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How DEI Consultant Vivian Acquah Is Cultivating Inclusivity Within Organizations

An Interview With Brooke Bohinc

Vivian Acquah's headshot

Vivian Acquah, a certified DEI consultant at Amplify DEI, is leading the charge in cultivating inclusive environments and championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in her community and beyond.

Vivian’s journey with Amplify DEI is deeply rooted in her personal experiences and a dedication to shaping a more inclusive world. It all began when she encountered challenges during her pregnancy, including workplace discrimination and bullying. Rather than allowing these obstacles to define her, she drew inspiration from her son and committed herself to creating the diverse, equitable, and inclusive places she yearned for. Though tumultuous, these hurdles ultimately led her to work to amplify the voices of marginalized communities within companies. 

We asked Vivian about the story behind Amplify DEI’s founding, how she navigates self-doubt as an entrepreneur, and how she would describe her journey thus far.

Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Amplify DEI? 

Amplify DEI is a reflection of my professional experiences in the Netherlands, as well as the inspiration drawn from my son, Orlando. My journey with Amplify DEI began when I encountered maternal wall bias and was bullied during my pregnancy. This experience could have taken a different turn. Fortunately, it concluded positively without affecting my child. Consequently, this personal experience and the inspiration from my son propelled me to commit to fostering a conducive environment for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). I am now dedicated to helping organizations amplify DEI from within.

What are some of the most meaningful impacts Amplify DEI has had so far? 

We have used virtual reality to help individuals understand the experiences of others. This technology enables users to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," experiencing the barriers and microaggressions that often go unnoticed but can cause real harm. They get a sense of the “paper cuts” and well-intended actions that inadvertently cause pain. By metaphorically wearing my coat and feeling its weight, they gain a deeper understanding of these experiences. I've been able to link this experience to their intrinsic motivation, creating a powerful connection. This, to me, is impactful. It demonstrates the transformative potential of DEI, effectively showing how DEI can amplify positive change.

In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur? 

Currently, I'm working on an online TV program titled Cooking Back to Our Roots, where my Ghanaian heritage plays a significant role. The show incorporates the concept of Sankofa, an African philosophy that emphasizes learning from the past to shape our future. Being born and raised in the Netherlands, a progressive country with a complex history, influenced my decision to create this show. The program aims to initiate conversations about the impact of the Dutch colonial past, particularly its involvement in the slave trade. It explores how this historical past continues to affect individuals of the African Diaspora today. Through the show, I wish to shed light on these often overlooked narratives and their lingering effects.

Have you ever felt like you’re “different”? If yes, in what ways has this contributed to your journey as an entrepreneur?

I've always felt unique. Last year, I discovered that I'm neurodiverse. As a tall woman, often the only Black woman in the workplace, I naturally stand out in a crowd. I used to feel compelled to present only one aspect of myself at work, which didn't align well with my neurodiversity. Now, I understand why I brought my entrepreneurial side into my work, creating marketing solutions and addressing workplace exclusion challenges. Becoming an entrepreneur has allowed me to integrate the various roles I couldn't previously combine in a traditional work setting. Today, as a consultant, I can better support my clients by leveraging my vast skills as a DEI generalist, assisting them in fostering inclusive environments.

Vivian seated between a black man and black woman at a table, engaged in conversation, in front of the camera.

What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting your company?

Securing the right business coach, who can navigate both the Dutch culture and the international corporate landscape, has been crucial for me, considering my base in the Netherlands and involvement with global companies. They must comprehend the challenges I confront as a Black woman, as well as the broader issues of exclusion faced worldwide. It's imperative to connect with a coach or community that understands and supports me, speaking a language we both comprehend.

There's a prevailing misconception that, as leaders, we must have all the answers. This creates unnecessary pressure. I aim to dispel this myth, advocating for leaders to be courageous, open, and transparent.

Have you struggled with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?

Earlier this year, I suffered a complex ankle injury that required surgery and a lengthy recovery period. This situation instilled doubts about my ability to connect with audiences, especially as 50% of my DEI trainings are offline. My concerns even led me to question my career path as a DEI consultant and entrepreneur. 

We dare you to brag: What achievements are you most proud of?

One of my proudest achievements is the establishment of Amplify DEI, a name that resonates with immense power. Another accomplishment I take pride in is the creation of Amplify DEI coaching cards: bite-sized tools that enable teams and individuals to tailor their own path to inclusive leadership. Presently, I'm engaged in a project called Cooking Back to Our Roots, drawing inspiration from my grandmother's legacy and my son Orlando's future. These two individuals have inspired my current work, which fuses food with DEI, leveraging my workplace experiences to enhance DEI. This is my specialty and what I'm recognized for: making DEI accessible and engaging. My efforts have been acknowledged by LinkedIn, where I was honored as a Top Voice this year.

Have you discovered any underappreciated leadership traits or misconceptions around leadership?

There's a prevailing misconception that, as leaders, we must have all the answers. This creates unnecessary pressure. I aim to dispel this myth, advocating for leaders to be courageous, open, and transparent. Leaders should collaborate and admit they don't know everything. Together, with their teams, they can achieve more, level up, and become the best versions of themselves. It's crucial for leaders to recognize the need for self-care and personal time.

What would you tell your younger self if you were to start your entrepreneurial journey all over again?

I would advise my younger self to seek a business coach sooner and constantly remind myself of my capabilities. Songs like “Bigger” by Beyoncé and “On My Mama” by Victoria Monét, both empowering anthems from successful entrepreneurs, should be part of any business-oriented playlist. They serve as inspirational role models who many can identify with. The importance of diverse role models in the workplace cannot be overstated. It's key to recognize that I, too, am a role model.

Image 1:Vivian in a colorful dress giving a speech at a conference. Image 2:A black woman wearing a VR headset and headphones.

How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences? Would you do it all over again?

My journey has been a tumultuous ride, and while I wouldn't alter 90% of it, there's 10% I would change. All my experiences and challenges are tools for sharing my story and showing others that there are alternative paths. You don't have to go through what I did. With the wisdom I now have, I realize that, as entrepreneurs, we require support. Seek out your community, your coach, and your support network to feel empowered.

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