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Essence Ventures Announces Key Executive Hires

Signaling a New Chapter and Key Player in Black Culture Spurred by Boundary-Breaking Leadership Placements

NEW YORK, May 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Essence Ventures (EV) is deepening their commitment to building Black culture, health, and wealth through its bold mission and strategic hires that will strengthen and stretch the bounds of Black capital, community, and capacity.

Stabilizing the portfolio of brands within EV – Essence Communications Inc., AFROPUNK, BeautyCon, and Essence Studios – has been the focus of Essence Ventures President and CEO, Caroline Wanga, and Richelieu Dennis, Founder and Chairman of Sundial Group of Companies, the parent company under which EV lives. Since Wanga joined in 2020, the pair have prioritized refining operational efficiency, transforming workplace culture, and investing in the following list of exceptional leaders who are driving a bold mission and a 30% increase in profitability year-to-date.

Caroline Wanga, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) joined Essence Ventures in 2020 as Chief Growth Officer and Interim CEO of Essence Communications Inc. from the Target Corporation, in addition to extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. Her background in culture, equity, and organizational change has fueled the progress realized across the EV portfolio of brands. Her innovative approach as a media industry “outsider” has been invaluable in reimagining the role EV plays in culture, globally.

God-is Rivera, Chief Content Officer (CCO) will be joining Essence Ventures effective May 2023 as Chief Content Officer from Disney where she served as VP of Inclusive Marketing across Disney Entertainment. Prior to Disney, God-is served as the first-ever Global Director of Culture and Community experience at Twitter, where she drove strategy to make sure that campaigns and programs were connective, inclusive, and reflective of the communities Twitter served. Her digital-led experiences in the advertising and tech industries uplifting Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Disabled, and Indigenous voices will be critical as EV aims to own its role as a leader in the ever-changing consumer ecosystem.

Pauline Malcolm-Thornton joined Essence Ventures in 2022 as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) from Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), an entertainment AI company that integrates brands into content. Pauline brings over two decades of experience leading and building dynamic sales organizations in the entertainment and tech sector with companies including Disney and Quibi. Since joining, Pauline has made an immediate impact, driving the highest ESSENCE Festival of Culture revenue in the company’s history and repositioning the value of the brand portfolio in the marketplace.

Erika Bennett joined Essence Ventures in 2022 as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) from Meta/Instagram and brings with her a vast set of marketing experiences within the technology sector with companies including YouTube. Since joining, Erika has invested in brand awareness and driving record numbers of impressions across the Essence Ventures portfolio of businesses. Additionally, Erika has been tasked with implementing key marketing capabilities that are mutually beneficial to brand and consumer relationships

Barkue Tubman-Zawolo, Chief of Staff (COS) and Diasporic Engagement, joined Essence Ventures in 2021 from the company she founded, MBL International Group, a strategy, talent consulting, and creative agency servicing clients in Africa and the United States. Since joining, Barkue has overseen all aspects of operational efficiencies, building a more intentional 360° approach to stakeholders and talent engagements globally, and most recently is leading the development of EV’s strategy to connect the disconnected global Diaspora.

Michael Barclay II joined Essence Ventures in 2022 as Executive Vice President of Experiential from Mosaic and brings with him nearly 20 years of experience with top marketing and branding agencies such as Leo Burnett, Spalding, and United Entertainment Group. Since joining, Michael has been responsible for developing a live/digital model of experiential, including Beautycon, Essence Girls United and the “Black Women In…” franchise. Additionally, he has been activating a more efficient strategic and inclusive operating model and approach to the ESSENCE Festival of Culture.

Allen T. Lamb, Head of AFROPUNK Worldwide LLC, (AP), joined the AFROPUNK brand in 2018 as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and General Manager. Allen brings with him extensive experience as an early/growth stage investor, media/sports/entertainment investment banker, and serial entrepreneur. Allen skillfully orchestrated AFROPUNK’s transition into a hybrid virtual/live audience model, achieving the most efficient operating profile in its two-decade history. Additionally, he is driving AFROPUNK’s US-based and global footprint, while nurturing AP’s cultural positioning centered in acceptance, advocacy, and Afrofuturism.

Corey Stokes joined Essence Ventures in 2022 as Senior Vice President of Creative from Highsnobiety and brings with him experiences in trends as an editor and director in the fashion and media publishing space, including companies like Brooks Brothers and Complex. Since joining, Corey stabilized the Essence Communications Inc. content approach when he served as Interim Deputy Editor for six months, while driving new creative strategy and brand vision across the entire EV portfolio.

Danielle Cadet joined Essence Communications Inc. in 2022 as Executive Editor and VP of Content from Netflix and brings with her experiences serving multicultural audiences and strategies in the digital media space from companies like Refinery29, ESPN, and The Huffington Post. Since joining, Danielle has been tasked with shepherding the Essence Communications Inc. content approach into a balanced operating model between print and digital.

This cadre of storytellers, cultural creators, boundary breakers, and community builders along with a broader team of visionaries that include: Andy Toh, Senior Vice President Product and InnovationAshley Oliver, Senior People and Culture Director; and the future leaders of the Beautycon and Essence Studios brands will redefine what culture means for generations to come,” said Caroline Wanga, Essence Ventures President and CEO. I’m excited for our community to hear more from this dynamic group of leaders this summer, at our signature event, the Essence Festival of Culture.”

“With Caroline at the helm and a stellar leadership team in place, we know that Essence Ventures will continue to transform our cultural and economic landscape, providing opportunities for every member of our community to find success, enjoy life, and build a legacy for our collective future,” said Richelieu Dennis. “The gathering of an exceptional group of Black leaders to forge forward gainfully is the next step in building this ecosystem in which energy, ideas, profit, and success flows.”

About Essence Ventures
EV aims to activate globally connected, frictionless and boundaryless, cultural health and wealth across the Diaspora through impact in the areas of professional development, health equity, community celebration, entrepreneurship, and advocacy, on all platforms.

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SOURCE Essence Ventures

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/essence-ventures-announces-key-executive-hires-301823652.html
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