Women Making History: Ogo Ekweozor - Holley

Ogo

by Megan Montgomery

Ogo Ekweozor-Holley is the epitome of a serial entrepreneur.  After obtaining her law degree at 20, Ogo has since founded six companies with a seventh on the way.  Her companies have spanned multiple industries, including fashion, real estate, and an agency generating funds for non-profits.  She is the founder of her eponymous fashion line OGO New York, which has an online and physical storefront in Brooklyn; and Style Chest which offers personal styling boxes direct to your door.  

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Ogo has a strong passion for giving back as well and founded the True Beauty Foundation which offers events designed to inspire and empower women. She created the True Beauty Conference in 2012 to provide an affordable, educational, and inspiring event for professional women and entrepreneurs. Her achievements are frequently recognized with awards including the YWCA’s Woman of Distinction and Economic Development award, Brooklyn Reporter’s Power Woman in Business, and Third Avenue Association’s Business Pioneer Award.  And, if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is also married with three very active children under the age of four.  

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When I met Ogo, the first question that came to my mind is “how do you do it all?”  And, yes, Ogo is a firm believer that you really can do it all.  She believes that it is possible to have a happy marriage, fulfilling career, solid friendships, and still have quality time with your kids. 

“It’s not about work-life balance, it’s about harmony and finding a way for all of the things that are most important to you to sync together,” says Ogo. “If you are involved in a lot, you need to be really intentional about staying present with what you are engaging in at the time, whether it be with the kids, husband, friends or a work meeting.”  To help her do that, Ogo will frequently turn off her phone or put it in another room so she can really focus on the person or task in front of her.  She also finds that she prioritizes better when she starts her day with quiet time with God. 

“One of the keys to success as an entrepreneur is having a clear vision that’s bigger than you,” says Ogo. “You have to know your why.  Most businesses don’t make a lot of money in the beginning and it can cost a little more time and money to start than you would think, so without having a clear vision and purpose, you can easily get discouraged and give up.” 

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As a Christian woman who owns a business, Ogo looks for ways to live out her faith in everything she does. She does this by treating all employees and customers in ways that honors and values them, being ready to be a listening ear, and praying for people when they are going through something. She also leverages her businesses to give back to various charities including ones involved in stopping human trafficking and supporting education in underprivileged areas. Ogo is in the process of expanding her True Beauty Foundation to provide resources to teenage girls through afterschool programs focused on leadership development, business management, and entrepreneurship. 

“Giving back is the right thing to do,” Ogo says. “I believe that having a strong corporate donation culture also helps employees and customers to have a deeper connection to the company which boosts overall retention and employee productivity. Personally, giving back also adds to my big WHY when times get tough and helps me persevere for the sake of all the lives I’m touching.” 

Learn more about Ogo and register for the sixth annual True Beauty Women’s celebrationon Thursday, April 25, 2019. 

The Best of International Women's Day 2019

Women are powerful. At least that’s the sentiment of many who posted, rallied, and supported the UN’s annual International Women’s Day celebration today.  International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance. The first International Women's Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people.

Here are some of the conversations that took place in honor of #IWD2019 and the theme #BalanceforBetter:

Faith Leaders

Women, it’s time to USE YOUR VOICE to ENCOURAGE the young and the not so young, to BUILD, to BLESS, to SPEAK TRUTH, to INVITE others in, and to tell the never-ending story of hope, faith, & LOVE 💕 The earth needs its DAUGHTERS.

Women, it’s time to USE YOUR VOICE to ENCOURAGE the young and the not so young, to BUILD, to BLESS, to SPEAK TRUTH, to INVITE others in, and to tell the never-ending story of hope, faith, & LOVE 💕 The earth needs its DAUGHTERS.

The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng.
(Psalm 68:11 NIV)

“Happy International Women’s Day! Daughter of God, we love and believe in you. More than that, God Himself has chosen and cherishes you. He created you as an answer and a force for good on the earth. Your strength, insights, questions, and dreams are invaluable to the kingdom of God. Be encouraged that your contribution will bring joy to your family, your community, and the world.” - Lisa Bevere

Grandmothers. Mothers. Sisters. Nieces. Daughters. So  #grateful  💜 #internationalwomensday  - Priscilla Shirer

Grandmothers. Mothers. Sisters. Nieces. Daughters. So #grateful 💜#internationalwomensday - Priscilla Shirer

 

Leaders Around the World

"When women miss out on careers, education or opportunities because of the system that they live in, we all suffer." - Megan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

To commemorate International Women's Day, Meghan Markle participated in a panel on feminism and women's empowerment organized by the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. The Duchess was joined by five other leaders to discuss women's rights and issues: musician Annie Lennox, model Adwoa Aboah, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Let Us Learn founder Chrisann Jarrett, and Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) executive director Angeline Murimirwa. Anne McElvoy, senior editor of The Economist, moderated the conversation.

Bias Correct

Unconscious gender bias fuels the gender gap. Visit https://catalyst.org/biascorrect/ to find the tools to become a catalyst for change.

Imani Collective

Imani Collective empowers women in Kenya through employment and educational opportunities. Watch this video to learn more about their story.

Women Are Superheroes

From Shera to Captain Marvel, here are some the wonder women who make us live out our superpowers every day.

Black Girl Magic

According to Google Trends, more than ever the world is searching for “black girl magic” — an empowering phrase that celebrates the achievements, beauty and irrepressibility of Black women and girls. The women featured in the film include icons, barrier-breakers and everyday heroes, including Simone Biles, Issa Rae, and Serena Williams.

Bishop Vashti McKenzie speaking at Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit

Bishop Vashti McKenzie speaking at Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit

Founder Yolande Morris at BE’s Women of Power Summit — click the link for the official recap.

Founder Yolande Morris at BE’s Women of Power Summit — click the link for the official recap.

Women Making History: April Tam

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by Megan Montgomery

Have you ever met someone who challenged you in the best of ways?  Someone who made you want to give more, love people deeper, and live for something beyond yourself? 

April Tam Smith is that type of person, a person whose radical giving, passion for empowering people, and infectious joy made me walk away from our encounter deeply reflecting on how to give more.

April credits her parents with instilling a strong sense of gratitude in her, as well as the responsibility to pay it forward.  When her mom was 11 years old, her mom was working in a clothing factory in Hong Kong to provide for her family.  When April was 11 years old, her family immigrated to the US where April eventually had the opportunity to attend MIT, then get her MBA at Columbia and start a career in investment banking.

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April then started volunteering at a number of charities in NYC helping survivors of human trafficking, the formerly incarcerated and the homeless, as well as serving with charities abroad in Haiti and South Africa and kept hearing the same thing from everyone, “I just want a job.”  She also had a friend now turned business partner who saw her passion for giving and a number of causes and suggested that they start a small business to fund all these causes that she was so passionate about. 

With no prior restaurant experience, April took him up on the idea and decided to start a restaurant that would create meaningful work for people who need a job while donating 100 percent of the restaurant’s profits to charity.  She also decided to make the restaurant vegan to provide food that was good for both the environment and the body and P.S. Kitchen opened its doors in August 2017.   Located in the heart of Times Square, after less than two years of existence, P.S. Kitchen was recently named one of the top vegan restaurants in New York City while providing jobs for more than 40 people in need of a second chance. 

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 “We can’t control the circumstances or family we are born to, but we are all called to share the time, talent, and resources we have to help others,” says April. “If we all sat down to a family-style dinner and I got a huge plate of food and you got two tomatoes, of course I would say you should have some of mine. It’s up to each of us to give generously and when you give generously God surprises you because it’s really all His anyway, so you can be bold in really stretching yourself in giving.” 

It’s up to each of us to give generously and when you give generously God surprises you because it’s really all His anyway.
— April Tam

April still works full time in investment banking and both her and her partner don’t take any salary from the restaurant.  She is also still active in volunteering for a number of other non-profits.  When I asked her how she does it all, she explained that it’s really the joy and passion of it that keeps her going.  “If it was out of a sense of obligation, it would get old really fast,” April says. “When you really get to know the people you are serving, they move from being statistics to real people.  That motivates me to work even harder at my day job so that I can earn more so that I can give away more.” 

April is very diligent with scheduling her time to fit in everything and shared that it is so easy to waste your time, money and resources if you’re not careful.  As busy as she is, she’s never too busy to pray. “You get so much more productivity when you take the time to pray and invite God into the situation,” says April. “When you try and do things on your own without seeking His guidance, then you can easily waste your time like a hamster in a wheel.  God can be so creative with both time and money.”   

April has big dreams about continuing to empower others both in the U.S. and abroad and encourages everyone to challenge themselves through radical giving.  “Start investing in others even if you are starting off small and  then continue to deepen your giving and experience the joy of what giving in a radical way that’s scary and others-centered can do,” April says.  

P.S. Kitchen’s Approach

P.S. Kitchen’s Approach

Watch Asian American Life’s video profile of P.S. Kitchen here.