Imani Ellis, founder of Creative Collective NYC, is gearing up for the second annual one-day CultureCon conference. The CultureCon event will be hosted at the Knockdown Center in New York this Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
Powered by CCNYC, CultureCon is providing a collaborative space for creatives of color to network and receive influential knowledge from leaders who have dominated and succeeded in their respective industries. The CCNYC partners with brands like HBO, Revolt and Samsung to create events that are inclusive, comfortable and family-oriented networking environments.
Last year’s inaugural CultureCon event welcomed legendary filmmaker Spike Lee, who delivered the keynote address, and 40 other esteemed guest speakers. This year, CultureCon is expanding its reach to provide creatives with hands-on workshops and an incredible panelist lineup featuring industry leaders such as Charlamagne Tha God, Nick Cannon, Remy Ma, John Legend, La La Anthony, and more.
Ellis has become very successful in curating and organizing her own events, and she has a special message for budding entrepreneurs and creatives. “When they are building something, they don’t have to quit their jobs,” Ellis says. “It’s become this myth that you have to just jump out the window. You want to make sure that you are starting small and that it’s really the life that you want. Just because Instagram says it’s cool doesn’t mean that it is not hard.”
Rolling out spoke with Ellis about the background story of CCNYC, her CultureCon team and her successful moments as a curator.
The CCNYC started in your one-bedroom apartment in Harlem, New York. What motivated you to start CCNYC, and what gave you the determination to get CultureCon off the ground?
I had no plan on starting something as vast as the Creative Collective NYC. I wanted to start a safe space for like-minded creatives to come and interact and build together, and it started in my living room. I was cooking for people, and it was very intimate. From there, it grew until we couldn’t fit in my living room anymore. I realized that this was a need for the community, [and] it was bigger than just living room sessions. We wanted to share this with more people.
With CultureCon, we wanted a conference that reflected our community, our dreams and our passions. My team, who started in my living room with me, and few additions, we said, “What do we care about? What do we want to talk about? What topics are moving creatives of color?” and built a conference around that.
What do you love about your CCNYC team?
We are friends, we all come from different backgrounds so we can build things better, and we are collaborative.
There will be entertainers at this year’s CultureCon event, such as Lala Anthony, John Legend and Charlamagne Tha God. How do you go about selecting such influential panelists?
We work backwards. We say who are at the front lines of culture and issues that we care about, and then we write down our wish list. Then, we are so thankful when these iconic people take time out of their day to build with our collectives.
What has been your most successful moment as a curator for CultureCon?
Our most successful moment is that we pulled it off. A lot of people have ideas, and when you [can] see your dream unfold in front of you, it’s a glorious feeling. I think when my team and I see all our planning come to life, that was our biggest success.
How do you deal with stress and big challenges?
But when you are working on something as big as CultureCon you [must] learn to delegate and lean on your team. Otherwise, you can’t do it [because] there [are] just not enough hours in the day. It’s a mixture of learning how to prioritize and surrounding yourself with strong players who can lead their own projects so that you’re not having to be in the trenches and they can own it.
You are a member of New York Women in Film & Television and a host of other organizations. Why is it important for you to align yourself with these organizations?
I want to be constantly inspired. I feel like you should be constantly learning, and I love joining organizations and even though I am leading one I am constantly learning from those who have more experience than me and who come before me. I am a huge advocate for opening doors for creatives of color and women. I want to surround myself with them at all times.
How do you measure success?
I measure success in my personal life if I am at peace and fulfilled. I used to think while growing up that having money and having a title was happiness. I have quickly learned that if you are not at peace with yourself and if you can’t sleep at night then it is no life. If I can truly be happy and be proud of the things that I have done and have given back, which would give me fulfillment and peace, then that’s success. For the CCNYC, if we are serving the community and keeping their needs first, then that’s success.
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