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Essence Leader Shares Essential Gems of Wisdom with Spelman Students Share a Spelman College Press Release

The Spelman College community welcomed President and CEO of Essence Ventures Caroline Wanga on November 9, 2023, for a transformative, thought-provoking conversation on entrepreneurship, leadership, self-compassion and healthy ways to navigate success and failure.
Wanga joined Spelman President Helene Gayle for a moving fireside chat that opened with a silent video reel of slides that offered the audience brief snippets of Wanga’s life and personality. 

Dr. Gayle and Wanga kicked off the chat by sharing her journey to the helm of Essence Ventures in June 2020. Wanga acknowledged that her resume did not align with the typical job requirements for such a role, but she attributed her authenticity as the leading factor that led her to her current seat at the company.

“There was nothing I had done that qualified me to lead a media organization,” Wanga said. “I was chosen because of how I live my life.” 

According to Wanga, it is crucial to be authentic as you journey through life and to always leave room for failure.
“You are setting yourself up if you believe you can control how failure shows up in your life,” she said. “Failure is inevitable, no matter how good you are.” 

Sharing a “fail-proof” method, Wanga shared how she allows herself five to six “fails” throughout the day, before she labels it a bad day. She said doing this gives you the opportunity to have bad days less frequently. Instead of staying frustrated for two days, she recommended staying frustrated for two minutes. This method, she said, helps build resilience and a firm foundation for coming back from whatever just hit you. 

Wanga also shared her views on authenticity. 
“Who you are is who you are,” she said. “If you can’t be who you are where you are, then change where you are – not who you are. That’s not what we’re taught. We’re taught to manage the who, because the where is more important.” 

Wanga continued the conversation by sharing her fundamental belief of living a purpose-driven life. 

“I believe every single person on this earth was born with a purpose,” she said. “Whether you believe it, I don’t care – you have one. You ought to live in the pursuit of fulfilling it because it is your obligation to the world. Nobody can do it but you.” 

Wanga’s visit to campus was a full-circle moment, as many in the Spelman community have been avid Essence readers for years. For some, Essence was the first magazine they ever read. 

“My mom has stacks and stacks of Essence magazines,” said Hanifa Maswali, C’2024. “Essence has been a part of my identity for as long as I can remember. This was an amazing experience. I’m a Tanzanian-American woman, and Caroline is a (Kenyan) woman, so having that East African connection and seeing someone at that level of leadership has been so inspiring to me.”

Second-year student, Taylor Mills, opened the fireside chat and introduced both speakers. She called Wanga relatable and rare.

“Her ability to make me relate to her is amazing,” said Mills. “It is rare when someone with so many accomplishments comes in and reminds you that everybody has their own purpose, and you can do it, too.”



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