After Momentum founder Barbara Royal’s retirement in August, the Momentum Board of Directors has selected April Benetollo as the new CEO after a two-month search.
A Birmingham native and Momentum graduate, April Benetollo has the necessary skills, passion, and vision to drive Momentum forward.
What is Momentum?
According to its mission statement, Momentum is the premier women’s leadership program which empowers a diverse group of promising women to develop leadership skills that positively impact business, culture and politics in Alabama.
Primarily, Momentum works through its 9-month curriculum for top-level female leaders in Alabama. The program develops the class member’s leadership skills and plugs them into a diverse network of relatable women, which increases their numbers, effectiveness, and visibility.
The result? Women who shape policy in their organizations, mentor young leaders, take seats on boards, and a lot of positive impact on the culture of Birmingham.
Momentum also puts on events in the community, such as its biennial conference (taking place February 27-28, 2018 at the BJCC) and a Women’s History Month Breakfast. These events are a great way to meet other people with an interest in women’s leadership.
Now, let’s learn a little about the new CEO of Momentum, April Benetollo.
Birmingham to Paris… and back to Birmingham
April moved to Birmingham when she was 9. She was in the public school system, passionate about ballet. At Ramsay High School, drama teacher Martha Summey sparked April’s interest in France.
Eventually, April petitioned the Birmingham Board of Education to participate in an exchange program to study ballet in France. She went when she was 16.
After suffering some injuries, April took up modeling which helped pay her way to live in France. Her work with the agency continued after high school and allowed her to live in France and Brazil. After a few months, April returned to Birmingham and attended the University of Alabama.
Through U of A’s New College, April was able to design her own course of study. She chose to study international relations in terms of business and the humanities, with a minor in French.
April spent another 18 months in France before moving back to Birmingham. However, her life still has international components incorporated through her half-French, half-Italian husband, as well as lots of travel.
“I can view all of my experiences through a glass half-full or a glass half-empty lens. I learned a lot about what to value in other people, a lot about tenacity and perseverance,” April said.
“Yes, some hard things happened, but I was able to learn from those. A lot of my upbringing and my choice to look at life as full, is a big part of why I’m happy doing what I’m doing now.”
April’s Momentum Experience
April understands how powerful and life-changing the Momentum program can be.
In 2012, April went through the Momentum program as a participant. At the time, she was the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Daxko, a company she had been with since the beginning stages.
“I didn’t think that I needed it,” April said, reflecting on her Momentum experience, “I thought it was going to cost me too much time… Time that I didn’t have.”
“I was 6 hours into the first day saying ‘I really need this.’ I didn’t know how much I needed it,” she said.
What exactly did April gain from the program?
“A big part of it is not only getting the leadership skills, but it’s also coming to understand that you have a right to be there and there are a lot of other people just like you. A lot of other people who are ambitious, high-achievers, yet they struggle with confidence, work-life balance, or relationships with people who aren’t used to women being in such high-demanding jobs.
I also had been, for 12 years, absolutely heads down with two small children and a new company. I was growing two things at once and growing myself at the same time. It didn’t leave any time for networking. When I went through Momentum, it was an instant stellar network.
Momentum gave me a new perspective. It shifted where I was and how I looked at myself, my career, Birmingham, and the world.
I started recognizing and focusing on my strengths, which allowed my team to perform better, my job satisfaction to grow, and more recognition at work.”
Moving into a new role
When Daxko went through another round of private equity, April saw an opportunity to do something else. Barbara Royal, former CEO and the founder of Momentum, expressed a need for a Marketing and Development role with the non-profit, which April stepped into October 2016.
And the rest is history.
What’s next for Momentum?
When asked what’s next, April responded, “If you’ve ever met Barbara Royal, you know she’s a petite woman but she left really, really big shoes to fill. There’s a lot that has already been laid out in the strategic plan that’s already in motion. My job is to carry it out.”
An important part of that is bringing more men into the conversation about women’s leadership and continuing to raise awareness for diversity in business. Momentum is also working on launching an early-career program for women a few years into their careers.
April Benetollo is certainly the woman for the new CEO position at Momentum. We look forward to seeing all she accomplishes.
If you’d like more information about Momentum, visit their website.