If you’re in any way involved with diversity and inclusion, an excellent resource is Founders Unfound. Started by serial entrepreneur Dan Kihanya, Founders Unfound tells the stories of exceptional entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, currently focusing on those started by African Americans. The site publishes a regular cadence of profile podcasts, ech of which showcase a standout startup and its founder.
One of Kihanya’s first interviews was with Stella Ashaolu, founder of WeSolv. Her company began out of Ms. Ashaolu’s experiences as an MBA candidate, where she had difficulty being noticed by hiring managers because she didn’t fit the typical background of an MBA, along with a work history that didn’t match that of many of her peers.
Ashaolu’s startup history dates back to her undergraduate days at UCLA, when she began Westside Student Tutoring (WST), which was also centered on a social mission. The company delivered affordable tutoring to low-income families that couldn’t afford more premium services, like Kumon and Sylvan. Due to Ashaolu’s efforts, that business grew by 300% in the first two years and later helped her conceive of WeSolv.
After UCLA, Ashaolu became an MBA candidate, where she first noted the difficulty many diverse candidates encounter when it comes to showcasing their abilities and attracting the attention of human resource (HR) executives, because those candidates didn’t have the same resources and networks that other students enjoyed. Though it was difficult, Ashaolu managed to overcome that challenge herself to gain a position with Gallup in Chicago. There she led teams focused on solving enterprise issues around performance and workforce strategies. These projects allowed her to apply advanced data collection and analytics to the problem of diverse hiring, and WeSolv eventually grew from those experiences.
With WeSolv, Ashaolu isn’t looking to promote diversity hiring, she’s looking to make it obsolete. WeSolv combines advanced analytics and Fortune 500 partnerships with companies like Discover and Salesforce to develop and then sponsor challenges where underrepresented MBA students can showcase their abilities to hiring executives.
Since partner companies are directly involved with challenge development, they’re able to focus on exactly the capabilities they’re seeking. MBA candidates get an excellent opportunity to connect directly with hiring executives and showcase their abilities based on raw performance data unbiased by issues like race or gender. Both sides benefit, which is one reason WeSolv, once a struggling bootstrap, now has investors, relationships with 45 MBA programs, and a long list of big-name hiring clients.
Listen to Ashaolu’s Founders Unfound interview for more on how she conceived of WeSolv and the challenges she overcame on fronts like conception, funding, and creating something meaningful with limited resources.