New platform connects prospective specialists with a mentoring network

A new celebrity platform opens doors for people of color.

The new “Assemble” platform connects prospective specialists with a strong mentoring network.

“I think this is a solution to finally bridge the gap and allow experts like Sakiya to step back and find a way to properly engage with anyone who is keen to learn from someone like him,” said Cortney Woodruff, Founder and CEO of Assemble said.

The new professional mentoring network connects diverse experts with its users, regardless of age or background, and offers a roster of successful black and brown professionals that users can tap into anytime via text, call or zoom.

“I was just a kid with a dream and I really had to travel the world to find a mentor, to figure out how to do what I really wanted to do,” Woodruff said.

Unlike Cameo, Masterclass, and other celebrity platforms, Assemble connects users with mentors it calls “experts” for a small fee.

“The average expert on my platform is pretty busy,” Woodruff said. “You can book a 15- or 30-minute video call with them if you want, and it's quite expensive. But what we also have is a “cameo”-like feature that lets you submit a question and get a 60-second video response back for a very reasonable price.

While Woodruff was developing the idea, he had to find someone to make it happen. That's when he met Chicago native Sakiya Sandifer at a Los Angeles restaurant. At the time, Sandifer was having lunch with his former Yeezy partner Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.

“When I saw what the platform was, I was like, ‘I have to be a part of it,'” Sandifer said.

Born in Mississippi and raised in south Chicago, Sandifer has had a lucrative career collaborating with hip-hop artists, co-writing a book and developing a successful clothing line. He brings a lot to the Assemble team, both as a consultant and as one of its experts, and he believes that with Assemble others can be successful.

“I just want to let you know where the speed traps are,” Sandifer said.

At just 35 years old, Cortney has lived in Europe and founded and invested in a number of companies.

“Who you learn from things, and what I learned from traveling the world alone so much, is that I've never seen people who looked like me,” Woodruff said. “And for me it's really important that I can teach individuals this and show them some of the great things that I've learned from different people around the world and how to build businesses.”

One of Assembly's investors is SmoothBrain, an unusual venture capital group in the western suburbs consisting of son-in-law Chris Phlanz and father-in-law Nick Mirchef.

Phalnz heard about Assemble when he met Woodruff at a friend's wedding in London and was blown away by the idea. Nick Mirchef wasn't quick to join the party, however.

“When Chris presented the pitch to me, I was a little, a little reluctant,” Mirchef said. “I just thought, is this just a dream or could something like this really happen?”

But after a 30-minute meeting turned into a two-hour meeting, SmoothBrain knew it had to be part of Woodruff's company.

“You have to have the right people that others want to learn from,” said Phalnz.

The Assemble team believes the new platform will be game-changing.

“It will be a breakthrough. Like Uber did with cars and Airbnb with houses,” Sandifer said.

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