Chinedu Echeruo grew up in Eastern Nigeria and attended Kings College, Lagos. He attended Syracuse University and the Harvard Business School in the United States and founded HopStop.com after working for several years in the Mergers & Acquisitions and Leveraged Finance groups of J.P Morgan Chase where he was involved in a broad range of M&A, Financing and Private Equity transactions. He also worked at AM Investment Partners, a $500 million volatility-driven convertible bond arbitrage hedge fund.
He founded and raised nearly $8 million for his two U.S based internet companies; Hopstop.com and Tripology.com. Tripology.com was acquired in 2010 by American travel and navigation information company, Rand McNally. He was named Black Enterprise Magazine’s Small Business Innovator of the year and listed in the magazine’s Top 40 under 40 and is currently a partner and head of the Principal Investing group at Constant Capital, a West Africa based investment bank.
Apple acquired Chinedu Echeruo’s HopStop.com for $1 billon. Founded in 2005, HopStop.com makes mobile applications for both iOS and Android that covers over 300 cities and that helps people get directions or find nearby subway stations and bus stops.
Lupita Nyong’o started acting as a teen in Kenya and went on to work behind the scenes of the film The Constant Gardener. She directed and produced the albinism documentary In My Genes and starred in the TV series Shuga. Nyong’o went on to earn acclaim for her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which she won the 2014 Academy Award for best supporting actress, among other honors. She has since gone on to co-star in the films Non-Stop and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens as well as the Off-Broadway play Eclipsed
Lupita Nyong’o was born in 1983 in Mexico City, Mexico. Her parents, Dorothy and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, were in political exile at the time of her birth, but were able to return to their homeland of Kenya during their daughter’s childhood. Her father later became part of the country’s senate while her mother, who worked in family planning, took a leadership position with the Africa Cancer Foundation.
Having taken to drama and obtaining the lead role in a production of Romeo and Juliet, Nyong’o also returned to Mexico during her teens to learn Spanish. She went to college in the United States, studying at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and earning her degree in film in 2003. Upon her return to Kenya during school summer vacation, Nyong’o discovered that filming for the drama The Constant Gardener was happening in her area. She joined the set as a production assistant and met Ralph Fiennes, who told her to become an actor only if it was something she couldn’t imagine doing without.
Adenah Bayoh embodies the American dream. At age 13, she escaped the civil war in her native country of Liberia, immigrated to the United States and is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in her home state of New Jersey. Adenah is the founder and CEO of Adenah Bayoh and Companies, which is the parent corporation that owns IHOP franchises in Paterson and Irvington, New Jersey and a real estate development portfolio with over $225 million in urban redevelopment projects. Because of the success of her flagship IHOP in Irvington, she is the second largest employer in the Township. Next year, Adenah will launch Cornbread, her signature line of fast casual, farm-to-table, soul food restaurants.
Adenah began her career as an entrepreneur at an early age. After attending a public high school in Newark, New Jersey and putting herself through college, she secured a job in banking and began purchasing multifamily homes as investments. Following the financial success of these investments, she left her banking position to concentrate on building her own businesses focused on transforming and empowering disadvantaged communities.
Inspired by her grandmother, who owned a restaurant in Liberia, Adenah decided to use the profits generated from her real estate investments to open an IHOP in Irvington, New Jersey. After overcoming financial challenges and a learning curve, she cut the ribbon on her first location in 2008 at age 27, making her one of the youngest IHOP franchisees in the country. In 2010, her location was the fastest-growing in the Northeast, and it remains one of the top grossing in the region. Adenah continues to build on her success; in January 2015, she was appointed to the prestigious Federal Reserve Bank of New York Advisory Council on Small Business and Agriculture. In December 2015, she was named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list alongside such luminaries as U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the CFO of pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, and Oscar winning actress Viola Davis.
On June 22, 2015 she proudly cut the ribbon on her second IHOP in Paterson, New Jersey. Located in the Center City Mall, IHOP Paterson will generate 120 jobs.
After expanding her real estate holdings with the acquisition of larger sites, she decided to take the bold step of transitioning from buying, selling, and renting properties to full-scale real estate development. In 2012, she partnered with two other developers to purchase the former Irvington General Hospital site, which had been vacant for nearly a decade, and transform it into an unprecedented $200 million dollar residential and retail community. Additionally, she is in pre-development on the construction of another urban renewal project that will provide 40 residential units in Irvington.
Adenah is also philanthropically involved in the communities where she does business. At IHOP Irvington, she runs a free breakfast program for children under 12, and she hosts dinners for needy families during the holidays. In addition, she allows local nonprofit organizations to hold charitable events at both IHOP locations.
Adenah’s accomplishments have not gone unrecognized. She is a sought-after speaker by business, professional, and community organizations; universities; and women’s associations. Moreover in March 2014, she was honored as one of the Top 50 Women in Business by the publication, NJBIZ, and was the cover story in its March 24th issue.
Adenah is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University where she earned a degree in Business Management. Despite her numerous successes, her proudest achievement is being a mother to her two young children.
Senegalese-American singer Akon was born Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 16, 1973, to African parents. His family returned to Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa, when Akon was young and lived there until he was 7 years old, when they moved back to the United States. Akon’s mother, Kine Thiam, is a dancer; his father, Mor Thiam, is a well-known jazz percussionist. Thanks to their influence, Akon heard and loved music from an early age.
After growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, Akon began singing and performing as a teenager. He attended Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, for a semester before dropping out. Instead, he turned his attention to the music business, making home recordings and becoming friends with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees. In 2003, he received his own record deal. Akon’s debut album, Trouble, was released in 2004. The album paired Akon’s melodic, R&B-style vocals with hip-hop beats and produced several hit singles, including “Locked Up” and “Lonely.” His second album, 2006’s Konvicted, was an even bigger success. Several singles from the album became hits that topped the Billboard charts. Two of the singles featured guest appearances by famous hip-hop artists, with Eminem being featured on the single “Smack That” and Snoop Dogg being featured on the single “I Wanna Love You.” His third album, Freedom (2008), was somewhat less of a sensation.
Akon has also lent his vocals to records by musicians in a wide range of genres, including Whitney Houston, Gwen Stefani and Lionel Richie. He also sang with Michael Jackson on the duet “Hold My Hand,” which was released in 2009 after Jackson’s death. He co-wrote Lady Gaga’s hit song “Just Dance,” in addition to producing records for a number of artists.
At the age of nineteen, Chimamanda left for the United States. She gained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she also wrote articles for the university journal, the Campus Lantern. While in Connecticut, she stayed with her sister Ijeoma, who runs a medical practice close to the university. Chimamanda graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001, and then completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.
A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.