Last night I attended the Made in Memphis Motivational Mixer. Hosted by Brandice Daniel (Harlem’s Fashion Show), Karleen Roy (The Vanity Group), and Chef Aryen Moore-Alson (Sweet Potato Baby), it was a fun networking event for entrepreneurs (and those with an entrepreneurial spirit) looking to connect with each other in the city.
Carrying the badge of being “Made in Memphis” truly is an honor because believe it or not, while Memphis has been voted one of the best places to launch a business, it’s not as easy as you think to thrive. Is it impossible? No, but you have to have true grit in order to build a sustainable business. If you possess it, the sky is the limit wherever you go and nothing can stop you.
Each of the hosts had an inspiring story to tell:
Before founding The Vanity Group: A Luxury Lifestyle Management Agency, Karleen cut her teeth working in PR + Management Coordination at Def Jam, Sony, and Legacy Recordings before landing a dream job as Diddy’s Senior Executive Assistant. After grinding it out and excelling within the industry for others, she decided to take that leap and launch her own company.
After years of working retail + sales in Memphis, Brandice relocated to NYC and in 2007 founded Harlem’s Fashion Row, an amazing platform that showcases emerging designers of color via their signature events, programs, and other business opportunities. HFR is considered the multicultural equivalent of NYFW, and serves as a prolific voice in amplifying diversity within the fashion industry. She’s also executive producer + co-host of The Great Girlfriends Podcast, recently named by Style Caster as one of the top 9 podcast for women.
Chef Aryen Moore-Alston has always had the spirit of Memphis in her (her parents met here), and after traveling the world + living in Cali for awhile, she reset roots here. Self-taught, after her appearance on Season 10 of Food Network Star, Aryen received training at Escoffier International School of Culinary Arts and went on to found Sweet Potato Baby, a boutique Catering + Baked Goods company. Sweet Potato Baby received the 2015 National Award from SCORE/Sam’s Club as “America’s Small Business Champion”, Thumbtack’s “Best Company in Customer Service” and named as one of the “Top Ten Companies to Watch” from the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce. It’s worth mentioning that their cupcakes are some of the best I’ve ever had!
While they’ve all made great strides in their career, they were very transparent during the panel discussion about the struggles that they’ve faced over the years. From utilities being turned off multiple times throughout the year to not knowing how they were going to fund an event (even AFTER invites had been sent out), faith, kindness when making connections, and knowing how to adapt swiftly when change occurs has allowed their businesses to continue to evolve.
It was an awesome, empowering event (it was sold-out, standing room only), and the main thing that I loved about it was that when you arrived, you were told to connect with 3 people that you DIDN’T know.
As Chef Aryen pointed out during the Q+A portion, we have a habit of sticking within our own circles when we go out (even at networking events), which causes us to miss out on so many potential connections. Many times, all of the resources that you need are in the same room as you, but you have to open your mouth and step outside of that box.
A few takeaways from the night:
- Always stick with your Plan A. Even when times get hard, push through, make adjustments, and look for other ways to continue to grow so that you don’t have to give up on your passion.
- Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. People can’t get to know you if you’re not open and confident in your abilities. You may not know a single person in the room, but taking the “uncomfortable” step in not only introducing yourself but also speaking up about what it is that you do can make a big difference in your network.
- Always be kind, and remember that little things can go a long way. Handwritten notes or even sending cupcakes can be that variable that makes someone decide to support or fund your business.
- No matter what you believe, always have faith. Talk with Him throughout your journey and keep your ears and eyes open for signs.
MUA Marnelia Roy did an ah-mazing job on the ladies makeup last night.
So much wisdom was shared last night; it had everyone excited what’s to come in the new year. Thanks ladies!