Melanie Akwule, Co-Founder & CEO
In our first blog post we talked about the problem we found and our lofty goal as a company to bridge the gaps minorities and women face in business. In our Meet the MINWO Team blog series, we’d like to introduce the team of crazy millennials that believe they can be the change they wish to see in this world. Starting first with our CEO, Melanie Akwule.
MINWO, LLC started as Melanie’s response to the helplessness she felt at the onset of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In 2012, she had taken to the streets with thousands of other befuddled and enraged Americans to protest the Zeorge Gimmerman* verdict. As a college student with minimal resources, it was a way for her to make her voice heard in a meaningful way. By the time Freddie Gray passed in 2014, she had transitioned into “Corporate America” and felt caught between a rock and a hard place. How could she make an impact by raising awareness about social issues that were important to her, yet balance the very real responsibilities that came with adulting?
Her first thought was to turn to what she’s always believed to be the key to true equality in the United States, financial freedom. If she could financially boycott certain companies, and redirect those funds to black-owned businesses, that would have a similar, if not greater, impact as taking to the streets did back in college. What she didn’t anticipate, however, was how difficult it would be to find these companies. It was during her general research for a way to easily identify black-owned companies that she stumbled upon the Pew Research study.
She originally had no intention of starting a company, but seeing the data that showed that the business landscape for not only blacks, but all minority groups, left room for improvement, it became a resounding call she felt compelled to answer. As a black woman in business, who has experienced the impact of a lack of diversity in the workplace first hand, she believed her degrees in business, along with her passion for finance, made her uniquely qualified to tackle this issue head-on. Her first order of business was to find a team that she felt would be equally passionate and up to the task of becoming a change agent.
Building a strong team is key aspect of business, and Melanie wanted to surround herself with people that she could trust and would complement her skillset. Her first call was to Jermaine Brownlee, our Chief Digital Officer, whom she met through GE’s Digital Technology Leadership Program. Next, she convinced one of her best friends, Jasmine Kent, an Industrial Design Master’s Student, to come on board as our Creative Director. Toya Skeete, our Business Strategy Director, came to us through a mutual friend of Melanie’s and shared passion for the space.
The MINWO journey has only just begun. We’re excited to share more of the team and what we’ve learned along the way in order to help you reach your entrepreneurial goals. Check out our site regularly to see where we’re headed next!
*Written with intention. We refuse to respect a man that murders with no remorse.
Melanie’s Professional Background:
Melanie is currently a part-time student at the University of California — Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Recently named as a VP of Diversity of the Evening & Weekend MBA Association, she plans to work closely with the program to reinvent how Haas reaches women and people of color during the admissions process.
She’s also a Senior Technical Product Manager at GE Digital where she’s responsible for leading the development strategy of data and analytics based software. Her passion for diversity in business and tech has led her to volunteer as President of their Northern California Chapter of the African American Forum at GE. Additionally, Melanie has also began to work with college graduates, graduate students, and early career professionals to help them create sound personal finance habits.
Melanie graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Business Administration, concentration in Information Technology Management, and a minor in Engineering and Management.