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Meet Esi Kagale Agyeman Gillo of DIFFvelopment

Today we’d like to introduce you to Esi Kagale Agyeman Gillo.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
DIFFvelopment was born out of my experiences with unemployment and underemployment after I completed my education with a bachelor’s from Smith College and a master’s from the University of Oxford, UK. The experience was shocking for me being that I assumed that after working hard and earning degrees from great institutions, I would easily obtain a job within my desired field. With that not being the case, I became curious about why I was experiencing such a difficult time obtaining employment that was commensurate with my academic and professional experiences. This led me to do research that opened my eyes to employment discrimination, one of the many problematic legacies that is a result of centuries of black oppression. I decided to create an organization that would prepare college students of African descent for black life after college from a historical perspective. My deepest desire is to empower recent graduates and college students of African descent to overcome socioeconomic barriers and build generational and communal wealth through community-minded entrepreneurship that re-empowers people of African descent at large.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
From a spiritual perspective, the road has been transformative and liberating. There certainly is nothing like business ownership. The freedom to create a work dynamic that is in line with who I am and to continuously build an idea that means the world to me is priceless. Naturally, the process comes with its challenges. Much like the disparities we see with employment, acquiring funding as a black business – especially a black business focused on black issues proves to be challenging. Though it would be great to have all the funds necessary to bring the full vision of DIFFvelopment to fruition right now, as a person of faith, I know that things will happen at the right time. As such, I choose to focus on how what we have learned over the years has led to our progress and put my energy more towards furthering that progress as opposed to dwelling on the challenges that come with a lack of funding. The work brings me inarticulable joy and purpose; I use that as fuel to get me through the challenges that come with not being able to hire a team and expand the way that I would like to at the moment.

Please tell us about DIFFvelopment.
DIFFvelopment is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization with the global mission of “Re-empowering people of African descent one student at a time.” We fulfill our mission by addressing the lack of black generational wealth through culturally specific entrepreneurial and financial programs that empower college students of African descent to overcome socioeconomic barriers and build generational wealth.

By re-empowering people of African descent through youth who are willing to reconnect with their economic history in a way that inculcates them with an unshakable commitment to shift the trajectory of black economics, DIFFvelopment is creating the next generation of visionary black leaders.

Our unique holistic approach to black economic empowerment manifests through our unique summer internship program and a host of products and services. More specifically, our 10-week summer internship program provides students with Africana-centered entrepreneurial and financial education through seminars, a consulting practicum and business concept development. Our Alternative Career Services program provides culturally specific entrepreneurial and financial learning materials, tools, consulting services, our Black Generational Wealth workshop and virtual programming, including our #DIFFCollegeSummitSeries.

I am most proud of serving over 600 recent graduates and college students of African descent who represent East, West, Central and South Africa, the Caribbean and Black America, helping 33 of them to fully develop executable community-minded business concepts and providing five of them with a total of over $10,000 in business startup financing–despite receiving very little financial support since our inception in 2015. We are the only nonprofit committed to re-empowering the black race through the economic empowerment of college students of African descent.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are looking forward to dropping our first book in the next couple of months, expanding our programming to be almost exclusively virtual–enabling us to reach more people in a shorter period of time–and rolling out a think tank concept and our Black Economic Empowerment Fund & Fellowship Program by the end of 2021.

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