Jessica Chinyelu took the long way to achieve her dreams. The self-taught corporate sponsorship consultant uses the knowledge she has coalesced over the years to help experts in their fields, entrepreneurs and nonprofits secure funding.
The first generation Nigerian-American is her own success story. She has worked on over 50 campaigns with major brands such as Reebok, Herbal Essence and Walmart. Her course, called Sponsored & Secured, has opened up the world of corporate sponsorship to anyone willing to learn. The course walks you through every step of the way — from a basic overview, identifying suitable partners, and finally ironing out your pitch and finalizing your timeline.
But, how does a former legal student pivot into a veteran in a niche field focused on helping people secure funding for their dreams? To hear Jessica tell it, it took gumption, seizing the opportunity, some luck, and most of all faith in God – all backed by the solid foundation of her Nigerian value system. “It’s a long story. Are you ready for this journey?” she chuckles.
It started while she was pursuing her associate’s degree in paralegal studies. “I had this idea that I was going to be this entertainment law attorney,” she reveals. That didn’t last. As she explains, there’s an organization called CLEO — Council on Legal Education Opportunity — which was designed to assist low-income and minority students. They provided a program that allowed students to experience a semester or two in law school. “It was the best thing I could ever have done. I realized I did not want to go to law school,” she continues. “It would have been a waste of time and money.”
Soon after this self-revelation, a good friend reached out asking Jessica to help plan a Nigerian independence party. “I don’t know why he thought I would be the best fit to help him plan this party,” she laughs. But, she got to work. She handled the decor, hired some of her girlfriends as servers, and crucially, also secured sponsorships. “Google is so great!” she proclaims. Despite no prior experience, she seized the opportunity and impressed the right people in attendance. Two gentlemen were so taken, they hired her to put together tours for African artists such as 2face and P-Square. She followed fantastic opportunity after opportunity, leading her to a high point – organizing events around two of the biggest weekends in American Sports, an NBA All-Star event and Superbowl Weekend. “It turned into this great thing, but I was new to being an entrepreneur and I had no idea what the heck I was doing,” she freely admits.
From there it was stints as a club promoter and a wedding planner that finally led to working in corporate planning. This was her trial by fire. She learned how to manage multi-million dollar budgets, how to run meetings, and how to coordinate and schedule conferences with thousands of people. Then it clicked. “I had this idea… Really a revelation from God,” Jessica explains. “I could use all of these gifts and talents… I could use them to do my own thing, and to empower women to pursue their passions and dreams.”
Jessica then moved from strength to strength. She started an organization called Women of Purpose, dedicated to providing affordable and accessible mentorship for women breaking through in their fields. She hosted her own conferences and managed to get them 100% funded through sponsorship. That last bit really caught interest. Soon Jessica was swamped with requests inquiring as to how she was able to secure the amount of sponsorship she did. Her husband recognized the potential right away… and the rest, she says, was history.
It’s no stretch to call Jessica an educator and mentor. Her business is built around information and she’s given a lot of thought to the nature of conventional teaching. “Students shouldn’t be judged solely by the standards of tests.” She goes on to cite herself as an example. “I’m not a good test-taker. I took the LSAT over seven times.” Also, despite her multiple degrees, she uses none of them. “I opted to go a different route. The face of the millionaire today looks so different than over a decade ago.” Jessica explains that it’s about capitalizing on your gifts and cultivating your talents. The journey is not without its risks, but there’s danger in sticking to the conventional path. “Pursuing a law degree would have had me working for someone else for the rest of my life… to the point where I’d still be trying to pay off student loans and all I would have is just a piece of paper.”
Now an undisputed success, Jessica turns her mind towards family. An influencer on the side, she showcases products that she’s passionate about, and she’s careful not to promote anything she wouldn’t use herself in her home and around her family. Her position is not just about the products, it ties into culture as well…
With an Nigerian father and an African-American mother, she says she had ample exposure to both cultures growing up. “From a young age I had a preference,” she explains. “I saw the structure and stability of my Nigerian home and I knew I wanted that. I knew I wanted to marry a Nigerian man.” She makes sure her son has that deep connection as well. “We eat Nigerian food. He talks to his grandfather. He talks to his family in Nigeria.” While she loves her American culture, she knows there’s something missing, history. It’s that history that’s missing for all members of the African diaspora whose ancestors were forcibly displaced during chattel slavery. “So much is missing from what’s been taken,” she laments. “I’m grateful I have something else I can connect to.”
Jessica’s closing bit of advice is to stay true to yourself. “We live in a society where we’re seeing people and their lives, and taking bits and pieces and trying to apply that to our own.” She goes on to quote her uncle. “It costs you nothing to be yourself.” She urges others to embrace the gifts God has given them and remember they’re part of a community. She credits the Nigerian side of her family for instilling that value within her.
“You have to understand that this is an industry where you need people.” She notes that this advice is applicable beyond the professional world.