After 18 years in hospitality and events; as a supplier, planner, consultant, and speaker, I am embarking on a new journey... actually, let's call it a divergence.
Four years ago, I reached out to someone who had recently followed me on twitter. I noticed he was posting good content about events, he lived in Denver, and I was about to take a trip to Denver. This is how twitter used to work (ten years ago, before marketers ruined it) but I was determined to keep building relationships with people online. We had a great meeting while I was in Denver and we became friends.
Two years later, I was on a formal advisory board for this friend's event technology startup. He introduced me to Chrystal Huskey. After hearing her story and what she was building, I couldn't wait to help her! I gave her the names of all of the people I thought she should know. I didn't realize at the time I was helping her build my company, I was just trying to help someone who was solving a problem in a unique way.
A year ago, I was helping that same friend build his event technology company full-time, and at this point had become an informal advisor to Chrystal. I was doing all of this without pay in a good labor market. I believe in helping others and being as generous with my time as I can be. Others have helped me and I try to pay it forward. When I take these risks, it always pays off with knowledge, although, these experiences are hard to convey on a resume.
It is worth pointing out that I haven't always been in a position to work for free. I'm still not, if I'm being honest about my long term financial security. Not everyone can or should take these kinds of risks. Entrepreneurship is often glorified and the struggles minimized. The only way to achieve the American Dream is to win the lottery (of privilege or startup success)...
As I was in the middle of that American Dream sentence, Seth Meyer's interview of C Pam Zhang came on my TV and she spoke about the myth of the American Dream.
We idolize "self-made" success stories. We think we'll be happier working for ourselves. Really, we crave things like autonomy and purpose which could be derived from working for someone else if we had better leadership and workplace culture. The reality is that unless you already have the privilege of a network with money, you aren't likely to achieve that business success you hope for.
Even with that unhappy dose of reality, I am re-launching Event Integrity, which I purchased from Chrystal about a month ago. She is moving onto bigger and better things and I am passionate about what the Event Integrity brand can do to create an industry of more intentional events.
The other piece to this story is the sabbatical I took the second half of 2019. Several existential crises led me to where I am today. I now see the ecosystem of our industry clearly. I see the ways in which we support inequality and climate change. I can see how the propaganda after the last recession led to some of the devastation the events industry is facing now. I see who funded those messages.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley was quoting Roosevelt when she said, "judge me by my enemies," on another episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers. Here's the first part of that interview for your viewing pleasure. I share the same lofty goals and I hope you'll join me. We're stronger than we think. The work we do can solve problems or create more. It is up to us.