Black women from all over gathered in Atlanta last weekend for the third annual #Summit21 conference — formerly known as the EmpowerHer conference — hosted by the new media company, 21Ninety, and its parent brand Blavity.
With a lineup that included power players like Angela Rye, Sarah Jakes Roberts, Myleik Teele, Symone Sanders, Ashley Blaine Featherston, Karen Civil, Zim Ugochukwu, Maya Washington, and Sevyn Streeter, participants — mostly comprised of out-of-town guests from around the country — were treated to a zen-like atmosphere with tons of swag and other perks, like complimentary glasses of champagne.
Conference attendees could participate in panel discussions, fireside chats with prominent women, intimate networking opportunities and a number of direct shopping experiences with beauty and lifestyle brands over the course of two full days of programming.
With sessions focused on community and career development, health, lifestyle, and finances, participants could either concentrate on one of three tracts or cherry-pick the sessions they wanted to attend.
Conceptualized by Morgan DeBaun, the founder and CEO of Blavity, #Summit21 follows in the footsteps of earlier women’s empowerment movements to continue leveling the playing for women of color.
“When I started (Blavity), there weren’t many places I could turn to for advice or mentorship from women who looked like me,” DeBaun said, in a corporate message about why she created the conference. “(#Summit21) is my attempt to open up networks to other women who might also be looking to dive headfirst into new ventures, make a career switch, or upgrade their side hustle into their day job.”
On Friday, the conference kicked off with a plenary-style fireside chat hosted by Myleik Teele of curlBOX, who spoke on balancing entrepreneurship with her new journey of motherhood. Teele founded curlBOX, the first monthly subscription service for naturally curly hair, in 2011.
Teele also took the time to discuss financial mishaps and lessons she’s learned through entrepreneurship, sharing that she didn’t always have the best relationship with money. The entrepreneur was very transparent.
“My parents didn’t have the best [money] habits; I hated that feeling,” she shared with the audience. “I would spend all of my money in my early 20s. I remember trying to call my dad and tell him I’m broke and he would be like, ‘Okay…’ My dad would make me write him a check with the date on it.”
Continuing, Teele told the ladies in the room, “I don’t like borrowing money. I don’t like being broke, it’s not a good feeling. I remember being in spaces like this knowing I only had $23 in my pocket. I had to change my relationship with money before I could become fully successful.”
The day continued on, with conference goers being able to shop around with brands and products they love like Dove, Shea Moisture, even Creme of Nature. 21 Ninety provided several photo booths and props that made for fabulous Instagram photos, one backdrop stating, “I don’t survive, I thrive, Boo.”
Another major highlight of day one was the keynote address with Angela Rye, who was interviewed in a fireside chat with Blavity editor in chief Lily Workneh.
The two women gabbed about Rye’s career in politics and social activism, as well as touched on Rye’s perspectives related to maintaining a positive self-image, displaying self-confidence in the workplace and making power moves.
Much like its first day, #Summit21’s second day of programming started on a high note with participants seeming to be even more eager than the first day.
With another day full of panels and amazing women pouring into one another, the morning began with an inspirational breakfast featuring Sarah Jakes Roberts—daughter of megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes and wife of Toure Roberts, with whom she co-pastors the Potter’s House at One LA—who spoke about her spiritual journey, her path to entrepreneurship, and the advice she would have given to her younger self.
Asked about experiencing exhaustion or a burn out when being in business for herself, Roberts shared that while she does get exhausted at times, she does not experience a burn out because she knows this is what she is supposed to be doing with her life.
“One of my biggest fears was growing up in my father’s — TD Jakes — home and not knowing who God was. I would’ve told myself that he’s always here. I would’ve told myself that, ‘you’re going to be okay.’”
Before ending her talk, the ladies asked Roberts to lead them in prayer and fellowship.
YouTube star Maya Washington, of “Shameless Maya,” followed up with a youthful perspective into the social media realm. This viral social media fashionista gave professional tips on how to utilize simple equipment to build one’s own home studio.
Home studios allow social media content producers to create more professional products and also guarantee an increase of views from one’s audience, Washington explained. Her presentation covered everything from using smartphones and microphones to set design.
The line of people interested in viewing Tiffany Aliche’s presentation extended out of the door. Some participants even popped a squat on the floor in order to hear “The Budgetnista” speak on how to make, maintain and grow personal income.
Aliche shared simple but effective advice on how to maximize career opportunities. She advised her audience to act immediately to realize business goals, and not to wait to start your dream. Aliche emphasized women to develop a competent team and to keep them happy.
Wrapping up the conference was Jacqueline Baker, the innovation program manager at the AARP Innovation Labs, who focused on the importance of starting and finishing projects strongly. Everyone gathered to learn from the corporate experts of “Maintaining Your Hunger.”
Baker led the majority of the conversation as she spoke on the importance of starting strong and finishing strong. She also emphasized the importance of always maintaining professional etiquette.
The AARP innovation program manager, who curates innovation focused events, conference engagements, and manages accelerator relationships to ensure that everyone is empowered to choose how they live as they age, also highlighted her new book “Leader By Mistake.”
Baker said she valued the opportunity to speak to the room full of women who gathered to hear her thoughts.
“Summit 21 is a fantastic opportunity for women to come together to cultivate and refine their leadership skills and their extraordinary gifts to the world,” she said. “I think that this is something that should continue, and I hope to see this message amplified across the world.”
Engaging in sisterhood, fellowship, self-love, and learning how to take your respective business to the next level was just the tip of the iceberg at #Summit21. The experience as a whole was said to be life changing by the women who attended.