Making WAVES For Black History Month: Jonathan Mildenhall

Jonathan Mildenhall was born and raised in England, the middle child of 5 brothers who were raised by a single Mom who was only 27 when she had her last child. Jonathan is the only member of his family with African Ancestry; his Dad was Nigerian. He jokes that he was literally the black sheep of the family. They didn’t have much but his Mom gave them lots of love and taught them values that would serve them well when they became adults. Jonathan  grew up in the equivalent of our American housing projects and his lifelong dream was to get out of there and to get his Mom out as well. He believed that education was his way out. Jonathan’s Mom worked hard to prepare him for racial tensions he would face, which made Jonathan determined to change people’s racist misconceptions. He says his strength of character usually helps him win people over.

A university counselor directed Jonathan towards marketing. His first marketing job was for McCann Erickson in London.  After holding positions at a few London firms, he moved to Atlanta to work for Coca Cola in 2006. The  company was in bad shape with the lowest stock share price in its history. As a creative marketer for the world’s most valuable brand, Jonathan was part of the team that won the creative marketing firm of the year award at Cannes but it was his next job that would prove to be a marketer’s dream. Today Jonathan is  Chief Marketing Officer of Airbnb. When he first started there, Airbnb had 400,000 homes on the platform. Today that are at 3.2 million homes in 191 countries  with 170 million guest check-ins.

Jonathan is most proud of being a Black immigrant who has lived in the US for only 10 years and during that time has been able to shape messages of international unity by putting out great human value messages. At this year’s Super Bowl, not only did Airbnb run the beautiful new ad produced by Jonathan’s team, Coca Cola also ran an ad with a similar theme of world unity and understanding that Jonathan helped to create while he was working there.  We can’t wait to see what he does next year.

More from Pat Prescott
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