One of the biggest challenges that a new business owner will run into is resources. While resources can be a broad topic from money, exposure, location, financial literacy, and sometimes even product, there are moments when the business community comes together to share those resources to help other new entrepreneurs create a solid foundation. That is the vision of what Jennifer King has created with her company ICME Events.
While working in the financial field during the day and as an event planning consultant for other companies at night, Jennifer knew that the missing element with the people she would come across (as well as herself) was access to resources. She loved to see people grow their businesses from A-Z and figured that helping them achieve their goals would give her more fulfillment. In 2014, she decided to step out on faith and create her own platform which would include the yearly Ready, Set, Grow! panel discussion and seminar. Jennifer would pick a handful of local business owners who have made their mark in their respective industries and have them speak to new and existing business owners to not only give insight into their businesses but help others grow.
With two panels under her belt, Jennifer’s plans for the 2020 event were put on hold as the world dealt with a pandemic that not only rocked the small business community but took most out of the industry. There is no better time to have such a powerful event take place and help these eager professionals get back on their feet and motivate them to continue pushing.
We had a chance to sit with Jennifer to talk about this year’s event and how she is shaping things up to be one of her best. With Covid restrictions and protections in place, she is making sure that the guests for the event are not only inspired but safe.
SUAVV: What was it like starting your company? Because we know event planning is NOT an easy profession.
Jennifer: First, planning anything is exciting. However, doing the legwork, promoting, and building confidence was the hard part. Just trying to build and make sure I was fitting my client’s needs was where the truth in the business started. It was hard to really get the support and get recognition from my own circle, whom I was looking at initially to help me do that. My circle has gotten very tight since starting my business. You have to pour into people what they are willing to pour into you.
SUAVV: How did you come up with the name ICME Events?
Jennifer: When I was thinking about what can I create to attach me to my business with a bigger vision, I said, I Create Memories that lasts a lifetime, ICME. I want them to really see themselves and what we are doing as a partnership. Because when you are creating something together, that’s a partnership. They have to trust what you are doing and how you are leading them.
SUAVV: That’s really dope. And you go from this and within your company, you’ve started Ready, Set, Grow! When you were able to sit down after the first event in Atlanta, how did you feel?
Jennifer: Wow, the first one, I think I boo-hoo’d after I finished because my vision came together. It was like it really happened. It was a trial and error moment. For one person to walk in with nothing and leave with numerous connections. The panel was awesome, the ambiance was great, the knowledge was flowing. I was tired but I was so grateful and thankful. When it was over, I was praying and was like “Lord, we got it done,” and He was like “oh you’re not done”. and I have been growing the event since.
SUAVV: Okay, you were hit with a whole Coronavirus shut down, meltdown, quarantine, don’t leave your house, don’t leave your room, kind of situation. How did that affect your event?
Jennifer: Most definitely. It definitely shifted everything to a new outlook of, okay, how can we reach everyone in a safe and healthy way and how can we reach the people who really want to hear the message in a better way. So we had to think of virtual options. So we shifted all the events to 2021. And at first, it was like, “Oh my goodness I wasn’t ready,” but it made me get ready. I moved all my events to 2021 and I’m giving options to attend the event virtually or come in person, wear a mask, and make sure that you feel safe in the conference while we’re giving you the message. So, it made me really create different options, moving forward, no matter if we are within the pandemic or if we’re back to normal.
SUAVV: COVID made you adjust everything that you normally would do and figure out a different way. This is one of the best times for us to be in business because we’re able to focus on all of our everything. And like, the growth is different. That creativity is different. It’s like, okay, how do I reach this? How do I reach that? How do I do this? So, if you’re able to do that and get through this, I think once all of this comes to a cease, you walk away with so much more strength as a business person.
Jennifer: I agree. I agree. It definitely forced me to be even more creative. And when it’s something that you’re doing, that’s purposeful and intentional for your life, you’re going to sit there and think of options because you want it to grow in spite of. It made me really also get refocused and re-strategize. My mission statement to my audience is I create memories that last a lifetime. I want the attendees, in the midst of a pandemic, to still receive very fruitful information and remain safe.
SUAVV: Now you’ve got some other folks who done started 37 different businesses with no direction. Like they just, they sell in any and everything. And it’s like, dude, what are you doing? Which, I get it. It’s like, you’re trying to find something that sticks. The question I want to ask to that to that effect, even though people have that hustle mentality, how important is it to focus on something to make it work? Because everything doesn’t stick instantly.
Jennifer: Exactly. it’s definitely very important. You know, one thing about whatever you try to do, you’re going to learn. You have to have a foundation. And if you’re in multiple types of businesses, just because you are getting scared of the lack of, you’re not going to get it, you’re not going to reach your client base. I tell everyone and I speak it to myself daily, “situations may change, but the vision stays the same,”. Especially if it’s something that is meant for you to bless other people with, you know it’s very important to dig into your craft, to dissect it in the midst of a pandemic, dissected in the midst of happy times, because there are going to be highs and lows in whatever business or anything you do. So is your model when it gets hard to run and try to get the quickest buck or to dig deep and say, you know what, let me pivot right now and see what I can do to just really expand my business and expand my clientele. It’s important that you let them know that. I’m very still consistent in that, and I’m real about what I do.
SUAVV: That’s where people are starting to make that mistake. I want a business because you want to feel that stability, but there’s a difference between chasing a passion and a purpose and chasing money. When you are walking in your purpose and focusing on your purpose and going after it, I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it comes together at the right time. So, If you’re doing your part, everything just starts falling into place. However, I think the question right now for many people in business is “how do I reach this potential audience?
Jennifer: EXACTLY!!!! That other side is pushing creatives to think outside of the box. Not just my local audience, but everyone in the world to your point, like Nigeria, London, you know, I have a little cousin right now, that’s, you know, overseas and how can I reach her without her being here? Cause she’s playing professional volleyball. And even after the pandemic, we have to keep options open to our audience. So that we can expand our brand.
SUAVV: Right, and many people, like us, who are still in the startup phases of our businesses never had the time to sit down and think of these things. We are able to pour into our things right now and pour into our dreams and our passions and our purposes.
Jennifer: Exactly. That’s right! Sometimes you have to be still to get your best content. I’m not going to lie as an event planner and owner, I had to plan, set up, and execute to make things happen. But when God was like, “ah, you have to sit for a minute,”. See, you were going, going, going, going and you didn’t even think about options. You didn’t even think even deeper about strategy. So, I need you to be still, be patient, and create your own space, create things that you would have never thought about a year ago. And that’s what I’ve been doing all year, you know? It was a Debbie downer to push all of my events to 2021 but I needed this because I was not thinking about the bigger picture.
SUAVV: If you’re listening well enough, you run with it because it just makes sense. And there are soo many people looking to start businesses now because they realized how unstable working for someone else is. Companies were just letting people go and left them out in the wind and many without a kite, sail, or shield.
Jennifer: Exactly. That’s why this business conference is going into the third year, by the grace of God. It’s very important, especially going through the pandemic and the aftermath because it’s truly going to hone in on how do I create this business? What are the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth steps? Because, to your point, I’ve seen where I was so easily recycled when I gave my loyalty. Now, I need to learn how to do this, how to go about that, how can I network with people I’ve never met? This is what Ready, Set, Grow! is about; putting people in a position. I’ve always told people “there are options out here”. I call it side businesses. You can start focusing on the side business, find out what your passion is, find out what your purpose is, and start focusing on it. Start small. Finding someone that you can talk through business strategies and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this. What do you think? Or how do you think I should go about it?” Find the right people because everybody’s advice isn’t good advice. So, events like this event where you can get around like-minded people who want the same things and network, and you have no idea how people from different industries can impact your business. So even though we don’t do the same thing, I can get tax information from you because you’ve been through that. I can get marketing information from you from a different thing because you’ve been through it.
SUAVV: Absolutely. You have no idea what you can learn from someone in another industry. But we only think to speak with people who are doing what we are doing and in many cases, they have no interest in helping “competition” grow. What are your, what are your motivators now outside of wanting people to really get it together, get motivated, get moving? What else is pushing you personally to continue business networking?
Jennifer: What’s pushing me is to make a difference in someone else’s life. I see how impactful these events are and people leave so full. They leave creating their own stream of income. That makes me feel so good. When someone says “Jennifer, when is the next event? I just created a business from your event two years ago. Here’s how it’s going. I’ve employed two people full time.” That’s the best feeling ever. To see a domino effect of employment and entrepreneurship because they were able to retain this information. I’m going to share it with somebody else so they can get ready, set and, and grow. So that’s, what’s pushed me and that’s how God positioned me. I hear that, and I get excited to do more. I want to do more. I keep asking myself, “how can I do this differently and impact more people? How do I push to the masses to let them know that you have a creative spirit you just have to tap into it?” And if it takes coming to my event regardless of what kind of event it is, just come, get what you need out of it, and grow.
SUAVV: Yeah. When I attended the first event and even spoke on the last, I noticed something. I’m observant because I’m a journalist. I have always taken the atmosphere because I want to be able to describe what’s happening around the situation. There are people and you see them. You have some people who are there to just kind of sit there and listening. Then you see like that one person who hadn’t started a business and she was literally writing down everything that’s being said. And I literally watched her go to everybody that was on that panel. And she took their phone numbers and emails down. And then she went through the audience of other people who were saying like they have businesses. She was like, I don’t have business cards. Like, I didn’t know that I wanted to start a business or was even able to. I just came here with my girlfriend. But now I’m inspired to do something that’s for me. It’s those people that remind me that when you’re hungry, you will take everything you can get.
Jennifer: When you really really want it, you will take every nugget of information you can get, because something’s going to click, something’s going to apply to you. It might not be immediately. It might not be until six, seven months down the line, something’s going to apply. And it’s going to be like “such and such said this back then. And it works right now.” So I tell the audience to get the information when they can and where they can. Then, when you have stuff like this and these events, go to them.
SUAVV: And it’s no expensive. You spend this ticket money on a meal at a fast-food restaurant or with uber eats. So, it only makes sense to invest in yourself and get information from other business owners that can propel your idea into a business, or a business into your full-time job and source of income. Meanwhile, you can come to this event, Jennifer feeds you…Let me say that again…Jennifer has a spread. Let’s not get it twisted. Just look at it like that. You’re paying for dinner and you’re going to grab some information while you’re doing it.
Jennifer: Yes!! (Laughing)
SUAVV: You were able to pull together a great sponsor and have some really good speakers this year.
Jennifer: Oh my goodness, yes. This year, my sponsor is iHeart radio. We’re going to really just bless you with some great information, great vendors, great food, and just a plethora of just good energy and good vibes. I’m just looking forward to people really listening to the Gulf coast speakers. We have pro baseball players, business owners, successful motivational speakers, and more. So it’s where to be whether you’re in the building or streaming. I want you to really hone in and get all of the contacts and contact information. So you can send a message to the other people who are virtually attending. And I tell people if you’re going to tap into, especially after this past year, remember change requires action. So do something different. If you haven’t been to an event like this or you been, but didn’t really listen. This time, really just listen and digest the information so that you can go home and dissect your business, business plan, networking numbers, and emails to see how to approach them and call them.
Jennifer has the mindset, the reach, and the passion to see other business owners win. For many people in the startup phases of their companies that is all, they are looking for. While business owners typically lack the foundation necessary to be successful, Jennifer’s conference helps them obtain the information needed and allows them to link themselves to others who can potentially springboard their business. And that is her way of using her platform to pull more seats to the table.