The Transformative Power of Conscious Leadership & starts with Trust, Empathy and Data
As impact investor, CEO, and educator, James Rhee empowers people, brands and companies to fulfill their true potential by marrying capital with purpose. He creates value through values, transformation through self-reflection, and reinvention through Kindness and Math™. The story of the whys and the hows of the remarkable transformation of Ashley Stewart under his leadership has inspired millions of people, as well as the world’s leading businesses and organizations, to do better by being better.
In 2013, James, a long-time investor, challenged orthodoxy by parachuting into an insolvent Ashley Stewart as first-time CEO, a retailer that had quietly served Black women with plus-sized fashions in neighborhoods across the country since 1991. While fighting against crippling odds, ridicule and adversity, James authored and led a complement of marketing, philosophical, and mathematical changes that challenged societal conventions and simultaneously transformed a twice-bankrupt, insolvent brick-and-mortar retailer with decades of operating losses and no Wi-Fi into a cutting-edge, digitally-enabled industry leader.
In this session, James and Bridget will discuss the profound benefits of making knowledge, opportunity and capital accessible to all. Join us as James walks us through the novel customer/employee organizational dynamics he built at Ashley Stewart, his current work on the Governing Committee for the CEO Action for Racial Equity initiative and JP Morgan Chase Advancing Black Pathways, and his endeavors to teach a more mindful form of leadership through his roles at Duke Law School and the MIT Leadership Center.
James lives a life focused on multi-dimensional transformation, the intersection of capital and race/gender, and values-based investing and leadership. He has achieved success and acclaim within multiple industries and communities, and he leverages these connections and learnings to help others be their best selves by encouraging the formation of unusual alliances amongst seemingly disparate ideas and peoples. He provides counsel to the world’s leading organizations and their respective leaders.
James has managed billions of dollars of capital at elite institutions, and his investment platform, FirePine Group (founded in 2009), has stewarded the capital of some of the world’s most sophisticated investors.
James is a regional winner of the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the winner of one of five 2016 Power Player Awards granted by the National Retail Federation Foundation, the recipient of the 2017 Black Retail Action Group Business Achievement Award, the 2018 Temple Fox School of Business Information Technology Innovator Award, the 2018 Essex County Urban League Centennial William M. Ashby Award for community building and a 2019 One To World Fulbright Award. He has served on numerous boards, including that of the National Retail Federation, where he served as Chairman of the Innovation Advisory Committee. James received his AB with honors from Harvard College and his JD with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He lives outside Boston with his wife and three children. He is a former high school teacher.
Bridget has spent her career catalyzing growth and innovation enabled by technology by leading dynamic teams across multiple sectors including finance, retail, automotive, high-technology and education. Influential businesses, leading start-ups and high-impact nonprofits have called upon Bridget to help them address difficult questions including: how and where to expand their businesses, how to assess product-market fit, and how to plan and invest for new market challenges and opportunites. Bridget joined Building Impact as CEO in 2017 and in three short years, catalyzed the earned-revenue growth of the organization by over 50%, supporting the emergence of new team-based volunteering initiatives nationwide, and measuring the impact for nonprofits in new ways. Prior to leading Building Impact, Akinc led dynamic teams focused on the go-to-market strategy for high-growth Silicon-Valley based software companies like BEA Systems and Oracle, as well leading non-profit organizations like The New Teacher Project. Akinc began her career as a consultant in the information technology practice at the Boston Consulting Group. She maintains a strong connection to education, ever since her days of earning her teaching certification in New Jersey. Akinc has served on the Boards of the Lynch Leadership Academy, the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, and the advisory board of NEADS Worldclass Service Dogs. Bridget earned an undergraduate degree in education policy at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and a graduate degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she serves on the faculty, teaching a course called "Leading With Impact." Akinc loves running, coaching soccer, and exploring National Parks with her two kids.
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