Melanie Eusebe: Co-founder/chair of The Fresh Idea’s Company, Professor Management Consultant and Founder of The Black British Business Awards, took the time out from her busy schedule to speak to us at Those London Chicks….
Melanie, we at Those London Chicks are inspired by your achievements, you’re clearly focused. Was that always the case as you were growing up?
No, I was not always focused at all. My teachers always said, Melanie, you could be brilliant, if only you focused on the task at hand. I ended up almost failing Grade 10 maths and that was the turning point for me. I learned how to focus on maths and problem solving, by the end of high school ended up getting a perfect grade in Calculus. It taught me if you put enough work into something and spend enough time on it, you can achieve anything.
Who inspired you as a child and why?
My mother inspired me, she worked really hard and she loved her job, she always told me that she was born to be a nurse. I loved that she was so purpose driven and it inspired me to be the same. I love Phylicia Rashad’s character from the Cosby Show, I wanted to be her; and of course I loved Oprah, she is successful on her own terms.
Did you ever have another career path in mind? i.e Vet, Prime Minister, designer?
I thought I was going to be a doctor for a while and I participated in several pre-med programmes.
Co-Founder/Chair of The Fresh Idea’s Company, Professor, Management Consultant and now founder of The Black British Business Awards, tell us a bit about your journey?
It has been a roundabout journey, but I’m happy because it has been my journey. I worked at the bank during school and after I graduated, they offered me a job. I progressed through the ranks at the bank and when I moved back to London from Canada, I got a job with IBM as a consultant. I moved to EY after that and then took a year off to start the awards. Now that the awards are on their feet, I have an amazing job working with MBA students, lecturing on Leadership and Management skills.
What inspired you to create The Black British Awards, and what are you hoping to achieve?
I had the opportunity to work with black people doing amazing work, however, I was not seeing a reflection of this in our media, and it was so frustrating. I knew the importance of role models in my life, I knew that they gave me something to strive for. And so one day while at the Everywoman awards, I said to Max and Karen (Maxine Benson and Karen Gill, founders of Everywoman), ‘I want this for Black people, we need this’…and so the idea and partnership was born. Ultimately for me, these awards are about the economic empowerment of our community. I want us to understand what we bring to the world and our participation and contribution to our local and global economies to have a greater sense of self- worth
Were there any challenges along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, there were challenges. Right now there is a focus on the wider diversity agenda, including gender and LBGT, not just ethnicity, and so to encourage companies to focus on the specific stereotypes and bias surrounding black people was difficult at times, because it is not discussed.
(photo of venue) awards luncheon on Oct 2nd at The Grange Park Hotel London
Throughout your career so far, what has been your ‘crowning moment’, and why?
The Black British Business Awards is definitely one of my ‘crowning moments’. Hiking, white-water rafting and cycling the Himalayas and completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon have all been events that have taken enormous amounts of hard work and planning. They have been real growing points for me, when I took myself to a new level in a personal way, and so that makes me especially proud.
Who inspires you now and why?
I am still inspired by Oprah for her career in broadcasting, but I am also inspired by Serena Williams and the celebration of her body and athleticism, and I love Toni Braxton and Anita Baker for their lovely low pitched voices.
As a role-model what advice would you give to someone hoping to climb the corporate ladder?
Its so strange, all of a sudden, you wake up and turn around and you are a role-model, I’m still not used to it. For someone who wants to climb the corporate ladder I would say, run your career like a company… set the vision for your life, establish the strategy to get there, make goals and then find the right people and company to work with that supports what you want, and then finally, work at it every day. This is the way a company would do it, and this is what you should do. If you find that you are not aligned with the company and people around you, you should find a better fit.
Finally, what’s next for you?
Next for me, is continuing to be a Professor and helping young minds learn how to be better business leaders, and also I am pursuing a career in broadcasting. I would love to be like the Oprah of Economic Empowerment, ultimately I want to help people know their own worth and to treat themselves and others accordingly.