WOCCON Mission & Purpose

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We believe the time is long overdue for new faces to be at the table. The WOCCON 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

Our Team

Jill Johnson

Jill Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL), based in Newark, NJ.

With over 30 years of experience as a business strategist, Jill is a pioneering voice for inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems and is especially focused on creating a new paradigm for access to the capital conversation. Most recently, Jill conceived and launched the Women of Color Connecting initiative to change the way we think about building the capacity of Women of Color entrepreneurs for the grow-scale-exit trajectory. She is also spearheading The Making of Black Angels movement to drive diversity and inclusion within the angel investing sector. 

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Melissa Parker
Success Circles Program Manager 
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Melissa is a graduate of Berkeley College, Newark Campus and a current resident of Newark, NJ. She specializes in engaging with clients and improving the client experience here at IFEL.  She strongly believes in the organization's mission and the many opportunities it grants small businesses to become successful. Melissa enjoys playing a pivotal role in getting entrepreneurs closer to their goals. Fun fact: Melissa runs her own business called Emish Company, in which she sells handmade Afrocentric accessories from cultural fabrics that align with your lifestyle.

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Amanda Hubbard
Volunteer Experience Manager 
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After what felt like a lifetime in the corporate world, Amanda was eager to do work that affects intentional, measurable change. She grew up volunteering for a variety of not-for-profit organizations in the community, and working with volunteers in such an intimate way felt like coming home. As the spouse of a veteran, Amanda has lived in many places and has seen the need for programs like IFEL in communities across the country. She is honored to be a part of the team. Fun fact: Amanda's absolute, hands-down favorite food is kabocha squash. She roasts a batch each week and eats it like candy!

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Makiel Cepeda
Digital Project Coordinator

Makiel specializes in automation and strategic email marketing. Originally from St. Croix, he studied at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas. Currently, Makiel lives and works in North Carolina. With the goal of using his skills and experiences throughout his 7-year career to benefit others, Makiel decided to join the IFEL team. Fun fact: In his downtime, Makiel is a ramen enthusiast and dedicated Philadelphia Eagles football fan. Go birds!

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    Lori Anne Oliwa
    Public Relations Manager

    A resident of Middletown, New Jersey, Lori Anne is a lifelong entrepreneur, journalist, and creative business strategist specializing in communications, marketing & event planning. Lori Anne is passionate about amplifying IFEL's mission and the effective and innovative capacity-building programs offered. She believes IFEL might just be the most powerful business network in New Jersey with strong leadership and volunteer base. Fun fact: A world traveler since age 8, Lori Anne has an affinity for the sugar and spice of Indian food and loves to create tasty treats from her travels.

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    Myan Dizon
    Executive Assistant 

    Myan Dizon worked as the Corporate Communications Head of the Bank of Florida (City of Fernando) for a year. 

    Aside from her day job, she also works as a freelance copywriter and SEO specialist does a bit of photography, layout, and graphic design.  

    Jared Earl
    Community Engagement Manager

    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.

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      Julia Runne
      Program Coordinator

      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.

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        Kevin Dinneen
        Director, Marketing & Technology

        Kevin started his career in healthcare, finding his way into healthcare administration and marketing field. This included assisting The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a nonprofit organization providing a continuum of care for the elderly, for 12 years. Kevin strengthened his marketing expertise by spending 10 years in a sales and marketing capacity in the Consumer Technology Industry for Garmin International.

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          Nikka Colet Program Assistant

          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.

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            Melanie Seymour
            Director, Capital Access

            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.

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              Jazmine Bighom
              Program Coordinator

              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.

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                Leanne Fisher
                Director, Stakeholder Engagement

                Leanne brings over 15 years of experience in marketing and communications to her role with IFEL. Her background ranges from leading fundraising efforts for a women’s empowerment nonprofit agency to serving as the National Marketing Manager for a franchise company. Prior to joining IFEL, she operated Propel Marketing where she supported a variety of clients.

                  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: