Empowering Values-Driven Organizations to Own Their Tomorrow

Sandra Nomoto

Faith Is at the Heart of Tomorrow Owned By You’s Success

Natika Washington of Tomorrow Owned By You.This article is one in a series about business leaders in the Level program, now in its third year. Through the Level program, B Lab U.S. & Canada aims to support and partner with business leaders who identify as women of color to amplify their economic reach and community impact.

Tomorrow Owned By You (TOBY) is a multifaceted agency that provides guidance on creative strategy and represents global talent. At its helm is Natika Washington, a values-driven professional with deep experience in responsible funding and finance. With a career spanning 30 years in public and nonprofit sector leadership, Washington places service at the core of her goals and approach. She says, “It’s all about the future being owned by everyone, and helping individuals looking to companies and governments to harness the power of our resources and solve their most complex issues.”

TOBY connects influential creative leaders with principled organizations. It identifies and implements impactful ESG (environmental, social, and governance) approaches for companies, helping them achieve sustainable governance practices and connect to a global network of influential taste-makers who are changing culture.

Following years of experience in the social impact space and a rebrand, TOBY’s focus is on harnessing the power of influencers with a voice and an existing brand who, at first glance, don’t realize the role they can play in advancing sustainability or the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “Everything they’re doing is all about impact, but they’ve never heard of social impact,” Washington says. “We signed some new talent in the entertainment space and are looking to bring in influencer collaboration that’s going to help the heart of what our agency loves to support, which is the community.”

The agency’s efforts are driven by the need for a world that operates equitably and both serves and elevates marginalized communities. Washington’s work at TOBY is inspired by her local community, from doing volunteer work with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and raising funds for Black kids to go to college. She ensures she’s aware of the local government’s stance on policy issues that affect small business owners or her as a single Black mom owning a home in Illinois.

Overcoming Barriers as a Minority Entrepreneur

As an agency owned by a Black, disabled-veteran woman, TOBY has access to exclusive government resources. But it took time for Washington to understand how to best serve people with marginalized perspectives. She, too, faced barriers to accessing capital and networks. “Just because you’re a veteran or a Black woman, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get business,” she says. “I spent nine years in government working on women and girls’ issues globally to tackle many barriers, and I myself still experience those same barriers. A veteran status doesn’t get me contracts.”

Making People of Color or others in historically marginalized communities jump through hoops to gain access to certifications or programs can make entrepreneurs feel defeated, but she believes there’s always an opportunity to learn or figure out how to overcome barriers and not give up.

Learning from ESG Leaders

Washington seeks advice from people she respects in the sustainability and social impact space who’ve positioned their firms as positive influences. She became familiar with Certified B Corporations three years ago. When she heard about the Level program, she knew TOBY had to be a part of it. “B Corp is in my soul. I believe in being a part of this amazing network of leaders and provokers in sustainability, quality, and equal access. It’s at the heart of who I am as an individual,” she says, adding that TOBY aligns with the requirements and vision of the B Corp community. As a person of faith, Washington prayed before she pitched the company to be a part of Level.

She cites consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as an example of a company operating with ESG principles that reflects what she hopes to see more of in the industry. Washington admires that ESG is core to PwC’s future and the company actively engages corporate audiences globally to talk about racial equity as a priority. For example, it’s one company involved in CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, an initiative made up of over 2,400 CEOs who have pledged to work toward racial equity.

Washington says of PwC: “They’re still going to be one of the top four consulting firms in the world. The difference between them and others in their industry is they’re putting their money where their mouth is, their policies where their positions are, and they’re investing in the people of their company to help and guide them in this practice.”

TOBY Agency partner StepUp UFM doing re-entry work with formerly incarcerated men.

Coming Full Circle Through Faith

Washington encourages entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color to join and learn from as many networks, business communities, and infinity groups as possible. “Surround your inner circle with people that genuinely want to see you succeed,” she says. “Business owners are natural risk takers. That’s why you’re here, and that’s why you took a leap of faith on you. You’re going to need the support — please ask!”

Washington grew up in the ’80s and ’90s in a traditional Christian family of pastors, evangelists, and ministers. At an early age, she learned the importance of believing in a higher power or being and how it can orchestrate a person’s goals and journey. She believes People of Color, especially those in the Black community, can lean into a strong sense of spiritual or familial faith during the hardest moments of growing their business.

The role of faith has come full circle for Washington. After working for years with the formerly incarcerated, she now works with her father, a pastor of a church in Peoria, Illinois, who runs a nonprofit that supports the formerly incarcerated. Their collaborative work epitomizes who they are as a family.

At TOBY, Washington looks to connect with those who:

  • Are leaders in the impact space looking to build wealth from different areas.
  • Lead a company that cares about strategic investments or investing in transformative leadership.
  • Aren’t sure whether their company is where it should be with commitments around ESG investments.

B The Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

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