Alumni and Friends

Sukia Akiba, MS’18 | 2020 Recipient of the Florence G. Heller Alumni Award

Sukia Akiba, MS’18

Sukia Akiba, MS'18, is one of 15 alumni to receive a 2020 Florence G. Heller Alumni Award. She is CEO of financial consulting firm The Soul Supplier Inc., as well as a social activist and environmentalist. In addition, Akiba has founded several nonprofit organizations, including United Children of Nigeria Inc. and Eloise Hylton Inc., and she is the governor of the U.S. chapter for the National Edo Progressive Youth Association, dedicated to improving the quality of life for children in developing nations. In 2021, Yahoo Finance named her as one of its “Top 10 Entrepreneurs to Follow in 2021.” She spoke to Christina Mitchell, co-founder of United Children of Nigeria, about her passion for financial literacy and its transformational effect on people’s lives, as well as her special interest in the growth and development of youth.

Christina Mitchell: How did you come to study at the Heller School?

Sukia Akiba: Growing up in Nigeria, I have seen the disparity of wealth and access. I have seen need on scales that I can't even describe. I wanted to go to a program that I felt could really nurture that and help me understand. Heller, one of the top 10 social policy programs in the country, was an easy choice.

CM: In your career in financial education, what would you say is the biggest problem that you're trying to solve?

SA: One of the biggest problems that I'm working to solve is the lack of financial literacy in the Black and brown communities. I teach financial literacy and I've been doing a lot of work in my community outside of the nonprofit. I believe in the buying power of the African American dollar and I just want to create more black millionaires and billionaires. That's a lot of what I'm doing right now. We live in a capitalistic society and understanding money, understanding finances and how it works, is super important. I feel like knowledge is power, especially when it comes to money and investing. These are things that should be taught, especially in my community. We're not shedding enough light on financial literacy.

CM: A lot of people think that investing is only for the rich, only for the people who have the money to do so. So, for somebody like me, you know, what kind of advice would you give me?

SA: I would say that it’s not true. You don't need to be wealthy to invest. We have to start looking at finance like we look at other aspects of our health whether it’s physical health or mental health. I am also a mental health advocate as well. So, financial health is something that we need to take seriously because it is part of our overall health. When it comes to investing, it's something that we all should be doing. It doesn't take a lot of money to get into investing but you lose a lot by not knowing about investing. And that's where financial literacy comes into place. If we don't understand finances, we will never be able to really tame finances in the way that we should.

CM: I like that. So, knowledge is power.

SA: Absolutely.

CM: Where do you think financial literacy should start?

SA: Investing is something that kids should know. And I feel like this is honestly something that should be taught in elementary and middle schools. And it's unfortunate that it's not even taught at the high school level. When you live in a capitalistic society where money plays such a major role, we need to teach them at a young age to learn how money works. One of the things that I've learned from you is that most of us go to school to become employees and to work for money, and then upon becoming a little bit more financially literate, it's about making your money work for you.

We think that financial illiteracy is something that just affects the poor people or those with low income and that is not true either. I was raised middle class, and it's still something that was not taught me in my home. I think this is something that starts at home. This is something that we cannot leave up to the schools to teach our children.

CM: You're already doing so well in your career and starting a nonprofit is a whole other project. What inspired you to do that?

SA: I honestly feel compelled to give back to my community. I feel like we all should. Not only through the United Children of Nigeria, but also the Eloise Hylton foundation. I pray for the day that we open the Ekwamosa Learning Academy and I know that we're heading there. 

I believe in education and knowledge is key. And I believe in creating avenues for everyone. We don't have a lot of public schools in Nigeria, the way that we have in America where somebody doesn't have the resources, you're still entitled to an education. But It's not the same in Nigeria and I believe it's unfortunate. So, I want to do my part and I don't want someone to lack education simply because they do not have the resources. I don't believe that's fair and I don't believe it's right. The Ekwamosa Learning Academy is about creating space and creating ways for people to get educated.

At the Heller School they taught step by step, not only ways to help create systems, but to help implement the systems. They taught us how to assess need and how to really go after your goals. A lot of times we see things and we want to do them, but they just seem so overwhelming. I find myself still going back and looking at the notes from when I was in school at Heller to say, “This is how you do this or this is how you look up the research for this.” And you know, that hand by hand, step by step learning that they taught—it's going to stick with me forever.

CM: You are quite unique in the sense of being African and also being a part of the LGBTQ community. What role do you hope to play for other young LGBTQ Africans?

SA: Well, I believe that representation matters. Being an openly African lesbian, I believe that if I had seen more African lesbians while growing up, I would have come out of the closet a lot sooner. The truth is that representation matters. We need more people to step up and live their truth and I know that may not be easy for everyone. But because I am privileged enough to live my truth, it's something that I do not take for granted and I want to show people that it is possible and that we are here, we exist and we’re alive and well.

To learn more about Akiba, visit her Instagram or email her at Sukia@TheSoulSupplier.com.

About the 2020 Florence G. Heller Alumni Awards

To honor our 60th anniversary, the community chose to honor 15 awardees for living a life that exemplifies the mission and vision of the Heller School and honors the legacy of our namesake, Florence G. Heller. Award recipients have produced positive and impactful change through the rigor, creativity, and innovation of their work. Additional selection criteria included the national, global, local impact of accomplishments, identification with the Brandeis community, and/or sustained impact and leadership over time.