Welcome to my world…
When I attend the premier of “My Mother’s Tongue” at the Fillmore, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Miss Ify, founder and CEO of District Affiliates. It just so happened that her team was responsible for putting on this phenomenal event. This DC native is in her early 20’s and owns her own successful event production and brand management business. Luckily for us, she took time out of her busy schedule to share her story and inspire us to follow your dreams.
Without further adieu… Ify
Your alma mater (Howard U) is known to be a party school, did this environment influence your current career path?
Most would think so but I would actually credit go-go before Howard. The culture at Howard influenced my entrepreneurial spirit since I was surrounded by so many “go-getters” and overachievers. Its reputation of being a “party school” had very little to do with it. My current career path was influenced more by my work in artist management and promoting shows and bands in the go-go industry.
What challenges do you face as a young CEO?
The usual – not being taken seriously, especially as a female. Everything is “cute” or “nice” when working in a male-dominated industry. It’s often hard to convey how lucrative an idea is just because I am the one delivering it. That used to play a big role in building a team of reliable members; it was hard to convince others to believe in my vision. Luckily, we’ve passed this phase.
The biggest challenge now is finding the balance in being the teacher and the student. I’m young and definitely do not know everything. As eager as I am to go out and learn new concepts, I have to remember to relay the same information I receive to my staff and apply it in a manner that complements our business structure and goals. Leading a staff of individuals can get tough. Sometimes, I’m not sure of the right thing to do, but an executive decision has to be made in order to move forward and it can only be made by me. No one likes that type of pressure.
What differentiates your event planning company from the competition?
I prefer event production to event planning. To me, it’s much more than just putting a show together to make money. I see art in connecting people (artists, businesses, etc.) with brands, platforms and opportunities. Anyone can plan an event, but we take the extra time to create an atmosphere where we benefit others beyond ourselves.
What really separates us is that we attach our events to a bigger mission. As much as we want you to have fun when you come out, we also want you to take part in our campaign for change. Whether you actually do anything else towards the cause integrated with the event, your presence alone was enough support to spread the message. I’m on a mission to educate as much as we entertain. I feel we have the best platform to do so since we are young ourselves; it’s easier to communicate with our peers and the younger generations because we can relate.
My favorite event so far would have to be the Underground Kingz Benefit Concert at The Fillmore. Just being able to pull it off was the most amazing part! We hosted the event 7 months after The Fillmore opened. I dreamed of doing an event there then the opportunity presented itself and it happened. All my events start out as just an idea so I’m always excited when it’s received the same way I imagined. I showed how I could really create something of value. The buzz was crazy! This was also my first major concert so to have that type of success on the first attempt will always be a milestone.
What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is the fact that I am able to enjoy my work. We still work full 8-hour days in an office but we make it fun. I actually enjoy being in the office with my staff. Not many can say that.
The least rewarding is definitely the amount of work I have to balance. I don’t sleep. It’s impossible to with everything I have to do. There’s a lot that goes in to building a company from the ground up and then, there’s even more that goes in to producing an event. It can get overwhelming at times but I’m built for it.
What do you wish you knew before entering your career?
You and your brother are extremely successful, what type of values did your parents instill in you both that prompted so much success and your family?
I believe we were blessed to have great role models as parents. We didn’t have to look too far for examples of success. Both of our parents are trailblazers and trendsetters in their respective fields of work. They taught us how to hustle. They both have an outstanding work ethic and have always preached that anything is possible as long as you believe. If you want something in life, you have to go out and get it. It’s just that simple. I have the upmost respect for my parents being foreigners that migrated to America to not only receive degrees from illustrious schools but continue on to receive many accolades and awards for the work they do. Just having that presence and inside perspective from two entrepreneurs definitely played a role in shaping who we are today. Why wouldn’t we follow in their footsteps? It’s already been proven that if you focus and dedicate yourself, you can have anything.
They also stressed the importance of family, culture and education. We have a strong family foundation and make sure to support each other in everything we do.
Any words of the advice for up and coming entrepreneurs?
Stay focused and keep moving. The only way to succeed in business is to be in business. If you’ve already taken that step of starting your own business, make sure you finish and see it through. No matter what the course may bring, just stick with it.