Six small business owners who have shown a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are among the recipients.

November 19, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA: The Aresty Institute of Executive Education of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has announced the 2021 winners of the newly-launched Knowledge for Impact Award. Supporting small business owners whose career paths reflect diversity and inclusion, the award represents an investment in talented entrepreneurs from across the U.S. The winners span business types from a Southern-style baked goods company, to an organization that improves nutrition and exercise among low-income youth, to a program that readies professionals of color for corporate board service.

The award enables six entrepreneurs per academic year to attend an upcoming Wharton Executive Education live online program at no cost. The programs will help participants acquire high-level business and interpersonal skills as well as practical tools in finance, accounting, negotiations, strategy, and leadership. They include Business Essentials for Executives, Finance and Accounting for the Non-Financial Manager, Negotiation and Influence: Making Deals and Strategy Work, and The Adaptable Leader: Leading in a Virtual World.

“It is our pleasure and privilege to name the inaugural winners of the Knowledge for Impact Award,” said Wharton Executive Education Vice Dean Jagmohan S. Raju. “These innovative entrepreneurs are an impressive group who have overcome challenges and proven their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their professional and personal lives. We sincerely hope they find this learning opportunity of benefit. Moreover, we are proud to say that the award demonstrates our commitment to increasing diversity in Wharton’s programming and classrooms.”

The six winners are:

Ayeshah Abuelhiga – Founder/CEO, Mason Dixie Foods, Baltimore, MD

The child of a Palestinian-Israeli father and a Korean mother, Abuelhiga grew up in Maryland watching her immigrant parents work hard at their small carry-out restaurant and convenience store. The family ate Southern cooking at home, which inspired Abuelhiga to start the Mason Dixie Biscuit Company in 2014. Her popup restaurant in Washington D.C. drew enthusiastic crowds and in 2017, she was chosen as a “Top 10 Innovator” by the Washington Business Journal. Today Mason Dixie Foods’ frozen baked goods are carried at 8,000+ retailers including Whole Foods Market, Target, Publix, and Costco.

Valencia Belle – Owner, VB Ideas, LLC, Mobile, AL

Valencia Belle is the principal research consultant and owner of VB Ideas, LLC, which focuses on enhancing educational opportunities for marginalized students seeking careers in science, healthcare, and engineering. In 2015, she launched the S.C.H.O.O.L.S. Program (“Success Can Happen Out Of Low Scores”), an Academic Enrichment and Supplemental Education Services Company. The organization offers ACT Prep, STEM tutoring, and “wrap-around” educational coaching services to boost graduation and college acceptance rates. The same year, Belle also created the JEM Scholars Program (Jumpstart to English and Math), providing dual enrollment opportunities for both high school students and student-athletes to improve their college readiness.

Yolette Bonnet – Founder and CEO, FoundCare, Inc., Palm Springs, FL

Yolette Bonnet is the founder and CEO of FoundCare, Inc., a nonprofit federally qualified health center that offers adult and pediatric primary care services to individuals and families in Palm Beach County. It serves as a one-stop-shop for those in need regardless of their ability to pay. FoundCare was incorporated in 2002 and now has six locations in the region. In 2006, Bonnet received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award. Committed to humanitarian work both in the United States and abroad, she dedicates one week each year to performing missionary work in Haiti.

Lynne Kunins – Founder, President, and CEO, FLIPANY (Florida Introduces Physical Activity & Nutrition to Youth), Fort Lauderdale, FL

After creating a successful “open gym” program for children of parents in prison, Lynne Kunins became increasingly aware of the ill effects that poor nutrition and lack of physical education had on all children. She founded FLIPANY in 2005 with the determination to foster as many healthy lives as possible through FLIPANY’s inter-related programs: direct access to healthy food, nutrition education, and mentored physical activity. The award-winning non-profit organization currently assists youth, families, and seniors in underserved areas of Florida, collaborating with more than 450 community centers and social service agencies to ensure everyone has access to a healthy lifestyle.

Sulaiman Rahman – Founder and CEO, DiverseForce, Philadelphia, PA

DiverseForce evolved out of Sulaiman Rahman’s many years of organizational and civic leadership. Founded in 2017, DiverseForce is a human capital solutions firm that specializes in the recruitment, retention, and development of top diverse talent. Rahman’s company has also partnered with the University of Pennsylvania to develop DiverseForce On Boards, a leadership development program that prepares high-performing professionals of color to serve more effectively on governing boards. The program’s success has attracted over 300 board matching partners and support from the public and private sectors. Rahman was awarded the President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award by the Obama administration in 2016.

Winfred Sanders – Co-Founder and President, Neta Scientific, Inc., Hainesport, NJ

Co-founded in 2000 by husband-and-wife team Winfred and Garnetta Sanders, Neta Scientific is a leading distributor of laboratory supplies, solutions, and safety products to the life science and pharmaceutical industries as well as higher education. More recently it has diversified into providing service and capital. It remains a family-owned and operated business. Neta Scientific’s mission is to “provide our customers access to a robust catalog of world-leading brands to more effectively conduct cutting-edge research and development.” The firm has received both federal and state certifications including MBE (Minority Business Enterprise), SDB (Small Diverse Business), and WOSB (Women-Owned Small Business).

For more information about the Knowledge for Impact Award, please visit https://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/for-individuals/all-programs/knowledge-for-impact-award/


About the Wharton School

Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. With a broad global community and one of the most published business school faculties, Wharton creates economic and social value around the world. The School has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 13,000 participants in executive education programs annually; and a powerful alumni network of 100,000 graduates.


Media Contact

Eleena de Lisser Director of Marketing CommunicationsAresty Institute of Executive Education
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
+1.215.898.7239 execed-pr@wharton.upenn.edu