ROI Influencers: People of Color 2023 — Top 25

1: Adenah BayohFounder & CEOAdenah Bayoh & Cos.Self-made entrepreneur, restaurateur and real estate developer, community leader and philanthropist who is an inspiration to many and should be an icon to all. (Read full writeup here.)


2: Luis De La Hoz; Carlos Medina
Chairman; CEO
Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of N.J.

To be sure, few organizations have a deeper bench of talent or wider variety of programs to serve their members, but it is the dynamic personalities of both De La Hoz and Medina — and their willingness to do anything for anyone at any time — that makes them and the organization so significant and impactful.


3: Ras Baraka

To hear him talk about his city and its history — something his family is deeply woven into — is to hear passion and pride and oratory skills few can match. To understand the purposefulness of his programs (for both businesses and residents) is to see why the future of Newark is so bright. (He is a former No. 1 selection.)


4: Alberto Garofalo
New Jersey market president
Bank of America

When you’re a regional head of a national financial organization, it’s easy to get lost in the bigger picture. That’s not Garofalo — or BofA. He helps the bank use the power and leverage of its national brand to impact the lives of communities and individual customers today — and with an eye toward tomorrow. (He is a former No. 1 selection.)


5: John Harmon
Founder, CEO & president
African American Chamber of Commerce of N.J.

He used a lifetime of work to become an overnight sensation during the recent racial reckoning. And he didn’t mind. If other folks finally were willing to make meaningful change in the lives of a community that had been so underserved, he was ready. Few have had greater impact on the African American community. (He is a former No. 1 selection.)


6: George Helmy
Chief of staff
Governor’s Office

Gov. Phil Murphy, as governors do, gets the spotlight. But those who know understand that Helmy plays a vital role in the success of the administration, doing the purposeful behind-the-scenes work (and politicking) that are necessary to getting votes passed and programs implemented.


7: Aisha Glover
Vice president of urban innovation
Global Center for Urban Development

In only makes sense that Glover is heading Audible’s latest business attraction — one in which the company is giving $250,000 grants to startups willing to expand or relocate to Newark. No one understands how to utilize business as a means to build neighborhoods and improve the lives of residents better than Glover.


8: Wasseem Boraie; Sam Boraie
Boraie Development

The like-to-stay-under-the-radar firm is about to get a lot of attention for 777 McCarter, its jaw-dropping, 370-unit multifamily nestled perfectly between the Prudential Center and Gateway Newark. Here’s the deal: It is only one of several amazing efforts the firm is building in Newark — and in other areas around the state.


9: Mo Butler; Michael Soliman

Sure, they are connected to the state’s two dynamic senators (Butler to Cory Booker, Soliman to Bob Menendez). But those efforts are just a small part of what these two leaders do. Their work as the heads of Mercury goes well beyond the political world, with impact that can be felt around the state.


10: Bob Menendez; Cory Booker
Both D-N.J.
U.S. Senate

Finding the placement for national political leaders on a statewide list always is a big challenge. And, in the case of New Jersey, a good problem to have. While some senators get entrenched in Washington, Menendez and Booker have kept N.J. at the center of their attention. Top 10? Of course. And it’s easy to argue for higher.


11: Ali Houshmand
Rowan University

We’ve said it before and willingly say it again: Houshmand is one of the most forward-thinking and dynamic leaders in the state — not just in higher ed. His efforts to run Rowan as a business are a main reason it has skyrocketed in importance and influence during his 10-year run as president.


12: Leslie Anderson
CEO & president
N.J. Redevelopment Authority

Lifetime achievement award? You could say that. And it would be well-deserved. It may also take away from the work she and the NJRA are doing on this day, this week, this month and this year. So, we’ll call this a lifetime appreciation award — for the gifted public servant who keeps on giving.


13: Kris Kolluri
Gateway Development Commission

He doesn’t just oversee the largest transportation infrastructure project in history — but one with the most urgency. In an age when climate change and work-from-home policies are dramatically changing the status quo, fixing the system that serves 17% of the U.S. population never has been more important.


14: Deb Visconi
Bergen New Bridge Medical Center

She has the biggest hospital in the state running smoothly, making it a model for comprehensive care (including behavioral health) that all should follow. It wasn’t always that way. When Visconi took over nearly six years ago, Bergen New Bridge was broken and beleagured. Her leadership sparked the change.


15: Eliana Pintor Marin; Teresa Ruiz
Both D-Newark
N.J. Assembly; N.J. Senate

Pintor Marin is the budget chair in the Assembly; Ruiz is the Senate majority leader. Both can do more. In a state still slow to put women in the highest roles of government (and business), they are two of dozens of talented female leaders who would serve any role with distinction.


16: Dennis Pullin
CEO & president
Virtua Health

The new Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences of Rowan University is a testament to his leadership and vision. It not only will improve the quality of health care in the region — and advance research — it aims to address and break down barriers of inequality and access.


17: Wes Mathews
Choose New Jersey

The governor’s long-awaiting upcoming trip to Asia is another example of how Mathews is combining his history with the State Department and knowledge of the business community to create programs and pathways for more companies and institutions to come to the state.


18: Jonathan Holloway
Rutgers University

Few leaders have faced as much turmoil and pushback. From the teachers’ strike to debate over his vision to combine the medical schools (and law school) under one leader, Holloway has been under fire. He’s good with that. And he’s good with the governor, who feels he has the state’s flagship university headed in the right direction.


19: Teik Lim
New Jersey Institute of Technology

NJIT doesn’t get enough recognition for its emphasis on training the underserved. The school is among the Top 20 in the nation when it comes to graduating Hispanic (and Black) engineers, and it soon will earn the title of Hispanic-serving institution, now that it meets the required 25% student population threshold.


20: Shané Harris; Lata Reddy
President; senior vice president
Prudential Foundation; Prudential Financial

No company in the state — maybe the country — gives back to its community as much as Prudential does in Newark (and elsewhere). Harris and Reddy have a variety of roles (Harris also is VP of social responsibility) and they all go back to a vision of caring that Pru has had from its inception.


21: Jeffrey Martinez
Executive vice president & head of branch banking
PNC Bank

He is responsible for more than 2,500 branches, and nearly 17,000 employees. He serves as a chair for PNC’s Corporate Diversity Council and on PNC’s Latino and Multicultural Employee Business Resource Group. More than that, he is a symbol of success in an industry that has been slow to elevate minorities to key executive positions.


22: Parimal Garg
Chief counsel
Governor’s Office

He is successfully transitioning from role during the pandemic, when much of his work involved executive orders, to more traditional duties of advising on legislation, litigation, regulations and public policy issues — including recent cases/issues involving Waterfront Commission and congestion pricing.


23: Elisa Charters
EAC Business International

As if her roles at Latina Surge (a national group advocating for inclusion of women and women of color in business and society), NJIT (she’s on the board of trustees) and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (she’s on board of directors) aren’t enough, Charters is getting ready to launch her latest startup (Juego.Juegos).


24: Calvin Souder
Founding partner
Souder, Shabazz & Woolridge Law Group

He is quickly becoming the go-to lawyer on massive Newark redevelopment projects. The proposed uses for the old Iberia Restaurant plot in the Ironbound and the IDT building by the waterfront are both legacy projects — but only two of many Souder is helping to develop.


25: Varsha Waishampayan
Founder & CEO
Wings for Growth

A role model and an inspiration. She left top management jobs on Wall Street for a nonprofit with purpose — one that uses mentorship to help other women climb higher on the corporate ladder. She has had more than 100 success stories with a program that is going global.


Read all the influencers below: