Ashanti Akabusi, founder of VirtuBrands Media, has been named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Women Leaders UK awards 2020. The award was made at a virtual ceremony last night (19th November) hosted from Milton Keynes where Cindy Rose OBE, President of Microsoft Western Europe, was the guest speaker.
Ashanti founded VirtuBrands in 2010 with just one client for the blend of social media, digital and traditional PR her agency provides. To date she has supported an eclectic range of business and social clients, from luxury travel start-up, Avventura Travels, Milton Keynes College in the public sector, corporations including Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, charities like Friends Provident Foundation, and celebrities including The Kingdom Choir and pop icon Rachel Stevens – naming but a few.
VirtuBrands has become a one stop shop for traditional and digital PR, social media (management/training/strategy), content creation, thought leadership and events.
She has raised the profile of such clients, landing them appearances in outlets including BBC, ITV, Huffington Post, Sky News, The Times, The Guardian, Financial Times, and Daily Mail. Further proof of the efficacy of her sought-after advice is that fact that she has accrued more than six million social media followers for her clients. In 2017, she supported mental health advocate AJ Mendez in becoming a New York Times bestselling author.
Having forged a career in the United States with giants like Myspace, Fox Entertainment and Yahoo! it would have been easy to remain on the corporate ladder. Instead with an entrepreneurial spirit she dreamt of running her own business and returned to Britain to start from scratch. Her courage has been rewarded through her determination, her passion and her refusal never to give up.
Today her expertise has earnt her recognition on many platforms and she’s been called on to share her knowledge by the BBC, Business MK and All Things Business among others. Such is her profile in the sector she’s even been featured on Forbes as a Business Expert, and was recently quoted by them for advice on using social media to expand a business. Further recognition has come with an invitation to join the highly prestigious Forbes Business Council.
Ashanti often talks about, “paying things forward,” and is a passionate supporter and mentor of other women in business, also providing workshops through her charitable commitments for young people not in employment, education or training, so they too can reap the benefits of understanding the digital world we all now inhabit. Her commitment to diversity is unquestionable and she has been heavily involved in the social media debate around the Black Lives Matter Movement with the intention to educate, inform or learn, never to bully or browbeat.
Ashanti says, “I know everyone always says how delighted they were just to be nominated and that they never expected to win but it really is all true. I am beyond thrilled to be recognised by such a fabulous organisation as Women Leaders UK which is driven by some amazing people who I have always looked up to. Starting your own business is daunting and of course you dream of great success but this is beyond a dream. 2020 has been such a horrible year for everybody and I couldn’t have imagined I would have something so positive to remember it for. I couldn’t have done this without having great trust placed in me by some wonderful clients and I just want to say thank you to them for believing in me. Teamwork is at the heart of this achievement, and I wouldn’t be in this position without the support from mentors, my team and my loved ones, and I’m so full of gratitude and appreciation.”
In supporting Ashanti’s award submission, Kingdom Choir founder, Karen Gibson MBE said, “I asked around and various people said the person we needed to give us some business, social media and digital guidance was Ashanti. Everyone said you can trust her, she works really hard and she knows her stuff. Those were all understatements. Ashanti has helped us navigate the difficult waters of online life with great skill, understanding and passion. I would go so far as to say that she is one of our most trusted advisors… Put simply, she’s one of us. In practice her work has been transformational.”
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