Preston James, Co-founder, and CEO of DivInc

DivInc, the premier startup accelerator for BIPOC and women entrepreneurs, announced the nominees for its 5th Annual Champions of Change Awards held in Austin, Texas.

The awards ceremony will occur on Thursday at Distribution Hall. This year’s theme is ‘Rise,’ a reflection of the champions who embody the organization’s mission and power initiatives that spark sincere change.

“Champions of Change is not the traditional awards recognition event. It is a celebration of the best of Austin,” explained Preston James, Co-founder, and CEO of DivInc. “The community comes together in unity to recognize awe-inspiring, unsung leaders who are creating positive change. Everyone walks away with pride knowing that we’re truly moving forward together to create a world where social and economic disparities no longer exist.”

Tickets to the event are $50 per person and are available on Eventbrite here

Proceeds from the event will go directly to support DivInc’s efforts in bridging the gap between underrepresented entrepreneurs and the resources they need to build profitable high-growth, high-impact startups.

“Over the years, I’ve had the honor to witness Champions of Change grow with more and more individuals at the helm of meaningful action and impact. Our future relies on their leadership to provide a safe and supportive space for underrepresented communities,” said James, “These nominations recognize the trailblazers who demonstrate exceptional dedication towards advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in Austin and beyond.”

This year’s categories include Executive of the Year, DEI Leader of the Year, Young Leader of the Year, Champion of the Year, Investor of the Year, Startup Leader of the Year, Rising Star of the Year, Spacemaker of the Year, and Non-Profit Leader of the Year.

2023 Nominees

Executive of the Year

Kana Livolsi, CEO and Co-Founder of Dos Mundos Creative

Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas

Shaleiah Fox, Chief Advancement Officer at The Thinkery

Shuronda Robinson, CEO of Adisa Communications and Austin Woman Magazine

Wendy Howell, Co-Founder and CEO of Executive Council Network

DEI Leader of the Year

Amy Maldonado, Global Inclusion Programs Coordinator at Indeed

Brion Oaks, Vice President of DEI and Operations at Charles Butt Foundation

Dr. Elizabeth Medina, Inclusion & Accountability Director at Everly Health

Rachel Lauren Pierce, Vice President of People and Culture at Dream.Org; Founding Partner at Diversified Consulting Firm

River Holley, Global Diversity, Belonging and Inclusion Specialist at AMD

Young Leader of the Year

Alyse Gamble, Public Affairs D&I Content Specialist at HEB

Ash Hall, Founder & CEO of Justice Strategies, LLC

Azteca Sirias, Founder & Executive Director at Aztech Kidz Code

Chastiny Brown, Programs Manager of 3 Day Startup

Corey Alan, Program Associate at 3 Day Startup; Community and Youth Engagement Consultant at OutYouth

Champion of the Year

Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy at The University of Texas at Austin

Hailey Easley, Executive Director at Austin Asian Community Health Initiative

Maria Brown-Spence, Founder of Hearts2Heal; Director of Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) at SThree

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, Judge of 459th District Court

Ryn Gonzales, Director of Operations and Programs at Out Youth 

Investor of the Year

Andy Ambrose, Partner at TheFund Austin

Betty Wu Adams, Managing Director of Equity Investments at The Disability Opportunity Fund

Cat Dizon, Co-founder of Active Capital

Juan Thurman, Co-founder and Managing General Partner of SWAN Impact Fund

Sanika Bhave, VC at Capital Factory

Rising Star of the Year

Alyse Gamble, Public Affairs D&I Content Specialist at HEB

Daniela Silva, Consultant at Farmshare Austin

Dante Clemons, Co-Founder Origin Studio House

Jazz Mills, Founder and Director of Operations at Free Lunch

Nicole Cardoza, CEO & Founder at Reclamation Ventures

Nonprofit Leader of the Year

Diana Anzaldua, Founder & CEO of Contigo Wellness

Kelenne Blake-Fallon, Executive Director at Black Mamas ATX

Phyllis Everette, Founder & CEO of Saffron Trust Women’s Foundation

Rockie Gonzalez, Deputy Director at Austin Justice Coalition 

Timeka Walker, CEO of United Against Human Trafficking

Startup Leader of the Year

Carley Deardorff, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Capital Factory

Luis Gramajo and Hans Scheri, CMO and CEO of Wunderkeks LLC

Katrina Tolentino, Executive Director at Naturally Network

Sierra Pena, CEO & Co-founder of Shelfleet

Sugar Tennon, Founder and CEO of Pink Sugar Treats & Eats

Spacemaker of the Year

Diana Melendez, Esq., Co-Founder of Women of Color Collective; Attorney at Diana Melendez Law, PLLC

Dominique McLeggan Brown, Founder of The Sisters in Law LLC

Katrina and Eric Brooks, Owners of Black Pearl Books

Marissa Rivera, Founder & Community Curator, Ola Wellness _OFCOLOR

Natalie Sanders, Founder of House of LEPORE & the ORISHA mere project