The top prize of the night, Black Business Person of the Year, went to Aaron Lynch, Netflix’s senior manager in Global Creative Marketing, who has been instrumental in the launch of rebooted shows including Top Boy and Black Mirror franchises.
One of the night’s other lucky recipients was George Imafidon MBE, from Peckham, who picked up the Entrepreneur Rising Star award.
Mr Imafidon is the CEO of STEM-focused recruitment platform Motivez, helping to secure opportunities in the industry for young people from diverse backgrounds.
He said: “It felt like a lot of firms that were doing recruitment were very transactional in their kind of approach. We wanted to humanise that process, and we knew that people who were typically underrepresented within the whole STEM landscape would need a different approach, it wasn’t a one size fits all situation.
“We just knew that it would be a lot more programmatic than just matchmaking of candidates and taking the best of the best, and giving them on to employers, we really wanted to see a transformation in the young people.”
At just 26-years-old, Imafidon’s work has already resulted in him becoming a recipient of an MBE, with the King’s Honors List recognising the work Mr Imafidon has done for young people in STEM industries.
His work also caught the eye of Sir Lewis Hamilton, who he now works with on his X44 team, and is a committee member of the Hamilton Commission, which encourages more diversity within motorsport.
“We’re trying to bring these people with unconventional experiences and different insights into these environments, because we believe wholeheartedly, from our personal experience, that’s where so much innovation comes from.“
Also picking up a gong is Tosin Akinluyi, EMEA Head of Macro Research at Morgan Stanley, who won the award for Financial Services Senior Leader of the Year.
Ms Akinluyi, who grew up in Nigeria and moved to the UK during higher education, spoke of her journey into senior leadership at Morgan Stanley: “I’ve been at [Morgan Stanley] for 20 years, and during that time one of the things that has been very important to me is having the platform to keep growing,
learning and making a difference.”
“Over those 20 years, I’ve had several hats in two continents, and I love the global exposure, mixing and meeting a wide range of people from a wide range of backgrounds.”
Ms Akinluyi oversees a team of more than 40 people, which now ranks in the overall top three of the entire department.
For Ms Akinluyi, ensuring the next generation have someone to look up to is an important thought. “I’ve really understood the power and importance of role models that I can relate to through my life”, she says.
“It’s important to be part of that journey, and to help make it more achievable for the next generation coming through. Firms need to be willing to challenge convention, and listen to the experiences of individuals within businesses and the broader market.”
She says: “For me, it’s been a privilege to see the increased representation of diverse talent at our firm and across the industry.”
Author and publisher Abiola Bello was also a prize winner of the night, scooping the award for Arts and Media Rising Star.
Ms Bello, 35, started her career in writing at 23-years-old, but it would prove tough for her to find a literary agent: “Especially as a black girl, writing a book with a black girl in it wasn’t something that publishing was very open to”, she says.
Now onto her fifth book, Ms Bello has managed to overcome the hurdles she was faced with early on: “I signed to Simon and Schuster, in 2021, for a three-book deal. And I also have an apology with HarperCollins. And I signed to my new agent in 2020, during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement - since I signed with her, I definitely think my career got stronger.”
Ms Bello has since been dedicated to making the road into the industry easier for black and ethnic minority people, and those from the LGBTQ+ community who may face similar barriers. She started doing workshops, to allow people to meet with industry professionals, before setting up her own publishing house, Hashtag Press, around 2016-17.
She says: “I kind of had a heart for helping people to have an easier journey than I did. And I just thought, if I can kind of get all the people you kind of need to make your journey easier, I would like to do that, so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.”
Though she’s not been thinking about winning, Ms Bello says she would be over the moon to pick up the prize: ”I didn’t even think I’d ever been nominated for something like this”, she tells me. “So if I won, I feel like that would really be, not just for me, but also my team, like we are really making such a difference.
“And even though you know, we are smaller than like the big five and whatever, what we’re doing is really vital. We just need to kind of keep pushing to find these authors and keep really shouting about diversity and making that change because people are seeing that we’re doing that.”
Here is the full list of winners at this year’s BBBA’s:
Black British Business Person of the Year
Aaron Lynch, Senior Manager, Global Creative Marketing, Netflix
Arts and Media Rising Star
Abiola Bello, Director, Author and Publisher, Hashtag Press Ltd
Arts and Media Senior Leader of the Year
Angela Ferreira, Managing Director, Douglas Road Productions
Consumer and Luxury Rising Star
Kelsa Albert, Senior Learning Experience Manager, Deckers Brands
Consumer and Luxury Senior Leader of the Year
Vanessa Spence, Senior Creative Director, ASOS
Entrepreneur Rising Star
George Imafidon MBE, CEO, Motivez
Entrepreneur Senior Leader of the Year
Ken and Mary Okoroafor, Founders, The Humble Penny and Financial Joy Academy
Financial Services Rising Star
Kwaku Kyei-Manu, Global Risk and Compliance Application Manager, Computershare
Financial Services Senior Leader of the Year
Financial Services Rising Star: Kwaku Kyei-Manu, Director of Wealth Application Support, SS&C
Professional Services Rising Star
Harold Memela, Senior Manager, Transformation and Change, KPMG
Professional Services Senior Leader of the Year
Dinah Cobbinah, Partner, FS Transformation Services, KPMG
STEM Rising Star
Dr Azzedine Dabo, Investigator, GSK
STEM Senior Leader of the Year
Eve Kamau, Senior Director DCT Strategy and Innovation, PPD (part of Thermofisher Scientific)