34 Executive Director – The Workshop in Business Opportunities, New York City
Amini C. Kajunju remembers growing up in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo before the country descended into chaos. “My life in Kinshasa was quite normal—filled with school, family and lots of playing in the sand,” says the executive director of The Workshop in Business Opportuni-ties in New York City. At 33, Kajunju is the youngest person ever to hold the post at the nonprofit organization (her predecessor was 80), founded in 1966 to help minorities establish successful businesses, most notably through its 16-week biannual program, “How to Build a Growing Profitable Business.”
“Our program is of high quality and my goal is to make it available to people all over the world,” she says. Kajunju’s self-described cosmopolitan and independent spirit was greatly influenced by the countries she visited with her father, who headed Congo’s university system and education ministry. They traveled to Japan, Hong Kong, Egypt and within their own country. “At a very young age I understood that there was a world outside of my little neighborhood,” says Kajunju, whose middle name, Chakupewa, means “graciousness” in her native Bashi language.
Her father influenced her current career path. “I am following in his professional footsteps, as he worked in both the public and private sectors. At an early age, he taught me the importance of education and self-reliance.” That self-reliance led her to emigrate to the United States in the early 1990s, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University, in Utah, and a master’s in public administration from New York University.
Kajunju initially worked in the mergers and acquisitions division of Lehman Brothers, but she has spent most of her career at nonprofit organizations that addressed both the humanitarian and business needs of various African countries.
As a practicing Mormon, Kajunju has done her best to lead a “purpose-driven life.” Her long-term goal is to one day build and manage primary and secondary schools all over the African continent.