NPR is pleased to announce that 2021 How I Built This Fellow Toby Egbuna will receive a $50,000 grant for his business venture Chezie. Egbuna was selected as one of the 10 fellows who participated in this year’s How I Built This Fellowship Program with Guy Raz. Chezie is an online platform on a mission to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. Chezie makes it possible for underrepresented job seekers to find relatable insights on what it’s like for someone with their intersection of identities to work at a company before they decide to apply for a job — and helps companies gain insights into the effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion efforts.
“I can’t thank everyone — Guy, the NPR team, the Judges, all of the other fellows — enough! Dumebi and I have been working on this for so long and sticking to our guns and just not sure whether to continue,” said Egbuna. “This grant is just what we need to make the transition into full time and take Chezie to the next level.”
Egbuna presented the winning idea at NPR’s first-ever ‘How I Built This Fellows Pitch Day’ on May 14 to a panel of judges that included Guy Raz, Eric Ryan, Founder and CEO of method, Olly, and Welly; Jeni Britton Bauer, Founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Melissa Butler Founder and CEO of The Lip Bar; Payal Kadakia, Founder & Executive Chairman of ClassPass; and Tristan Walker, Founder and CEO of Walker & Company.
“When we set out to create a fellowship to support emerging entrepreneurs in a deep and meaningful way, Toby Egbuna was exactly the type of founder we had in mind,” said Guy Raz. “He embodies the values and spirit of the How I Built This community and we were all so impressed with his potential to become one of the truly great entrepreneurs of our time.”
Egbuna and his family immigrated from Lagos, Nigeria to Winston-Salem, N.C. when he was four years old. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2016, Egbuna spent a few years working in management consulting before looking to move on to the next thing — or even start his own business. As he was looking for new opportunities, he found himself unable to answer one key question: What is it like to be black and work here?
In June 2020, with that question in mind, Egbuna and his sister, Dumebi, teamed up to create Chezie. They started by interviewing friends, families, and colleagues to hone in on what job seekers want to know about an employer — and then began collecting in-depth stories from employees on what it’s like to work where they do as a person with their identity. The siblings’ hope for Chezie, which is the Igbo word for “reflect,” is to help people find meaningful careers at companies where they belong and feel valued, and also give companies valuable insight on how well they are serving their employees. For Egbuna, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work is not a trend but a key business priority that is here to stay. Listen to the How I Built This episode where Toby Egbuna talks about his idea.
GoDaddy is the presenting sponsor of this year’s How I Built This Summit and Fellowship Program, including the Fellows grant.
NPR’s annual How I Built This Fellowship is an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs with great business ideas to take their idea to the next level and to build connections, exchange ideas and draw inspiration from a growing network of professionals. The Fellowship aims to extend the spirit of How I Built This and further NPR’s mission to create a more informed and engaged public. Launched in 2018, the How I Built This Fellows program continues to create an impact by spotlighting and supporting a rising generation of entrepreneurs working toward building a better world. This year’s cohort of ten Fellows participated in three weeks of educational programming to prepare them for NPR’s first pitch competition, the ‘How I Built This Fellows Pitch Day.’ Entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities were encouraged to apply.
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