UMKC Alumna Develops Equity App

Aishah Augusta-Parham, Ph.D., receives start-up funding for new digital tool, SEPOW
Aisha Augusta-Parham

During the summer of 2016 as Aishah Augusta-Parham, Ph.D. studied counseling and psychology, she experienced instances of prejudice in some of the businesses she frequented.

Despite a broader social awareness around equity, her personal experiences were proof that some systems that had not changed.

“I began realizing that as a psychologist, I could help individuals by targeting their specific symptoms, but when they left my office, I wouldn’t be able to impact those systems.”

Augusta-Parham, Ph.D. (B.A. '06, B.A. '08) decided that in order to be truly effective, she needed to target the systems as well as the undesirable experiences those systems were creating for some people. That is how SEPOW was born.

“SEPOW is the Yelp for diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says. “In the same way Yelp allows its users to rate their experiences, SEPOW will enable employees to rate their experiences at a business or company in relation to race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, religion and sexual orientation – all on the app.”

Organizations will be able to see their ratings and select customized solutions that SEPOW can provide to address the specific experiences of their employees.

“Organizations will have real-time feedback on their multicultural initiatives, and see specifically what's working and what’s not working,” Augusta-Parham says. “They can have accurate information on race-related stress and how it’s impacting performance, morale and engagement with coworkers and employees.”

Augusta-Parham received support from Digital Sandbox, which provides start-ups with feedback and funding to accelerate their businesses. She says this has been instrumental to SEPOW’s growth and development.

“Now organizations will have real-time feedback on their multicultural initiatives. They can see specifically what's working and what’s not working.” — Aishah Augusta-Parham

“It’s really important for a founder to get out to the market as quickly as possible to accelerate towards commercialization,” Augusta-Parham says

Through networking, Augusta-Parham connected with an effective mentor. When she reached out to Bryan Shannon (B.A. ’04), who is an entrepreneur, he was impressed by her commitment and domain experience. He realized she was up to the challenge of getting her start up-to market.

“Aishah is the type of individual who looks for a pathway forward,” Shannon says. “SEPOW is attempting to fill a void that exists in a very sizable market.”

Augusta-Parham is working hard now, but she has even bigger plans for the future.

“Five years from now I want SEPOW to be the hallmark for diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says. “My goal is for employees to feel heard, supported and empowered, and for organizations to have the resources to help them move the needle on multicultural initiatives. ”

Start-up funding has been critical to her launch.

“Without Digital Sandbox, I wouldn't have this opportunity to move as quickly as I possibly can and get off the ground.”

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Published: Feb 25, 2022

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