Winner of The TJX Companies Latino 30 under 30 Award
Co-founder, Project 99
Babson College’s Heather Maloy Award
Babson College Glavin Global Fellow
Represented the state of Missouri in the 2009 National Spelling Bee
By: Alejandro Ramirez
Corporations and young professionals of color have an unsteady - if not unbalanced - relationship. Even though Latinos and African Americans make up 30 percent of the country, they account for only 3 percent of senior leadership. On top of that, millennials of color are three times more likely to leave a company than their white counterparts
Yulkendy Valdez and Project 99 hope to help solve those issues.
“We have a social mission that we want to help these companies keep diverse talent in the door so they have a chance to advance in the organization,” said Yulkendy.
The 22-year old co-founded Project 99 while a freshman at Babson College, alongside fellow student Josuel Plasencia. Project 99 takes a hands-on approach that includes workshops, and gives young employees the chance to discuss issues of race and diversity with company executives, and also helps them learn leadership skills in the process.
It’s not limited to just professionals of color.
“We believe everyone in a company should be involved in that conversation around racial equity and everybody should be able to help shape that goal,” she said.
Valdez, who graduated in 2017, is especially excited to promote the launch of the 99 Accelerator - a 9-month leadership development experience for young professionals - focused on tackling racial inequality in the workplace.
Project 99 officially launched in October, with a launch event that attracted 200 local leaders. The young company already had a few clients under its belt, the most recent of which was global software giant SAP (specifically, the company's Philadelphia headquarters). Valdez’s alma mater, Babson, is also a client.
She’s proud of how far she’s come in life. Valdez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was 11 and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Seeing how hard her parents worked, she felt driven to succeed - for herself, her family, and other Latino families she knew growing up.
Currently a resident of Boston, Valdez participates in programs beyond Project 99 including Babson’s Women Innovating Now Lab. She also works with Smarter in the City, a start-up accelerator based out of Roxbury’s Dudley Cafe. Valdez is excited to grow her company with “The Hub” as its base.
“The tight community here in Boston made it the perfect place to launch a business and to scale and maximize our growth. The ecosystem is really welcoming and friendly and everybody knows each other… everyone is ready to lend a helping hand,” said Valdez. “I’m very excited and optimistic to be part of what’s going on in this city.”