Brittany Merrill Underwood has made an extraordinary impact through her dedication over the past 14 years to transform the lives of impoverished women and families through Akola, a nonprofitsocial business designed to empower women in disadvantaged communities through training, employment and holistic care. Currently, Akola provides work opportunities to over 500 women in Uganda and Dallas so they can transform the lives of over 4,000 children in their communities. The non-profit has developed holistic programs in 12 development categories, drilled 23 clean water wells, and has built three training centers throughout Uganda.
In 2017, Brittany was named among the World’s Top 10 CEOs in Inc Magazine and listed as one of Town and Country Magazine’s 50 Modern Swans. She was named the ‘Best Person in the World” by Yahoo in 2014 and was honored by clothing manufacturer Levi as one of 50 women around the globe who have changed the political, cultural, and spiritual shape of the future. She was awarded the Emerging Leader Award from SMU in 2013, the Young Leader Award from the Dallas Women’s Foundation in 2014, and was awarded a silver medal from the Business & Interfaith Peace Award given by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in Rio. Brittany has been featured on the likes of the Katie Couric Show, CNN’s Young People who Rock, Fox Business and Modern Luxury. In 2014, she joined the mentoring class for the Laura Bush Women’s Initiative and began teaching a course on Social Innovation at Southern Methodist University as an adjunct professor. Brittany continues to devote her life to creating a brand that empowers women both economically and holistically as CEO of the Akola Project.
Emily has transitioned out of leadership at Akola Project. She is now a Co-Founder and Managing Director of her latest venture, The Art Of.
Emily Heger previously served as the Chief Operating Officer of Akola Project. Before joining Akola, Emily worked to provide business development as a Marketing Director at Chick-fil-A and as a strategic lead at The Richards Group for clients totaling $12 million in annual media billings. Emily sought to use her business skills in the social enterprise sector and started with joining Noonday Collection and then TivaWater to expand their reach, bringing clean water to 3,000 Northern Ugandans. Emily’s range of strategic experience developing innovative solutions in both the non-profit and business world has enabled her to effectively run the US-based non-profit and social business operations of Akola Project.
Akola Jewelry is the first full-impact brand to be sold in the luxury space through their national, every store launch in Neiman Marcus. As a non-profit, Akola reinvests 100% of its profits to help women in poverty. Akola women are empowered throughout the organizations entire supply chain. Women are given opportunity through making beads, the assembly of the jewelry and even the distribution center is run as a second chance job program. Akola has created a high impact hybrid model that is paving the way and setting the bar for millennial run businesses that seek to have an impact on the world. Akola’s brand is the first of its kind that has reached scale.