Zambuko is a word from my language in Zimbabwe, Shona, that means bridge. I chose this name because it represents my story in a lot of ways. My life continues to be shaped by people who believe in me, and have been the bridges I needed to cross the fiery waters of uncertainty and access to opportunities.
I was a stubborn and rebellious teenager, but not in the way that most teenagers rebelled. I did not sneak out or run up my parents’ phone bill. I was an intellectual rebel. I exhausted my family with my big dreams and challenged them on their narrow views of success for me, especially as a girl in my culture. This all changed when I was admitted to the United States Student Achievers Program (USAP). USAP is a competitive program that enables talented and economically disadvantaged young people in my country and others to get into top colleges around the world. From the day I walked into that program, I felt understood. For the first time in my life, when I said, “I want to find a cure for AIDS”, nobody ridiculed me! Through coaching, counseling and a lot of hard work, I ended up with a full scholarship to the University of Chicago.
USAP was my first lesson in how much it matters to have champions who believe in you and your ambitions. More than believing in you, they enable your dreams by using their resources to open doors for you and facilitate your growth.
I was fortunate in my undergraduate to get an incredible mentor who championed my growth, Dr. Fumni Olopade. She took me under her wings and showed me that African women too can rule a discipline! For four years, she counseled me and used her resources and access to help me discover what I was passionate about. Funmi’s influence shaped me into the healthcare industry professional that I am today. I used to tell her that I wanted to be exactly like her when I grow up, but she would tell me, “No, you actually want to be the best version of yourself.” She was right.
From this experience and many others after, I learned the importance of having champions especially for people from underprivileged backgrounds like mine. Without access to people, platforms and spaces to realize your potential, you are likely not going to get far in life. This is why I started volunteering to coach African applicants in their MBA journeys a few years back with a non-profit. I got to use my personal experience and knowledge to empower others like me to achieve their goals and Zambuko Advisory is an extension of that dream, at scale.
I partnered with a close friend of mine, Dozie Ibekwe, to realize our shared dream of expanding and democratizing access to higher educational opportunities. We are an advisory firm that coaches MBA and graduate education bound candidates to succeed in their application journeys. Our main expertise is telling the stories of underrepresented minorities, international students, and candidates from non-traditional professional backgrounds.
While the MBA consulting industry is a crowded market, no one addresses or understands our target demographic better than we do. That is because they are US, a few years back.
We are graduates of top-ranked MBA and other graduate programs, including Cambridge, Harvard, and Michigan. Having gotten into MBA programs as international students with non-traditional professional backgrounds, we know what it takes to be competitive for admission into these institutions with unusual profiles. Most of all, we have over 10 years of experience in successfully coaching MBA and other graduate school applicants into their dream schools. We are confident that we are the “zambuko” or bridge that people like us need to achieve their goals.
I would not be here if it weren’t for the people who counseled me, who cheered me on, and most of all, who used their experiences and resources to enable my dreams, and continue to do so. Zambuko Advisory is an ode to those people, and it will advance the fight for a fairer world where everybody has a shot at their goals and dreams.
We are looking forward to working with you!
Founding Partner, Zambuko Advisory