Vanessa Wakeman

As a senior associate at Morgan Stanley, managing a $10 million budget in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Vanessa Wakeman knew something was missing. She loved her team — responsible for all desktop voice technologies for the trading and business environments — but not the work she was doing. “I felt like if I’m going to be working this hard, I want to be doing work that I love,” recalls Wakeman.

So Wakeman pulled a bold move and quit her job to launch The Wakeman Agency in 2003. The White Plains-based social-change agency focuses on helping nonprofits and socially responsible organizations “amplify their voices and make sure their people understand how they can support the cause,” says Wakeman.

Today, the agency’s accounts include National Domestic Workers Alliance, The Africa America Institute, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, Real World Scholars, and the telecom firm ShoreTel. The five-person agency opened a satellite office in Silicon Valley in 2014 and in 2016 received permission by the US government to open an office in Cuba.

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And, to help more females in the nonprofit sector become respected thought leaders, Wakeman created a program called She Roars, which focuses on helping women better articulate brand visions, strategize opportunities for industry-wide influence and heighten confidence. “A lot of women have insights and expertise, but they have not felt comfortable bringing that forward,” says Wakeman. “We’ve developed a program to help address some of those mental roadblocks.”


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