The Unlocked Summit came from a place of wanting to answer a call. When my fellow co-founder Chatoya Antwine and I sat on my couch that August evening in 2015, we had no idea where our little vision would take us. The launch that took place in Chicago a couple months later in November was a game changer. We intentionally selected women who played an extremely influential role in the city’s Black women entrepreneurial community to facilitate workshops that showcased their strengths. That, in turn, inspired the summit registrants that they too can do it and they left encouraged to go for it. Right before our eyes, we saw our vision come to life.
After experiencing that kind of impact, we knew we had no other choice but to keep it going and see what else we could do. It was a no-brainer to take the second installment to Detroit. Chatoya and the new addition to our executive team, Isoke Karamoko, were Detroit natives and I had a strong connection there as well. The group of women we had as workshop facilitators were a truly special bunch, as a new theme outside of our signature Business, Being and Beauty took center stage through their presence. That theme was faith. As they all shared their stories, participants were able to relate on another level and tap into their spirituality. Something different happened that day. That day, we saw our vision take flight.
We wanted to keep the momentum going. We chose Atlanta as our next destination because, to be honest, who wouldn’t? Atlanta is the mecca of Black business. Going into it, we were sure that this would be one of our best installments yet; heavy-hitter facilitators, dynamic panels (two at that), beautiful venues… a perfect event. What I didn’t know was that I’d learn some of my most imperfect lessons as an entrepreneur.
Atlanta was the most challenging installment out of all three cities. A lot of factors played a role, one of the biggest factors being that we didn’t have as much control this time around. In Chicago, we had ultimate control as coordinators because we lived there. We had the ability to view venues, meet with our network and make sure everything ran smoothly. In Detroit, it was a little bit more difficult being that we weren’t physically there. However, our knowledge of the city and our active connections made planning easier. We made the 4-hour drive between Chicago and Detroit when needed and our family and friends were a big help.
Atlanta was a different story. Being hundreds of miles away made planning difficult. We could only review venues from their pictures. Chatoya was able to fly to Atlanta a couple times to meet with vendors and facilitators, that helped a lot. However, our connections were not as strong there as they were in the previous cities. Outside of the actual preparation is the promotion of the event. Promotion is key for a successful event. We were pubbing like crazy but it was falling on deaf ears because we didn’t have a strong following there… where’s the lessons here?
Planning: When planning an event in unfamiliar territory, build a team that lives in that city. They will be able to handle the logistics and be your set of eyes and hands when you’re miles away. This includes your PR team as well, they will have active relationships with media and vendors of that city and will make the planning process smoother.
Promotion: Contracts, contracts, contracts. The facilitators we choose are based in each city we host The Unlocked Summit, which means they have an existing and active audience. Be sure to include parameters around the consistency each facilitator (or panelist or keynote speaker… you get where I’m going here?) is committed to promote your event via social media, email blasts, etc. This is crucial. Even though they agreed to take part in your event, doesn’t mean that they will actively promote it but you need them to to ensure the maximum amount of exposure. You may not have the influence in the host city but your featured guests do. Take advantage of that!
Leading up to The Unlocked Summit Atlanta was like a snowball. Outside of the Summit, each member of the executive team had projects going on. On my end, I was planning Empire Life’s 1 Year Anniversary and designing the magazine layout. Not to mention, the personal struggles we all have to add to the stress.
When I got to Atlanta a couple days before the summit, I still had things to do. The award certificates and program booklet weren’t designed, the live stream link and page weren’t created… goodness! After The Unlocked Lounge Friday night, I stayed up for hours designing the program. At 5am, Indesign closed on me before I had a chance to save. Thankfully, the entire file recovered but that didn’t ease my stress any. As I hurried to get dressed, my skirt zipper broke. My spirit broke too. I had my first meltdown… ever. Between the low-to-no sleep, the stress peaks, my mind and body took a blow. I was able to bounce back and put my game face back on but I couldn’t deny the impact it had on me.
Make it easy on yourself: Big events are stressful, no doubt about that. This means that you should make sure that you try to take that stress away from yourself, any way you can. Break your big tasks into small to-do’s that you can tackle whenever you have free time. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Ask for help: I have a huge character flaw that gets me in trouble more often than not; I hate asking for help. In order to keep your sanity, however, I advise you do. You’re on a team for a reason. If your load gets too heavy to bare, allow people to help you and help take some of the load off.
Even though The Unlocked Summit Atlanta was full of obstacles, the outcome was great. We made adjustments where we needed to and carried out our goal. We were able to make some awesome new connections and the testimonies of the women who participated were incredible. We also able to tap into our new strategy moving forward because it was made clear who The Unlocked Summit is for: aspiring and new entrepreneurial women. These women are different then the women who have been in business for themselves for a few years and have a good grasp of what it entails.
The Unlocked Summit is for those women who are scared to step out on faith and activate their dreams. They don’t know where to start and need a motivating push. But not just any push, the right push. We are excited about the future and are so thankful to those who have been supporting us throughout this incredible journey. Stay tuned for our next chapter :)