Have you been looking for ways to make your business a more comfortable and inclusive space utilizing your Employee Resource Groups? Do you want your employees to feel valued and heard at work?
If you said yes, then Chezie is the solution for you! Chezie is a brother-and-sister-run company focused on diversity and equity in employee resource groups. Their mission statement is “to help people from underrepresented communities belong at work”. The company's cofounders are Toby Egbuna and his sister Dumebi Egbuna whom I had the pleasure of interviewing.
Awesomely Authentic (AA): What is Chezie?
Chezie: It is a management platform for employee resource groups (ERGs). We help ERG leaders track budget, events, participation, and more, in order to give them time back to focus on the activities that are driving employee retention and employee satisfaction.
AA: What are employee resource groups (ERGs)?
Chezie: Employee resource groups are employee-led communities within an organization that aim to foster inclusive and diverse environments. They consist of a group of employees with similar identities and/or interests who are coming together to support personal and career development, provide safe spaces, and influence corporate policies and/or initiatives.
AA: Why is Chezie an important tool for employee resource groups?
Chezie: We’ve had conversations with hundreds of ERG leaders and DEI managers and have identified two main pain points:
The first being that ERG management is currently extremely decentralized. DEI managers have data for their programs in many different places like Slack, distribution lists, Excel, etc., so it’s difficult to keep track of everything going on and to prove ROI [(return on investment)]. Chezie provides a singular source of truth for their ERGs, so they can easily see everything going on with their groups.
The second issue we’ve seen is that ERG leaders don’t have the bandwidth to do some of these manual tasks. ERG leaders are employees at the end of the day, so they are doing this work on top of their 9-5. DEI Managers want to make it as easy to be a lead as possible, so we are providing them with a platform to streamline these tasks and to focus on the things that really matter.
AA: What are Chezie’s core values?
Chezie: Practice what we preach. Chezie is dedicated to creating the most inclusive and equitable workplaces on earth, and we believe that it starts with us.
Take ownership. Everyone on our team is responsible for the success of the business; no job is smaller than another.
Focus on the customer. We want to meet people where they are and provide resources to help them along their journey.
Move fast and with intention. If you’re going to fail, fail fast and move on.
Be resilient. You’ll hear 'no' a lot but keep going until you get to 'yes.'
AA: As an entrepreneur, what advice do you have for others starting a business?
Chezie: I would say just start it. I think it's really easy to sit on an idea because everything isn’t figured out yet, but the only way to figure it out is to start. You’re sure to hear a lot of no's and will have to do your fair share of pivots, but eventually you’ll come up with something that is solid. You have to remember that you’re never going to get anywhere if you don't start.
The first idea for Chezie was a "Glassdoor" of sorts for minorities. After doing some user testing and market research, we realized how saturated the recruiting space was, so we had to pivot. Eventually we landed on our idea for an ERG management platform, and that has taken off. Keep going!
AA: What’s your journey in life and career been like up until now?
Chezie: My brother, Toby, and I were born in Nigeria and immigrated to the U.S. in 1998. We grew up in a predominantly white suburb of North Carolina so we quickly became used to being the only Black people, or in my case, the only Black woman, in a room.
We both ended up going to predominantly white institutions (PWIs) where this trend of being 'the Lonely Only' continued. Eventually, we both went on to work for Fortune 500 companies, where we still felt like we didn’t belong. This led to us working for and with, the ERGs at our respective companies, and trying to create inclusive and equitable workplaces for those that looked like us.
Toby ended up looking for other job opportunities and found himself going on LinkedIn to find other black people at prospective companies that he could talk to about their experiences. It was during this process that we realized that there was no easy way to learn about the minority experience, especially if you didn't have the social capital that gives you a broad corporate network. That is how our original idea for a Glassdoor for minorities was born."
AA: What’s next for Chezie?
Chezie: Right now, we’re really focused on expanding our platform from a product perspective. We’ve had hundreds of conversations with ERG leaders and DEI managers, so we have a really good grasp of their pain point as it relates to their ERGs. We just onboarded a Product Manager, so we’re trying to narrow down our product roadmap and figure out what our platform looks like in 6 months or a year.
Also, we’re currently in the process of fundraising, which has been a journey to say the least. We’re raising a friends and family round and then a seed round. This money will help us expand our team and pay for further development of our product. I’m really excited to see what the next year looks like for us!"
Chezie is a very mindful business that is dedicated to making workplaces inclusive of everyone. They understand the need of employee resource groups in organizations and how to measure the impact they have. The founders took their not-so-great employment experiences and turned those discouraging moments into a tool and organization that helps all marginalized people through internal community impact. In other words, they get it. Dumebi and Toby have a clear plan for what they hope to see in the future of businesses that help everyone feel like they belong.
To learn more about Chezie, you can book some time on Dumebi’s calendar!