Meet the Team
The team behind African Collections
David Blakely is a former sales manager for the Architect and Design community in St. Louis. He served General Manager, Associate Manager and Store Manager roles at The
Lawrence Group, West Elm, and The Spencer Group. He also has Project Manager
experiences at Oracle and Sun Micro Systems in the San Francisco Bay Area. He completed his Bachelor Arts degree at San Francisco State University, in Design and Industry, Business and Ethnic Studies.
Marilyn Fingerhut is an active, contributing member of African Collections, LLC (AC).
A graduate of Webster University’s Business School in St. Louis, Marilyn has worked in product development and national marketing campaigns; served as Vice-President of Operations at a national art distributor, managing sales and service representatives throughout the United States, as well as product distribution. Marilyn looks forward to working with AC’s talented team - to continue developing, marketing and distributing a growing stream of products satisfying the needs and wants of a special and significant segment of the U.S. and the World’s population.
Ben grew up in the St. Louis area and began playing tennis and competing in junior tournaments at age 8. He played varsity tennis at Kirkwood High School on a team that competed for the state championship three times. Ben played four years intercollegiate tennis at Knox College and then worked for Tenacity, Inc. in the Boston area, teaching tennis to underserved youth. Ben has a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: School and Community and a MBA from Webster University. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and certified School Guidance Counselor. Ben has 14 years of professional experience working with at-risk youth in community-based and school settings as a provider and supervisor.
Today Ben is a USPTA-certified professional tennis instructor, founder and Executive Director of Breakpoint Tennis & Life Skills Academy. Ben is responsible for leading and providing strategic oversight of tennis and education programming and operations, marketing, communications, fundraising and development.
Ibrahim was born in Gabon and raised in Mali. His deep understanding of African
culture has helped provide inspiration to African Collections product development
and mission. Ibrahim now lives in St. Louis, Missouri and is proud to be an
American citizen. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Missouri University of
Science and Technology, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois
University and an MBA from Saint Louis University.
Bjanka has over 20 years of experience as an owner and manager of manufacturing,
distribution and logistics companies. She has been affiliated with the African
Collections management team since first arriving in the United States in 1997 and
brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. Bjanka is currently an owner
of Global Trucking, one of the 10 fastest growing companies in the St. Louis region.
Paul grew up in Philadelphia, PA where he was introduced to the game of tennis at the age of 4 by his father. He then attended Florida A&M University where he played Division 1 tennis all four years. Paul graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration. In fall of 2017, Paul founded Aurora Tennis Association to provide after school and summer tennis programming to youth in the St. Louis City area. He then joined forces in Summer 2020 to establish BreakPoint Tennis & Life SKills Academy. Paul currently works as a sales manager and has previously coached tennis both privately and in group settings in the greater St. Louis Metropolitan area. Paul is responsible for the overall management and strategic direction for the organization.
Janet has over 20 years of experience as an owner and manager of manufacturing and
distribution companies in the home décor, fine arts and accessories industries. These
include Janco Designs, Windsor Art and Mirror, Select Publications, Select Fine Arts
and North American Art. Janet graduated from Cornell University with a BA in
Lee has over 30 years of experience as an owner and manager of manufacturing and distribution companies in the home décor, fine arts and accessories industries. These include Janco Designs, Windsor Art and Mirror, SelectPublications, Select Fine Arts and North American Art.Lee graduated from Claremont MeKenna College with a BA in Economics and has an MBA from Harvard Business School
Supply Chain Partner
Industrial Aid (IA) serves as the packaging and distribution arm of African Collections.
The Principals of African Collections have had an ongoing relationship with IA for over
20 years. IA is a non profit that provides meaningful employment for adults with
disabilities. The majority of IA’s associates are African American and live in the city of