Okanagan Edge and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce are partnering to showcase some of the region’s most exciting entrepreneurs through the “Top 40 Under 40” program.
Sponsored by BDO, the “Top 40 Under 40” recognizes high-achieving professionals in our community and showcases their accomplishments. This marks the sixth year the chamber has conducted a “Top 40” showcase. Honourees will be featured throughout the year on Okanagan Edge.
Assetou Coulibaly was born in Mali and has travelled extensively. In 2018, she made the move to Kelowna with a degree in sociology and began working in the financial sector.
Coulibaly noticed that she didn’t see other people of colour at professional networking events, even though she knew that the Okanagan has a diverse business community. So she decided to start a not-for-profit called Societe Chiwara in the efforts to create an inclusive space for professionals in the community and provide a platform for people of colour.
Societe Chiwara’s goal is to start conversations and, in doing so, strengthen not just the Black or minority community within the Central Okanagan, but the entire community. Coulibaly believes that we can’t get better or promote a more inclusive community if the entire community isn’t involved. By addressing the lack of integration and minority representation in leadership roles, she amplifies minority voices.
In addition to her not-for-profit, Coulibaly’s professional experience in the Central Okanagan is focused around project management, ensuring the efficiency and success of the organizations with which she works. Her career experience includes Refresh Financial, where she was in charge of driving strategy to address customer feedback and leading the implementation of technical tools to improve the company’s performance. She now works with Accent Inns, where she manages multiple projects across the organization, working closely with the senior executive team to ensure their goals are exceeded.
As a young, Black, female entrepreneur, Coulibaly draws on her experience to lead Societe Chiwara. She passionately believes that experiential and collaborate leadership can drive positive, meaningful change in our community. Coulibaly believes she can empower others into action by sharing her story and helping them feel confident to share their own.
A recent digital conversation that Societe Chiwara hosted around Black Lives Matter welcomed more than 120 participants for a passionate, compassionate and emotional discussion. This event was so well received that they are currently in the process of expanding Societe Chiwara to a chapter model at the request of people who want to start their own chapters in various cities across Canada.
Coulibaly has a bachelor’s degree from Thompson Rivers University in sociology. While studying, Coulibaly was a part of various leadership programs. She was one of the key members of the intercultural council and started the chapter of Model United Nations in Kamloops and was honoured with the opportunity to be a part of TRU’s global campaign.
In addition to the requirements for her undergraduate degree, Coulibaly also received a TRU Global Competency certificate. This program recognizes knowledge, skills and attitudes of globally minded citizens. The Global Competency program fuelled the fire for her advocacy work that is creating positive change within British Columbia.
Q&A with Assetou Couilbaly
How are you currently approaching the current situation?
We’ve moved all of our programs and events to a digital format. It’s been quite a great experience, and it’s great and very educational for both us and the niche that we work with.
Where are you now? Are you still working, at home or at work?
Currently working from home, but with all the digital platforms that are available and with all the different companies that are changing the way in which they do business and how they interact with each other, it’s actually been quite easy and very effective for us.
What is your favourite quote?
“The best is yet to come.” I find that rings true in almost every life situation that I’ve been in, and it’s been even more true with how impactful this has been for the community that Chiwara is serving.
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