Creating Spaces to Ignite Success in Others

New YUI+Comany team member Toyin Akinwande at the Summit21 conference in June, where she learned how to turn visions into reality from inspiring women leaders.

New YUI+Comany team member Toyin Akinwande at the Summit21 conference in June, where she learned how to turn visions into reality from inspiring women leaders.

“Enrich and Elevate to Your Best Life” was the motto of the Summit21 women’s conference that I attended on June 8-9 in Atlanta, Georgia. Hosted by Blavity, Inc’s brand, 21Ninety, the conference brought women of color together to learn about actionable steps to take towards making our dream reality, reminding us that it only takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle. The two-day event was filled with Social Media Influencers, entrepreneurs and momtrepreneurs, 9 to 5 workers with side-hustles and women who just wanted to be in a space with other powerful black women. We were eager to network and learn from the women who’ve “made it” in the world of social media dominance, by allowing their creative ideas to no longer be just small passion projects, but a means to fund their lives.

Walking into that conference full of driven and entrepreneurial women was intimidating at first. I was scared that when they looked at me, they might see how young I am, and assume a lack of value in me. For a moment, I didn’t know my own worth. But then someone smiled at me. Then another. And another. The simple gesture of a smile was the invitation that told me I belonged here, I am seen, that I can take up space in this room and eventually many other rooms where people don’t look or sound like me.

The speakers, including Myleik Teele of CurlBox, author and corporate etiquette coach Jacqueline M. Baker, lawyer Angela Rye, YouTube star Maya Washington and more, echoed the importance of staying focused, making lasting and impactful connections, and self-care. As a double-minority, being both African-American and a woman, the challenges we face can automatically label us as unable to become wealthy individuals and successful leaders. There is a false notion that women, or African-Americans, can’t earn a certain amount of money or that there can’t be an abundance of them in leadership roles. We tend to compete against each other to fight to the top, when really we should stay focused on our own growth while seeing our success in one another’s triumphs.

The idea that I can and should take up space started with this one conference that created a space specifically for women like me to learn, network and experience. While I was in the midst of over 1500 women, I realized that being around other people who are doing amazing work empowers you to work hard. Being in spaces you are not familiar with or necessarily qualified for challenges you to level up and bring innovative ideas to the table. Success doesn’t come easy, especially for minorities, so when it reaches you, be sure to, “Send the elevator back down.” Essentially, once you make it to the top, help others who come after you as they make their way to the top as well. Pay it forward. I believe that the whole point of success is being able to help others and invite more people into the space you were once trying to get into.

Marketing your idea, company, or individuality starts with having confidence that what you have to offer is invaluable. Put yourself in the rooms you thought were not created for you, and then open them up to more people. No one can see the skills and service that only you can provide if you are not around. There is space for everyone to be successful.

Toyin Akinwande