23 February 2023 |

Mellody Hobson: How This Powerhouse Is Making History


Some women can’t help but repeatedly make history.

Among them is Mellody Hobson, who has been bringing her Black girl magic to finance for decades.✨💗

In her words, “the biggest risk of all is taking none.” 

Here’s her story. 

Today, Mellody is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a leading money management firm, and a Starbucks & JPMorgan Chase board chair.

Her fans are spread far and wide and include elite fangirls like Oprah.

But she had to come a long way before she got Oprah’s attention.

Mellody grew up in Chicago as the youngest of six children, all raised by a single mother who struggled as an entrepreneur.

They bounced from home to home and experienced frequent evictions, which made her desperate to understand money and how it worked.

From a young age, Mellody understood that she needed to take her life into her own hands to become the woman she was meant to be. 

As a 6th grader, she negotiated a payment plan with her classmate’s orthodontist to get her needed orthodontia before asking her mother.

In 8th grade, she canvassed her friends to figure out where they would attend high school. She was determined to participate in only the best of Chicago’s private high schools. 

After finding out where they were applying, she called the schools, arranged tours, and won a scholarship.

Her ambitions for a prestigious education continued.

She received offers from many elite schools, including Harvard, but ultimately landed on Princeton, where she graduated with a degree in international relations. 

There is even a dorm named after her, making her the first Black woman to have a residential college named after her in Princeton’s 276-year-old history.

After finishing college, she returned to Ariel Investments, where she had been a summer intern, saying, “I was desperate to understand money, desperate for financial security. I felt like financial security would be the biggest gift I could ever have, ever.”

Good bet, babe.

From there, her career began to skyrocket. 

She helped found Ariel Community Academy, a public school on the South Side of Chicago that includes financial literacy classes. 

In 2002 she launched the Black Corporate Directors Conference bringing together members from Fortune 500 companies. 

Now, Mellody has risen to President and co-CEO of Ariel Investments. 

And that’s not all she’s doing. 

She has a habit of making great lasting impressions on people, which is perhaps why she sits on the boards of many major corporations.

In one instance during her work on the Bradley presidential campaign in 2000, the person she was charming happened was one of his backers: Howard Shultz, billionaire, and owner of Starbucks. 

Today, Mellody is a board chair of Starbucks. Talk about knowing how to network the room!

In Howard’s words, 

“Mellody is always present. She puts on no airs. She’s as comfortable with a part-time barista as with any high-profile person you can mention.”

“The currency of the way she carries herself is steeped in emotional intelligence.”

Like a true leader. ❤️

In addition to Starbucks, Mellody has also sat on the boards of: 

  • Estée Lauder
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Groupon
  • JPMorgan Chase


Mellody’s achievements seem to go on forever. 

But she won a few important firsts for Black women, which I would be remiss not to mention. 👇🏽🥇

1. On December 26, 2020, when Mellody was named the chairwoman of Starbucks Corp., she became the first Black woman ever to be a chairperson of an S&P 500 company. 

It’s the about damn time!

2. After being a member of the Chicago Economic Club for almost 21 years, past members of the member-only club selected Mellody as the first Black American woman to chair the 90-year-old organization in its history.

Let’s fucking go. 🔥

3. In June 2022, Mellody made the history books again when she joined the ownership group taking over the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

In participating in the $4.65B deal, she became the first Black woman to be a part of a new ownership group buying an NFL team.

Touchdown. 🏈😘

All in all, Mellody has been carrying the torch for Black American women & women in our industry for decades.

Through her commitment to investing in herself and her education, she lifted herself out of poverty and achieved things that most of us only dream of. ✨💫