Posted on March 08 2022
We are celebrating International Women's Day by featuring an empowering female founder, Dee Poku-Spalding. Dee is an entrepreneur and women’s advocate born in the UK and raised between London and Accra.
She is the Founder and CEO of The WIE Suite, a private membership community and peer learning platform for women in leadership. Its mission is to redefine the way women leaders achieve success for themselves and for their companies by providing the community and tools for them to advance at the highest levels. The WIE Suite also works with companies to accelerate growth by helping them attract, retain and grow talent.
ALLY Shoes: You built a successful career as a Hollywood studio executive. However, at the start of your career, you did a few pivots before landing on something you truly loved. Can you talk about that journey for you as a young professional, and what advice you have for those (men and women) who just entered the workforce?
Dee: I studied Math at college so the natural path for me was to follow a career in finance. But when it came down to it, I knew I wanted to pursue something more creative so I found myself in the fashion industry and then ultimately in the film business where I spent the bulk of my career. My last role was running international marketing for a division of Paramount Pictures.
My advice to those starting their careers and trying to find their passion is that it can’t be forced. You have to go out and experience the world. Take on the roles career-wise that align most closely with your strengths and interests. Learn everything you can, build relationships, and along the way, your true purpose will reveal itself.
ALLY Shoes: Are there key learnings or takeaways from your corporate experience that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur?
Dee: I learned how to build grassroots campaigns and take ideas from mere concepts to global campaigns. In the corporate world, to bring ideas to fruition, you have to build consensus, use your EQ to get buy in, and work across departments to bring the various elements to life.
In addition, my former roles taught me the power of partnerships and building coalition to expand reach and efficiency. All these skills are at the core of any success I’ve had as an entrepreneur - that ability to bring ideas to life that serve as a call to action, and reach and inspire thousands.
ALLY Shoes: In more recent news, you started The WIE Suite in 2020 to create a membership community for women leaders and creators. Can you share your vision for this community, and how you are fostering connection in today's virtual-first world?
Dee: There are invisible rules in business that hold women back. As ambitious leaders, we need that third space outside of our companies, outside of our personal friendships where we can be more open and honest as well as tap into the expertise of our peers.
The WIE Suite is designed to provide a more actionable and transactional community for women.
It’s what was missing for me as a woman in leadership working my way up from intern and into the CSuite. It’s why I’m no longer an executive today. I loved what I did but it was hard and certainly lonely to often be the only black woman in the leadership team, with no sources of real support.
So now I’m focused on building a community for women anchored around fostering business alliances and collaboration in the form of introductions, referrals, hiring, investment and more.
ALLY Shoes: Another venture that you founded was Black Women Raise. Can you talk about "The Power of 8" and how founders & funders can get involved?
Black Women Raise is an initiative designed to accelerate the ability of leading black founders to raise growth capital by connecting them to funders.
Everything I do is informed by the knowledge that success is largely determined by who you know. Black women raise less capital than their white or male counterparts because Silicon Valley investors write checks for their friends or people who look like them. And our ability to drive revenue to our companies is hampered by the same issues - access to the right networks. So in the summer of 2020 when I heard companies pledge to put more support behind diversity I thought I would help put some concrete action around that by connecting the dots.
The Power of 8 is designed to rethink the ways corporate dollars are allocated to ensure wholesale investment back into black owned businesses and communities. The initiative connects top tier black women founders to decision makers at corporations, opening up the potential for lucrative new business opportunities that drive revenue for the founders and access to innovation for corporations. People can learn more on our website: https://www.blackwomenraise.com/
ALLY Shoes: The pandemic has thrown a wrench in all of our lives, but it has disproportionately impacted working moms, with many naming it the "shecession". As a working mom yourself, how are you juggling between your new venture and the growing challenges of parenting?
Dee: Without a doubt, moms and women of color were decimated by this pandemic.What I heard from the mothers within The WIE Suite community was that they were being forced to make impossible choices.
Speaking from personal experience, I was shell shocked those first few months of the pandemic as schools shut down, because in essence it felt like I’d added additional jobs to my already heavy workload.
Things have evened out but this is a consistent challenge for working moms that needs to be addressed at the business and governmental levels.
ALLY Shoes: What does Women's History Month mean to you?
Dee: It’s a time to amplify the achievements of women but also remind the world of all the inequities that still exist. Obviously this should happen all year round but as a marketer I know how helpful it can be to focus the attention of the public and decision makers on one particular day, week or month to help drive action.
ALLY Shoes: Who is your biggest ally?
Dee: My closest friend Celine has always been my staunchest ally. I’m lucky to have such a supportive and non judgmental peer mentor and champion.