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Mission & Purpose

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We believe the time is long overdue for new faces to be at the table. The movement is your opportunity to change business as usual. 

- Jill Johnson, Co-Founder/CEO

Connect with Jill on LinkedIn

Women of Color Connecting (WOCCON) is a program of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) launched in 2019 to focus attention on utilizing relationship capital to build the capacity of women of color entrepreneurs to grow, scale, and exit. Our vision is to create $1B in new wealth over the next 10 years through the success of women of color entrepreneurs. 

WOCCON is more than an educational or motivational event, it’s the foundation for a movement to shake up the way that we find and engage diverse entrepreneurs. WOCCON represents an opportunity for allies, champions, and investors who value diversity and inclusion to expand their networks.

Since 2002, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get on the path to growth. Through WOCCON, we are committing to using our resources and our relationships, and to act with intentionality in support of Women of Color entrepreneurs. The women that we will bring to the table are resilient, resourceful, and ready to rise to their potential. We will all benefit from the diversity in thought, perspective, and ways of doing business that these women will offer.  


We believe the time is long overdue for new faces to be at the table. WOCCON is your opportunity to help us change business as usual. We look forward to welcoming you to our community of change agents.

About Women of Color Connecting
Join the movement

About IFEL

Meet The Team 
...the people that make it all happen

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Jazmine’s love of art drove her to leave the traditional Cal State University life to attend an art school where she discovered her love of Fashion Marketing and Management. After working as an Area Manager, Jazmine applied her skills to benefit clients as a freelance Social Media Marketing Manager. She is also a board-certified Holistic Health Coach who runs her own online practice.

Jazmine Bighom

Program Coordinator

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Amy is the Assistant to the CEO. She has five years of experience in customer service and freelancing and is dedicated to continuous learning which includes taking virtual assistance classes to enhance her skill set. Also, she is a small business owner that runs her e-commerce business on Facebook. She loves to do cardio activities like walking, running, and biking. And she makes sure to spend quality time with her family by traveling together.

Amy Abelarde Brusas

Executive Assistant

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Makiel fell in love with marketing while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. Makiel a fencer from the Virgin Islands has worn many hats throughout his career. Including the creative director of a news company, and non-profit and for-profit companies. Multiple Dean’s List recipients from the University of The Virgin Islands, Makiel currently lives and works in North Carolina. With the goal of using his skills and experiences throughout his career to benefit others. Fun fact: In his downtime, Makiel is a ramen enthusiast and dedicated Philadelphia Eagles football fan. Go birds!

Makiel Cepeda

Digital Project Manager

Jazmine Bighom
Program Coordinator

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While attending college, Jay started his own company to get a taste of the marketing world which paved the way for his current position in community building. As a student, he was awarded the Sandra Hullet award for highest achieving student of African-American descent and he participated in a variety of athletics including boxing and track. Jay earned his master’s degree in marketing from the University of Alabama.

Jared Earl

Community Engagement Manager

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Amanda Hubbard

Volunteer Experience Manager

Amanda grew up in South Carolina and learned about inequality and justice volunteerism from an early age, serving as a young leader in her church. Her knack for the arts carried her into college as a music student, but she soon fell in love with the power of wordsmithing and ended her collegiate career with a BA in English.  After leading a multi-million dollar team for over a dozen years, she is overjoyed and humbled to bring those skills and successes to her work with IFEL in a way that allows her to create positive change in the world and return to the volunteerism that has been central to her identity.

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Sonia is an Internal Consultant focused on Impact management.

Sonia Tze Huse

Internal Consultant

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Nikka provides administrative support to the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership team. As a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Nikka has always been interested in community-building campaigns. She enjoys participating in community events that are artistic in a manner in hopes to alleviate and inspire youth. She is a video editor and videographer who aspires to be a filmmaker in the future.

Nikka Colet

Program Assistant

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While at Texas Tech University, Julia began her independent contracting career by working as a choreographer, photographer, and nanny. She quickly figured out that teaching dance and working for herself was a passion and lifestyle that she enjoyed. Julia further broadened her skills as a part-time assistant director with her alma mater and she shares her talents in delivering program efficiencies to her role with IFEL.

Julia Runne

Event Coordinator

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Lily is the Coordinator for the Volunteer Experience Program. She has an eclectic and fun work history at non-profits, worker-owned cooperatives, and as an entrepreneur before joining the IFEL team. She has run both brick-and-mortar and online businesses, selling both goods and services. Currently, she runs two businesses using her herbalist training. She spends her free time with her 12-year-old, with her menagerie of animals, and outdoors on the farm they all share.

Lily Kunning

Volunteer Experience Program Coordinator

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Lori Anne forged her first business venture as a teenager. From that time on, the labels of ‘founder,’ and ‘owner’ have always applied. Lori Anne is a natural storyteller and has an innate talent for devising angles and creating compelling communications. She started The Write Angles LLC, a public relations, marketing & event consultancy, in 2009. When not working, Lori Anne has volunteered with a variety of local, state and national boards.

Lori Anne Oliwa

Public Relations Manager

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Melanie has spent the majority of her career in corporate finance. In her last few roles with Discovery, Inc., she realized more and more that her most fulfilling days were those in which she was focused on developing talent, consulting internal clients, and helping others in any way that she could. Melanie is so grateful to have pivoted into such an inspiring community of entrepreneurs, as well as all of those that support them.

Melanie Seymour

Director, Capital Access

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Melissa graduated Cum Laude from Berkeley College, Newark, New Jersey Campus. After meeting IFEL’s CEO Jill Johnson, she discovered her passion and drive to help small businesses. Melissa enjoys playing a pivotal role in advancing entrepreneurs closer to their goals. She also brings firsthand entrepreneurial experience by running her own business, the Emish Company, in which she sells handmade Afrocentric accessories from cultural fabrics

Melissa Parker

Chief of Staff

About The Institute Of Entrepreneurial Leadership

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL), founded in 2002, is an independent, not‐for‐profit organization that supports economic development through entrepreneurship. We are experts in creating and implementing small business programming in support of inclusion, supplier diversity, and economic development objectives. We envision a future with inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in which people from historically marginalized populations have equal opportunity for success. In pursuit of this vision, our mission is to eradicate the systemic barriers that prevent people of color from being able to access the knowledge, networks, and capital required for entrepreneurial success and wealth creation. For More Information click here.

Our three programmatic areas are as follows:

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