Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business that embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire.
In this installment, meet Nitiya Walker, Founder & Executive Director, Seeds of Fortune Inc.
Walker’s Legacy (WL): Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us Nitiya! I think what you’re doing is so legendary and incredibly necessary. First, I would like to know a little bit about you, because you are the heartbeat of Seeds of Fortune. What is your hometown? What is your current city of residence? Did you grow up in a large family or a smaller family? Where did you attend college?
Nitaya Walker (NW): I’m from Brooklyn, New York…Bedstuy. I’m still in Brooklyn, and I grew up in a small family. I went to Babson College near Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
(WL) When you were a high school senior preparing for college, what options were presented to you to fund your education? Which options did you choose?
(NW) When I was a high school senior, our only option was really FAFSA. But thankfully my Mom had a 529 plan for me that she started when I was like five or six years old.
(WL) Why is your work focused on women of color?
(NW) Black and Latina girls don’t have access to the same resources as Caucasian girls. Seeds of Fortune also targets young women in public schools, who typically have fewer opportunities presented to them than girls in private schools. Also, much of women of color have debt that stems from college loans. We want to assist them with that.
(WL) What inspired the name of your organization?
(NW) Well, one day I was sitting and thinking, what should I name my organization. I started with what I wanted to achieve, to plant economic seeds of wealth. Then I thought about my mission, which is to create generational wealth. Creating generational wealth is a fortune, so I put the two together and came up with Seeds of Fortune!
(WL) The concept of a “Seed Coach” is so heartwarming. Please explain the role of a Seed Coach, and what you hope to gain by starting these types of relationships.
(NW) The Seed Team helps young women of color with the college application process. Colleges and Universities provide funding to people that are prepared. Our goal is to prepare the girls for college. Seed Coaches are young professionals, typically ages 23-30 who have gone through the college process already and can serve as mentors.
(WL) How easy has it been to form partnerships to support your organization? Who are some of your current partnerships with and why?
(NW) I was still in college when I started Seeds of Fortune. I was a member of the Student Government Association, and when you’re a member, you receive $500 to put towards your organization. I put half towards the first group of girls, and then started Seeds of Fortune with just twelve dollars! Our first partnership was Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. Then, we had a partnership with the Central Public Library, who offered free meeting rooms to library card holders. We then gained a partnership with the New York Times, who hosted our orientation and career development day. Eileen Fischer is our most current partnership, and they host our Seat at the Table event for college students. Each of these partnerships has been essential to our growth.
(WL) How important is the role of Social Media for your organization? Which channel do you believe gives you the broadest reach?
(NW) Social Media has been VERY important to our organization because what we have is a sisterhood, and social media keeps us all connected. I would say that Facebook is the most powerful for keeping us connected, and Instagram provides most of an everyday story. Scholarships are posted on social media, and girls can nominate other girls to receive them. We also have a blog with college tips, AND we have a newsletter called “The Seed Newsletter,” filled with opportunities for both high school and collegiate women. There are about 400 girls on that distribution list, and all of these things really keep everyone engaged.
(WL) Everyone understands that being an entrepreneur is tough work, but the rewards can be immense. What are some ways you maintain balanced and calm even on your busiest days?
I remember the mission and remind myself why I started Seeds of Fortune.
We just had our annual gala on Saturday, and it really helped us see our progress, and how we are able to shift people’s futures.
(WL) If you could take your 15-year-old self out to lunch today and give her advice for her future, what would you tell her?
(NW) When I was fifteen, I was looking for clarity. I was looking for someone to help me move away from the fog and see the next steps I should take. I knew there was something beyond these Brooklyn streets. I would tell her to remain passionate and persistent through it all.
(WL) Women like you inspire not only young girls but all women. Knowing that, where do you plan to take Seeds of Fortune next? What is your ultimate goal, and how do you plan to achieve it?
(NW) Thank you! I plan to take Seeds of Fortune into different cities. The three we are focusing on now are Newark, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. One of the ways we can achieve that is by expanding our network of Seed Coaches. We stay with our girls for six years until graduation, it really is a sisterhood.
(WL) Thank you so much Nitiya, we are thrilled to follow you on your journey to greatness and women empowerment!