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Leadership Virtual Book Tour

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Reaching Out, Pulling Up, Holding On, to Stand Strong Together


Nonfiction / Leadership

Date Published: March 24, 2022

Publisher: Mindstir Media


What is a ‘Shipmate’?

FORCM (SW) Thomas J. Snee, USN, (Ret)


This question has often been expressed and shared with me. The ‘white hat’,
as we were so often called, ‘halfcocked’ on the back of our heads, defined
us as persons, who were alwayssearching and looking out to sea for a new
life. The right foot on the lines, not to jump or surrender, but a ‘leg up’
on life’s challenges in thought and ideas by persons we call,

You see, most of us ‘signed on as young men’, for the seas and a new
adventure. We left our hometowns to create, make, and hopefully aim our
‘shot line’, into new friendships and ports of call. No, we did not forget
our hometown friends, but rather, rediscovered a whole new world. Some may
think, that when our ‘brows’ were pulled up, we departed, but to move on,
from those anchored pasts. These valued bonds were left for other gangplanks
in another life. We moved on to make new and bigger bow waves for smoother
wakes, in life’s high seas. We did not sign on to organizations or
associations to be forgotten, with titles or positions, but as persons of
dignity, value, and self-worth, or simply, as SHIPMATES.

So, when you meet that casual friend, remember, they too are persons on a
sea detail away from home. They were searching for a bonding as SHIPMATES
for a new life. Sometimes lonely, but always, just a bonding in friendship,
from the many sea tales of the past, as a SHIPMATE. We are not just another
name on the rolls, but real persons, who have feelings, emotions, and needs
to reconnect those shot line crossings to each other’s bows. We are, after
all, and always will be, SHIPMATES, in LEADERSHIP!

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LEAD IN LIFE Virtual Book Tour




Succeed in the New Era of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Business / Leadership / Biography


Date Published: September 28, 2021

What do a single rose in a crystal vase, a box of tomatoes, a knitting needle, a basketball, and a tingling earlobe have in common? They are all signals to Dr. Laura Murillo to live life to the fullest every day. A high-energy, results-focused change agent in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space, her undeniable passion for life stands as the foundation for her personal and professional brand.

As President and CEO of the award-winning Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, she has the uncanny ability to see a situation, not for what it is, but for what it can be. In Lead in Life, People. Passion. Persistence: Succeed in the New Era of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Murillo guides readers through the incredible, sometimes devastating, and victorious experiences that comprise her success—from earning a doctorate while pregnant, parenting a toddler, managing a parent’s illness, and working full time, to hosting multiple TV and radio shows in English and Spanish concurrently, and being appointed to the Washington, DC Federal Reserve Board’s Community Advisory Council, and more.

She uses her lived experiences as the daughter of immigrants, a woman, an executive, a media producer and host to inform her perspectives and insights as an authority on DEI, guiding corporations, organizations, and institutions to adopt a genuine culture of DEI. In this new era of DEI, corporations must make a solid, lasting commitment to full representation, fairness, and inclusion of all voices in every decision, at every level of a corporation, all the time.

Lead in Life illustrates why everyone in a corporation has value and a voice that must be heard.


LEAD IN LIFE stack of books




We came from nowhere. My mom and I were running errands for the day and had just finished exchanging some items at Gulfgate Mal on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning. There H was nothing unusual about the day, except a feeling in my gut. 

As we pul ed into the parking spot, I noticed to the left and front of the spot there were bushes, small shrubs—no big deal. Yet, something inside me whispered, “Don’t park there.” I didn’t pay much attention to the voice. After all, we were just running in to return a few things, and then we would be out and on our way. Not listening to my intuition that day ultimately changed my entire life. 

At eighteen years old and fresh out of high school, I had the world in the palm of my hand. I felt invincible and I believed I could succeed at just about anything I set my mind to. I had developed an unshakable focus and a dogged work ethic while working at my dad’s neighborhood restaurant from the time I was ten years old. I started out just piddling around, waiting tables and helping in the kitchen. Over time, I took on new responsibilities, like greeting customers, cashing out the register at the end of the day, and ordering supplies, all the necessary tasks of running a family business. By engaging with the employees, I was able to speak a lot of Spanish and appreciate the hard work they did every day to feed their families. As the youngest of nine, I was the one who tagged along with my dad to the restaurant. I felt a deep connection to both of my parents and was honored to have a solid relationship with both of them. 

With our errands complete, and back at the car, I slid into the driver’s seat of my shiny red 1985 Ford Thunderbird, a graduation gift from my dad. As soon as my mom opened the passenger-side door and eased down into the seat, a man appeared on her side, startling us both. 

He pushed her into the seat, reached across her body, and aimed his gun just inches from my head. His voice was rough with anger, his breathing quick with the urgency to get what he had come for, whatever that was. 

“Get out of the car now!” He said. “Leave everything. Get out now.” 

“No, no, no!” my mom screamed, shaking uncontrol ably, unable to move from her seat. 

With a quick glance at the perpetrator, I took stock of him. He was about twenty years old, slender, and tal , wearing a green T-shirt and blue jeans. Somehow, I managed to remain calm, almost too calm. “Take what you want,” I said. “Just let us get out of the car.” 

As he pressed the gun into my right temple, his hand shook, and I could feel the vibration of his nervous grip on the handle with his finger on the trigger. When I didn’t move, he pressed the barrel even further against my flesh. I turned my head slightly towards him and looked deep into his eyes, searching for an indication that there was at least an ounce of reason within him, something that would ignite the compassion to spare my mom and me from any further trauma. Instead, all I saw in his eyes was desperation and anger. With my mom still screaming and nearly hyperventilating, a frightening thought crossed my mind. Oh my God, he’s going to kil me in front of my mother, and he’s going to kil her too.  Despite the urgency of the moment, I felt terrible that she would have to witness such a scene. No parent should ever have to experience that kind of tragedy. 

“Get out!” the gunman shouted, louder this time, with more anger and desperation and the gun firmly against my head. “I’m not playing with you.” 

Then came the sound, like an echo in a dark room, bouncing off cement wal s. Click!  He pul ed the trigger and, with that simple act, had the power to destroy my life. My eyes shut tightly and my shoulders raised to my ears in tense anticipation, ready to feel the pain of the bul et entering my head and exploding. In a mil isecond, I envisioned the horror of remnants of my brain tissue splattered throughout the vehicle, covering my mom, the car seats, the windshield. Yet, that simple click yielded nothing. The gun had jammed. With uncontrol ably shaking hands, I quickly grabbed the driver’s side door handle and pushed the door open. 

“Mommy!” I yel ed. She was frozen with fear, unable to exit on the passenger side, where the gunman leaned across her body. With little thought, I took hold of her hand and snatched her petite body across the center console and out my door, her shoes still on the floor where her feet had been. In what seemed like one swift movement, the gunman hopped into the passenger seat, slid over to the driver’s side, and drove off, leaving my mom and me standing in the parking lot of Gulfgate Mal , shaking and in shock. I watched the car speed away, the strap of my mom’s purse dangling out the passenger door. Relieved that we were still alive, I stood there, holding my mom tightly, and we cried. 

In the days that fol owed, I was terrified that the gunman would find us and try to kill us. He had driven off with not only my car, but also with our purses, which included all our identification. My mind went wild, thinking of all the things he could do with that information. To help ease my concerns, my dad changed the locks on every door in our house. We canceled our credit cards and got new ones. I got a new driver’s license and replaced all the other items that were stolen. Stil , I was in a state of panic, afraid to leave the house and afraid to be there. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. My mind created scenarios of the gunman regretting that he didn’t shoot us and coming after us to finish the job. There I was, eighteen years old, having been held at gunpoint, and I was a total wreck. My life had been spared and it was just beginning, but I was afraid to live it. 

College was next in my future, and I knew the transition would bring a very different experience from my years at Austin High School, where my classmates voted me Most Likely to Succeed, Most Popular, and Class President, and where I graduated with honors among the top five percent of my peers. Austin High School is in the Houston Independent School District located in Houston’s East End. 

By the time I entered college, I was working three jobs—at the family restaurant, at my sister Lupe’s beauty salon, and at a radio station. 

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I loved helping people and I thought being a journalist, in some capacity, would be important because I saw so few people in that space who looked liked me. With so much on my plate, I buried my emotions about the car-jacking and didn’t tell anyone about the emotional turmoil I was experiencing, partly because I didn’t want anyone to pity me and also because I didn’t want to feel like a victim. I was losing days and weeks, focused on what could have been instead of being grateful for what was. 

In short, I was living in fear. 

Even more than the fear, I felt a grave sense of guilt for having put my mom in harm’s way. I blamed myself for not trusting my intuition that told me not to park in the spot. My poor decision could have ended both our lives. I was overwhelmed with guilt that I had endangered my mother’s life. Interestingly, my mother’s response was to panic at the moment of the attack, but fol owing the incident, she was surprisingly calm and thankful to God that nothing happened to either of us. Our responses were so different, and whether I realized it or not, I learned by watching how my mother responded to the event. She was resilient and she quickly moved on, even though I still suffered from the trauma. 

Thankfully, about three weeks later, the police arrested the gunman and found he was tied to a string of similar crimes in other states. That didn’t do much to ease my mind. I was still traumatized by the incident, and I worried I would never be able to function normal y. Everything startled me. I knew my fears were unfounded since the gunman had been caught, but fear had carved out a place in my mind that caused me to isolate myself from the world, from my life. 

One day, while at home alone, I began saying aloud to myself, 

“Mom’s okay, you’re okay. Everything is going to be okay.” I paced the floor of my bedroom, ringing my hands and staring at my feet as I placed one foot in front of the other. “Mom survived. You survived. You are here, now, and you have to live.” It was as if someone outside of me was giving a pep-talk, hoping to snap me out of a darkness that threatened my existence. I was a young woman with a future, but I had allowed a terrible experience to paralyze me with fear. I knew I couldn’t go on living like that. I realized then that I wanted more. I wanted to live. That strong desire ignited in me a resiliency I didn’t know was there. I realized I had a choice. I could either let that one person, that one incident, control and overpower me, or I could use that experience to my benefit, as an opportunity to strengthen myself. I chose life and made a conscious decision to live every moment with urgency, to be joyful, more appreciative, more thoughtful, and more engaged with each person in my life. An incredible zest for life was created, and I wil ingly embraced it. 

My decision to release the fear and instead embrace the power to control my thoughts and actions felt wonderful. Somewhere deep inside, a determination grew that would not allow one person to keep me from being the best I could be. Instead, I realized how fortunate I was to survive being held at gunpoint and that I would not let my life be in vain. 

Despite how traumatic that event had been, neither my mom nor I had been physical y hurt, and I was grateful for that. In fact, the incident made us even closer than we had been. It was a strange, terrible experience only the two of us shared. Yet, I had to choose how I would live with it. I chose to acknowledge that everything was okay, that I was resilient, and that I would persist in every endeavor going forward. 

I transitioned from fear, guilt, and grief to joy, happiness, and a zest for life. My appreciation for life grew daily, and I became obsessed with living my life to the ful est. My focus turned to accomplishing as much as I could. I decided that whatever I put in my mind to do, I would do it and take nothing for granted. From then on, I committed to live every moment with urgency and passion. That single decision was a pivotal choice point in my life, allowing me to see the power and impact of my resiliency and the value of taking these lessons from life experiences and moving forward with people, passion, and persistence. 

About the Author

Dr. Laura Murillo

Dr. Laura Murillo is the President and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Under her leadership, the Chamber has set unprecedented records in membership and revenue, becoming one of the most influential Chambers in the nation, a clear testament to her exceptional leadership. The youngest of nine children, Laura Murillo was born to Mexican immigrant parents and was raised in Houston’s East End/Magnolia, where she began working at age ten at her family’s restaurant. She is the proud mother of Marisa and Mia, both graduates of St. John’s School in River Oaks. Marisa earned a mechanical engineering degree from Columbia University, in New York City, and is an astrophysics researcher. Mia is a sophomore at Georgetown University in Washington DC and maintains highest honors.

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Walking in the Shadow of Footsteps Virtual Book Tour

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Journey of Enlightenment


Leadership / Self development


Published Date: August 24, 2021

Publisher: Elite Online Publishing

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Despite a life of challenges—from childhood illness to witnessing violence as a youth on the tough streets of uptown New Orleans, falling into the trap of drugs as a teen, and assaults on his confidence as an adult—Roynell Young is living his life’s purpose.

Walking in the Shadow of Footsteps takes readers on an emotional journey through the life of an unlikely hero who earned his way into the National Football League as a first-round draft pick, enjoyed a nine-year career as a professional athlete, then carved a pathway that led him to create an organization that today impacts thousands in the impoverished Sunnyside area of Houston. Driven by an unquenchable desire to discover his life’s purpose, Young learned that true power and freedom are the result of an unshakable commitment to live his purpose and spread the good news to the underdog. His unique story is his love letter to humanity.

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My clock was ticking faster than I realized. Death was imminent. So blinded was I by my determination to finish my fourteenth marathon that I mistook the tightness in my chest as an ill-fitting T-shirt. In 2004, more than a decade after retiring from a nine-year career in the NFL, I ran what became my last marathon. I had taken up running as a way to de-stress. Turns out, it almost kil ed me. 

I had hit the mythical twenty-mile wal that all marathoners know about, when my shirt suddenly felt like it was crushing my chest and torso. The cool January morning air in Houston did little to ease the discomfort, but I finished the race. After finding the courage to tel my wife what was going on with me, I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office. Although I did not suffer a heart attack, tests revealed that my left anterior descending artery was ninety-seven percent blocked, a condition commonly known as the widow maker. Thankful y, my Creator knew my work here was unfinished. From that moment, my lifelong tendency to show up smal and play it safe melted away and 

catapulted me with unwavering certainty towards a future I was being led to create, not for myself, but for humanity. 

running photo
Marathon 2009 

Up to that point I had been running from my dark past towards a future I thought had been predetermined to bring light to others through me, an unlikely messenger. I have been the underdog most of my life—from suffering with tuberculosis as a kid to being rejected by my middle school football team—

but I found ways to deal with it. What I learned from failure and rejection is that they’re just part of the process that leads to success. There is a parable in the Bible that I relate to—the parable of the prodigal son. It’s a testament to my life journey, but more important, it is a tale about a life of redemption. In my case, that redemption has resulted in my gratitude for having a second chance. 

Each life has a coding that gets revealed over time. At some point, you develop the need to understand your reason for being. Asking, “Why do I exist and what exists beyond the world we know?” consistently throughout your life has the amazing result of leading you to discover your purpose during your time here on Earth. It is not enough to know what your purpose is; you have to use that knowledge because your purpose is inextricably linked to your vision for the future, and that vision defines your success. 

My life has been a series of events you wouldn’t think would be experienced in the lifetime of a kid who, until age eighteen, rarely ventured outside of my four-block neighborhood in uptown New Orleans, Louisiana. I witnessed all kinds of nefarious activity as a kid, most of it involving violence, which was far too prevalent in my young life. I knew it was bad, yet I was drawn to it, curious about what it could do for me, unafraid of the consequences. I thought I could handle it all and would always be in the winner’s seat. I reasoned that my street smarts and my buddies would get me through any situation. I knew the elders within my tight-knit family expected the best of me. They tried to shelter me from the foolishness of the streets as best they could. But stil , I fel into the hole. On the one hand, I was a good kid from a decent and respected family. On the other hand, I yearned for the dark, greedy side. That dual existence put me on the road to destruction and caused my parents more headaches than I’ll ever know. 

Most of us have only about twenty years of childhood and adolescence before we are considered adults. I lived most of those early years in total darkness. I felt abandoned, cut off, and isolated, in part due to my personality, and partly due to the environment I lived in. The spirits of my ancestors watched over me through the violence and trauma I witnessed, but I didn’t know that then. The truth is that, in the not-so-distant past, a multitude of poor souls who bore the same blood as I do found themselves in the bel y of a slave ship. They held out with the hope that someone like me would show up one day and not waste the sacrifice of their captive life for a moment of self-serving opportunity. Despite my misdirected behavior, they helped guide me back to my Creator on a fateful December night. From the moment of that spiritual awakening, opportunities were presented to me like Christmas presents. I didn’t take time to investigate them because they came wrapped in packaging that resembled books and magazines that were easy to ignore. I was a misguided warrior, uninterested in the pursuit of knowledge. Later, those Christmas gifts became precious items that ignited my journey to unearth my purpose, my journey of walking in the shadow of footsteps. 

As a kid, I always felt something was guiding my life and watching over me. In an unconscious way, that truth led me out of my adolescent confusion. Because of that, I feel a responsibility to my ancestors to make this world better by my presence here. Since someone was able to hold on and hold out in hopes that I would show up, I’ve done the same, and when I’m gone, my life wil be part of the continuum of the journey started generations ago. In everything I have done and been through, and in the work I do now, I realize the result is bigger than me. 

We are taught in the Western Hemisphere to think about self first. We pride ourselves on being “self-made,” but no one truly reaches the destination of success alone. In other cultures and communities, it is about the whole, not the parts, the group, not the individuals, because within the group there is power. But power is not for self-aggrandizement. Power, instead, should be used to uplift the lowly, to shed light on the darkness, and to make right the wrongs inflicted upon the least of us. That can be seen clearly in this current moment, when a bridge between the old and the new way of leading change in our communities is at a desperate intersection. In fact, change and transition are a continuum, not a destination. From the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, I celebrate and honor all the advances made to further the causes of Black people, those living in poverty, and other rejected populations. 

Yet, the voices of the ancestors are cal ing for humanity to rise up and tap into our better angels. I accept the cal . 

When Michael Brown was kil ed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, the people in that community protested for almost four hundred days. They brought light to the long-standing reality of Black men and boys being kil ed by police and the predictable and frustrating result of no charges being filed against the police officers. Their voices shed light on the disproportionate representation of white people in positions of power within local governments making decisions for majority Black populations. 

Eventually, the protests died down, the media pivoted away from it, and the rest of the country went back to business as usual, but CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) and Black Lives Matter were committed. They worked behind the scenes to make change happen. The message of Black Lives Matter took off and gained global attention again in 2020 when the entire world was shut down and people all over the world were cooped up because of COVID-19. Stuck at home, they weren’t distracted by all the other news and entertainment. At that time, they were antsy for something to do. 

When all the entertainment, sports, and other titil ating diversions were removed, people were forced to look in the mirror. By the summer of that year, they were at the starting line, ready for something to pounce on. They got it with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks. That’s when the explosion happened and people got “woke.”  I hope the modern-day movement towards civil and human rights has built the bandwidth to sustain its voice and its power. My fear is that the objectives of the protests become lost in the predictable apathy that engulfs a society in the aftermath of civil unrest. To prevent that kind of destructive outcome, people have to be wil ing to fight for their own liberation. As history has demonstrated, the fight for equality is an emotional endeavor that can be heart-rending and depressing. It takes a concerted effort and a level of dedication and longsuffering to see that commitment to fruition. Those who are in the fight from a righteous standpoint cannot concede. They must prevail. 

My role in this modern-day movement is to build an institution to be a positive influence in the community. That’s what Pro-Vision represents. I don’t have an overwhelming need to be heard, and I definitely do not need to be put on a pedestal or receive any accolades. But if somebody seeks me out and thinks I can add value to the discussion, I’ll do what I can to make an impact. As the old folks say, “Talk is cheap.” Actions speak louder than words when the conversation is about community enhancement and furthering the footprint of Black and disenfranchised people in this world. My goal is to fol ow through on the rhetoric and take action towards true, lasting, empowering change. 

Realizing my purpose was the beginning of my journey, the wake up. Living out my purpose has been a continuous process to clean up, stand up, and show up, resulting in enlightenment for me. The journey has not been easy, but it has been worth every step and misstep. Along the way, I have transcended my environment and become an active vessel of change for others. 

Taking agency back over my life has allowed me to put into perspective who I am, what I am, and what I should be doing with my time here on earth. 

My life has been like that of the prodigal son. I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have left home, enjoyed the pleasures of life, found myself in a lowly state, and then realized my ancestors and my Creator had more in store for me. Thankful y, I found my way back home, back to myself. 

This reflection of my life is a snapshot of that journey. 

fourth grade play

Fourth-grade play. Me with younger brother, Brian Young (right) 

About the Author

Throughout my life, I have had to eliminate the distractions that threatened to keep me from fulfilling my purpose, from childhood illness to witnessing violence in my youth, falling into the trap of drugs as a teen, and assaults on my confidence as an adult. Despite it all, I am living my American Dream, a life that pays homage to the struggles of the ancestors and builds a foundation for the continuum of healing and self-reliance for Black people and those who find themselves disenfranchised.

I have been around fame and I’ve been around fortune and people with it. Whether because of my humble upbringing or because of my experiences as a professional athlete in the NFL, the fame and fortune don’t impress me. I remain focused on the power and freedom that come with being true to my purpose. The Creator has charged me with the responsibility of spreading the good news to the underdog.

Walking in the shadow of footsteps has allowed me to live my purpose, the reason I exist in this world, and to help others do the same.

This story of my life is my love letter to humanity.

– Roynell Young

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The Diversity Playbook Virtual Book Tour

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Transforming Business with Inclusion and Innovation

Non-fiction / Business / Leadership / Diversity and Inclusion

Date Published: June 8, 2021

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Hephzi Pemberton’s first nonfiction, business book The Diversity Playbook provides an empowering and uplifting experience. It contains proven expertise, factual examples and practical tools to transform your business and leadership approach with inclusion and innovation as a central shared goal and priority.

Her book demonstrates with clarity, relevant case studies and the latest research, as well as an applicable exercise in each chapter, to show how leaders and firms who embrace and embed inclusion and diversity into their business will benefit. They will be the businesses that innovate and adapt more rapidly. They will have a workplace culture that the latest talent seeks out and stays with. They will reach a wider set of customers and clients who feel valued and understood. They know that to achieve these benefits and many others besides, leaders and businesses now and in the future will have to take inclusion and diversity seriously.


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The leaders and firms that embrace and embed inclusion, diversity and equity into their business will increase their long-term value. They will innovate and adapt more rapidly. They will have a workplace culture that talent seeks out and stays with. They will reach a wider set of stakeholders, who will feel valued and understood. They  know that to achieve all these benefits you have to take inclusion and diversity seriously. 



There is substantial research to show that diversity brings many advantages to an organisation, including: stronger governance; better problem-solving abilities; and increased creativity and profitability. Employees with diverse backgrounds bring a wider range of perspectives, ideas and experiences. They help to create organisations that are resilient and effective, and which outperform organisations that do not invest in diversity. 



McKinsey’s global study of more than 1,000 large companies found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth by 36 percent.



A Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19 percent higher revenues due to innovation. This finding is significant for tech companies, start-ups and industries where innovation is the key to growth. It shows that diversity is not only a metric to be strived for, it is actually an integral part of a successful revenue-generating business.

About The Author

Hephzi Pemberton

Hephzi Pemberton is a UK business founder and advisor, who believes in the power of good business to transform society. After completing an undergraduate degree at Oxford University, Hephzi began her career in Investment Banking at Lehman Brothers. In 2009, she co-founded Kea Consultants, a financial headhunting firm that specialises in investment and high-growth organisations, which she quickly grew into a profitable and sustainable business.

In 2018, Hephzi founded Equality Group, an Inclusion and Diversity specialist business focused on the Finance and Technology industry. Equality Group helps companies to diversify their teams, using their executive search service, and creates a more inclusive cultures with their consulting and education services. Equality Group has partnered with many leaders in sustainable investing, such as Generation Investment Management, and Private Equity and Venture Capital firms who are committed to being leaders in inclusion and diversity.

Hephzi has been angel investing since 2010 and has invested in technology start-ups across AI, Logistics, Health and Beauty, E-Commerce and Education. She has also advised a number of businesses on their hiring practices, board composition, compensation structure, strategic and fundraising plans.

Alongside her commercial experience, Hephzi has founded a social enterprise called Kiteka, empowering female micro entrepreneurs in Uganda to access digital opportunities through mobile technology. Hephzi has sat on the board of trustees for three other charities focused on youth employment, homelessness and community development.

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