Emma Willis’ career has spanned from marketing to financial services to business strategy and thought leadership, focusing on higher education savings plans and resources.
Willis recently was named chief operating officer for Bentonville-based Venture Noire, a nonprofit focused on supporting Black entrepreneurs. She joined as a board member in September 2020 before transitioning to a full-time position. The position will allow her to reduce work travel.
She also worked as chief operating officer at Sootchy from December 2020 through June 2021. Sootchy is a Los Angeles-based fintech startup that helps people save money for college. She initially joined Sootchy as a consultant. The lack of technology adoption in 529 savings plans led her to join Sootchy full-time. Willis is no longer employed by Sootchy.
“What’s really interesting about my life [is] there are so many intersections in what I do,” she said. “A lot of times, it’s hard for people to imagine how I can hold so many positions, but I look for natural synergy in most of the work I have going on.”
While a consultant, she was a senior strategist with marketing agency MHP/Team SI and helped to launch its Northwest Arkansas office. Before that role, the Little Rock native worked for the state for about 10 years, overseeing its 529 plan and establishing technology for its account holders. As executive director of the Arkansas 529 Education Investment Plan, she led the program’s assets to increase from $600 million to $1 billion and released Gift Arkansas 529, the first state-run plan app in the United States.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Philander Smith College in May 2006. She serves as a board member for Junior Achievement of Northwest Arkansas and is an active mentor. She enjoys hiking, reading and road trips.