Meet the Recipients of PayPal’s Second Annual Maggie Lena Walker Award

Maggie L Walker Award
This original print by artist Jamilla Okubo was commissioned for the 2022 PayPal Maggie Lena Walker Award

Maggie Lena Walker’s life was one spent breaking down barriers. A Black woman born in 1864, she began her career as a teacher and went on to open a department store, finance and run a newspaper, and in 1903, she became the first Black woman – and first woman – to charter and lead a U.S. bank. Walker was a businesswoman and civil rights activist that dedicated her life to improving the lives of those in her community, leaving behind a remarkable legacy.
To celebrate Walker’s contributions and those of women who are carrying on her legacy today by creating opportunities for economic advancement in underserved communities, PayPal established the Maggie Lena Walker Award. The award includes one category for Achievement and another for Emerging Leaders.
Today, PayPal is excited to announce the second class of awardees whose work reflects the late banking executive and civil rights activist's mission and legacy. Read about how these awardees have positively shaped their communities through a commitment to increasing access to capital and business resources for Black and other minority entrepreneurs.

Achievement Award Recipient: Connie Evans

Connie Evans

Why Connie: Like Walker, Connie Evans is a changemaker who has had many firsts. In 1986, she was the founding president of the award-winning Women’s Self-Employment Project, the first and largest urban microbusiness development organization in the U.S. She was the first Black woman elected to the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Now as president and CEO of AEO, Evans is creating economic opportunity for underserved entrepreneurs across the U.S. through research, advocacy, and capital access.
Why her work matters: In 2020, during the pandemic, Black business ownership declined by 40%, the largest drop of any ethnic group. Prior to the pandemic, 58% were at risk or distressed.
How she’s making an impact: During the pandemic, AEO helped facilitate $300 million in grants to small businesses, leveraging corporate partnerships to provide capital and technical assistance to help these businesses survive. AEO has built first-of-its-kind credit innovations like myWay to Credit, the first-ever bank referral marketplace for small business lending, and touts one of the largest networks of small business lending Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) in the country.

Emerging Leader Award Recipient: Mandy Bowman

Mandy Bowman

Why Mandy: Inspired by the legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, and after witnessing the many challenges Black entrepreneurs faced in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, Mandy Bowman started Official Black Wall Street (OBWS), the largest app helping consumers discover, review, and shop Black-owned businesses. 
Why her work matters: In recent years, the Buy Black movement has gained momentum, both inside and outside of the Black community, encouraging consumers to seek out and support Black-owned businesses to ensure their success and growth.
How she’s making an impact: OBWS has circulated $1.7 million into Black-owned businesses and, through a partnership with Baker Botts, is providing $10 million in legal services to these businesses. Bowman also launched the OBWS Black Entrepreneur of the Year awards to give away grant dollars to Black founders making an impact in their community. Since that launch in 2020, OBWS has given nearly six figures in grant funds to Black entrepreneurs in need. 

Emerging Leader Award Recipient: Alethia Mendez

Division President, Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs at Grameen America

Alethia Mendez

Why Alethia: In 2008, Alethia Mendez joined Grameen America as one of its first employees. During her tenure, Grameen America has achieved significant milestones, including reaching more than 160,000 entrepreneurial women and disbursing $2.6 billion in microloans across 24 U.S. cities. Mendez has dedicated her career to advocating for financial inclusion and women in business while championing opportunities for members to build their financial identities and digital literacy
Why her work matters: Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., but they face significant financial challenges. Grameen America estimates that, due to a lack of access to affordable credit and capital, there are at least 1.4 million self-employed Black women who could benefit from the organization's capital and resources to enhance their financial independence.
How she’s making an impact: Mendez currently serves as the Division President for Elevating Black Women Entrepreneurs, an initiative aimed at offering loan capital, financial training, and asset- and credit-building tools to low-income Black women. She manages a dedicated team with a goal to reach more than 80,000 Black women entrepreneurs and invest $1.3 billion in their small businesses by 2030. Under Mendez’ leadership, financially underserved Black women can transform their businesses, lift their communities, and create multigenerational change for their families.

Emerging Leader Award Recipient: Diamond Walton 

Diamond Walton

Why Diamond: Throughout her career, Diamond Walton has worked alongside community members to mobilize financial, social, and human capital to reduce disparities. After nearly a decade in the public health sector, she started to explore how wealth functions as a social determinant of health. This led her to found Elpida Social Capital LLC where she coaches clients on how to use their resources and networks to reduce the racial wealth gap.
Why her work matters: Wealth transfer is an essential component to wealth building; however, black families are five times less likely than white families to receive a sizable inheritance.
How she’s making an impact: Walton founded Elpida Social Capital to help clients invest financial and social capital in historically marginalized communities and, two years ago, launched the Black Student Debt Freedom Fund (BSDF), to help pay off the student loan debt of Black graduates. Her next initiative is the launch of Jubilant Circle – a new, simple, and celebratory way to help close the racial wealth gap through anonymous wealth transfer.
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