Next Gen Summit 2019: Finding my place as an entrepreneur
I had such an amazing time at the Next Gen Summit in New York City. I was very fortunate to be a part of this #NGS2019 season event “for young entrepreneurs, by young entrepreneurs.” I don’t know when I was last surrounded by so much excited — and yet directed — energy. Between the people I met and the conversations we shared, I learned so much more about myself, my goals — and found a group with which I resonate.
I first attended a “Young Authors” dinner hosted by founder, TEDx speaker, coach and author of forthcoming book The Journey to Cloud Nine, Jordan Gross. It was really fulfilling to be surrounded by a group of people who take their work seriously and want to learn more, soaking it all in and sharing opportunity. This was also one of the first times I spoke about the book I’m writing on the role of creatives in society.
While I met so many inspiring entrepreneurs, I was able to spend a little extra time with a few in particular. I had met Sunny Su of Paradigm prior to the summit, and we shared excitement over the fact we’re both “process and frameworks” people: strategists. When we sat down and I shared my story, he told me he could see me delivering this on a stage. That really motivated me, and the feeling continued when I met Cassandra Green, Life Coach and Founder of CoachCrate. Just by being herself, her humbleness and willingness to share her wisdom of experience truly expressed her care; her person-first approach is why she’s successful. Connor Lake of Stackend Solutions instilled in me this same feeling. We shared both work and personal stories and exemplified the fact there’s great overlap between the two sides — one influences the other.
I’ve struggled with undervaluing myself in the past — my skills, my everything. The consideration I received from so many people helped open my eyes to my value. Many were intrigued, and wanted to learn more about AIY Studio, and my interests at the intersection of art, technology and communication. In just a three-day span, my own self-perception had changed. I was speaking about myself and my work more succinctly, confidently and with passion. I was shown respect for being knowledgable about a space that doesn’t often commingle with business. I was told I tell a great story, and that I’ll ultimately succeed because I’m mission-oriented.
In fact, that was a big catchphrase: “mission-focused.” Sell the mission — the story — not the product, because people respond on an emotional level. Another event buzzword was “funnels.” Everyone’s always talking about funnels — even Clickfunnels had a booth at the event, and now I’m reading Russel Brunson books.
Entrepreneur coach Brandon Stover introduced me to funnels. He first spent time listening to my story — trying to balance work and life and other work — then walked me through his upcoming website: funnels. (Looking at his current social media presence, I would also say that his design is marketing goals. And lots of funnels.)
My conversations continued with Mallory Rothstein of Learn What Matters Foundation, providing scholarships for high school students to aid personal development so they can give back in the future. In conversation, we did a “deep dive” into our lives. I realized the way in which I do business is truly mission-oriented and human-first. Getting to know someone in life is truly how I build trust in them as I learn where their passions, and mission, lay. This struck me again with Rocio Marie, Ben Red, Gly Gabriel, Tayo Rockson, Brett Cotten and Rina G. Patel.
Rich Keller, motivational speaker and brand guru (he really is, it’s kind of amazing), gave a great speech about helping to brand Next Gen, in fact, based around their “one word” — momentum. I felt that momentum — and it’s only continued to build in me, propelling me over a week later as I write, create, stay awake until 2 am work to collect all the myriad ideas pouring out of me.
It’s funny being around a group of entrepreneurs. I guess, I never really saw “them” as something that could be categorized and defined by a set of characteristics or qualities. But here we are, barely sleeping as we share our stories, looking to help and work with others while also receiving feedback (and maybe even funding). I no longer feel that I’m overreaching with my million projects — everyone in this space is working on million and one.
I’ve always felt like an outlier, transient among friend groups; an outsider looking in. It was always so obscure to be working on five projects — and what’s more, getting it all done, and ahead of schedule. I was always placed into various groups and boxes by others, but had never considered “entrepreneur.”
After this event, I feel like I found my place among people who are open, always learning and growing. I no longer feel like an outlier; I just hadn’t found my tribe. I no longer see entrepreneurs as “them,” but as an “us.”