How Global Turmoil Led Black Business Owner to Start DEI Directive
Diversity, Equality, Inclusion

Black Woman Business Owner Used COVID-19 Pandemic To Start Business Improving Workplace Equality

Malobi Achike with her husband and two children
DEI Directive founder Malobi Achike with her husband and two children. (Photo courtesy of Malobi Achike)

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was a time when people were forced to pull back on their dreams to simply survive.

However, for Malobi Achike, the pandemic presented the opportunity to start her own business. Achike always planned to have her own business and focus on workplace equity, but what prompted her to take the leap was a world in turmoil. When COVID-19 happened she and her husband were both working from home and their son had to be homeschooled.

“The stress level and the impact of the moment was immediate,” Achike tells BLACK ENTERPRISE. So, she quit her corporate DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] job thinking, that she could take time to figure out her next steps. But before her two-week notice was up, she says, “George Floyd happened, and it was heartbreaking to watch that.”

As the summer continued and the Black Lives Matter movement dominated headlines, Achike noticed a lot of companies posting Black tiles and Black Lives Matter on their social media channels in solidarity.

“And that was the moment I knew I needed to do something about it. That was the day that DEI Directive was born.”

DEI Directive helps proactively operationalize an organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion health so it can unleash the creative powers of an inclusive, diverse workforce and reap the benefits of a DEI-optimized workplace. Giving these organizations access to real-time and comprehensive data help expedite this process.

Achike knew the only thing harder than keeping a business running during the pandemic was starting a new business. She had to quickly figure out how to connect with and build trusting relationships with stakeholders, strategic partners, customers, and investors remotely.

“We knew pretty quickly that we had to get creative in how we engaged with, did outreach and interacted with our prospective customers, stakeholders and others,” Achike said. “Social media, particularly LinkedIn, became a huge part of our strategy and allowed us to find our ideal audience, form relationships in ways that were and felt authentic, and connect with these people in real-time and ultimately build that critical foundation of trust.”

Achike also got a boost from the U.S. Bank Business Access Group, which focuses on addressing access issues for under-represented businesses. As a new business with no established credit history, during a pandemic, it was difficult for DEI Directive to secure a business credit card with a decent credit limit.

“The U.S. Bank Business Access Group helped us navigate that process seamlessly and were ultimately able to secure our credit cards, which in turn, gave us the opportunity to build and establish a credit history for the business,” Achike added. “This was an incredible lifeline that allowed us to hire vendors and take on other expenditures that we otherwise would not have been able to undertake had we had to pay in cash. U.S. Bank was the first banking institution that provided that service to us, and being able to establish good credit for the business ultimately makes other financial transactions that much easier.”

U.S. Bank was an important resource for Achike when she started DEI Directive, helping it grow both business-wise and on a personal level over the last few years. Achike said the pandemic really forced the company into some challenging scenarios, but it also created an opportunity to figure out ways to work smarter, more creatively, and more efficiently.

“The pandemic also forced us to explore and seek out entrepreneur support organizations and community organizations, to leverage their services,” Achike said. “A lot of the resourcefulness that came out of the pandemic is simply going to stay with us. We will continue to adopt that lean methodology moving forward and as we grow.”

Learn more about how U.S. Bank can support your business now and into the future.