Alumni Q&A: Ivory Rose Chambeshi, MPA, MPL ’14

January 30, 2017

Chambeshi in her neighborhood, L.A.’s Crenshaw District

Ivory Rose Chambeshi is the founder of the community development consulting firm Urban Rising Group, which helps organizations cultivate healthy, prosperous and connected communities through strategic and land use planning, capacity-building, and community outreach.

Chambeshi – who graduated from the USC Price School of Public Policy in 2014 with dual public administration and urban planning master’s degrees – boasts over a decade of experience as a nonprofit leader, small business services professional, researcher, consultant and community advocate.

Can you explain your work as founder and chief champion of Urban Rising Group?

I proudly lead our ‘Champions of Impact’ team and oversee our work from A to Z. In this role, I help clients develop/refine programs, conduct research to overcome challenges or embrace opportunities, build capacity through fundraising and strategic partnerships, reclaim land for projects with greater community-serving purposes, and communicate to and with their stakeholders. And I take out the trash!

What motivated you to venture out, become a risk-taker and start this firm?

I’m a creative and ambitious person, and in previous professional roles, I could always see into the future and envision greater possibilities and opportunities for the organizations I worked for. However, I didn’t always have the autonomy or specific job title that would allow for the actualization of such visions. I believed by creating a company, I would have this autonomy and room for experimentation to perceive and implement multifaceted programs and projects with organizations seeking to innovate.

I also wanted to be a strong presence in South Los Angeles as a proud product of this community. I want to be a role model as a woman of color business owner in a professional services field, and help improve my community’s trajectory for existing residents.

Chambeshi founded community development consulting firm Urban Rising Group

What do you consider the favorite part of your work?

I really enjoy when a client expresses gratitude and satisfaction with how we’ve helped fill a gap or develop a skill that allows them to more effectively accomplish their work. Our internal mantra is “serving as an extra set of eyes, hands and brains.” When a client feels that we’ve accomplished that, I have a great sense of fulfillment since I’ve been the burnt-out leader with a grander vision I couldn’t realize.

Secondly: Writing checks! I feel delighted when paying my associates/contractors because it means the business has financial capacity, and I’m creating jobs for great people!

What would you say were the biggest challenges you faced as you launched your consulting firm?

The balance of working in the business – driving sales, client service, marketing, bean-counting – while working on the business – growth, strategic partnerships, etc. – is a constant tango. I must keep all balls in the air while also identifying and securing business and government contracting opportunities to accelerate URG’s growth and achieve long-term sustainability.

…and caring for my other, cuddlier start-up: My now 3-year-old daughter.

How did you overcome these challenges?

Massages and margaritas! No, but self-care is an essential component. A key strategy is having a business accountability partner to help me weather the highs and lows and be accountable for advancing the goals I’ve set. I’ve also come to see the immense value of mentors and networking with like-minded individuals.

Another game-changer to overcoming challenges was 5 a.m. mornings. I started working on the strategic growth areas of the business in the wee hours when my family, clients and other demands didn’t require my immediate attention.

Ivory Chambeshi, MPA, MPL ’14

How did USC Price prepare you for the work you’re doing now?

Price prepared me with its focus on building leaders. From the first class, professors and instructors addressed me and my cohorts with the paradigm that we would lead policy and progress in Los Angeles as we continued our careers. Price curriculum was also very multi-disciplinary, with classmates and faculty from very diverse life and professional backgrounds, prompting an approach to problems and possibilities from various angles. URG’s work is very multidisciplinary in how it aims to improve communities with their multifaceted parts (i.e. economic, social, health, etc.) and the interplay of organizations across sectors — nonprofits, businesses, and public agencies.

Was there a Price faculty member or course you found particularly inspirational?

My USC Price all-star line-up: Claire Peeps, Donald Morgan, Rick Culley (“Culley-isms”, anyone?), Tridib Banerjee, Marlon Boarnet, Vinayak Bharne, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, Donna Staal, and (former Price professor) David Suarez. Dynamic, committed, on the forefront of research and/or practice, and eye-opening.

What was your most memorable moment as a student at Price student?

There are too many to name, but a stand-out is traveling to Varanasi, India, to study and propose recommendations for some of the planning challenges faced by the ancient holy city and its many dichotomies.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with students as they begin their own careers?

One of the most profound pieces of advice I’ve received was that there are multiple routes to a fulfilling career. I did not foresee that entrepreneurship would be one of my routes, but I’ve found this role to be incredibly rewarding and exhilarating despite the challenges.