Corporate Spotlight: Wissam Akra

As the President of Tough Leaf, Wissam ensures that minority-owned businesses are winning more projects and growing their capacity. Wissam oversees the Tough Leaf matching platform, which pairs MBEs with bidding opportunities at no cost to them. 

Founded by CBS MBA graduates Amir Zahlan and Wissam Akra, Tough Leaf’s mission is to empower minority-owned businesses to grow and enable contractors/developers to exceed their diversity goals.  To date, Tough Leaf has awarded over $40M to diverse firms through the platform, with a goal of increasing awards rapidly to more users. Additionally, Tough Leaf connects minority-owned businesses to capacity-building services such as: access to capital, insurance, surety, payroll, health benefits, 401ks, etc. 

Wissam is a professional engineer with more than 15 years of managing major infrastructure projects around the country. He is a holder of an MBA degree from Columbia University and an MS in Construction & Engineering Management from Columbia University. Wissam is also a certified Design-Build Professional (DBIA) and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

Wissam has been involved with over $10B of infrastructure projects, including the $4.5B second avenue subway in New York City and the $3.6B Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel Project in Norfolk, Virginia. During that time, he has awarded more than $600M of contracts to minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, disadvantaged business enterprises, and service-disabled veteran-owned business enterprises.

In recognition to his contribution to the construction industry in general and to diversity procurement , Wissam was voted as one of the Top 100 leaders in Construction & Real Estate nationwide in 2021.

About Tough Leaf

Tough Leaf empowers minority-owned businesses to grow by matching them with opportunities and capacity-building services. “This is a fantastic platform, I am glad someone is finally doing it. I spent years in government and never seen a platform as helpful as this Tough Leaf,” said Wayne Lambert, Chief Diversity Offer at Turner & Townsend.

Tough Leaf allows General Contractors to meet and exceed their minority-owned business requirements on projects by providing the first centralized database of over 75,000 certified diverse firms (MBE, WBE, DBE, SDVOB, LBE, DBE, VOB, SBE & more). Contractors and developers can save time using Tough Leaf with our comprehensive data on qualified diverse firms. With Tough Leaf, users can seamlessly share their project requirements and receive a list of vetted diverse firms that meet their qualifications, have the capacity to do the work, and can provide a quote by the deadline. Our centralized database comprises data about diverse companies including their certifications, NAICS codes, union affiliation, bonding capacity, insurance, yearly revenue, and past projects performed.

What does being a minority business, or supporting minority businesses, mean to you?

It is Tough Leaf’s mission to empower minority owned businesses. Every dollar that is awarded through our platform to MBEs counts as a win for the Tough Leaf team. 

For more information on Tough Leaf, please visit: or follow them on social media: LinkedIn & Twitter