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Meet the Emerging Leader Fellows of 2023: Pioneers of Change

We are thrilled to announce the BGV Emerging Leaders Fellowship (ELF) 2023 cohort. The ELF program is set to make waves in the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Houston, Austin, and NYC, providing invaluable support and a $5,000 stipend to emerging leaders in these communities.

ELF is a dynamic 3-month leadership development program designed with a singular purpose: to elevate the capabilities of early-stage entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders. This transformative journey is meticulously crafted to foster not only individual growth but also to enrich and strengthen the entire ecosystem for Black and Brown women founders.

At BGV, the belief in the power of community, mentorship, and knowledge-sharing is unwavering. Through the Emerging Leaders Fellowship, participants will not only gain valuable skills but also form meaningful connections and partnerships that can reshape the trajectory of their entrepreneurial journey.

Ashley Harvell

BamaTexas is a sublimation and crafts store that offers a variety of products and services. We have a wide selection of sublimation blanks, sublimation tumblers, and heat transfer vinyl (HTV). We also offer sublimation classes and creative experiences where you can create custom products. Our experiences are perfect for team building activities, birthday parties, bridal showers, girls night out, and more.

Brandy Guidry

At the age of 8, Brandy started her first business selling handmade jewelry. After graduating from university, she conducted extensive research and developed their first skin care product, a body lotion. In 2011, Brandy founded 4 Generations, a skin care company that provides quality and affordable products to their customers.

Over the years, she expanded the portfolio to include lip balms, cream, scrubs, and astringents. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brandy created a line of hand sanitizer products that include gel, wipes, and lotion.

In 2016, she started consulting, with a focus on supporting product lifecycle, business development, and sustainability. Her clients have included SBOs, government, and nonprofits.

Erica Fowler

Erica Fowler is a social impact analytics consultant, social entrepreneur, and champion for good. She leverages her expertise in public health, data analytics, strategy consulting, and business development to help organizations evaluate strategic initiatives and scale positive outcomes.

Erica is driven by her belief that data-driven decision-making can help us solve some of society's biggest challenges and is committed to helping organizations be better stewards of their data, resources, and impact.

Rashika Robinson

Rashika Craft, is a native of Houston, TX and a graduate of Grambling State University where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. and is now the CEO of Black Book Houston, which is the number one source to find, support, and advocate for Black Owned Businesses.

Her dedication to economic empowerment has facilitated meaningful collaborations and partnerships, fostering a thriving ecosystem that uplifts the local economy.

Melissa Pearson

Pearson Rue Designs are an interior design company that specializes in creating beautiful functional spaces for families. They plan to expand our expertise in designing for kids and adults with special needs.

Naijean Bernard

Naijean Bernard, PhD is a psychologist turned beverage entrepreneur. She is known for launching Jeany’s Caribbean Elixirs®, a juice brand focusing on Caribbean-inspired flavors. Naijean has been featured in news media such as the Austin Statesman, Austin Chronicle, Fox 7 News Austin, QVC’s Small Business Spotlight, along with cultural travel blogs such as Travel Noire.

Her beverages can be found at local farmers markets and at some of Austin’s trendiest restaurants, hotels and coffeehouses.

Dr. Sharita Ambrose

Sharita, with 20+ years of experience in HIV/AIDS education/advocacy and skills training, holds a Doctorate in Health Education and Health Promotion, a Master's in Public Health, and a Bachelor's in Health Administration.

She champions the importance of elevating the voices of Black women and creating inclusive spaces to address their unique challenges. Sharita's committed to improving the holistic health of Black women throughout their lifespan.

"Bithia" Wende-Denda Dantoumda

Bithia Dantoumda is a freelance designer/artist based in Austin, TX. Outside of her contract work, the core of her creations celebrates the lifestyle and culture of Black/African American groups through prints, paintings and other merchandise.

Through her unique perspective as a Black and first generation immigrant, she brings a fresh perspective to the art world. Bithia is also currently completing her studies at University of Texas at Austin for a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Studio Art.

Camara Samuel

Camara Samuel is an engineer turned entrepreneur. She grew up in Florida and has a Chemical Engineering degree from University of Florida. She worked at P&G for 8 years in R&D, Manufacturing, and Packaging, discovering a talent for formulating products that consumers loved.

She left to work for Apple Operations in Austin, but continued her passion for creating products through Wadadli Naturals. Camara is married to her husband Will and enjoys building community in Austin through their pop-up events.

Lamanda Ballard

A passionate advocate for women's health and empowerment, Lamanda Ballard is the founder of Flo Code - a non-profit organization dedicated to providing menstrual hygiene products to those in need. When she's not changing lives with Flo Code, Lamanda is a Senior Director in Digital Marketing at an HR Tech company, using her expertise to drive innovation and empower people through technology.

Paulana Lamonier

Paulana Lamonier is the founder of Black People Will Swim. As a multimedia journalist and social media strategist she's used her work to highlight and amplify people of color across various industries.

As a swim instructor she's shared her passion for swimming with Black and Brown kids from low-income cities. After 10 years of sharing her love for this sport and this life skill, she started Black People Will Swim, where they are meeting the needs of the Black community.

Lauren Wells

Lauren Wells, is a prolific fearless leader, wife, sister, proud aunt, godmother, and daughter who adores family and friend quality time. She is a unicorn spiritual woman dedicated to empowering women to prioritize their well-being, Lauren is a firm believer in the transformative power of mindfulness and holistic practices.

Committed to making a positive impact and empowering women's lives, one step at a time. Based in New York City, and former graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Hallan Hanson

daLAIT is a pioneering brand offering innovative nursing pads designed for ultimate comfort and inclusivity. Founded by Hallan Hanson, daLAIT is dedicated to addressing the unique needs of breastfeeding individuals, particularly women of color. Their leak-proof, washable nursing pads feature state-of-the-art absorption technology and eco-friendly fabrics.

Beyond their products, daLAIT actively advocates for breastfeeding disparities and collaborates with community organizations. They are redefining the breastfeeding experience, empowering individuals to embrace their journey with comfort and confidence.

Brittany Brathwaite

Brittany Brathwaite, MSW MPH, is a reproductive justice activist, social entrepreneur, and community-accountable scholar from Brooklyn, NY. She is the co-founder of KIMBRITIVE, the unapologetic sexual wellness platform reimagining the health and well-being of Black women. Her work has been featured in Essence, Ebony, Blavity, NBC, and Pop Sugar. She holds a BA in Women’s Studies from Syracuse University and a dual Master's degree in Public Health and Social Work from Columbia University.

Karesia Batan

Karesia Batan is the Founding Executive Director of the award-winning Queensboro Dance Festival (QDF), a borough-wide tour of performances, parties, and classes presenting underrepresented Queens-based dance companies since 2014.

She is a strong advocate for holistic community building in Queens through the arts, and equitable dance funding and space access. Karesia is a board member of The Design Trust for Public Space, chair of Queens Community Board 2 Arts & Culture, and advisor for Dance/NYC.

Samia Lemfadli

Samia is a Brooklyn native with a passion for food, technology, and nature. She graduated from high school at 16 with a determination to start her own business or nonprofit. She pursued a Business Administration degree in college and worked multiple jobs to support herself.

After graduating, she interned and volunteered with different entrepreneurs to learn how to grow a business. She also attended a coding bootcamp to gain the skills she needed to merge her passions into a career in STEM.

Samia is now the founder and CEO of a food tech startup that is using technology to help people eat healthier and more sustainably. She is also a mentor to young entrepreneurs and advocates for diversity and inclusion in the STEM field.

Therese Myers

Therese Myers is a native New Yorker. She is a Wife, Mother, Mentor, Author and all around Creative Woman. She has always been a creator of win/win opportunities. Therese earned her Masters of Science in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University.

With over 20 years of corporate and leadership experience with luxury brands, In 2018 she founded Yes Girls Create Inc. a NYC based non profit organization which focuses on self-esteem building through creative activities for girls.

Ebony Cawthorne

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Ebony Sojourner has always had a love and a passion for storytelling. Ebony has worked on several studio productions and is currently an independent filmmaker. She is the Founder of Disrupt Media.

Disrupt is an artistic space dedicated to providing young people of color the opportunity and resources necessary to engage in storytelling as a practice of healing but also to bring attention to critical needs among artists of color in society.

Kimone Napier

Kimone Napier is the Founder & CEO of Hire Breakthrough™. Through her work, she coaches founders and organizations on how to build strong teams using an intentional hiring approach.

Kimone has over 10 years of experience in HR, operations, and engineering. She is a speaker, consultant, and strategist whose work has been groundbreaking in building strong teams, conflict management, and helping founders reclaim their time.

Nicole Wardlaw

Nicole Wardlaw is a two-time founder and funder with experience working with and for PreSeed to Series C, global startups. Born in Long island, NY and raised in Spartanburg, SC, Nicole earned her BA at Duke University before entering the world of tech.

Noting inequities she pivoted to venture capital to drive funding towards underestimated founders. Nicole now serves as Founder of The Brazen Club where WOC are equipped with the needed knowledge and resources to begin their entrepreneurial journeys.

May these emerging leaders embark on a wonderful journey as they step into the next chapter of their entrepreneurial adventure.

Subscribe to the Digital Orange Juice for juicy ideas and the people who fund them. You can find out about our next pitch competitions. Also, be sure to join our new community BGV Connect!

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