Network to Networth
One of the primary goals I set for my relocation to Los Angeles was to challenge myself to network, network, network. It’s a city in which I have very few connections, and before I arrived, I could count the number of LA-based friends I had on one hand.
Considering LA's infinite tank of movers, shakers, and people just like me with a dream and dedicated work ethic, I knew that I could really start building key relationships as long as I was confident enough to branch out.
Being invited to Draya’s 1st Annual Power Lunch gave me the perfect opportunity to do so, and it turned out to be a very exciting and beneficial event!
I hopped on Instagram one day through my business account, and the first post I saw was from Draya about hosting a women entrepreneurs’ brunch in LA. I perked up and immediately reached out to her PR contact about providing product donations for the event’s gift bags and also about attending the brunch. I considered it pure luck (or a pure blessing, rather) that I even happened to see Draya’s post in real time, because I don’t often browse my timeline on that account. I wrote a brief email describing my story and the background of Royal Waistbeads, my jewelry company, with the hopes that I’d be chosen as one of 30 or 40 ladies to be a guest at her first such event.
Her PR contact emailed back a few days later with an official invitation and a note saying “Draya thinks your waistbeads are fabulous!” Woo-hoo! For the element of diversity, Draya and her team hand selected each woman with various types of interesting businesses, so it felt like a true success already that she believed my brand and vision were distinctive and notable enough to hold it down in the jewelry category. (Small successes are still very much successes indeed -- don’t ever forget!)
Over the next two weeks before the event, Draya would tweet enthusiastically about hosting this women’s empowerment brunch, talking about all of the lovely ladies she couldn’t wait to meet, and instagramming her appreciation for everyone who donated gift bag goodies. I saw tons of her followers blowing up her social media accounts wishing they could go, so I made sure to really appreciate the opportunity of being able to attend.
It was held on a gorgeous Sunday at Xen Lounge in Studio City. I was really delighted by the venue’s decor, which wasn’t exactly zen like one may expect from the name, but more energetic-posh. It’s seating arrangement gives chic and stylish, while the artwork and unique twists throughout the space suggest swank exuberance. (I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s actually Duane Martin and Tisha Campbell’s restaurant.)
It is quite intimate, and by that I mean a relatively small sized lounge, so seating options became scarce as more ladies arrived. I actually arrived nice and early (I’m getting so much better at this), picking a seat at a table where I could eat comfortably -- right next to the #AllWhiteBricks, I mean, the exquisite all white candy/dessert bar. I’m all about grubbing down.
An abundant brunch buffet of waffles, grits, bacon, eggs, breakfast potatoes, etc. was served. I was so hungry I could have practically inhaled my entirely-full plate, but I told myself to chill before these ladies think I’m a savage. We ate, enjoyed a mimosa or two, and chatted with the women closest to us about our businesses while we waited for Ms. Draya Michele, the hostess, to enter the building. I was inspired off the bat by the very first woman I met -- she was a CPA who owned accounting companies and a large-scale event planning service. She was one of many boss women that I would meet.
An hour and a half later, Draya finally arrived with her videographer in tow, joking about her Ciroq-filled night delaying her a bit, and that “it wouldn’t be a Draya event if she weren’t late.” Jokes aside, she was really happy to see everyone’s faces and excited to bring together a room full of ambitious women. And she looked fantastic! She encouraged everyone to mingle and to meet other women who we could learn from and possibly work with.
Just as it was Draya’s first time coordinating an empowerment event, it was my first time attending one like this and being surrounded with nothing but ladies who had already set their dreams in motion with self-run businesses. I went solo, so it was all about holding me down and being unafraid to introduce myself to as many women as I could.
These ladies were so passionate. They all had interesting stories with intense drive and motivation. The resulting, exhilarating energies circulating the venue could collectively blow you away.
To be in a packed room where not one woman believed in settling for an average life, an average job, or relying on a man to provide them with funds, was definitely uplifting.
It was such a pleasant surprise to run into Jeannie Jones, who everyone in the DMV knows as the radio personality Kitty of the City. I’d listened to her on DC radio (WPGC 95.5) for YEARS, so when I overheard her voice, there was no mistaking that it was Jeannie. It was great to connect with a fellow PG County sister; she was always such a positive influence on the radio, and would show so much love to both my high school and collegiate alma mater that we share (shouts out University of MD - heyy Terps!). We had a lengthy convo about her move to Los Angeles and the expansion of her brands on this side of the country, and I’m happy to see the growth and success with this new chapter. And she also supports Royal Waistbeads!
Draya spent a few minutes of one on one time with each of us, and it was great to talk to the Basketball Wives reality star turned Fine Ass Girls/Mint-Swim owner herself. She has made such a turn around -- unlike many other reality TV participants who end up fading away as quick as their 15 minutes of fame. She’s building a career beyond ratchet television (that I admittedly do watch); she used her platform to rebrand her image, gain an unreal following, and leverage that fanbase as a target market for her businesses. How can one not respect it?
Even though this event was titled as the “first annual,” it turned out to be the first of many networking brunches she’ll hold per year. She’s gone on to host a few more Power Brunches since then, and I think it’s wonderful that in addition to managing her brands, modeling, and making appearances throughout the country, she’s providing all of these opportunities for business-minded women to flourish. She definitely gets Urbanista cred for that!
I wish I could have met everyone, but here are some of the special women & their self-run businesses whose conversations stood out to me:
Ashley Glaspie | AGlaspie.com - small business and event marketing
Evangeline | GiveMeRehab.com - a really dope online magazine
Janelle Reeves | TheFineHanger.com - online women's boutique
Zakia Blain | FckBeingFatFitness.com - an international weight loss program
Lexy Panterra | Lextwerkout.com - super popping twerk-out classes