The Black British Business Awards take place annually in October during Black History Month, and this year a Hampstead woman has won one of its top accolades.
Alessandra Madubunyi is the director at We Are Coco, one of the fastest growing networks of retail experts in the world that works with brands including Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Asos.
The 35-year-old picked up this year’s Entrepreneur Rising Star award.
She told the Ham&High: “I’m still in shock. I just want to make everyone proud and to keep deserving it. It’s not enough to win it, I need to keep deserving it every day.
“The awards show a community of black people on many different frontiers, and we are starting to level the playing field but there is still a long way to go.”
The entrepreneur works to create opportunities for the next generation of buyers, super brands, and retail platforms, starting with the students she mentors.
“I am grateful to be the shoulders they can stand on to start changing the industry from the inside.
“They’re the ones who will crown the next Chanels,” she said.
Alessandra mentors students from the London School of Fashion, Central St Martins and the Institute of Maragoni. The company has placed students into jobs at Fenwick, Anthropologie and Sweaty Betty.
She envisions her business connecting with more schools and academics, and developing across the Middle East and North Africa.
“I want to bridge the gaps that will make diversity, sustainability and inclusivity truly possible,” she said.
“Unless we collaborate, we will never achieve these goals and they will continue as conversation not action.
“We are starting to level the playing field, I think diversity isn’t just about women of colour it’s about everyone taking a seat at the table, especially when it comes to women’s equality.”
We Are Coco, which has worked remotely since it was established in 2016, prides itself on supporting employees to have a healthy work-life balance.
Alessandra had her 14-month-old son during the pandemic and experienced first-hand the benefits of choosing her workspace.
“As a wife and a mother, I realised how much support other women need,” she said.
“Work is a huge part of identity and too many women have to sacrifice their jobs because of inflexible work structures.
“I want to create a table where everyone can eat.”