted a fashion show for guests featuring the top bras and boxers.

Horseshoe Hammond also conducted a team member wellness seminar focused on early detection and self-exams.

Third Place: Harrah’s Ak-Chin

Harrah’s Ak-Chin put a creative local spin on its breast cancer awareness initiatives through Maricopa Rocks, which encouraged employees to paint rocks with inspirational messages. The rocks were placed throughout the community for people to find and gain inspiration.

Guests who voted for the winning bras in Battle of the Bras won free slot play. The property also hosted the MOM Mobile to provide free mammograms to team members, guests and other community members.

Honorable Mention: Horseshoe Baltimore

It’s always hard to pick three winners, especially with so many great entries. We want to recognize Horseshoe Baltimore with an Honorable Mention. The location hosted a Total Rewards swipe promotion, in which a guest could personally win $2,500 and $2,500 for Susan G. Komen. The bartenders also created a special pink cocktail, which raised $4,983 for Susan G. Komen.

Thanks to team members, guests and contributions from Caesars Foundation, we’ve contributed more than $4.2 million to cancer-related organizations. We support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Making Strides, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and others. Thanks to everyone who participated in Breast Cancer Awareness Month at Caesars!

Being a HERO for Our Communities

If you know our team members (or are one yourself) you know that they’re often out sharing their expertise, creativity and passion to make a difference in our communities. This quarter, we are proud to honor four outstanding HEROs who gave their time and efforts to make a difference: Jennifer, Sue, Rainey and Randy! These caring, hardworking individuals will each receive a $500 check to share with the nonprofit of their choice.

Jennifer Schell, Buffet Manager & Sue Mikos, Assistant Buffet Manager, HORSESHOE HAMMOND

Jennifer and Sue are two HERO stars with incredible green thumbs.

When the Horseshoe Hammond Employee HERO Garden needed a new owner in the spring of 2016, Sue Mikos and Jennifer Schell stepped up to the plate. Jennifer and Sue coordinated the planting, gardening and harvesting of more than 700 square feet of vegetables and fruit. Harvested produce was available to employees to take home after providing a donation that benefited the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.

Midway through the summer, the Greater Hammond Community Services Center, had lost their biggest produce donor and could no longer supply local residents with fresh produce. The decision was made to donate all the employee garden produce directly to the Center so they could continue to provide produce to those in need.

In only six weeks, Horseshoe Hammond donated more than 500 pounds of fresh produce to the food pantry; all of which was made possible by Sue and Jennifer – amazing ladies!

Rainey Day Addington, Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment Specialist, CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT

Rainey uses her design and construction expertise to make incredible impact in communities in need. Through Rainey, Caesars is able to donate old room items, from blankets, to televisions, to nightstands and more, to local charities. Thanks to her work, 3.5 million cubic feet of products have been saved from landfills and found new homes.

Additionally, this massive in-kind donation was valued at least $556,000. Since Habitat fr Humanity no longer needs to use funds to purchase these items, it will go towards building a two-story townhouse for 20 families in 2018.

Recently, Rainey worked with HomeAide to reallocate room items from Las Vegas to Houston to support families whose homes have been devastated. Rainey is constantly finding opportunities to leverage Caesars’ resources for the betterment of communities.


Randy Phillips, Restaurant Chef, HARRAH’S CHEROKEE

Randy combines his passion for cooking with a passion to help others to be an all-around exceptional HERO Star.

For Randy, volunteering doesn’t just mean cooking and serving – it’s the whole dining process, from brainstorming a menu to the transportation of dishes back to Harrah’s after the meal. Randy and his staff have provided food for Manna Food Bank events, The Cherokee Cancer Support Center, Drive Away Hunger events and the Community Table. For the past 13 years, Randy has worked with the Blue Jean Ball and Empty Bowls fundraisers to end hunger in western North Carolina. This year, the event raised more than $100,000!

Randy is a stand up volunteer who can always be counted on to cook his heart out and to recruit others to get involved – thank you, Randy!

Honoring Veterans

At Caesars, we’ve always honored the ongoing sacrifices made by active service members and veterans, and we keep thinking of ways to be more focused on efforts that support and advocate for veterans.

A key way we’re implementing this philosophy is through our commitment to recruit hardworking veterans to join our teams. Since 2013, Caesars has hired more than 2,500 veterans through our Enlisting Heroes initiative. Additionally, our HERO volunteers have put in more than 4,000 hours aiding community veteran groups.

A Word from Vets at Caesars

Three veterans we are proud to call Caesars team members shared their thoughts on serving our country and working at Caesars locations:

 “To me, Veterans Day is a time to remember those who have made a choice to serve their nation, knowing that if the time comes, it’s time to get out there and defend it with their lives. Those who have put on the uniform as a member of our U.S. Military Services deserve not only a Veterans Day, they deserve all of our respect and admiration.”

     -Gerald B. Flourney, Senior Executive Casino Host, HARRAH’S LOUISIANA DOWNS

 “[In the Air Force] I learned so many different things that I apply regularly in my current position. I’ve been certified as a training instructor, a crisis/hostage negotiator and critical incident stress-management peer counselor. All of which help me deal with the different personalities of my people and the patrons who regularly come to [Harrah’s Louisiana Downs].”

     -Michelle Lea Oliver, Security Shift Supervisor, HARRAH’S LOUISIANA DOWNS

 “In the military you form a brotherhood with everyone despite any differences. I feel that same way about my co-workers.”

     -Robert Lands, Executive Casino Host, HORSESHOE BOSSIER CITY

Throughout the U.S., we honored veterans in different ways. Read on to learn more:

 Thanking our Vets

Team members and a guest enjoy the U.S. Vets benefit dinner. Top: Thomas Henderson, Navy vet and Planet Hollywood assistant hotel manager. From left to right: Michael, Navy vet and guest; Ronan Urena, Navy vet and Paris Las Vegas/Planet Hollywood manager front services; Michael Rapp, Army vet and Planet Hollywood front services supervisor.

Supporting Las Vegas Vets

In advance of Veterans Day, we sponsored a benefit dinner for U.S. Vets, a national nonprofit which provides housing services, job assistance, counseling and more. In Las Vegas, we sent our HERO volunteers to paint and make minor repairs to the U.S. Vets facility. We’ve also started a month-long shoe drive to support local homeless veterans after we heard this was a pressing need. To date, we’ve collected 500 pairs of shoes.

Caesars is also bringing our partner Clean the World to our local Veterans Village to put together more than 350 hygiene kits and provide lunch for 100 veterans that reside at Veterans Village. Our business resource group of veteran team members, SALUTE, is partnering with our corporate HERO volunteers to make it all happen. Hygiene kits will be distributed to veterans who struggle with homelessness.

On Veterans Day, we supported the Las Vegas Veterans Day parade as a marquee sponsor. It’s the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi, and we were proud to see our veteran and active duty team members march.

Thanks to all veterans for their service and especially to our veteran team members and guests!

HERO Star Dianna Leads Team Members at Alzheimer’s Walk

In Good Company

You may remember Dianna Lerma of Harrah’s Joliet, who along with Ernestine Richards of Horseshoe Tunica and Bryon and Jerrod of Harrah’s Resort Southern California is a HERO Star Grand Prize Winner. In the past, we’ve awarded winners a trip to another Caesars location to spread their enthusiasm for volunteering, but this year they’re celebrating closer to home.

Dianna’s Volunteer Service

As a table games supervisor at Harrah’s Joliet, Dianna is known by guests and colleagues alike as the face of the Joliet Relay for Life, supporting those fighting cancer. Dianna’s HERO Star Grand Prize award was celebrated during a dinner and reception with Harrah’s Joliet property leaders and peers on October 6 at The Reserve, Harrah’s Joliet’s fine dining steakhouse. Dianna was recognized for volunteering a total of 150 hours and raising more than $12,000 for Relay for Life in 2016.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s®

Dianna’s HERO Star celebration also let her volunteer leadership shine. She led her fellow team members in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® last Saturday at Rock Run Forest Preserve. Dianna brought the same passion to the Walk that she brings to each cause she supports, but this one was a bit more personal because her mother is one of the five million Americans struggling with the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.


Harrah’s Joliet Raised More than $3,700 for Alzheimer’s Research

Harrah’s Joliet hosted a table at the Walk to promote the Healthy Brains Initiative, the app and online community. Harrah’s Joliet HEROs also sold raffle tickets for a Las Vegas trip donated by Caesars Entertainment, donating all proceeds from ticket sales to Alzheimer’s Association. Finally, Harrah’s Joliet presented a check for $3,742, collected from September Employee Jeans Days (where employees are encouraged to donate $5 to wear jeans to work). Couldn’t join the walk, but still want to help out? You can donate to Dianna’s fundraising effort for Walk to End Alzheimer’s here.

Meet Michael, Who Owns a Chauffeuring Company

From left to right, Michael Saunders poses with his business partners Ernest Asiedu and Dulani Christian.

Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to diversity extends into our supply chain. From the chicken served in meals at Horseshoe Baltimore to the VIP ride that gets you there, many individual companies provide products and services. Whenever possible, we try to support companies run by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and more – what’s known as “diverse suppliers.”

We sat down to chat with business owners to learn about what they do and we’re featuring their stories here on the blog. Next up is Michael Saunders and his business partners at Universal Metropolitan Group Chauffeured, Ernest Asiedu and Dulani Christian.

Caesars Citizenship Blog: Thanks for speaking with us today, Michael. What does UMG Chauffeured do?

Michael Saunders: We provide VIP transportation for Horseshoe Baltimore – our goal is to make each trip feel like our guest has his or her own personal chauffeur. Anybody can drive a car, but this is about service.

CCB: We know that Horseshoe Baltimore guests really appreciate that VIP service from UMG! How did the company come about?

MS: Well, I’m doing this interview on behalf of my two business partners – we’re a team. Ernest Asiedu is our director of operations and Dulani Christian is our director of human resources. The three of us go way back in the hospitality business, and that’s what we’ve based UMG’s services around.

We worked in guest services together at Renaissance in downtown Baltimore. I left for a while to work for the railroad, but I wanted to provide more for my family when my first child was born, so I decided to go out on my own and start a business. I reconnected with Ernest and Christian through Renaissance and because we trusted each other, we decided to join forces. We incorporated UMG Chauffeured on July 1, 2004 and today we have eight full time employees plus a few part-timers.

CCB: Thirteen years in business – congrats! Where does UMG serve, besides Baltimore?

MS: We’ve expanded far beyond Baltimore – we also serve Atlantic City, New York, even North Carolina. We have a network of affiliates across the country. Also, we have a few drivers whose clients have flown them somewhere just to drive them!

CCB: Sounds like a seriously loyal customer. So if I’m on my way to Horseshoe Baltimore, what rides do you have for me?

MS: We’ve got 12 vehicles in our fleet, from Chrysler 300 sedans to Chevy Suburbans to minibuses for larger groups.

CCB: What’s your advice for success in business?

MS: You know, we had some dark hours in 2008, but going through a recession means we know we can make it long-term.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know that you don’t jump out there and make a lot of money at first. You have to have a vision, and once you truly believe it and pursue it wholeheartedly, you’ll enjoy going to work.

Ernest and Christian, my business partners, feel the same way, and our employees rally around that. When times get lean, we band together.

CCB: What’s your favorite activity outside of running UMG with Ernest and Christian?

MS: Well, we actually socialize outside of work with each other and UMG’s drivers. We’ll have get-togethers and bring our families, and we try not to talk about work too much!

Sometimes I’ll check out Jack Binion’s for a meal, too.

CCB: Nice! Thanks for chatting with us, Michael.

Meet Nicole, Who Supplies Our Gulf Coast Locations With Produce

As part of Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to diversity, we seek diversity in our supply chain, too. From the chicken served in meals at Horseshoe Baltimore to the VIP ride that gets you there, many individual companies provide products and services. Whenever possible, we support companies run by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and more – what’s known as “diverse suppliers.”

We sat down to chat with business owners to learn about what they do and we’ll be featuring their stories here on the blog, starting with Nicole Salha, CEO, Platinum Foods.

Caesars Citizenship Blog: Tell us, Nicole, what types of company is Platinum Foods?

Nicole Salha: We’re a food distributor providing produce to all of Caesars Entertainment’s Gulf Coast properties. If it’s a fruit or vegetable and you’re eating it at a Gulf Coast Caesars location, it came from Platinum Foods.

CCB: So how did Platinum Foods come about?

NS: I’ll share the long version of my story. I worked my way through college and was a recent graduate in the recession. My first job was in commercial real estate and consulting, and I was successful there, but when the recession happened, our staff was reduced by half. I thought, “OK, I just finished school, what can I do to improve my life?” I didn’t like the experience of losing my job and thought opening a small business was a good solution. I went to my mom’s hometown in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A lot of my family members work in distribution, and I got lots of good advice. For a while, I thought of opening a small café in Trinidad, serving the tourist market.

CCB: What changed for you?

NS: Well, I went home and a friend pointed out that as a Hispanic female, I’m a minority. He thought I could have success starting a business here in the U.S. and serving corporate customers due to diverse supplier programs.

CCB: Like our diverse supplier program at Caesars.

NS: Yes, exactly. So I did my research and started my company when I discovered there was a lack of diverse suppliers in my industry and in the Gulf Coast. I incorporated my business on March 1, 2011. I started out in dry goods and disposables, eventually adding on refrigerated items. In my first year, I had just one customer. Today, Platinum Foods is a multi-million dollar business.

CCB: This is a really inspiring story! How’d the name Platinum Foods come about?

NS: I love jewelry and design. Platinum is the best you can get, so the name reflects my commitment to service, plus my interest in design.

CCB: What’s your advice for others who want to start a small business?

NS: I have friends who think the only way to get ahead in business is to invent a new concept or item. They seem to think that you need to reinvent the wheel to get ahead in business. However, that is actually not the case.

I believe that if you combine hard work, time, and true dedication with a knowledge of your target marketplace, you may have a viable business.

CCB: How do you figure out what your niche will be?

My grandfather in Trinidad was a wholesaler and distributor forever, but doing business in the Caribbean is different than here in the U.S. So it’s kind of in my DNA, but I still had challenges, of course.

You really have to do your market research and talk to potential customers before you launch a business so you can understand what the needs are.

CCB: And what about as a Hispanic woman in business, do you have any special advice?

NS: The world is changing – if you want to get into a field that’s primarily men, just be brave and keep pushing until you get there. It takes a lot of “no’s” to get to one “yes.”

CCB: That’s really inspiring advice. It sounds like you’re a very motivated person – do you ever take time to relax?

NS: Yes! I do visit Caesars locations in Las Vegas and my customers on the Gulf Coast, taking some time for shopping, dining and gaming.

I love to visit art galleries and spend time with family and friends. I also love to cook – I make different ethnic foods, from Moroccan to French to Cajun. I’m also becoming a vegetarian. I think that anybody can live a good healthy life if they cook for themselves with lots of fresh produce.

CCB: If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you do?

NS: I’d be a travel blogger – travel half the year and relax the other half.

CCB: Sounds like a dream career to us! Thanks, Nicole.