The four founders of a new multimedia platform organization aim to start conversations with underrepresented professionals.
Joseline Nyianwabera said the group of four Black women, who started Fourward, felt they needed to publically share the conversations they were having behind closed doors.
“We’re just sitting around the table discussing our journeys and careers as we always do,” Nyianwabera said. “And we started feeling bad for keeping the learnings that we’ve had and the things that we discussed at our tables to ourselves — knowing that a lot of young millennials are going to be going through the struggles that we went through.”
The founders — Nyianwabera, Alyssa Neblett, Delphine Vakunta and Linda Vakunta — have roots around the world but grew up in Madison. They left the city to work, study and explore but serendipitously found themselves back in Wisconsin over the summer.
The multimedia platform launched on Oct. 8. And since then the organization has created blogs, podcasts, video conversations and social media campaigns to engage with underrepresented professionals. Topics include voting misconceptions, therapy, “Am I ready for a baby?” and tips on how to make travel a self-development choice.
The organization sparks conversations by interviewing experts such as Fitchburg Alder Joe Maldonado and Myra McNair, owner of Anesis Therapy, who provide resources and draw from their own life experiences.
“We want to impact our community about conversations that aren’t [being] had because we’re first-generation in so many spaces,” Nyianwabera said.
“My family are refugees from Rwanda,” Nyianwabera later added. “So I’m going into a space where I don’t necessarily understand the politics of navigating that space and I fell on my face a few times and had I not had a few mentors or some guidance, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”
She added as four women with advanced degrees and global experience they want to discuss things that aren’t taught in school.
“Real estate investment and marketing investment; conversations that aren’t had in our communities because not only do we not know about it, but it’s not even taught at school. There are so many things that we don’t know we don’t know,” she said.
Each conversation will draw in the personalities and expertise of the founders, in addition to outside experts.
Nyianwabera is a business and marketing strategist and owner of BlkBld & Co., a boutique marketing agency. Neblett is a financial analyst and wealth management professional. Delphine Vakunta is an international humanitarian and development professional who works with the United Nations. Dr. Linda Vakunta is a governmental and non-governmental professional; who works in city government.
One of their recent themes focused on mental health. The group spoke to therapists, social workers, and Beny Pérez-Reyes the principal owner of Clover Phoenix Capital, an organization that helps fund businesses in the Milwaukee area. Beny is a suicide survivor.
“(Fourward) is a means to bring different discussions to the table that are not necessarily always talked about, whether it’s mental health, especially in the Black and Brown community, or financial wellness,” Nyianwabera said. “Whether it’s love or whatever it is in regards to career, community, personal and professional development and lifestyle.
“We wanted to bring those topics to the forefront.”