On a rainy, moody Saturday autumn morning, we all stream into the beautiful Wilder Room on East Avenue for Becoming Boss No. 8, hosted by Roc Girl Gang and sponsored by Rochester Brainery. Nerves, excitement and uncertainty are all in the air. Once inside though, things are calm and promising. The tone is set from the start when we're welcomed by approachable, friendly faces and it becomes clear this is going to be a day to remember.
Some light mingling, mimosas, sips by Living Roots Wine & Co., Glen Edith coffee and Boxcar Donuts are enjoyed by attendees before the event begins. There's soothing music in the background, natural light streaming through the windows and Sarah Knight (founder of Roc Girl Gang) apologizing for the rain (which she later un-apologizes for). It's an easy and warm welcome and we immediately know it's going to be an amazing morning.
Sarah Knight, the friendliest, sweetest, funniest human, starts by giving an introduction to the group. She encourages us to be ourselves and shares a cute childhood anecdote about her mom telling her "you be you," as a teenager. Obviously not something you want to hear as a teenager, Sarah discarded the advice at the time with an eye roll. Today, that advice from mom resonates with all of us. Being ourselves is what sets us apart, Sarah tells us. You be you. The mood is set for the rest of the event- it's supportive, encouraging, celebratory. I'm already feeling it.
Reenah Oshun Golden, Founder/Artistic Director of The Avenue Blackbox Theatre and spoken word artist, walks up to the front. She's an amazing poet. Right away, I love her vibes. She's cool, calm, friendly and I instantly want to be best friends with her. She launches into a series of spoken word poems. They're beautiful, interesting. She tells us Maya Angelou is an inspiration to her but she doesn't really like her poems. We all laugh. She recites one of Maya’s short poems “The Lesson” and responds with her own poem “Lessons Yet to Learn” and they are both perfect. She ended with a grand finale, We Women Wear, that gets the women in the audience involved and we chant back to her "wear it well." The poem talks about our adaptability, our uniqueness, and our ability to wear so many hats. The message hits home with the women in the audience. It just makes me feel good and looking around, I can tell everyone feels the same. People are smiling, laughing, and clearly enjoying the moment. The energy in the room is palpable.
The keynote speaker Helene Biandudi Hofer, the founder of HBH Enterprises, shares her path to becoming an entrepreneur with poise and grace. She is exactly what you would expect from a super successful entrepreneurial journalist. Her first lesson is a simple but poignant statement, "I am a fraud." This is so, so relatable. I personally feel like a fraud anytime I try to step out of my comfort zone. Even simply being here I feel like one. She encourages us to own our fraud. If we're going to feel like imposters in our own businesses, we might as well go for it and be bold, dream big, and think outside the box. She recounts her journey into severe burnout as she tried to work full time and grow her business on the side. She said goodbye to her full time gig and started her own media group, something that was unheard of at the time. I'm impressed with her honesty and candor. The laughter is warm as she tells us she had to practice in the mirror saying, "I am an entrepreneur" over and over again. Her second lesson is an important one- own your thoughts. Owning your fraud and being bold means mastering your thoughts before they become debilitating. To market yourself properly, you have to convince yourself first, otherwise you might miss out on opportunities that could have been yours.
Her final lesson is pace yourself and enjoy your life. Give yourself freedom and space to change your angle, your mind, your pace. Give yourself credit for all that you've accomplished.
Sarah proceeds to interview the amazing panel of women including Helene Biandudi Hofer, Jennifer Posey of Hedonist Chocolates, Becca Post of Helen & Gertrude and Nicole Kazimer of HikYoga. The interviews are jam packed with valuable advice and lessons. Some of my biggest takeaways are:
Think about what you're curious about and what you want to create
Have a business plan or don't have one. The important thing is to just start. Have goals, have vision, write your ideas down. Create a vision board and look at it often.
Spend frugally as you're trying to grow your business- be conservative and minimal. Avoid big loans if you can.
Sometimes you have to fake it til you make it when you're an entrepreneur. Don't try to be perfect, just be yourself and learn from your mistakes.
Learn something new everyday to help grow your business.
You can handle more than you think you can. Build relationships with others. Find your community. Learn how to work with and manage others.
Listen to your body, take time when you need it. Nurture yourself and be proud of everything you've accomplished.
We break for mingling with Living Roots Wine & Co. and I am NERVOUS. As an extroverted introvert, mingling at an event where I don't know anyone is something nightmares are made of for me. But, I just jump in wholeheartedly anyway, and my heart is warmed by how welcoming every person I meet is. Where else can you walk up to a table full of girls and everyone greets you with a warm smile and an enthusiastic hi!? People seem genuinely interested in getting to know each other, and mingling with these smart, inspiring women is so much fun. I want to meet everyone! I could continue mingling with these interesting women for easily another 30 minutes.
We reconvene for the final panel after mingling and the ladies dish on standing out in a social media fueled world. The experts all use social media to various degrees, but the main takeaways on social media are:
Show your emotion on social media. It's how you connect with your followers. Be authentic. People want to connect with you as a person.
Facebook can be a great tool if your business uses video content.
Having a social media plan from the start is a great idea and make sure your plan is realistic and attainable.
Sometimes you have to say no to collaborations on social media when things that are not in the best interest of your brand. This can be very challenging to do.
Choose your projects carefully. Be strategic about what you choose to do and who you choose to work with.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the real world and online.
The panel ends with the same message that we began with. Be yourself. You be you and your brand will be unique... because you are unique! I am awesome, I am unique, and I am NOT a fraud. Thank you to Roc Girl Gang for these necessary reminders.
I absorbed so much new information, made new friends, and walked away feeling really inspired. Where else can you get that much value in two short hours on a Saturday? Totally worth getting up early for and trekking through the rainy Rochester morning .