Loreal Mallett is our Program Director in Chicago. Loreal is an ideator with a bold and communicative style. She’s been told her superpower is her ability to process complex information and break it down in a simple way.
She genuinely enjoys helping people achieve their goals. If you have drive and desire, Loreal is all in for the long haul. She remembers being at point A, seeing point B, and not having a clue how to get there. And now she’s there! She says it’s not easy, but my goodness it is worth it!
For the last twenty years, Loreal has been a Professional-Stuff-Getter-Done-R (aka Executive Assistant). Her career was built on helping others achieve goals – through ideating, problem solving, and being in service to them. Throughout her career and entrepreneurial journey, she has always coached others, formally and informally, to achieve their desired outcomes.
More recently, Loreal started a small business, All Butter’d Up. Like many of you, Loreal didn’t start with the intention of being a business owner. All Butter’d Up started as a labor of love. Then, she realized that people were willing to pay for a product she created. That evolved into an understanding that she was providing a solution to a problem – typical shea butter was heavy and left a residue. Her marketing and product line grew from listening to her customers. And, now her product has on people and how it improves their quality of life instantly.
Loreal decided to join the Uptima team because of the non-traditional model that we use. The traditional models of business support are notorious for scratching the surface or over promising and under delivering, thus keeping entrepreneurs like her in a labyrinth. Whereas Uptima takes the entrepreneur on a deep dive, teaching the fundamentals and how to apply them practically to our businesses.
Cairo Person is our Program Director in Oakland. Cairo is a multifaceted businesswoman and advocate. Her superpower is tapping into people’s spirits when it pertains to their drive to work for themselves.
Cairo is a business owner herself. She co-founded We Re-Member, a non-profit that educates about the African Diaspora and the residual effects of chattel slavery. What makes her spirit leap when it comes to her business is that it started off as a small idea when she was a teenager. She and her co-founder were teenagers when this idea first came about. For them to now see it come to fruition from much dedication, effort, and hard work is rewarding.
As a co-founder of a non-profit, she knows first-hand how isolating and difficult starting a business can be. She finds it necessary to share what she’s learned along the way in growing her business with other entrepreneurs and help them establish connections and resources so we can all prosper.
Cairo was drawn to work with Uptima after her experience in our programs. She said, “I gained knowledge and so much wisdom while being part of the Uptima community that I wanted to be a part of it in another way. Uptima’s mission and values are aligned with my own values and so working for Uptima aligned with my own purpose in my life.”
Her top piece of advice for entrepreneurs is to tap into all areas of support and resources.
Sherina McKinley is our Program Director in Boston. Sherina is an educator, coach, and encourager. Her superpower is reading minds because she always knows what the entrepreneurs need.
Sherina’s work is fueled by her desire to see your wildest dream come true especially for those that society has counted out. She wants to see you win! Over the last decade, Sherina has supported and loved on Black and Brown entrepreneurs, big and small, throughout the city of Boston. No matter where she worked her office has always been the sanctuary where entrepreneurs can unload the stresses of life, get recharged, and shift their focus.
Prior to joining Uptima, Sherina was the Entrepreneurship Manager at CommonWealth Kitchen and worked specifically with food businesses in Boston. She has also served on the Board of Directors for Dorchester Bay EDC reviewed small business loan applications for LEAF and RUNWAY’s Friends & Family Loan Program in Boston. And, she volunteers as a success coach for a program specifically for Black women entrepreneurs at Babson College.
With Sherina’s guidance entrepreneurs in our community have been developing long-lasting businesses, creating local jobs, accessing capital and reviving their communities.
Rani Langer-Croager is our Founder & Chief Executive Officer. Rani is a social entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor focused on redefining how business support is offered to entrepreneurs of color. Rani’s superpower is futurecasting, seeing the opportunities and risks in your business before they arise and helping you prepare for them in advance.
Rani grew up in an immigrant family that leveraged entrepreneurial activities and cooperative economics as a means for financial stability. She is passionate about creating pathways that truly support entrepreneurs of color in building resilient, thriving businesses where we can make a sustainable living and be in service to our communities. Rani founded Uptima to address the challenges of traditional entrepreneurship programs and accelerators in providing holistic and culturally relevant education, advising, and community to entrepreneurs of color.
Rani has drawn on more than 20 years of experience advising organizations on strategic and financial planning, capital raising and mergers and acquisitions to develop the model for Uptima. Prior to founding Uptima, Rani was a member of the founding team and vice president at Altius Education where she raised over $30 million of capital to fund development of the company’s educational ecosystem. Rani began her career as a successful investment banker and has led and participated in over 30 financing, merger, acquisition, and joint venture transactions, representing over $15 billion in value.
Rani sees entrepreneurship as part of the movement for social justice. If we understand how money moves and how business works, we have more leverage in shifting economic and political power to ensure our communities thrive.
Nancy Larson is our Business Manager. Nancy is a business professional with a background in technology. She has extensive experience in office, project, and personnel management in a variety of business environments, including financial, legal, engineering and education. Her main areas of expertise are developing, organizing and implementing office procedures and managing large “legacy system” software development teams. Since the year 2000, she has volunteered at the Lawrence Hall of Science where she has been able to apply her passion for bringing science and math education to children and adults.