There are many exceptional women, who defy the odds and create a ripple effect around them. Amongst the noise, there are a few women who we watch, respect, and simply admire. These women are at the forefront of their careers, and passion; they are living a DESIGNED LIFE. They were selected by our Designed Life Team for their tenacity, grit, and amazing achievements. May we be empowered by their strengths; their zest to succeed. May we be encouraged by their journeys and stories. Here’s to strong women…
In no particular order, here’s the list of our top 20 Leading Ladies to watch out for in 2017:
20. Samra Zafar
Samra Zafar is an International Speaker, Human Rights Activist, Scholar, Author and Social Entrepreneur. Samra proudly graduated with a Masters degree in Economics with the highest distinction, winning over a dozen awards and scholarships. Today, she is the youngest alumni serving as a Governor for the University of Toronto, along with pursuing a rewarding career in commercial banking. Her impressive speaking portfolio includes platforms such as Amnesty International, Women in Leadership Canada, as well as major universities, banks and corporations.
Samra will be speaking at TEDx Mississauga 2017 about domestic abuse, women’s rights to respect, and what individuals and communities can do to make a difference. Samra’s story is one of Brave Beginnings, the name of the non-profit organization she founded to support abuse survivors in their journey to build a life of respect and freedom. Her story and work have been featured in prominent media platforms, including Toronto Life, CTV, CBC, Global News, Yahoo Canada and many others. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.samrazafar.com
19. Morgan DeBaun
Morgan DeBaun is the founders of multi-cultural media startup Blavity, She launched in 2014 to rave reviews and strong support. Blavity is a venture-backed technology and media company aimed at building beautiful products and experiences for black millennials. Founded in July 2014, has quickly grown to become one of the fastest growing digital media outlets on the web, reaching more than 7M millennials a month. Morgan is St. Louis born. Silicon Valley Raised. Serial Entrepreneur. Media and entertainment. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page https://www.blavity.com/
18. Tiffany Alichie
Tiffany aka The Budgetnista, America’s favorite financial educator and often referred to as “The Black Suze Orman”, is a bestselling author, The One Week Budget (#1 Amazon) and the Live Richer Challenge (#1 Amazon), blogger, speaker and award-winning teacher of engaging financial education. She also launched a FREE, online financial resource called, the LIVE RICHER ChallengeIts’s purpose is to help women achieve specific financial goals each year. So far it’s helped over 50,000+ women in all 50 states and over 70 countries save millions dollars + and pay off hundred’s of thousands of dollars in debt. She blogs with the Huffington Post and U.S. News and World Report, and her financial advice has been featured in the The New York Times, Reuters, US News and World Report, the TODAY show, PBS, Fox Business, MSNBC, CBS MoneyWatch, TIME, ESSENCE Magazine, and FORBES and more. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.thebudgetnistablog.com
17. Myleik Teele
California-bred innovator, Myleik Teele, has revolutionized the way women address their curly hair needs. As the founder of curlBOX, an exclusive monthly subscription box full of amazing products, the stylish entrepreneur has garnered partnerships with L’Oreal, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Walmart & SheaMoisture.
Before creating curlBOX, the San Francisco State University graduate honed her talents for a decade in public relations. Teele worked with brands such as Calvin Klein Cosmetics, The Grammy Awards, and American Idol, as well as music artists Prince, Linkin Park and Travis Barker. In 2010, Teele birthed Art of Facts Public Relations in Atlanta, Georgia. The agency grew at a rapid speed and was recognized as one of the top boutique public relations firms in the industry during its short existence.
Naturally, Teele’s zeal for building brands would lead her to create the premier hair sampling box that’s developed a cult following of savvy women. The brand has amassed over 300k Instagram followers and created the popular web series, curlBOX TV, that gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite hair care brands. Teele also led the charge in 2014 & 2015 for a massive St. Jude Children’s Hospital fundraiser in cities all over the nation. The 5k walk, which brought together hundreds of multi-cultural women, raised over $40k. Teele’s influence is also strong in her personal brand with over 100k Instagram followers and a thriving podcast series (My Taught You), which charts well on iTunes and remains #1 on Podomatic in the careers category. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page http://www.mytaughtyou.com
16. Joy Isi Bewaji
Joy Isi Bewaji is an all-round media girl with experience and presence on TV, radio, online and print. She is the author of Eko Dialogue, a collection of short stories on the intrigues of Lagos, interpreted on stage on many occasions by The Crown Troupe of Africa.
She is a writer and columnist and has contributed in respected media platforms – ThisDay and sabinews.com inclusive. She also serves as an Editor in the media and has edited celebrated lifestyle magazines and blogs– TW, Genevieve, Exquisite. She is presently the Managing Editor of Happenings magazine (www.happenings.com.ng) and Managing Director of Happenings Online Radio (www.radio.happenings.com.ng). She is the brand representative of NASCO and runs NASCO Moments (a sponsored brand show) on CityFM and Happenings Radio.
She is a 2006 winner of LEAP Africa Awards. She was a part of the 9 writers, 4 cities tour 2009 in Nigeria. She co-anchored aThe Breakfast Show on HiTV; and was the main anchor of a socio-political breakfast show on TV Continental called “Your View”. Joy runs a feminist forum called #TheConversation. She has held events around cities in Nigeria (Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja). #TheConversation was also part of the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Afterward, she was invited to Harvard to speak on African Feminism. Speaker, writer and publicist, Joy’s stage play “Wedding Blues” won the British Council Lagos Festival Theatre play contest for 2017. She also writes screenplays. “Tina’s Shoes & Love Issues” is an audio series she released in 2014. Joy rants on Facebook, sharing interesting and uncommon truths. She is presently compiling some of her best rants in a book. You can catch Joy on DSTV or Galaxy TV as she presents ‘The Chat LIVE!’ on weekdays. And on Happenings Radio. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.happenings.com.ng
15. Tonya Rapley
Tonya Rapley is a nationally recognized millennial money expert and creator of the award-winning site, My Fab Finance. In 2014 she was deemed the “New Face of Wealth Building” by Black Enterprise Magazine and featured as their cover subject. Tonya’s mission is to help millennials break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck so that they can become financially free and do more of what they love. She is the host and executive producer of the web-series Fab Finance with Tonya for Centric and the creator of the #BanishTheBalance challenge, a debt elimination challenge that helped over 4,000 participants pay off more than $200,000 of debt in sixty days.
Selected by TV One as a modern day history maker, Tonya is a full-time entrepreneur and tours the country providing workshops for private and nonprofit clients. Her client list includes Fidelity Investments, Prudential, the National Endowment for Financial Education and FinCon ( the financial bloggers conference). Tonya has spoken at Bloomberg, Essence Fest, Millennial Week, PepsiCo, the Blogging While Brown Conference, BlogHer, Circle of Sisters and a host of colleges and universities. Tonya’s fierce financial advice has appeared on US New, NY Daily New, Buzz Feed, Essence.com, The Root, Credit.com, Go Banking Rates, Reuters, Refinery29, Centric and several other media outlets. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page http://www.myfabfinance.com/
14. Amada Spann
Amanda Spann is marketer and app entrepreneur on a mission to help fellow founders build and accelerate their brands. She produces resources and programming through her consultancy Spann & Company in addition to serving as the Co-Founder and Marketing Director of Tiphub, an impact driven innovation community for entrepreneurs in Africa and the African Diaspora.
Prior to her current venture, Amanda was the CMO of Blerdology, a tech social enterprise to support and engage the black tech community and the first organization to host hackathons targeting African Americans. The company helped to spark black interest in technology, assisted aspiring minority entrepreneurs get their apps or projects off the ground for little to no cost and bridged policy and innovation to combat social issues.
The Florida State and Georgetown grad has been honored as one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women In Tech Under 30, Walker’s Legacy 2016 Power50, Rolling Out’s 25 Women you should know, as one of BET’s Blacks on the Brink of Greatness, as well as one of the 5 future leaders in technology by Black Enterprise Magazine. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page http://www.amandaspann.com/
13. Nkem DenChukwu
Nkem DenChukwu, Author/Filmmaker, was born on July 4th in Eastern Nigeria. She delved into the arts of Filmmaking and Creative Writing in 2012. Since then, she has 10 films and 4 fiction-based books under her belt; inspirational children’s books included. Three of her creative verses have also been featured in The Oprah Winfrey Magazine “O.” She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Networking and a Master’s degree in Health Services Administration, but her real love is Creative Writing (and making motion pictures). She received the “Rising Star Award at the 2015 Canada International Film Festival” and she is an HuffingtonPost Blogger.
Nkem is an advocate for battered women and children. “Bullies are not born. They are made.” She said. Come fall of 2017, she will be producing a feature film on human trafficking, in an effort to save more than one life at a time, and stop the epidemic. She lives in Texas with her family. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page http://www.nkemdenchukwu.com
12. Desiree Lee
Desiree Lee, a California Native, has a huge impact on every individual and with every audience; delivering a dynamic, high energy message wrapped in a package unlike any we’ve seen before. Traveling nationwide, Desiree Lee presents powerful messages to impact audiences who feel that they are facing limiting options. In recent years, Desiree Lee has been seen shared the stage with Honorable Judge Greg Mathis and has been featured as the Keynote Speaker at the National Coalition of 100 Black Women (Chattanooga Chapter) and Judge Penny Brown Reynolds’ Sister Talk Conference, to name a few.
Ms. Lee has also had the opportunity to share her story with Ambassador Andrew Young, featured panelist at the 2014 A3C, Festival and has made many Prevention Presentations to middle and high school students nationwide in an effort to combat youth incarceration.
She is committed to assisting you to become a self-published author and Get Your Story Heard and was recently nominated for the Powerlife Award, I AM Awards and Black Women Are Inspirational Award in recognition of her dedication to service and personal empowerment. “The goal isn’t to live forever but to create an IMPACT that does.” Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page http://dleeinspires.com/
Vivian Jokotade Adeniyi, fondly known as “Jokotade”, is a Nigerian-American trailblazer, author, speaker and mentor to women, entrepreneurs and leaders. Through her network of talk shows, Jokotade inspires diverse audiences by sharing personal stories and insight with much passion, relevance and heart. Her audio and video programs equip listeners and viewers in over 100 countries. Her journey as a serial entrepreneur and innovator began at an early age of six. With many successful startups under her belt, Jokotade combines her business background with her leadership experience equipping other emerging entrepreneurs and leaders to start and grow influential organizations. Her heart is first for women and she is passionate about mentoring the next-generation woman to win in life, love and business. Harnessing the power of technology, Jokotade is on a mission to raise and develop visionary women in every country of the world. Her teachings and presentations are simple, practical and relevant helping women from diverse backgrounds ignite their dreams, clarify their paths and live out their potential. Now a serial-turned-social entrepreneur, her recent projects include her breakout book, Fresh Start, and the launch of Jokotade.TV, an online TV network focused on inspiring, mentoring and empowering women to live out a life of true success. When she is not in front of her computer originating ideas, or busy engaging audiences with her inspiring stories, she enjoys reading and cooking for her husband. Together, they are raising two spectacular global influencers. Get to know her when you visit her home online at Jokotade.com
10. Donteacia Seymore
Donteacia Seymore is an American inventor and award-winning innovation strategist. As a product junkie, serial entrepreneur, and giver of lyfe, she is the founder of Mobile Grip Gear, a mobility apparel company headquartered in Jacksonville, FL. With a renaissance approach to innovation, Donteacia is working to dispel the myth that tech is sexier than the exciting new products we encounter each day.
As a writer, public speaker, and innovation enthusiast, Donteacia is inspiring a new generation of inventors to be bold and disruptive…and to do it on their own terms. She is also the brains behind Founders Brunch, a bi-annual brunch where founders from all over the country come to fellowship and collaborate on exciting new ideas. She has coached hundreds of entrepreneurs and small business owners on strategy and development, and has helped them raise nearly $1M for their amazing ideas. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.donteaciaseymore.com/
9. Eunice Cofie
Eunice Cofie is making great strides in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. She is the President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist of Nuekie – an innovative health and beauty company for people of color. Eunice is a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry/molecular biology and completed the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Global Leadership and Public Policy Executive Education program. Her deep commitment to social causes worldwide has led her to make a positive impact across the globe, specifically in Ghana and the Philippines. While in college, Eunice spent her summers working in a village community in Ghana, West Africa implementing the Save a Million Lives HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention Program. As the former Miss Black Florida USA, she spent a year promoting her platform Preventing Childhood Obesity and Diabetes through Education and Life Transforming Habits. She was able to contribute greatly to her community by inspiring young people to live healthy lifestyles. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.nuekie.com
8. Ade Hassan
Ade Hassan owner of Nubian Skin, launched with a carefully edited collection of lingerie and hosiery to provide the essential underwear needs of women of color. Headquartered in London, Nubian Skin delivers worldwide and looks forward to growing the company’s offering and expanding its reach. Frustrated by the lack of skin-tone choices to go with her ever-expanding wardrobe, Nubian Skin founder, Ade Hassan, decided it was time for ‘a different kind of nude’. Inspired by trailblazing women, Eunice W. Johnson and supermodel Iman, who created Fashion Fair and Iman cosmetics, Ade took the leap and created Nubian Skin. It’s been an uphill battle, but every revolution starts somewhere. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.nubianskin.com
7. Tope Ganiyah Fajingbesi-Balogun
She is a Certified Public Accountant in the USA and a Chartered Accountant in Nigeria. She is the author of Love in Cancun, an Amazon.com bestseller, and “What Color Is Your Money?” Tope is the CEO of House of Ganiyah, a company built to inspire you to find, fund and fully unleash your purpose driven life. An Nigerian-American social entrepreneur, independent financial management consultant, inspirational speaker, purpose driven life teacher and the author of the amazon.com best-selling novel, Love in Cancun. She created and hosts Impact Africa, a radio program that inspires listeners to participate actively in African development through entrepreneurship and job creation particularly for Africa’s growing youth population. She also invests considerable time and energy into creating a better world for children from low-income families through the education, healthcare and social welfare initiatives of United for Kids Foundation, an organization she co-founded in 2002 and which she continues to serve as its Executive Director/Coordinating Trustee (Pro-Bono). Tope is a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar Session 530 – “Value(s) for Money? Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Social and Financial Transformation.” She also attended the University of Oxford’s Women Transforming Leadership in October 2014. Tope was one of 30 African leaders invited to the U.S. White House in preparation for the 2014 U.S.-Africa leaders summit in May 2014, and President Obama’s Eid reception for Muslim Americans in July 2016. In addition to working on Secretary Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as an organizer in Michigan, Tope had the honor of giving the field pitch at Mrs. Clinton’s final presidential campaign rally in Grand Rapids Michigan on November 7, 2016. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.ganiyah.com
6. Holli Thompson
Holli Thompson is the author of the award-winning book, Discover Your Nutritional Style, Your Seasonal Plan for a Healthy, Happy, and Delicious Life, published by Sunrise River Press, and launched September 2014 to rave reviews.
She is a former VP for Chanel, turned creator of Nutritional Style™, a health and nutrition blog and consulting company. Her innovative method of identifying the three types of nutritional styles; Healthy Omnivore™, Flexible Vegetarian™, and Modern Vegan™, was established to allow women (and men) to finally experience an attainable, satisfying and always health-filled lifestyle. An inspirational speaker, and popular TV guest for several major networks, Thompson shares weekly on her own blog, hollithompson.com, recently voted one of the top 10 Health and Wellness Blogs by Healthline.org. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.hollithompson.com.
5. Lenika Scott
Lenika Scott, a woman of strength, love, and integrity and is the epitome of the Proverbs 31 Woman. She was able to grow and build a successful 7 Figure business in Direct Sales, Internet Marketing, and Coaching. Proud Wife and Mother of 6 Precious daughters. She is also the Author of “Fasting for Breakthrough: How a 21 day fast can change your life”! Known as the “The Millionaire Mom,” Lenika Scott has mastered the task of what some would deem as impossible to most. She is a multi-level marketing guru, life coach, entrepreneur, successful business woman, mentor, managing an immaculate household of 6 daughters and being a submissive wife to a wonderful husband all while keeping herself healthy, fit, beautiful and lovely. Her talents and gifts are many. She humbly refers to herself as a stay-at-home mom. Lenika is a minister, prophetess, intercessor, worshiper and true child of God. She has a strong Christian background and gives all the credit, glory and honor for her success to God. Lenika extremely loves the Lord and has great compassion for his people. One of her Ultimate goals in life is to leave her children an Inheritance and not a bill. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.lenikascott.com/
4. Jennifer Love
On a given day, Jennifer may be found serving as a judge for events like Startup Weekend, on stage speaking to a variety of audiences, preparing entrepreneurs to land a shark on Shark Tank, advising a client behind the scenes of Biz Fix with Marcus Lemonis, meeting with community leaders and government officials, negotiating with investors, advising leaders of Fortune 200 companies and celebrities in growth strategies, or training communities of entrepreneurs on both mindset and tactical skills. Collectively, she has been involved in the raising of over $100+ million and over the past 20 years has built several successful companies from the ground up. Her current company portfolio includes the national award-winning chocolate company, NibMor, and the internationally famed waste reduction technology company, Loliware. She is beloved by those around her because she gets results. As one client once said, “With Jennifer, the only possible outcome is success.” Find out more our leading lady by visiting her page http://www.onemorewoman.com
3. Pauline Truong
A Trailblazing Women & Law, White House VIP, Millennium Global Woman of Honor, Queen’s Trust and Honorable Order award recipient, Hon. Pauline Truong LLM JD/LLB (Hons) GDLP BSc, an ex-refugee from Vietnam, has had 10+ years experience and 50k+ global ‘followers’ as an international lawyer, GlobePreneur, investor, expat, advisor and writer with a track record of awards in many countries in global entrepreneurship, law, finance, and advocacy. She is featured on major mainstream media globally and will also be featured in many Cover Stories on prominent magazines in the coming months.
Pauline was awarded an Honorable Order (U.S.A.) for her global innovation, leadership, and contribution. The prestigious honor has been commissioned to such distinguished leaders as President Bill Clinton, President Ronald Reagan, President George Bush, President Johnson, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and America’s first person in space, John Glenn.
She is the first person of Australian and Vietnamese origin to be inducted as the Millennium Global Woman of Honor. She is also featured on FORBES USA, NBC, ABC, CBS, BuzzFeed, Social Media Week, UCLA Law School Alumni News, A Celebration of Australian Leadership, Huffington Post, European Business News, Singapore News, TechGeek, Postgraduate (EU), Nagoya News (Japan), Model on a Mission, MOGUL & other mainstream media globally.
She is also honored & featured in the Trailblazing Women and the Law, National Foundation for Australian Women’s Archives, and Australian Women Lawyers as Active Citizens Exhibitions and in a book on Career Makeover & How to Reinvent Your Success Abroad. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page http://www.paulinetruong.com/
2. Stephanie Lampkin
Stephanie Lampkin is the founder & CEO of Blendoor, merit-based matching, a mobile job matching app that uses a blind recruiting strategy to circumvent unconscious bias and thus facilitate diversity. With a 13 year career in tech spanning companies like Lockheed, Deloitte, Microsoft, and TripAdvisor, she is all too familiar with the difficulties faced when one doesn’t look like the prototypical engineer. Through technology and data, her mission is to reduce bias and challenge the assumption that homogenous environments are a meritocracy. Stephanie holds a BS in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. Stephanie has been honored and featured in numerous publications including Forbes, NPR, NY Times, Tech Crunch, Huffington Post, Tech.Co and Black Enterprise. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.blendoor.com
1. Luvvie Ajayi
Luvvie Ajayi is a New York Times best-selling author, speaker and digital strategist who thrives at the intersection of comedy, technology, and activism. A thirteen-year blogging veteran, she is the voice behind Awesomely Luvvie, a widely-respected humor blog that covers everything pop culture – from TV, movies, and technology to travel, race and life’s random adventures. It was her blog that inspired Luvvie’s debut book, I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual, which was released in September 2016, and instantly hit the New York Times best-seller’s list. It is a collection of essays that critiques our fame-obsessed, social media-centric lives while encouraging us to do better. The book is the good, yet snarky, angel on your shoulder, in word form.
Several women stand out women pursuing excellence, women building their empire quietly. I once posted that “Grace doesn’t shout, it is evident”. These phenomenal women have proven to be exceptionally strong and driven to accomplish their goals and are striving to reach higher heights. I believe that in essence these women will change the world someday and we have the opportunity to celebrate them today. Find out more about our leading lady by visiting her page www.luvvie.org