Success is not luck. Itâ€™s what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And those who begin this preparation process out of the starting blocks tend to acquire key leadership assignments and professional reputations that, in some cases, exceed those of colleagues more than a decade their senior. The female entrepreneurs and corporate executives identified in our latest â€œeditorsâ€™ choiceâ€ rosterâ€”40 Rising Stars 40 and Underâ€”have made moves that have placed them on the path to power and success in business, all before their 41st birthdays.
In consulting the nationâ€™s largest public and private corporations, major trade associations, established entrepreneurs, and senior executives over the past several months, our editorial research team discovered this cadre of remarkable women. They operate within a range of industries and disciplines, including science and technology; advertising, marketing, and public relations; finance; energy; food and beverages; and entertainment. Some run large or significant divisions of their companies and report to a chief executive or division head, others have launched and managed successful independent entities. These women are innovators and influencers, trailblazers and pioneers who reshaped and refreshed disciplines with cutting-edge processes, or transformed ideas into tangible, lucrative products or services.
We chose not to include managers or employees of law firms, unions, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies, or those employed in fashion or the arts, medicine, and education.
Having attained this much power and success early in their respective careers, thereâ€™s no telling what groundbreaking achievements the women who made this yearâ€™s list will accomplish in coming years. Judging from the drive that put them in their current positions, it appears as if nothing will stop them from reaching the pinnacle of global industry.
Tyra Banks, 38
Banks is a supermodel, media personality, actress, businesswoman, and author. After retiring from professional modeling in 2005, she put her energy into several original business endeavors. She formed her own production company, Bankable Productions, and produced projects for television and film, including Americaâ€™s Next Top Model and The Tyra Banks Show. Last year, she launched typeF, a beauty website.
Banks founded TZONE, a foundation aimed at developing teenage girls’ independence and self-esteem in the late 90s and penned Tyraâ€™s Beauty Inside & Out, a book with the same goal. Most recently, she released Modelland, a fictional story about a young woman and her three friends who discover beauty in their individuality and uniqueness. Banks and fellow modelpreneur Iman appeared in the September 2006 issue of Black Enterprise.
Nia Batts, 27
Director, Strategic Partnerships & Social Impact
Batts is responsible for optimizing marketing, cause marketing and corporate responsibility practices across the company while managing relationships with key partners and foundations to align market forces with positive social impact.
Major professional accomplishment: “Being included on this list. I grew up seeing my dadâ€™s name in this magazine and now we both get to see mine.”
Next career goal: A successful social impact partnership that benefits the students and greater community of Detroit.
Professional lesson learned: Choosing the right partners is often the key to success.
Advice for college grads: “You donâ€™t have to plan your entire life at 22 but you do owe it to yourself to live presently and learn from the opportunities in front of you.”
Major personal accomplishment: Having the privilege of meeting and working with the President and First Lady
Next personal goal: To climb Machu Picchu
Dream vacation: “Iâ€™m dying to visit the Tribewanted sustainable community at John Obey Beach in Sierre Leone. Theyâ€™re doing really incredible work there: http://www.tribewanted.com/”
Dream car: “One that flies. Theyâ€™ve been promising that for a while.”
Phone: iPhone 4S
Laptop: Macbook Pro
Other tech tools: iPad “My favorite app is HootSuite. Itâ€™s vital given the rate at which we create and consume content.”
Favorite beverage: â€œIâ€™m addicted to the green juice from Blossom Du Jour in Chelsea. It will change your life.â€
Angela Benton, 30
Founder, Publisher & CEO
Black Web Media L.L.C.
Service/product company provides: â€œOur main mission and goalâ€”regardless of the product, whether itâ€™s a conference or accelerator or a websiteâ€”is really around African Americans and minorities in technology and really being a catalyst for change and the elevation of those individuals.â€
Professional lesson learned: â€œBe persistent and keep personal and business relationships separate. As entrepreneur, work already bleeds over into your personal life so much anyway. If youâ€™re not careful it starts to overtake your whole life.â€
Dream vacation: â€œBora Bora. I prefer hot over cold.â€
Dream car: â€œI like concept cars. BMW just came out with the i8, which is pretty cool. I would really like an Aston Martin.â€
Phone: iPhone 4 â€œI donâ€™t have the 4S, which is surprising to some people. Typically, I donâ€™t get the increment version.â€
Laptop: â€œI have a 15â€™â€™ Macbook pro.â€
Other tech tools: â€œTablets, of course. I have an iPad and recently got a Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has really become my new BFF because it integrates so well with Google Docs. It also integrates well on Android technology.â€
Favorite beverage: â€œI like all kinds of wine. In the summer I tend to drink Riesling and in the winter I really like syrah. Other than that, I drink a lot of water and cranberry juice.â€
Nikki Bethel, 36
Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness
Home Box Office Inc.
Bethel oversees all executive and employee development, internal employee communications and initiatives, and integrated business solutions for the 2,000-plus workforce of the multibillion-dollar division of Time Warner. She worked in finance for Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley before transitioning into the entertainment industry. â€œI came to HBO with a very different energy and spirit. I do feel that my background has helped me in my current position.â€
Major personal accomplishment: Recently purchased a home in the Hamptons
Dream vacation: “Iâ€™d love to go to Malta.”
Dream car: Aston Martin DB9 convertible
Favorite Beverage: Seltzer w/ lime
Leea Nash Bridgeman, 34
VP, Business Development
Churchill Downs Inc.
Major responsibilities: Both strategic and operational responsibilities for the diversified racing, gaming, and entertainment company. Leea is responsible for driving the growth and evolution of Churchill Downâ€™s strategy, supporting merger and acquisition activity, identifying and vetting new business opportunities, incubating new businesses, and implementing high-priority initiatives across the company.
Major professional accomplishment: “Taking my training in and knowledge base of digital and applying it to help transform traditional businesses (i.e., television and movie studio, horse racing company).”
Professional lesson learned: “‘All boats rise together.’ Teams are what make corporations win–not individual people. Leadership is important and integral to success, but without a strong team great ideas would not get implemented.”
Advice for college grads: “A) Do what you love. You will have your career for a long time, so spend it in an industry and a role that excites you. B) Build relationships. The relationships you form in the business world (senior, peer, junior) will be invaluable. These people will provide you with guidance, encouragement, opportunities, and wings for your dreams.”
What has been a major personal accomplishment for you? “Meeting the love of my life and getting married. And building a strong relationship with the Lord.”
Whatâ€™s your dream vacation destination? “On my list was an overwater hut in French Polynesia. My husband and I were lucky enough to honeymoon in French Polynesia when we visited the islands of Bora Bora and Le Tahaâ€™a.”
Phone: iPhone for work, Blackberry for personal use “And I may be in the minority here, but I also have a landline that I use when home.”
Laptop: Dell for work, Lenovo at home
Other tech tools: iPad, Kindle “I used to ONLY buy hard cover books so it was a large step for me to move to the Kindle, but I love it. The ability to travel with all my books in my purse is fantastic.”
Favorite store: “Papyrus, Hallmark, Tinyprints.com and my local stationary store. I LOVE stationary. In the world of technology, I think there is nothing nicer than receiving a hand-written note.”
Favorite beverage: Hot: Tazo Berryblossom White Tea, Cold: Tazo Plum Pomegranate Iced Tea
Kelli Coleman, 27
EVP, Corporate Communications & President, GHV of New York
Coleman is responsible for GlobalHueâ€™s external presence in the marketplace. Sheâ€™s also on the finance committee, helping to steer the company financially as well as strategically. â€œI also am president and CEO of our incubator company, GHB. GHB works to develop new initiatives, mostly in new media. Currently weâ€™re working on a new digital platform.â€
Major professional accomplishment: â€œSuccessfully working with my father to launch a startup, the digital platform Voyr, which features exclusive content from icons across categories, major stars who have made their mark across their respective industries. Another has been working with other senior leadership over the past year in steering new brand identity for GlobalHue. Itâ€™s been amazing spending time digging through the history and legacy of the GlobalHue brand, how itâ€™s evolved, and how to talk about ourselves and externally present ourselves now.â€
Professional lesson learned: â€œTo not be too rash and impulsive in the decision-making process. I also would say the power of diplomacy is great. In business, handling different personalities within your company and outside of the company can present challenges. Always maintaining professionalism and diplomacy is helpful.â€
Advice for college grads: â€œMy No. 1 piece of advice is to really continue to add value and remind those you are working with and those youâ€™re working for of the value you add in the company. Itâ€™s not enough anymore to just hold a position and meet expectations; itâ€™s important to exceed expectations. We all know how competitive the marketplace is, so itâ€™s important to continue to add value and make yourself indispensable.â€
Major personal accomplishment: â€œNot to get mushy, but the birth of my daughter and being able to grab the motherhood and businesss roles by the horns.â€
Dream vacation: â€œIâ€™m going to make my dream come true next year. Iâ€™m going to South Africa.â€
Dream car: â€œA Bugatiâ€
Phone: iPhone 4S â€œSiri is totally worth it.â€
Laptop: Macbook Air â€œItâ€™s perfect for traveling.â€
Other tech tools: iPad
Favorite store: Barneys
Daphne Dufresne, 39
Co-founder & Managing Director
RLJ Equity Partners L.L.C.
Dufresne is responsible for sourcing, executing and monitoring investments. She is also involved in the day to day management of the firm, its employees, and fundraising. She sits on the firmâ€™s four person Investment Committee which makes final investment decisions on every deal. Dufresne also is a member of the board of directors of portfolio companies LAI International, and chairman of the board of Media Source Inc. and Fleischmannâ€™s Vinegar Company.
Major professional accomplishment: â€œRaising a first-time fund, generating more than three times the return for my limited partners.â€
Professional lesson learned: â€œAsk not, want not. You must be your own advocate.â€
Advice for college grads: â€œHone your technical skills; become a whiz at financial models.â€
Dream vacation: â€œWonderful tropical weather, nice beaches, piÃ±a coladas, and cultural nightlife. I love to dance!â€
Dream car: â€œStill a convertible. I donâ€™t like all the wind or heat on a hot day but you canâ€™t beat the look.â€
Major personal accomplishment: â€œMarrying the love of my life and producing three fantastic children.â€
Phone: â€œI love my iPhone 4â€
Other tech tools: Nikon D90 camera
Favorite beverage: Apple martini
Rosalyn Durant, 35
Durant was promoted to vice president of ESPNU in April 2008 and her role was expanded in 2011 to include ESPNHS. Her responsibilities include setting the strategic direction for the 24-hour college sports network, overseeing all programming and leading the inter-departmental team responsible for the continued growth and development of the network, as well as ESPNHS, and all related multimedia initiatives. She was previously vice president of programming and acquisitions.
Durant is responsible for maximizing the value of ESPNU properties across the companyâ€™s multimedia assets, including television, Internet, radio, print, broadband and wireless. Her duties extend to regular interaction with all facets of ESPNâ€™s business: remote and studio production, customer marketing and sales, affiliate sales and marketing, consumer marketing, research, legal, communications and finance. She is also an active participant within the ESPN mentor advisory team and serves on various additional company-wide committees.
Durant serves on the board of directors of the T. Howard Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in the multimedia and entertainment industries. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelorâ€™s degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in marketing.
Amy Ellis-Simon, 39
Head of Specialty Sales and Americas Head of Corporate Access
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
A few months ago, Ellis-Simon was named head of specialty sales and Americas head of corporate access in the equities division at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, focused on delivering value-added, alpha-creating opportunities to clients. One of the biggest professional accomplishments for this veteran, who was included on black enterpriseâ€™s 75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street list, has been â€œworking on a team that gets recognized for its excellence, working on this platform at Bank of America Merrill Lynch through some turbulent times and an interesting merger, and coming out with a platform that weâ€™re all pretty proud of.â€
Major personal accomplishment: “Maintaining a strong relationship with my parents and sisters.”
Next personal goal: “To incorporate more time to do more personal reading.”
Dream vacation: “I tend to travel to Montego Bay.”
Favorite store: Target and Home Goods
Kathryn Finney, 35
Founder, Creator & CEO
TBF Group L.L.C.
Finney, perhaps best known for her site The Budget Fashionista, took to the Web in the summer of 2003. Primarily in an effort to stay in touch with friends, the Rutgers and Yale graduate started writing about her shopping experiences before the term blog had taken off. She caught the attention of the Associated Press and the news service circulated an article about The Budget Fashionista in January 2004. Her site crashed the next day. And now 600,000 unique visitors a month clamor for her take on fashion advice.
Finney has since acquired several trademarks in addition to her flagship site, and sheâ€™s currently working on a number of multimedia projects such as Jelly TV and Mighty Beauty Blog in addition to consulting, public speaking, and serving as an editor-at-large for BlogHer.com.
Dream vacation: Patagonia and Antarctica
Phone: Blackberry, iPhone 4S, iPad with Skype
Laptop: A Macbook, a Dell and a netbook
Other tech tools: “I have a digital camera, a Canon DLSR. Photography is a hobby of mine.”
Favorite store: “Hmm, thatâ€™s like choosing between children. Thereâ€™s a store called ASOS.com. Itâ€™s a British site that now has a U.S. presence. Very on-trend, fashion-forward pieces. They have a plus-size section called Curve and itâ€™s excellent!” Also, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom and Target.
Favorite beverage: A glass of seltzer water with a splash of cranberry juice, a splash of orange juice, and a lime.
Sharon Fortune Bowden, 40
Information Technology Architect
IBM Global Business Services
Fortune Bowden is an information technology (IT) professional for IBM based in New York. She has worked as an information technology professional for 15 years.
Prior to her current position, she held the position as a Principle IT Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, LLC. In 2003 PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting was acquired by IBM and Fortune Bowden took on the role of an IT Architect, where she helps clients strategically align their business goals and technology usage to 1) advance their industry, 2) improve product quality/service, and 3) produce internal cost savings with automation.
Fortune Bowden has built a good reputation in the technical community based on her strong background in data center as well as infrastructure planning and delivery. She has designed technical assessment tools and designed IT governance models to monitor the effectiveness of technology for specified business process. She also designed the underlying technology environments for the systems and routinely advised the executive teams about the technology trade-offs, challenges, and alternatives.
Fortune Bowden earned a dual Masterâ€™s degree from DeVry University, Keller Graduate Management School, in Program Management/Information Systems Management. She has also received the “Technology Rising Star” award from the Career Communications Group. Fortune Bowden is a proud and productive community activist, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated and a board member of the Ivy Rose Foundation and the Brooklyn Music School.
Marve Frazier, 31
Chief Creative Officer, Moguldom Media Group
As chief creative officer, Frazier manages the operations of all websites under the Moguldom Media Group umbrella, including Bossip, Madame Noire, The Atlanta Post, Hip-Hop Wired, 24Wired, and StyleBlazer. Moreover, as CEO she oversees the editorial direction of Bossip.com, Moguldomâ€™s flagship presence. Frazier joined Bossip.com, a startup launched in April 2006, in September of that year. At the time, its domain name cost less than $10. Today, after a little more than five years, she says the site has grown from 1 million unique visitors and 20 million page views a month to 2.5 million and 50 million, respectively. The company has more than 40 employees with offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. â€œWe have a great team. I appreciate being able to work with people as creative as I am and actually growing the company from nothing to what it is today.â€
Dream vacation: “I really want to take my 6-year-old son to Africa.”
Dream car: “Just something fast.”
Favorite store: “I like little boutique-type places. I like Target, too.”
Favorite beverage: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Ivy Grant, 37
Global public relations firm Edelman brought Grant on board from Polo Ralph Lauren in June 2011 to build its management consulting arm, using her 13-year background to help the $300 million PR giant develop more expansive and lucrative relationships with clients. The Cornell and New York University graduate is charged with helping Edelman restructure its organization by adding organizations such as the Ohio State University to its client roster, hiring new talent, and creating new business strategies.
Major personal accomplishment: “I bought my dream home a few years ago.”
Next personal goal: “I decided to get my act together health-wise and hired a personal trainer.”
Dream vacation: “Iâ€™ve always been one of those people who wanted to go on one of those extreme eco tours.”
Dream car: “A hybrid convertible Mustang would be my ideal! Something cool and good for the environment at the same time.”
Laptop: A Macbook and an IPad
Favorite store: “Nordstrom, because of their great shoe selection.”
Favorite beverage: “I donâ€™t drink alcohol but I love Martinelliâ€™s Sparkling Apple Cider.”
Ajilli Hardy, Ph.D., 33
Energy Systems Engineer
General Electric Co.
Hardy is a thermal systems engineer charged with building models and experiments and testing them with the goal of developing new ways to harvest unconventional energy to convert it to a usable form. Sheâ€™s also responsible for developing technology that cleans hard-to-treat process water from hydraulic fracturing sites.
Hardyâ€™s recent projects included building and testing an absorption chiller for the Army, in which waste heat from ground generators cools tents in hot weather conditions. Hardy offers this advice for those who want to pursue a professional career in the sciences: â€œIf you are in school and pursuing a technical career, make use of internship opportunities to gain as much exposure as you can. Try everything,â€ she says, noting her own internships around the globe with companies such as BMW, Boeing, and the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics.
Dream vacation: “I think Iâ€™d like to spend a good month in Africa–someplace very remote, where there may not be any infrastructure for energy. And Iâ€™d like to learn as much as I can about what resources are there and what would be needed in order to harvest energy using those resources.”
Dream car: “The Mission Impossible car (BMW i8). Iâ€™ll take two of those.”
Phone: Droid Razr “I like the large screen.”
Favorite store: Victoriaâ€™s Secret “They have awesome sweater dresses.”
Favorite beverage: “Bolthouse Farms has great smoothies. I really like the Green Goodness one. I donâ€™t drink alcohol.”
Kimberly Hogg, 25
Brand Manager. AMP Energy
Hogg is currently the brand manager for Pepsiâ€™s AMP Energy drink. Sheâ€™s responsible for analytics and scorecarding, developing retail programming, managing the brandâ€™s social presence online, creating e-mail distributions, and keeping her team abreast of how the brand is performing. AMP, which pulled in more than $250 million in revenues in 2011, relaunched at the end of February with new graphics, new formulas, and new positioning.
Hogg became a brand manager at Pepsi without any professional marketing experience and without having majored in marketing in college. Sheâ€™d been an economics major and spent a year and a half at Citigroup before deciding to go after a marketing position. She had only participated in a marketing challenge in college for fun, but that brief experience was enough to make her realize her professional passion.
Major personal accomplishment: “Living in New York City debt-free! Iâ€™m very reliant on Groupon, Lifebookerâ€”all of those services that make sure I have a great life within my means.”
Next personal goal: To get an M.B.A. in the near future
Dream vacation: “Iâ€™m fascinated with Dubai because itâ€™s grown into a global city and a strong business hub at an alarmingly fast rate. And on top of that, it has beautiful beaches and resorts.”
Dream car: A Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Laptop: HP tablet
Favorite store: “I love boutiques–but in terms of mainstream, I really like Topshop.”
Favorite beverage: “Iâ€™m a fan of anything with Elderflower in it. So everything from an elderflower martini to an elderflower ginger ale. I like sweet things.”
Teneshia Jackson Warner of Egami Consulting Group.
Teneshia Jackson Warner, 35
Chief Creative Officer
Egami Consulting Group
Jackson Warnerâ€™s life story has been one of perseverance, diligence, risk-taking and inspiration. Her career spans over 10 years and ranges from multicultural marketing, project management to inspirational life coaching. She is currently founder and CEO of an award winning multicultural marketing firm, Egami Consulting Group, specializing in connecting brands to urban and multicultural consumers. Egami provides brands ways to inspire, connect, and activate consumers through innovative best in class marketing campaigns, strategic partnerships, custom community programs, public relations and/or new product launches. Since 2007, Jackson Warner has led the firm from a dream concept to 2011 annual billings exceeding 1.5 million with expected 2012 billings expecting to reach 3 million. For the past four years, the firm has experienced the following revenue percentage increases year over year, 2008â€“53%, 2009â€“38%, 2010â€“100%, 2011â€“204%.
Under Jackson Warnerâ€™s leadership, Egami Consulting Group formed a strategic partnership with the worldâ€™s third largest communications firm; MSL Group, a Publicis Groupe global engagement firm. Egami serves as MSL Group diversity marketing partner working with them to deliver multicultural marketing solutions to their client network. Together they have delivered award winning client work for leading brands such as P&Gâ€™s Bounty and My Black is Beautiful, Verizon Wireless, Hennessy, Heineken, Dasani, Western Union, KFC and more.
Jackson Warner is a graduate of Alabama A&M University, where she minored in communications and received her bachelor’s in computer science.
Kellee James, 35
Organic Futures Group
James is the founder of the Organic Futures Group, a startup venture with the goal of providing market intelligence, as well as launching spot, futures and options markets on organic agricultural commodities. Previously, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a 2009-2010 White House Fellow. Her responsibilities included development of environmental markets such as tradable fishing quotas (catch shares), water quality trading programs, and other natural resource valuation techniques.
Prior to her work as a Fellow, James spent five years as an economist at the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), an electronic trading platform and registry for spot, futures and options on carbon, sulfur, clean energy and other environmental derivatives.
Earlier she worked with cocoa and coffee farmers, as well as commodity banks in Latin America, on risk management and income diversification strategies. James received her M.B.A. and masterâ€™s in International Development from American University in Washington, D.C., and completed a bachelorâ€™s in Spanish from the University of Kentucky.
Role model: “Iâ€™ve long admired Gwen Ifill as someone who is at the top of her profession, incredibly smart, and really down to earth as well.”
Dream vacation: â€œVacation? Whatâ€™s that? Iâ€™m going to Kenya and Tanzania soon, but itâ€™ll be a bit of a working Vacation since Iâ€™m hoping to talk with some folks in the organic coffee business while Iâ€™m there, and participate in an environmental leadership forum as well.â€
Dream car: â€œOne thatâ€™s fuel-efficient!â€
Phone: â€œBlackberry at the moment but Iâ€™m going back to my â€˜droid.â€
Laptop: Macbook pro
Other tech tools? Kindle
Favorite store: â€œI do love a good farmerâ€™s market.â€
Favorite beverage: â€œReally good coffee.â€
Samanta Joseph, 34
Changing the game in the retail shoe industry, Joseph runs a company that designs and retails stylish, comfortable shoes for women challenged to find footwear in their size. Her inspiration: the need to find durable comfort on city streets. â€œI ripped apart a pair of my very expensive shoes to see how they were made. I did some research and realized that they were made for women with high arches and insteps.â€ Joseph decided to design shoes that were more comfy for a wider market.
Designing shoes has been a passion of Josephâ€™s since she was a child, and her business, launched in 2003, grossed approximately $1 million in 2010.
Dream vacation: Petit Martinique, an island off of the island of Grenada. “The thing I love about the island is that there are no electronics–no TV, no telephones, no computers. So when youâ€™re there, youâ€™re just engulfed in the serenity of nature and can have some good old family time.”
Dream car: “Anything with a DVD player in it that will entertain my 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son!”
Phone: Samsung Smiley
Laptop: Lenovo X200 “Itâ€™s lightweight and compact and does everything I need it to do.”
Other tech tools: Canon Powershot SX210IS “I love this camera so much because it has the Powershot compactness but the operating system of an EOS, like the Canon Red Deluxe D. It has a super zoom and the digital quality of the pictures is so awesome.”
Favorite store: Crazy 8 “I shop mostly for my kids, so anywhere I can get quality at an affordable price is where I will live.”
Favorite beverage: “A natural, very tasty veggie fruit juice that my dad makes.”
Sheldra Khahaifa, 38
SVP, Finance and Operations, Commercial Music Group
Sony Music Entertainment
Since 2010 Khahaifa has overseen all aspects of financial management, reporting & analysis, including strategic planning, deal evaluations, accounting and internal controls and management of general & administrative costs, as well as product release planning. Her deep knowledge of the business coupled with her strong general management skills also enables her to play a critical role in partnering with the President of the division, as well as the entire executive management team in their day-to-day strategic and financial management of the business. She is well respected and liked by her peers and viewed as a mentor to many of the more junior level women in the group.
Over the course of Khahaifaâ€™s 10+ year career with Sony Music Entertainment (including predecessors SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT and BMG Music), she has held multiple key executive finance positions including CFO of Dada Entertainment, formerly a SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT joint venture; Vice President, Finance & Operations for the Global Digital Business & US Sales division; Vice President, Label Finance Shared Services; Vice President, Finance & Integration as well as Group Controllerâ€“USA for BMG Music. She joined the company in 2001 as Senior Director of Finance for Arista Records.
Khahaifa is a certified public accountant and holds a B.B.A. in accountancy from Bernard M. Baruch College, where she graduated cum laude.
Chekesha Kidd, 35
President, Aetna Student Health
Kidd drives the entire business strategy and execution around selling student health insurance benefits and services to colleges and universities across the country. She oversees everything from sales strategy, marketing, and pricing of insurance products to actuarial and underwriting and more for the entire student health division of parent company Aetna, which grossed approximately $8.5 billion in 2011. â€œItâ€™s basically like running a business within the company,â€ she remarks. Kidd was appointed to her current role about a year ago. Prior to joining Aetna, she was an investment banker with Banc of America Securities and a director at UBS Investment Bank.
Next personal goal: “I promised myself that I was going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the time I was 40. I did Camelback Mountain in Phoenix for the first time this summer.”
Laptop: HP Elite
Favorite store: “I like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and J Crew.”
Favorite beverage: Cranberry juice
Lauren Kramer-Dover, 35
Global Executive Directorâ€”Strategy & Corporate Development
Kramer-Dover joined Dell in 2011 and currently leads global strategy and corporate development for all of the companyâ€™s business units, representing over $60 billion in revenue. In this role, she leads a global team focused on driving holistic long-term strategies, identifying big bets for future growth and pursuing business development activities that advance this strategic agenda.
Prior to joining Dell, Kramer-Dover was senior director of strategy for PepsiCo Americas Foods, a $22B division within PepsiCo, where she led a strategy team focused on identifying global growth and expansion opportunities. She and her team built country and region strategies which leverage both internal PepsiCo capabilities and external acquisition targets. She worked closely with individual businesses, country teams and Corporate Development.
Previous to her role in PepsiCo Americas Foods, Kramer-Dover was the director of marketing at Quaker Foods & Snacks (a division of PepsiCo); senior manager, Strategic Initiatives for PepsiCoâ€™s Wal-Mart team; brand manager for Sierra Mist at Pepsi-Cola North America. And prior to joining Pepsi she was a strategy consultant with Monitor Group, a founding member of the Monitor Groupâ€™s Organizational Strategy Practice, and head of Diversity Recruiting.
Kramer-Dover has a bachelorâ€™s in psychology from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
Leona Locke Dotson, 31
Product Marketing Manager, U.S. Information Worker Business Group
Major responsibilities: â€œIâ€™m responsible for a specific enterprise-driven product in the U.S. I do everything from determine how we are going to generate demand for the product to determine how we get customers to deploy the product so they will actually come back and renew it. I also manage our partner community and determine how best to utilize that community, whether itâ€™s from working with our sales team or getting those partners in front of customers.â€
Major professional accomplishment: Last year I made a complete career change. I made a determination after eight and a half years in finance that I wanted to broaden my skill set, so I went into marketing.
Next personal goal: Finishing M.B.A. this year
Dream vacation: A Seaborne(TM) cruise and a cruise around the world. â€œIâ€™m one of those people who say, â€˜I want to visit every continent.â€™ Short term, I have a great desire to go to Fiji.â€
Dream car: â€œWhen I was a kid, my dream car was a convertible BMW. But now my practical side is looking at SUVs.â€
Phone: â€œI actually have a Windows phone, an HTC. It came out a year ago.â€
Laptop: â€œI have a ThinkPad. But I think my next device will definitely be the Slate.â€
Other tech tools: â€œMy Kindle because I love to read.â€
Favorite store: â€œWhite House/Black Market is my signature and I also love Nordstrom. My grandmother loved Nordstrom and I was also a Nordstrom model as a kid.â€
Favorite beverage: â€œItâ€™s Dr. Pepper and I love it. My trainer would probably kill me. I also drink a lot of tea and ginger ale.â€
Ninon Marapachi, 34
Head of Hedge Fund Origination & Product Management
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Marapachi is the head of Hedge Fund Origination & Product Management team within the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Alternative Investment Group. Her team is responsible for sourcing, structuring, negotiating, and managing hedge funds and managed futures products.
Before joining the Alternative Investments Group, she was a senior member of the Structured Products Group within Global Wealth & Investment Management where she was responsible for the construction of innovative financial products across asset classes, including equity, fixed income, currencies and commodities and the development of delta-one open architecture platform offering retail clients at Merrill Lynch access to various asset classes.
Marapachi graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelorâ€™s in economics. She began her career at Merrill Lynch as summer intern in 2001 through the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity Asset Management Career Program and became a full-time analyst in 2002.
Marapachi has received a number of professional recognitions including being recognized as one of Black Enterprise’s â€œ40 Next Emerging Business Leadersâ€ (August 2010).
Zola Mashariki, 38
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Mashariki identifies feature films for Fox Searchlight to finance and distribute. To find films, treatments, and scripts to acquire for the multi-million-dollar studio, she travels to every major film festivalâ€”Sundance, Cannes and Toronto. A practicing lawyer before she transitioned into the world of entertainment, Mashariki got her start in the film industry as a summer intern.
Major personal accomplishment: Becoming a mother of twins “Up until recently my movies were my babies. I thought it would be hard to find room in my life for any other babies but I was wrong.”
Next personal goal: “I got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do a few years ago and I want to get back into it and get my second degree. I also started doing triathlons about five years ago and I want to do another big one. In my job you do a lot of mental acrobatics and I think itâ€™s important to have the physical side to balance it.”
Dream vacation: “I love Spain. I lived there [as an exchange student] in college and every few years I go back to visit friends.”
Phone: An iPhone4 and a Blackberry. “The iPad kind of revolutionized my business because you donâ€™t have to travel with a pile of scripts anymore; you just upload them onto the iPad.”
Laptop: Macbook Pro. “Because I have to watch a lot of film and dailies, I need the disc drive in it.”
Favorite store: “Right now itâ€™s baby stores. But I love Balenciaga bags.”
Favorite beverage: “I love a particular French Rose called Domaine Ott.”
Jessica Matthews, 24
Co-Founder & CEO
Uncharted Play Inc.
Social entrepreneur Matthews found her calling by chance. She discovered it through sports. She co-developed the sOccket, a soccer ball that harnesses kinetic energy and stores it in the form of electrical energy that can be used later. She asserts, â€œThe sOccket is not something that I defined, itâ€™s something that defined me. It showed me what I should be doing.â€ The product grew out of a class project she worked on with co-founder and Harvard University classmate Julia Silverman.
The two launched Uncharted Play in May 2011 with Matthews, who received a degree in social psychology, driving the creative vision of the company. In an era in which new sources of clean energy are at a premium, Matthewsâ€™ venture, which has gained $600,000 in financing, may grow to be a part of the green revolution. â€œI do a lot of prototyping myself even though Iâ€™m not an engineer because I know what the product should be and how it should work,â€ she says of their development process.
Dream vacation: “Maybe Fiji or Turks & Caicos”
Dream car: Iâ€™m hoping that more of the high class, expensive cars coming out will be hybrid cars. It doesnâ€™t hurt to help the environment and look good while youâ€™re doing it.”
Phone: Blackberry currently but getting an iPhone 4S
Other tech tools: iPad for work, iTouch for working out
Favorite store: H&M, Forever 21
Favorite beverage: Amaretto Sour
Karine MÃ©hu, 35
Senior Director, Strategic Marketing
USA Network, NBC Universal Entertainment Cable Group
With more than 12-years experience developing award-winning websites followed by a career in multimedia marketing, MÃ©hu has developed a sharp eye for digital marketing campaigns and creating marketing platforms for top corporations.
Beginning as an editorial assistant for BET Publishing, MÃ©hu moved on to the role of producer with MSBET, a joint-venture between Black Entertainment Television and the Microsoft Corporation. Later, she worked for top advertising agencies in New York. Seeking to move from agencies into the publishing sector, merging both journalism and digital training acquired over the years, she took a position as associate director with the newly formed Time Inc. Digital. She then moved on to ESPN and became director of Multimedia Marketing.
Today, as senior director of Strategic Marketing and Digital for USA Network properties, MÃ©huâ€™s role is to set digital and broadcast marketing strategies for USA Network and ensure that partners and advertisers have the best-in-class advertising experiences on air and online.
Last year, MÃ©hu was named one of Black Enterpriseâ€™s Top Advertisers and Marketers (February 2011).
Jada Miranda, 35
SVP, Drama Development
Miranda joined NBC in 2010 after an eight year producing and programming career at HBO. Currently at NBC she oversees 30+ projects in development. Before joining NBC, she served as executive producer of the HBO series How to Make it in America and remains a consultant for the series now in its second season.
Miranda first joined HBO in 2003 and quicky folded into development of several half-hour programs including George Clooneyâ€™s, K Street, Unscripted, Sex and the Cityâ€™s sixth and final season and The Comeback, starring Lisa Kudrow. But it was Entourage, the first pilot she oversaw for HBO, that became a comedy hit for the pay-cabler for seven seasons. She also spearheaded HBOâ€™s acquisition and co-production of the comedy Extras, which garnered a Golden Globe for Outstanding Comedy Series and Best Actor Emmy for Ricky Gervais. Miranda eventually served as co-head of HBO comedy programming for many years before segueing into a production deal of her own at the pay-cabler.
Miranda has served as a mentor alum of the Emma Bowen Foundation, an organization dedicated to minority advocacy in the arts. She has also been a tutor for Adult Project Literacy, Los Angeles and mentors writers through NBCâ€™s Writers on the Verge program.
Meredith Moore, 30
Director, External Relations & Brand Outreach
Moore is the external relations director for the Chicago-based company that serves 25 million customers in the U.S. each day. She is responsible for the development and implementation of strategic plans for the corporationâ€™s national and local relationships with non-profit, diversity and educational organizations.
Prior to her current role in global inclusion and intercultural management, Moore was the communications manager for Don Thompson, president of McDonaldâ€™s USA. In this role she provided counsel to the corporationâ€™s senior leadership and was responsible for all external public relations from the president and the global chief diversity officer. Previously she worked with the Verizon Foundation, Lincoln Financial Group, Edelman, and Campbell Mithun agency.
Committed to community service, Moore is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the Links, Inc. She has served on the advisory boards of the YWCA of Minneapolis, Rainbow Pushâ€™s Wall Street project and the Visible Man mentoring program.
Moore was a recipient of the McDonaldâ€™s Presidentâ€™s award, the highest honor presented by the corporation and in 2010 she became the youngest person to win the prestigious Global Visionary Award from Howard University.
Moore holds a bachelorâ€™s in journalism from the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University, and a masterâ€™s from Northwestern University.
Tamara L. Nall, 36
President & CEO
The Leading Niche
Nall has more than 16 years of consulting and business experience. Her firm, The Leading NicheÂ®, is a global management consulting firm that offers strategic and operational consulting. With major clients both domestically and internationally, the firmâ€™s worldwide consultants specialize across a number of industries and functions. Recently, the firm entered the government space, and within four months secured three federal contracts. Prior to founding The Leading NicheÂ®, Nall was a senior associate with Booz & Company (formerly Booz Allen Hamilton) where she led engagements in industries such as healthcare, retail, telecommunications, and government in the U.S. and Canada.
Nall has received several professional recognitions, including the 2012 Best Buddies â€œWomen With a Missionâ€ Award, the 2012 Stiletto Woman Business Award, and she was the 2011 Nominee for New York Enterprise Contract Award. Most recently, she was appointed a member to The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee, which will drive the nationâ€™s export policies for the nationâ€™s green energy industry. Aside from running her global consulting business, Nall is an equity owner of Sustainable Starâ„¢, a construction, green energy, and solar photovoltaic installation company headquartered in Maryland.
Nall earned a BBA from Emory University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology. She holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
Raissa Nebie, 32
Founder & CEO
Nebie is the founder and CEO of Spoondate, a social dating website that lets food enthusiasts meet and go on food dates with like-minded eaters. Software engineer Van Nguyen is her business partner and Spoondate co-founder.
Prior to starting Spoondate, Nebie pursued a career in investment banking and private equity where she worked on a wide variety of mergers and acquisitions. She also ran and restructured the Book for Kids Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization that promotes early childhood literacy by building libraries in low-income communities. She left her position as a private equity associate to pursue her passion for fine cooking at Parisâ€™ Le Citrus Etoile and eventually social entrepreneurism in Silicon Valley.
Nebie was born in Paris to West African parents and has lived in several countries across three continents. She is passionate about exploring the many ways in which food can be used to encourage social interaction and cultural exchange.
Nebie graduated summa cum laude with a bachelorâ€™s degree in finance from Howard University and received a certificate of French Culinary Techniques from the French Culinary Institute. She was featured in the August 2011 issue of Black Enterprise.
Monique L. Nelson, 37
SVP, Brand Integration
Uniworld Group Inc.
Major responsibilities: â€œI basically run most of the day-to-day operations of the business. Creative, PR, branded entertainment, accounts, digital, innovation, mediaâ€”thereâ€™s not much I donâ€™t touch. And from a traditional agency standpoint [my position] is rare. Brand integration really does mean integrating all departments, ensuring that we deliver robust plans to our clients and generate new ideas. I do a lot of new business and make connections for the agency.â€
Professional lesson learned: â€œTo listen. To everyone. Good ideas come from everywhere.â€
Role model: â€œMy father is a tremendous person in my life. He was a corporate guy with an entrepreneurial spirit who always had his own business, which let me know you can always make it on your own terms if need be.â€
Major professional and personal accomplishment: Living and working in Milan on and off for about a year and a half. I lived in the Chinatown of Italy, a place called Paolo Sarpi, and it was an incredible experience.â€
Next personal goal: â€œTo nurture the relationships that are important to me; to stay healthy and happy.â€
Dream vacation: Uruguay, Punta del Este
Favorite car: â€œI donâ€™t really have a dream car. Now a dream shoe â€¦ â€œ
Phone: â€œI have two Blackberrysâ€”one personal and one for work.â€
Laptop: HP mini at work, Vaio at home
Other tech tools: â€œI cannot live without my iPad. I now travel exclusively with it. Unless Iâ€™ll be gone for longer than two or three days, I donâ€™t even bring my laptop.â€
Favorite store: Nordstrom “Iâ€™m a shoe junkie!”
Favorite beverage: â€œAny Prosecco from Italy, and I like Patron. Iâ€™m also an Arnold Palmer girl.â€
Ory Okolloh, 35
Policy and Government Relations Manager
Africa for Google
Okolloh is Google’s Policy Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa. She is a co-founder of Ushahidi and served as the organizationâ€™s executive director from inception until December 2010. She is also the co-founder of Mzalendo , a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan Members of Parliament.
Okolloh graduated summa cum laude with a bachelorâ€™s degree in political science from the University of Pittsburgh and earned her juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. She was previously a summer associate in Covington and Burling , Washington D.C. and a Chayes Fellow at theWorld Bankâ€™s Department of Institutional Integrity .
Okolloh is a frequent speaker at conferences including TED, World Economic Forum, Poptech, CGI, Techonomy, Mobile Web Africa, and the Monaco Media Forum on issues around citizen journalism, the role of technology in Africa, and the role of young people in reshaping the future of Africa.
Lisa Opoku Busumbru, 40
Chief Operating Officer Securities Division Asia Pacific
Goldman Sachs & Co.
Opoku Busumbru is responsible for financial analysis, business development, and new markets in Asia, along with personnel management. Having worked for the Wall Street giant in Hong Kong for almost three years, the former law firm partner is most proud of the team sheâ€™s built. â€œPeople are the most important part of what you do in an organization. Recruiting and working with the right people requires a lot of hard work and tough decision-making. Iâ€™m really proud of the team Iâ€™ve built, the people working with me and for me.â€
Major personal accomplishment: “My kids. I donâ€™t know if you would call them an accomplishment but theyâ€™re the thing that Iâ€™m proudest of. I ran the New York Marathon in 2001 and Iâ€™m very proud of that. When I started training I could barely run a mile. Then after training for about four months I was running 16â€“18 miles.”
Dream vacation: “I’ve been thinking about Bali. I havenâ€™t been there yet since I moved to Asia. Itâ€™s a place I really want to check out.”
Phone: iPhone 4S
Laptop: Macbook Pro
Other tech tools: “I have an iPad, which I think my kids use more than I do. My 5-year-old is always downloading free apps for games.”
Favorite store: “I love the Apple store because you can play with all the gadgets. Itâ€™s an adult toy store.”
Favorite beverage: Champagne
Sundra L. Ryce, 37
President & CEO
SLR Contracting & Service Co. Inc.
Instead of joining the family construction business after college, Ryce, with her parentsâ€™ blessing, started her own venture. She operates Buffalo, New York-based SLR Contracting & Service Co. Inc. (No. 87 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $28.8 million in revenues), a general contracting firm that provides construction, construction management, and design-build services throughout New York and neighboring states. SLR was recently involved in high-profile projects such as the $8.2 million construction of a dental clinic for the Army Corps of Engineers and a roughly $50 million construction deal for the Buffalo Public Schools. Last year, Buffalo Business First magazine named SLR among Western New Yorkâ€™s top 10 general contractors. And the New York State Executive Chamber honored Ryce with the Woman of Distinction Award, an annual honor bestowed to outstanding area businesswomen.
For Ryce, who grew the three-person operation into a thriving company with 30 employees, entrepreneurship was her calling. â€œMy parents are entrepreneurs; my father started his construction company when I was 8 years old. I started my construction company in 1996. It was just a natural progression.â€
Dream vacation: San Tropez
Dream car: “I love the Bentley Coupe GT. I love that car.”
Other tech tools: “I love my iPad 2. I use it all the time, more than my laptop. Itâ€™s really convenient.”
Favorite store: David Yurman
Favorite beverage: Peach tea
Julia-Feliz Sessoms, 33
Director of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs
Major responsibilities: Iâ€™m responsible for developing and advancing PepsiCoâ€™s global public policy positions on health and nutrition sustainability issues. Iâ€™m able to help shape these policies on behalf of a multinational company and have a valuable and important role in that policy development process.â€
Major professional accomplishment: â€œI began my career as a legislative aide for Sen. Kennedy on the senate judiciary committee, on the subcommittee on immigration. Working on behalf of the immigration issue was important work that really impacted Americans’ lives and being involved with that was a very valuable experience.â€
Advice for college grads: â€œBe willing to take any sort of position that will help you reach your ultimate professional goal. Take whatever role you think will help prepare you for the next role, even if itâ€™s not the most lucrative position.â€
Major personal accomplishment: â€œIâ€™m proud of all of the work that Iâ€™ve done to achieve the success Iâ€™ve experienced so far. I got my M.B.A. while I was working, and going to school while I had a full time jobâ€”it wasnâ€™t easy. Itâ€™s definitely one of the biggest challenges Iâ€™ve had to power through.â€
Next personal goal: â€œTo take time for myself.â€
Dream vacation: â€œIâ€™ve been wanting to go to Greece and Turkey. Iâ€™d love to explore the culture.â€
Dream car: â€œI like the Porsche Cayenne.â€
Phone: iPhone 3GS
Laptop: â€œI have a Dell, an HP and a Mac. I also have an iPad.â€
Favorite store: â€œI tend to spend my money in bookstores.â€
Beverage: â€œIzze sparkling beverages. The Pomegranate one is delicious and theyâ€™re made with real fruit juices. I also like throwback Pepsis, the ones made with real sugar.â€
Latraviette D. Smith, 35
VP, Global Diversity & Inclusion
Major personal accomplishment: â€œIt has always been important to me to achieve career success but not at the sacrifice of my humanity and personal standards. One of my early career goals was to make VP by 30, which I did at the worldâ€™s largest PR firmâ€”and without giving up my greater goal to retain my values.â€
Next personal goal: â€œAs I continue to progress professionally, I will continue to work hard to be a good steward of the blessings I’ve received personally by seeking opportunities to join additional boards and lending my voice to issues including HIV/AIDS, education for disadvantaged youth, and arts & culture.â€
Dream vacation: The Rania Experience, Maldives
Dream car: â€œI have a dream yacht.â€
Phone: Blackberry for work; Android for personal
Laptop: Thinkpad for work; HP for personal
Other tech tools: â€œMy favoriteâ€”the iPad 2, along with my must-have apps including CNN, AP Mobile, HBR Tips, Dragon Dictation and Netflix.â€
Favorite store: â€œTED Talks is full of rich, curated content from people all over the world. So while not a traditional store, itâ€™s one of my favorite places to â€œshopâ€ for ideas and inspiration.â€
Favorite beverage: Blanc de blancs champagnes
Sonnia Thomas Shields, 33
VP, Global Leadership & Diversity
Goldman Sachs & Co.
Thomas Shields is head of targeted pipeline development. Her responsibilities include setting the strategic vision and implementation of the firmâ€™s Asian, Black, Hispanic, and female talent management initiatives. In addition to her internal remit, she is responsible for the firmâ€™s external brand for multicultural women, which brings together hundreds of women across the financial services industry throughout the year to focus on key issues related to their commercial and professional development.
Thomas Shields joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst within the Investment Banking Divisionâ€™s (IBD) Healthcare Group in 2001. She relocated to Goldman Sachsâ€™ London office in 2006 and in 2007, became the head of Diversity Recruiting for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She relocated back to New York in 2009 for her Global Leadership and Diversity role.
In 2011, Thomas Shields founded and launched SoRen Tea, L.L.C. with her sister Rena Williams. SoRen Tea is a luxury tea brand with a gourmet selection of blended, loose teas. She was also recognized in 2011 by the National Diversity Council as one of Tri-Stateâ€™s Most Powerful and Influential Women.
Thomas Shields graduated magna cum laude with a bachelorâ€™s degree in finance from Hampton University.
Eleanor P. Williams, 33
Assistant Vice President and Counsel
In June 2011, Williams joined the Dispute Resolution division of the MassMutual Law Department. She oversees high stakes insurance litigation matters and advises corporate clients on strategies to advance their business imperatives.
Prior to joining MassMutual, Williams was an associate at the Boston law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart in the Bankruptcy and Major Commercial Litigation practice groups. In addition to her work at the firm, she provided pro bono representation to indigent Chapter 7 debtors and students facing expulsion from school. She also was a member of Choate’s hiring committee.
Williams received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. She is a graduate of Boston College Law School and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Black Alumni Network.
Eve Wright Taylor, 37
VP and Associate General Counsel
Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena
Wright Taylor provides legal advice and support for all aspects of the NBAâ€™s Miami Heat franchise and AmericanAirlines Arena. This includes helping manage the arenaâ€™s business operations and advising on legal issues related to marketing and promotions, concerts and events, corporate sales, merchandising, and player-related matters.
Major personal accomplishment: “I’m a physique competitor. A few years ago I learned that my cholesterol was a little high, so I hired a trainer and started eating better. My cholesterol came down and I realized I liked working with a trainer, so I found a guy who was a competitive body builder.”
Next personal goal: “I’m really excited about a seminar Iâ€™m going to offer to professional women about finding their professional passion and having a balanced life.”
Dream vacation: “I really like Bali, but Iâ€™m excited about going to Fiji and the Seychelles.”
Dream car: A Maserati
Laptop: Macbook Air. “Itâ€™s so light! For commuting you canâ€™t beat it.”
Other tech tools: iPad. “When Iâ€™m commuting between here and Atlanta and if I donâ€™t have too much work, I take my iPad. I can have my music, my videos, movies–and itâ€™s nice to have a bigger screen than my phone.”
Favorite store: “I canâ€™t get out of Target without buying something–and itâ€™s usually a lot of something. And I love outlet shopping.”
Favorite beverage: “Targetâ€™s Market Pantry brand has individual flavor packets for water. They have fantastic flavors!”