NFTE’s program model relies on support from volunteers in the business community bringing real-world experiences and networking opportunities directly to our learners. This National Mentoring Month, we’re proud to spotlight the incredible volunteer support from Ernst & Young LLP (EY US). For over 25 years, EY has been an integral provider of valuable volunteers and mentors. A great example of this support is in the story of NFTE alumna Zainabou Thiam.

At just 16, Zainabou started Sunu Body, an online West African beauty market that sells authentic African products imported from Zainabou’s home country of Senegal. All products are ethically sourced and handmade by African artisans, which gives Sunu Body the opportunity to employ and support the hardworking people in Senegal. Sunu Body was an instant success, with an immediate high demand for its popular body jewelry and skin care products. But through her NFTE class and other programming at The Met High School in Providence, RI, Zainabou learned even more about how to write a business plan, manage her finances, and scale properly.

Zainabou was also connected to a growing network of EY volunteers who supported her business, gave her a platform for growth, and celebrated her success. In 2023, Zainabou was awarded the EY EOY Youth Entrepreneur of the Year Scholarship and connected with valuable EY professionals and fellow entrepreneurs. That same year, she was invited to share her entrepreneurial story at EY’s Strategic Growth Forum in front of hundreds of entrepreneurs, executive leaders, and EY team members on the main stage – a platform that had direct impact on her business with thousands of dollars worth of Sunu Body products sold during the conference. EY also purchased even more Sunu Body products for giveaways at the EY Horizons Live events later that year.

As Zainabou plans for the next stage of her entrepreneurial journey, the EY team has been another source of support by providing valuable feedback in the college application and interview process. As she looks toward the future, Zainabou’s dream is to be a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, so that she’s able to go back to her home country of Senegal and continue to build up its economy.