Stella Ashaolu, WeSolv, Working to Make Diversity Hiring Obsolete
WeSolv’s Golden Why: How can I prove I can perform, if I can’t get the job to perform?
If the goal of your organization is to hire both a diverse workforce that is full of talented, high-performing, creative problem solvers, WeSolv has a model and method to help accomplish that objective.
WeSolv’s Founder and CEO, Stella Ashaolu has been described as sharp, focused, and always intentional. She describes herself as having always been very curious, observant, eager to figure out how things work and solve problems; and willing to ask questions and ask for help, because as she recently told Founders Unfound,
“Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
As an African-American, female founder Stella emphasized, “It is important to ask and persevere never knowing what all might come out of the conversations had with people.”
WeSolv officially became a company in early 2016 and released its MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in 2017. In April 2018, WeSolv launched their beta version after participating in Geekwire’s Techstars program in Seattle — which is where Dan Kihanya first met Founder, Stella Ashaolu. Stella’s poise, intelligence, intentionality, and perseverance have enabled her to build WeSolv and establish their larger mission as a venture and as a recruitment platform advocating for performance-based hiring and diversity.
WeSolv has early roots in Ashaolu’s first startup while still a student herself.
While an undergrad at UCLA, Stella started her first business which had a social mission at its core. Westside Student Tutoring (WST) was an affordable option for lower-income families who could not afford premium offerings like Kumon and Sylvan. She grew that business by 300% in the first two years.
After graduating, Stella continued to manage and scale WST and started working for a law firm with plans to pursue a law degree. Stella came to realize though, she preferred the pursuit of an MBA, for the sake of growing and scaling her company and launching future venture ideas. She undertook the MBA program at the Marshall School at USC. Her own experiences with the recruitment and hiring process were educational, challenging, and revealing of a big problem — unconscious bias toward non-traditional candidates.
WeSolv was inspired by Ashaolu’s early experiences to get recruited.
Even though she had started her own business and had worked for an entertainment law firm prior to her MBA, she initially had a difficult time because her corporate background didn’t match that of a lot of her peers and Stella didn’t look like a typical MBA candidate; nor did she have an extensive professional network to rely upon.
Ashaolu had to get creative and resourceful to find real projects as an MBA student. Case competitions enabled her to showcase her whole self and skills to the companies she sought to join after graduation. She discovered that when she performed well in a competition, the same company she had directly approached before was now more eager to recruit her; and she got the offers she wanted.
Stella went on to work as a Senior Management Consultant for Gallup in Chicago where she gained more valuable experience that would inform the creation of WeSolv. While at Gallup she led teams to solve companies’ most challenging issues around enterprise performance and workforce strategies. These engagements allowed her insights which came from extensive data analysis. One thing became clear; hiring and retaining diverse candidates was especially challenging.
Entrepreneurial lessons learned from Westside applied to WeSolv.
Westside Student Tutors gave Stella as the ever-curious entrepreneur who was committed to solving a problem with a large need.
“The reality is there are many roadblocks to building any viable solution whether you get funding and support, or you don’t. It’s always a difficult process. You never know how much you can actually achieve until you are forced to do it. It’s challenging to grow and scale as fast as you know you can when resources feel finite.”
Stella proactively built a team culture from the start at WeSolv. With prior startup experience, she emphasizes transparency and passion of the mission as the foundation that can weather the inevitable struggles and setbacks all startups face.
WeSolv is proud to be unapologetically mission-focused.
WeSolv strives to make diversity hiring obsolete.
The Values of WeSolv that are particularly striking:
Stay unapologetically mission-focused.
Act with Integrity, honesty, and transparency.
Grow, personally and as a team.
Value the whole person.
Their mission is twofold, “to leverage technology to help MBA job candidates of all backgrounds access meaningful careers and infuse companies with diverse, high-performing talent that propel their businesses forward.”
WeSolv works best with companies that are intentional about hiring for diversity and high-performing talent. Being intentional includes creating plans for supporting the diverse talent they attract through challenge events.
WeSolv MBA Challenges create win-win scenarios for MBAs and sponsoring companies.
WeSolv exists to help reduce bias while increasing diversity in future hires of Fortune 500 companies. WeSolv uses MBA challenge events, performance data and predictive analytics to accomplish this objective. The WeSolv user community is the largest network of diverse MBAs — reaching 30,000+ from over 100 programs nationwide — with 50% female and 70% underrepresented minority MBA candidates.
WeSolv partners with Fortune 500 companies like Salesforce, Discover and others to help develop and sponsor Challenges for MBAs to participate in. These Challenges student showcase skills, leadership, and creativity while solving a sponsor company’s real business challenges. Challenges are designed to assess candidates for the roles and competencies needed and are objectively scored.
“Attracting talent based on performance is far more objective than behavioral interviews or what a resume says about a person. Data is always more objective and potentially more predictive.” ~Stella Ashaolu
The WeSolv user community grows by hundreds every time they announce a new challenge for the community to take on. For example, WeSolv has an extensive partnership with Salesforce. The first challenge Salesforce sponsored brought them 170 MBA candidates offering solutions.
The 2nd annual Salesforce WeSolv MBA Challenge attracted 691 participants from 45 MBA programs. Participating MBA teams developed 96 recommendations.
“Seeing the evolution of a solution that is really going to solve a problem and change people’s lives brings me joy. When we host a challenge, I am still involved closely as we are still an early company, and I directly experience the gratitude of the participants who tell me, ‘Thank you for this opportunity.’” ~Stella Ashaolu
Companies get real ideas and insights into candidates. Participants gain valuable experience and exposure. Real relationships get started.
Listen to the full episode to learn more about:
- #purpose — What keeps Stella committed to championing performance-based pathways for more diversity in hiring practices
- #growth — How WeSolv built their diverse MBA network of 30,000+ members
- #fundraising — How WeSolv has experienced the fundraising journey
- #insights — How Stella has navigated as a female black founder
- #culture — How the WeSolv culture supports their goals for strategic, intentional growth
- #stewardship — What advice Stella would have given herself as a young entrepreneur
What more can you do to learn more about WeSolv’s journey?
- Follow WeSolv on LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium
- Watch her Technori Showcase pitchand understand why WeSolv’s succeeding.
- Jointhe WeSolv network if you are an MBA candidate.
- Partnerwith WeSolv if you are an organization genuinely wanting a diverse workforce.
- Subscribe and stay tuned for updates from Founders Unfound.
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