Jill Johnson, CEO of The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) was recently named to ROI Influencers People of Color 2022 list, one of three awards that this small business champion has received over the past month from various organizations and publications.

Johnson is a nationally recognized thought leader and trailblazer working to foster an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem for people from historically excluded populations. IFEL, the Newark-based nonprofit she founded 20 years ago, leverages the power of relationship capital to create pathways to success for Black and Latinx founders, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

In addition to the award from ROI-NJ, Johnson recently received the Women Leaders in Innovation Award from the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, as well as the 2022 Empire Whole Health Heroes Award from Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield and Crain’s New York Business.

The award from the state Chamber of Commerce recognizes female leaders who have applied their knowledge and experience to create innovative programs that foster economic opportunities for marginalized New Jersey residents. Johnson, the honoree for innovation in finance and social advancement, was honored at an  Oct. 12 awards dinner along DeAnna Minus-Vincent, executive vice president and chief social justice and accountability officer at RWJBarnabas Health.

The Empire Whole Health Heroes Award honors business leaders who had a meaningful impact on the work to improve the health of New Yorkers. Johnson was recognized in the financial health category for her creation of financial programming for small businesses in addition to implementation of innovative wealth-building initiatives targeted to Black and Latinx founders and entrepreneurs.

An expert in business strategy and a fierce champion for inclusion, Johnson has spearheaded three innovative programs at IFEL to address the systemic barriers faced by entrepreneurs of color:

  • The Women of Color Connecting initiative leverages the power of relationship capital and works to build the capacity of Women of Color entrepreneurs, placing them on the grow-scale-exit trajectory;
  • The Making of Black Angels movement drives diversity and inclusion within the angel investing sector and seeks to increase the number of Black angel investors; and
  • Small Businesses Need Us, started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, engages a volunteer corps of business professionals ready to help small businesses navigate the hardships of being under-resourced.

Johnson started her career in the financial analyst program in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and moved on to hold leadership positions in her family’s business, City News Publishing Company. A member of the Women’s Forum of New York, the Women Business Collaborative, and Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs, Johnson serves on the board of the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and is a member of the America250 Innovation, Science & Entrepreneurship Advisory Council. She earned a B.A. in economics from Harvard University.