Mutale Nkonde: Super mom, aspiring international community builder
Nayaba Arinde | 5/15/2014, 2:39 p.m.
Mutale Nkonde is a remarkable young lady.
Really, she is. Her story is both poignant and inspirational to any woman striving to be on the top of her game and her business all while balancing single parenthood and international community-orientated aspirations!
Nkonde was born in Zambia, grew up in Britain, lived in Russia, the Arab Emirates and Japan and then moved to New York City eight years ago to work as a journalist. Getting involved in the hectic, exciting presidential campaign of then-Sen. Barak Obama in 2008 led to her starting a career in politics. Most recently, she worked with Bill Lynch Associates as their director of labor.
Working in the offices of the famed and beloved “Crumpled Genius,” the late Bill Lynch, convinced her to live out her belief that “Black people should be job creators” by starting her own business, founding Nkonde & Associates, a management consultancy firm “that connects foundations, nonprofits and businesses to their target audiences through a social justice lens.”
Living in Brooklyn with her two sons, Mutale and Roberto, this “chief visionary” of Nkonde & Associates has an underlying passion and crusade in
“the development of Africa, building strategic relationships and female empowerment.” She is one of those women who, wherever she is, is always making strategic connections and doing long-term networking.
“I am all about building relationships across the world. In everything I do, I am about having women be recognized for their power and ability. I want to have women network everywhere.”
Nkonde’s story is a big one. After her many international travels, she landed in New York City in 2005. “By 2010, my life had fallen apart.”
Sitting in a Brooklyn park, she told the AmNews, “It was a difficult time. My marriage ended, and I was forced to move, and I was faced with a messy custody battle. But luckily, and with a lot of faith and effort, within a few weeks I used my network to find a new apartment, buy food, clothe my children, secure a therapist and find a new church.”
She credits the strategic relationships she built over the first five years in this city with enabling her to start a new life. It was then she decided she would use her life to help people build power teams. “Not just groups of people who know each other,” she said, “but teams of people who use points of intersection to make their dreams come true.”
She declared that Nkonde & Associates is a full—service management consultancy specializing in developing strategic relationships between major brands and their natural community and governmental partners. “We broker relationships that have clear racial, economic or social justice goals by leveraging our connections to global influencers across a range of industries. If you are an emerging brand, we can structure the corporate ask. If you want interface with a governmental agency, we meet with them and facilitate the relationship on your behalf and help your firm navigate the landscape. If your company wants to develop a social responsibility practice, we can plan and execute it. Want to expand into Africa? We can help you break into the continent.” Business meets community, meets launch, meets grand empowerment propositions.
“My first client is the Steven Cutting Collection, a luxury line of travel bags for men and women,” said Nkonde. “Steven Cutting is a designer and a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. He has designed bags for Zara, Nanette Lepore and Kenneth Cole. I am excited that as I launch this new venture, people are recognizing my potential and trusting in my tag line that ‘I leave you better than I found you.’”
Nkonde is also partnered with the Schomburg Museum to produce a discussion called “Give Me Back My $9 Billion: Black Women and Our Absence in the Hair Supply Chain.” She told the paper that she hopes that the event, scheduled for Women’s History Month next year, “will bring bloggers, celebrity stylists and a few big names together to discuss why Black women spend so much on their hair, and how the Black community can get back some of that $9 billion.”
She continued,“We hope to empower the people behind the chair by making them aware of companies who are invested in their professional development and encourage consumers to ask which products their stylists are using, so they choose to go to people who use products that invest in Black small business owners.”
Nkonde stands on a strong foundation of community involvement both at work and off the clock. While director of labor for Bill Lynch & Associates, she worked on #ChangetheCode, a public discussion held at First Corinthian Baptist Church. The discussion, which drew a decent crowd of activists and residents, touched on a wide range of issues, including communities that suffer from disproportionately high rates of school suspension and arrests. The participants included Shawn Dove, manager of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and top negotiator of Obama’s My Brothers Keeper initiative; Julian Terrell, lead organizer of the Brother/Sister Sol, a community-based organization that trains Harlem-based teenagers to navigate police harassment; Dionne Grayman, educator and founder of Mother’s Empowered, who taught on Rikers Island; and congressional candidate the Rev. Michael A. Walrond Jr.,who spoke about his own journey and how, because of positive interventions, he did not end up in jail.
“I love justice,” said Nkonde. “Working with Steven Cutting, the Schomburg and school discipline reform are all about prompting discussions around racial and economic justice. Nkonde & Associates helps clients leverage their relationships to fulfill their end goals, and I am delighted the fashion world is the first sector to recognize this valued proposition.”