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Impact Leaders

IL:Maci Peterson

June 5, 2015 | By | No Comments


Maci Peterson

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Maci Peterson

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur, developing the app, On Second Thought?

I am a born entrepreneur. When I was little, my mom had a basket business called Baskets of Joy. As a young child, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d reply, “I want to be a Baskets of Joy lady.” I didn’t realize I was actually saying I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The idea for On Second Thought was born out of sending a few texts I wished I could get back.

Tell us about On Second Thought.

On Second Thought is a messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they get to the other person’s phone. The app also has the Curfew feature, that is there to help during those times when inhibitions are lower than usual.

The app’s retention rate and download rates are high. What’s behind this success?

We’re thrilled the response and connection to the app has been so successful. With On Second Thought, we’ve solved a problem that people encounter on a daily basis. We’ve been successful because when people hear about OST and download the app, they realize how useful it is and they are grateful that it helps them navigate their text-driven lives. We’ve been extremely blessed, and our success can be attributed to three major factors: 1) Prayer 2) Solving a problem a common problem 3) Taking risks and seizing opportunities.

How did you get involved with the technology industry?

I got involved in the technology industry by having ideas for tech-driven companies.

Tell us about philanthropic efforts outside of your company.

I am an active member of my church, DC Metro Church in Alexandria, VA. I am also a member of Chapman50, an alumni board at my alma mater Chapman University.

What are some difficulties African-American women face in the technology industry?

Being an entrepreneur is challenging, and it’s not for everyone. In terms of difficulties, I only know my experience. I don’t know if challenges I’ve faced have been because I’m an African-American woman, or if they just come with the territory. Raising money is hard for everyone. I don’t know if my experience has been difficult because I’m a black woman or if it’s because the institutional capital funds in DC tend to shy away from investing in B2C companies. My partners and I have been focused on working with investors who can bring more than just money to the table, and that adds another level of complexity.

Name the biggest mistake young professionals make as entrepreneurs.

I think the worst thing that could happen for any person is to become a victim of their own hubris. Entrepreneurs, and people in general, need to be comfortable with the fact that we don’t know everything, and align ourselves with those who know more than us.

What advice would you give to other young professionals who desire to become a CEO one day?

Seek the truth about yourself, accept it and use it to fuel your drive. Whenever anyone tries to project things onto you that don’t align with that truth, brush it off and stick to what you know.

What’s been the best experience of your career?

My career has been filled with many great experiences. The best experiences are when people have shared their stories about how On Second Thought has saved them in what could have been precarious situations.

What’s next for you in your career?

I just left Marriott where I was a Brand Manager so I could give On Second Thought my undivided attention. I’m focused on building On Second Thought into an industry leader in the United States and abroad.

Describe yourself in three words.

Blessed, optimistic, ambitious

How can people reach you?

Twitter: @MaciPeterson or @On2nd_Thought


IL:Steven Jumper

May 5, 2015 | By | No Comments


steven jumper

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Steven Jumper

What inspired you to pursue a career in branding, creative development?

Branding is just that – harnessing and shaping a company’s inspirations into a concise package that makes people feel something. Since I was a child, over the years I’ve been deeply influenced by certain brands that were able to connect with my aspirations, passions, and lifestyle. Experiencing the power that thoughtful brands have had and continue to have on my life, I’ve been driven over the past several years to help craft brands that connect with people in genuine ways.

Tell us about your transition from politics, corporate to start-up. Pros? Cons?

Although I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the top brands in the U.S. and world, I’ve always felt like I’ve been a part of the start-up culture. My first job, the opportunity that helped set my professional course, was working for renowned communications expert Judy Smith and her company Impact Strategies (now Smith and Company). At Impact Strategies, although we led communications efforts for some of the world’s most prominent figures and brands, the company was still fueled by a start-up/small business culture. I watched Mrs. Smith and later Mrs. Ann Walker Marchant, of the Walker Marchant Group, build significant, influential companies by shaping boutique agencies into organizations able to compete with and surpass larger national firms. So, although I may not have fully realized it along the way, start-up culture has always been central to my professional life.

Why are you passionate about startups?

I’m inspired by people and companies fully willing to take the destinies into their own hands. Business owners who truly invest in themselves bring a unique energy that you can feel. As an owner of my own agency, along with my partners, I am inspired every time I meet anyone who believes in an idea and strategy enough to set out and chart his/her own course.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic, and social commitments?

For a while I struggled with this. For years, I believed that personal, professional, and philanthropic lives had to be lived and managed independently. What I’ve come to believe is that for me to be at my best, I have to approach all facets of my life with the same commitment and passion. My hope is that when I’m fortunate enough to be a part of anything positive I bring a level of mindfulness that people can feel.

Shark Tank DC? How were you involved with this effort?

In April, Ghost Note, the integrated communications agency I co-own, was fortunate enough to partner with Shark Tank and area consultant firm Values Partnerships to offer DC-based startups with an exclusive opportunity to pitch the hit ABC show’s leading casting directors. The collaboration with Shark Tank was the latest event in our Technoir initiative. We launched Technoir in 2014 in an effort to help fund, showcase, and celebrate diversity in tech.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a big shout to IMPACT leader Brandon Andrews who was instrumental in making our Shark Tank collaboration possible.

Name the biggest mistake young professionals make in your industry?

There still exist misconceptions about the industries of strategic communications, marketing and branding that young professionals entering the workforce should be aware of. Foremost, is the belief that the glamorization by popular media of the worlds of PR and branding is reality in the office place. These industries can certainly be very exciting, fast paced, and exhilarating, but above all they require an intense work ethic to be successful. Young professionals assuming that their early careers will be defined by red carpet appearances and elbow rubbing with celebrities will be sorely disappointed. Mostly, the communications, branding, and marketing industries are driven by inspired and hardworking people willing to put in the time necessary to implement their ideas and strategies real in ways that benefit clients.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desires to excel in your industry?

I would encourage any young(er) professional in the field to commit him/herself to truly learning the fundamental tenets that still drive the work of strategic communications, branding, and marketing. Focus on core skills such of writing, pitching, project management, and quality ideation.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

I’ve been truly blessed to work closely with principal figures at the center of some of the most significant news stories to happen in this country over the past several years. I’ve also had the privilege of helping to craft effective strategies for global, leading brands. That said, without a doubt, the best experience of my career has been building our agency Ghost Note. Of course, a particular pride comes from owning your company, but mostly I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing it with close friends and three of the most talented young minds I know – Brandon Ellis, Reggie Snowden, and Ade Omitowoju.

What’s next for you in your career?

The continued growth and expansion of Ghost Note. The size and profile of our clients is growing. Our partnerships are growing. Our team is growing. Our aspirations for what we can make our company into are growing. And meanwhile, as professionals, sons, fathers, and brothers, we are growing. If this theme continues, years from now, I’ll think I’ll be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Describe yourself in three words.

Reserved. Restless. Relentless.

Twitter Handle?


How can people reach you?

IL:Lauren Wesley Wilson

April 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

IL - 2015 - Lauren Wesley Wilson

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Lauren Wesley Wilson
What inspired you to pursue a career in public relations?
I needed to find a career for talking on the phone, PR seemed liked the best option.

Tell us about your organization ColorComm.
ColorComm, Inc. is a company focused on advancing the visibility and accomplishments of women of color in the communications, marketing, digital and advertising arenas. ColorComm, Inc. houses the national professional membership organization called ColorComm: Women of Color in Communications and ColorComm’s Conference (called C2), which is held annually at the Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne Miami.

ColorComm has chapters in multiple cities nationwide. What’s behind the organization’s success in attracting more members?
ColorComm was created in May 2011 as an invite-only luncheon series to
connect mid to executive level women with the goal of forming mutually beneficial
relationships and learning about special opportunities. ColorComm is often referred to as a good ol’ girls network because of the environment, community, exclusive exchange of information and access to job opportunities. In 2012, the group transitioned into a membership organization and launched its first chapter in Washington, D.C. Currently ColorComm has chapters in DC, New York, Chicago
and Atlanta with access to over 10,000 professional women nationwide.

What’s key to balancing professional, philanthropic, and social commitments?
It’s hard to balance it all. One trick that has worked for me is to set my alarm multiple times throughout the day. I have a tendency to run over at meetings and or events. I set my alarm for the time that I must leave or end a phone call. When the alarm rings, I know that it’s time to end whatever I’m doing and head to the next task. It’s worked out well. It allows me to give 100% to the person vs constantly checking my phone for the end time.

How did you juggle a full-time job and an organization?
ColorComm, Inc is my full time job. Prior to this, I served as Communications Strategist with QorvisMSLGroup and worked full time with ColorComm, Inc. There was no balance.

What are some difficulties African-American women face in your industry?
Not having access or insight to the players that can advance their career.

Name the biggest mistake young professionals make in your industry.
Not being proactive enough.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in public relations?
Take time to learn about the industry and about the people who are making a difference. Read, read, read, and read some more.

Tell us about the upcoming ColorComm conference.
C2 (short for ColorComm Conference) is the ultimate business conference and retreat for women of color in communications that will connect approximately 300 multicultural, professional women. Women’s activist Gloria Steinem, CNN’s Lisa Ling, Levo League Founder Caroline Ghosn, President of Combs, Wine, Spirits Dia Sims and many more will serve as speakers. Prudential, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Wells Fargo, McDonald’s, Edelman, Weber Shandwick, MSLGroup and many more will serve as sponsors. ColorComm will host the ColorComm Circle Awards, the highest honor awarded to a select group of 8 women who are changing the face of the communications industry. PR Week, Latina, Audrey, and Blogher are serving as media partners.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?
Having the confidence to tackle fear and to leave a full-time, comfortable, and nicely paid position with QorvisMSLGROUP to fulfill my mission and calling by leading ColorComm, Inc. as President.

Describe yourself in three words.
Proactive, Persistent, Impatient

Twitter Handle?
@colorcommntwk; @lwesleywilson

How can people reach you?

IL:Stacey Abrams

February 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Y. Abrams is the House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative for the 89th House District. She is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and is the first African-American to lead in the House of Representatives.

Stacey grew up in Mississippi with working-class parents who taught her the value of public service and civic engagement at a young age. She graduated from Spelman College and also holds degrees from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and Yale Law School.

Stacey returned to Atlanta as a tax attorney at the Sutherland law firm, with a focus on tax-exempt organizations, healthcare and public finance. Fiercely independent and entrepreneurial, Stacey has also founded numerous businesses. Most recently, she co-founded and serves as Senior Vice President at NOW Corporation, a financial services firm that specializes in providing access to capital for small businesses.

First elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2006, Stacey quickly became known for her expertise and ability to explain complicated tax and legal questions, and earned a reputation for working across party lines to pass legislation. In 2010, Stacey became House Minority Leader, where she has led the caucus to promote and pass legislation to increase educational opportunity, promote economic security, and improve the quality of life for all Georgians.

IL: Privel Hinkati

January 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

Privel Hinkati

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Privel Hinkati

Tell us about a typical day in the life of Privel.

A typical day starts at 5:05am. I wake up and get ready, have breakfast and bike to my rowing training. I train during two hours and after I go to work attending meetings, doing individual work, and monitoring technology all day. Afterward, I go train again for about one hour before coming home and eating and going to bed early.

What (or who) inspired you to become involved in international affairs? What (or who) inspired you to become involved in athletics?

I don’t think that someone inspired me. I have always been interested in International Affairs. I like discovering different countries, people, cultures so it was “normal” to be in this domain.

My parents inspired me to become an athlete. They have already told me that it ‘s important to push yourself and that sports teach life values. It’s with these words that I grew up and I became an athlete.

What is the key to balancing your professional, athletic, and social commitments?

Oh it’s simple. Motivation and organization. That’s it ! You have to have a goal and be ready to make concessions in your life and be very organized to not fail.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing a career in public service and foreign policy faced by people of color?

Just thinking that you are out of place due to your color. It’s the biggest mistake because if you are there, and you have to be there, it is not a mistake.

What advice or learned lesson would you give other young professionals who desire to work in foreign policy?

I think that the most important thing is to be diplomat with everyone because you may meet again in different circumstances and have to work together. Don’t ever count anybody out.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding) ?

To be hired at the Embassy of France in the United States out of more of 400 hundred candidates.

What’s next for you in your career and what is your approach to reaching the next phase of your professional development ?

I’m let some time pass before thinking to my future but maybe I would like to create a startup. I’m working in the entrepreneurship domain too and I have a project so maybe it would be my next step in my career.

Lastly, what are three words to sum up Privel Hinkati.

Ambitious, Athlete, Thoughtful

How can people reach you on social media ?

On my personal website :

IL: Garrett Johnson

November 17, 2014 | By | No Comments


IL - Garrett Johnson - November 2014

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Garrett Johnson

You’ve had a successful career in policy, what inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

I wanted to solve a discreet problem for my nephew’s school and that “side-project” has evolved into a venture-backed company. I never imagined moving out to Silicon Valley. I’ve always considered myself a problem solver, but never pursued traditional entrepreneurship, until this company. It’s among the most meaningful and exciting pursuits of my life, so far.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

Learn to say no. It’s hard and an art form, but focus is incredibly important. I would rather do a few things incredibly well.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing a new business venture?

Lack of focus. Read Peter Thiel’s new book, Zero to One, as it explains the vital importance of focus in a digestible way.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in marrying tech and social responsibility, especially African American men?

Don’t be afraid to be the first person or only person like you in the room. After this psychological barrier, it all comes down to execution. Understand what problem you are solving and make sure the problems is causing real pain. Identify a small market that acutely feels this pain, which you are positioned to reach. Build an incredible solution for that problem – preferably 10x better or faster than anyone else can – and sell the shit out of it.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

I refuse to accept my nephew’s friend request on Facebook, but I can see his page and his listed occupation is Jr. CEO of SendHub.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

I am 100% invested in SendHub and don’t plan to change this. In general – I always want to solve big problems.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Garrett Johnson?

Husband, Uncle, Servant.

How can we get in touch with you?




September 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

ashley bell

Ashley Bell

Independent, Free, Thinker
March 2014

Ashley Bell was elected Hall Country (GA) Commissioner in 2008.  The youngest ever,at the age of 27. In 2014 he announced his candidacy for Georgia State School Superintendent.
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September 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

Tomica Burke

Tomica Burke

Never, Gives, Up
April 2014

Tomica “Tom” Burke is the Head Chef and Creative Director of TomCookery–New Comfort Cuisine and Catering. A native New Yorker.

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IL:Martin Diego Garcia

September 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

Martin Diego Garcia jpg

Martin Diego Garcia

Supportive, Straightforward, Stylish
May 2014

Martín Diego Garcia is a first-generation, California native who has a passion for advocating for underserved populations by helping progressive  Read More


September 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

Deon Jones

Deon Jones

Resilient, Servant, #HereToStay
June 2014

Deon Jones is the youngest elected official (ANC) in the history of Washington, D.C. His passion to provide opportunities for young people, particularly young African American and Hispanic boys, regardless of their zip code, is contagious. That’s what led him to his new role at Be The Change, Inc. with former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Rob Gordon III, and the fact he loves that his boss (who Deon calls RG3) asked him when he first started, three weeks ago, “Are you ready to change the world?”

In addition to his role at Be The Change, Inc., he serves as Executive Director of the MANifest Leadership Institute, a leadership and academic development program for formerly incarcerated youth.

Before joining Be the Change, Inc., Deon served as the National Spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice, a national advocacy organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

Deon has held fellowship and internship positions with in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the White House, and Teach for America. In addition, Deon served as a DC Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from 2011-2013, becoming the youngest elected city official in Washington, DC’s history.

Deon has been a speaker at many national and international conferences and events, including the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the NEXUS Global Youth Summit in New York City and London, the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, and more.

In 2013, the D.C. City Council passed the “Deon T. Jones Recognition Resolution of 2013” honoring Deon’s service to the city. Also, Deon is the first African-American from American University to be appointed a Harry S. Truman Scholar by Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

Deon has been a contributor to Politic365 and News One Now w/ Roland Martin. He serves on the board of directors at America’s Promise Alliance and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Alumni Association. He was recently appointed to the National Council of Young Leaders.

He is a graduate of American University where he was a member of the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program. In addition, Deon has studied abroad at King’s College London and was a Public Policy and International Affairs fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.


INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Deon

Tell us about a typical day in the life of Deon what blogs/newspapers, websites do you read that shape the way you think?

A typical day, in my life, has changed a lot since I graduated from American University four weeks ago. When I wake up, the first thing I do is pray and declare that a great day, on purpose, is ahead of me. I add that if I make a mistake that day, that I am given the strength to get up and keep it moving and the wisdom to not do it again.

On the way to work, I go through my Facebook and Twitter feeds to see what people are talking about and reading. Most people always lead me to some of my favorite outlets such as The Atlantic, Policy Mic, the NY Times, BuzzFeed, etc.

There is no normal day at work. Be The Change, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that creates national issue-based campaigns by organizing coalitions of nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, policymakers, private sector and civic leaders, academics and citizens. Its combined grasstops and grassroots approach engages well-known voices in entertainment, retail, government and philanthropy and, through their megaphones, Americans of all ages and backgrounds. The three campaigns of Be the Change, Inc. are ServiceNation, Opportunity Nation, and Got Your 6. The CEO is City-Year Co-Founder Alan Khazei and the President is Rob Gordon, III, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.

In my role, I manage the President’s daily operations. In addition, I am responsible for managing and leading new projects associated with our three campaigns. Currently, I am assisting the President with our work to bring on additional senior military and business leaders to support Opportunity Nation, Service Nation, and Got Your 6 efforts. I also coordinate fundraising strategies with the campaigns and assist with strategic communications.

After work, I head over to the Sasha Bruce R.E.A.C.H. house and put on my Executive Director hat at the Manifest Leadership Institute, an academic and leadership program for formerly incarcerated boys in Washington, D.C.

My day ends with a good drink, a few friends, or my favorite – relaxing at home and reading. Currently, I am reading four things: Ta-nehisi Coates’ front page piece in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations”, Capitalism in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, Our Kind of People by Lawrence Graham, and America’s Promise Alliance’s new report. “Don’t Call Them Dropouts.” These materials are helping me look at how we view and access opportunity in this country and how it is denied, particularly for those living in poverty and disadvantaged African-Americans and Hispanics.

What (or who) inspired you to become an elected official, Truman Scholar, and White House intern?

When I was little, I can remember watching my hero, Oprah, all the time and going to church with my great-grandmother Shug. I would hear things like, “Through God, all things are possible,” and “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed.” If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move mountains and anything was possible. I heard this as a kid and really believed it. Despite growing up in poverty, witnessing countless acts of domestic violence, and having many odds against me, that little thing we all have called “instinct” told me that my life would be different. Because I sensed that instinct and was connected to it, my prayer has always been – “God use me. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know there is a vision for my life greater than my imagination can hold. Use me. Use me. What would you have me to do?” And, that dream, that instinct, that prayer led me to Washington to build a platform that could make a difference.

There is no one who has had more influence on my personal and professional life in this city than my mentor and brother David Johns. Many people in this town say that you can reach out to them, but they never respond. David has been my guide since I was a freshman in college and has never ignored me. His work, passion, honesty, and sincerity are worthy of imitation. Among the many things he has shared with me, what he always tells me is to walk by faith.

I think the privilege of being an elected official, a Truman Scholar, a White House intern, or anything other successes I have had are products of me holding on to that instinct from when I was younger and the lessons I have learned from David Johns and watching Oprah.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic, and social commitments?

I do not know the answer to this question. However, I keep a written “to-do” list with me all the time. That way, I will not forget anything or at least try not to. I also know that the four walls in my office will never remember that I was there all night and did not go home. My friends and family will.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing a career in politics?

What I have observed is that so many young people do not have patience. They are rushing to go to the top graduate school, get the “bad ass” title, and have great influence. They do all this, end up having no life experiences, and come to Washington and write bloodless policy. When I was at the White House, the President told the interns, “Focus on the change you want to make and put your all into it. The title and all that other stuff will come later.” I would echo the President and that has been true for me during my time here in Washington.

What advice or learned lesson would you give other young professionals who desire to become an elected official?

AGE AIN’T NOTHING BUT A NUMBER! Never be afraid to do or say something because of your age, and never let someone intimidate you because it either. You can do anything you set your mind to. General Colin Powell once told me, “Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros — even in their own backyard.”

I could not be who I am by being afraid to sit at the table with someone who could be my parent or grandparent. I actually love it, and you should too.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

The most rewarding experience in my career has been the ten, formerly incarcerated young men who have completed the MANifest Leadership Institute and went on to four-year universities. Their life trajectory has changed and now, their family history will too. The most rewarding experiences are when you see REAL CHANGE take place in someone’s life because of your work.

What’s next for you in your career and what is your approach to reaching the next phase of your professional development?

Wherever the Creator places me where I am continuing in the fight to #SaveOurSons, #TeachTheBabies, and making sure that every young person has the opportunity and resources to reach the American dream is where I will be, regardless of the industry.

My approach to reaching that next phase is to be prepared for that moment when preparation meets opportunity. Then, continue on with the breath of the Creator behind my back.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Deon Jones.

Resilient, Servant, #HereToStay (Can a hashtag be one word?)

How can people reach you on social media?

Twitter and Instagram: @deontjones