We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Motolenich Torres and Simone Egwu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, Simone, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Simone: Jen and I met through work in D.C. — over our first few conversations we quickly learned that we shared a passion for diversity and inclusion — and more than that, equity and anti-racism. Prior to starting Simply Lead, Jen spent years in education systems and I worked in social impact consulting. Being queer women of color, we had not only seen but personally experienced the challenges of succeeding in a white supremacist work culture. We started Simply Lead to work with organizations to unlearn systemic racism, unpack unconscious bias, dismantle legacy systems, and most importantly co-design new ways of existing in the workplace that center those at the margins. Our ultimate aim is to empower future black and brown leaders to harness their power, intelligence and creativity to make change
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Simone: I think the past year and a half have taught us both a lot about what it takes to make real change. It takes more than conversation. It takes a call to action and real intention. We started SimplyLead with that in mind–us and the organizations we work with are committed to doing more than just talking.
Jen: SimplyLead believes in a dynamic, co-designed, action driven approach that centers our common humanity. We are different because we don’t perform the standard diversity and inclusion presentation. We bring the history of racism and colonialism and how they have created this current racist system. Therefore it is going to take all of us working together to dismantle it. It can’t only be people of color doing the antiracist work. We need people of all colors to come together and see how we are all suffering under this system. And that is what we do at SimplyLead–we do the unlearning, we have the discussions, we bring people together to make plans for real and systemic change.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Jen: I would take them on an epic Colorado adventure. We would start out by running some of my favorite trails around Boulder and Golden. Of course if they could handle it we would climb a 14er at some point during the trip followed by a nice stop at one of the great hot springs in Pagosa Springs. With me its not an adventure if food isn’t involved so I would take them to some of the best brunch spots in the city like Urban Farmer by Union Station, and Tangerine in Boulder. For an epic Happy Hour I would take them to my favorite taco spot Tacos Tequila in the Highlands. We could not close out this amazing week without some art and music for the soul so I would make sure we attended the Bravo Vail Outdoor Music festival, A concert at Red Rocks and the art walk in Santa Fe St.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Jen: We would not be anywhere without our parents and family. My mother and father taught me early on that speaking Spanish and English would provide access to education in both Puerto Rico and in the U.S. They really intentionally raised my sisters and I in a bilingual home. Simone’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria with fifty dollars in his pocket. We met each other and our stories were so similar that it would have made less sense for us to NOT start this business. Our parents worked hard so that we could have a fair shot at success. We know there is so much brilliance in communities of color and we want to bring it out. We owe it to our parents to take what they have given us and pay it forward, to do some good and create opportunity.
Simone Miles Photographer