Essence Wilson

Communities First, Inc.

Essence Wilson
Essence Wilson is Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Communities First, Inc. where she oversees the strategic operations of this thriving nonprofit. The organization is focused on three key areas – equitable real estate development, economic mobility and community engagement. The organization has done more than $50 million in real estate development and serves more than 20,000 people annually. Her responsibilities include writing grants, improving organizational efficiency and organizing community engagement efforts.

Essence has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University and a master's degree in management, strategy and leadership at Michigan State University. This education and prior experience working at General Motors helped her develop as a leader and innovator, which has served her well in the nonprofit arena. Essence serves on committees in philanthropy, housing, homelessness and the arts with the goal of challenging the status quo and making life better for others.

Essence is on the Neighborhood Small Grants Committee of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, current chair of the Flint/Genesee Continuum of Care, board member and Board Development Committee Chair of Flint Institute of Music, and board of Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM).

Essence was named to the Michigan Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 list in 2015 and was the recipient of the Claire M. White Award presented by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce in 2016. She was selected as a Next City Vanguard, proposing community development solutions to stakeholders in Newcastle, Australia and working with like-minded professionals from around the world.