The Nova Collective: Practicing What They Preach For Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
by Mark Stone
The Nova Collective, a woman- and Black-owned business that evolves inclusive cultures and practices, officially launched in June 2017. Founded with a mission of creating true equity within organizations, the certified woman- and minority-owned business works in what they call “business diversity” – partnering with both Supplier Diversity and Diversity & Inclusion functions to evolve behaviors, change attitudes and increase impact.
Nova offers programs, products and consulting services that build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce and connect with internal and external stakeholders to get everyone in on the transformation. Co-founders Lisa Beasley, Brynne Hovde, Tiffany Hudson and Becca Stahl determined early on that their teams would be made up of diverse representation, allowing them to collaborate with clients in ways that represent a variety of identities and experiences.
“We hold ourselves accountable to 50% people of color (of any gender identity) and 50% women-identified folks (of any race/ethnicity) on every project team,” said co-founder and operations director Brynne Hovde.
Enriching Diversity Equity Inclusion
To accomplish its mission, Nova challenges individuals and companies “to go beyond a ‘feel good’ or ‘check the box’ program and lean into the ever-changing, sometimes uncomfortable, wonderfully messy world of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“Nova exists to be a resource for individuals within organizations who are tasked with doing the job of many,” says Hudson. “Business DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) is not a check the box task, and it is often on the shoulders of one or two people in a single function to engage an entire enterprise. We understand these complexities and think it is important for organizations to put time and resources into educating their employees on what it is, and why it is important. Not only do these programs touch hearts and minds, but they are important to the bottom line.”
Hovde is actively involved in many of the company’s upfront client conversations and lives for those small, anecdotal moments. “Every time someone mentions offhand that our name came up in another conversation, or that they were forwarded one of our blogs…those feel like huge victories to me,” she said. “The other day one of our clients mentioned that she had recommended us to someone at the Obama Foundation. Those moments mean more to me than the huge financial contracts.”
Those moments, made possible by each personal connection the company makes, are celebrated within the company. Product Team leader Becca Stahl, for example, finds opportunities to connect with as many people as possible while also driving business. Stahl drives the content and programs with both reach and impact and leads business development around Nova’s flagship product, The D&I Compass.
While creative director Lisa Beasley shares her fellow co-founders vision regarding important connections, she loves how Nova is a catalyst for job creation, in essence committing to their own diverse supply chain. “We provide opportunities for our collective to get paid for their expertise at a rate that I am proud to offer,” said Beasley, whose background in performance arts helps guide the company’s brand voice.
A cornerstone of Nova’s voice is 40 Under 40 recipient Tiffany Hudson, who is proud and unapologetic of who she is. Hudson has become an advocate for under-resourced individuals and one of many who are changing the face of business. As a Black lesbian, she refuses to have her identities minimized in the workplace and started the company to amplify underrepresented voices in business.
“One thing I’ve always done is remain true to myself, and I think it is important to practice that in business as well,” Hudson said. “The way we do business is intentional, and our values drive who we are. We never steer away from being true to who we are and what we stand for as an organization.”
While representation goes beyond race and gender identity, they continue to be drivers in workplace and entrepreneurial access and success in the United States. Nova’s co-founders feel strongly that being in business is a two-way street – and the company’s success is inextricably linked to its involvement in various communities. “We are champions for fostering wealth and opportunity within communities that have typically experienced oppression,” Hovde said.
She noted that many organizations are doing incredible things within Business DEI, with some innovative and radically inclusive initiatives coming out of corporate America right now. Though it may seem counterintuitive, Nova’s focus is on working with and making an impact on the companies that are not so far along and still have a ways to go.
“And the Obamas. We want to work with the Obamas,” Hovde added.