The Summit 21 Effect: How This Experience Revived My Love For Entrepreneurship

by ianthiasmith

Somewhere in the middle of my two-hour drive from London, Ontario to the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, I let out a deep sigh. I had just left my brother’s graduation and was about to hop on a flight to Atlanta, Georgia to attend my first ever Summit 21 Conference and, mentally, I wasn’t ready.

Based on some online research and dope images that emerged from past events, I knew this Summit was about to be lit. I knew I was about to enter a space that thrived off of creativity, laser-sharp focus, innovation, immense levels of Black Girl Magic, smiles, hugs and good vibes. I knew the ladies here would be dressed to the nines, exploding with ideas, ready to collaborate, full of energy and light and standing at the top of their game...in heels!

I felt anything but —

It had already been a rough few weeks, and I just felt void of creativity and couldn’t shake that feeling of overwhelming defeat. As a freelance writer and TV host, I was just having one of those times where it was hard creating content, I was over-keeping up with social media and I was having severe creator’s block. I simply wasn’t ready to immerse myself in all this Black Girl Magic/Girl Boss goodness, especially when my own was struggling to be activated.

But I had flown all the way from The Bahamas, carefully booked my tickets so my travel dates aligned, and my husband was on his way to meet me in ATL plus I’d already spent a pretty penny for my travels and the experience — so turning back was not in the plans.

I finally arrived in ATL the night before Day One of the Summit. I got a decent night’s rest and woke up feeling a little better. Deflated still, but better. I took the short walk from my hotel to the AmericasMart and from the moment I arrived, I felt the shift. I was coming alive.

Toeing the line for registration, I was sandwiched between so many amazing ladies ready to learn, share, grow, network, connect, inspire, be inspired and level up. And if I were to get the most out of this experience, I’d have to do the same. So, I did.

I guess there’s just something about being surrounded by great energy that no matter how bad a mood you’re having, good vibes are contagious and infectious. Minutes into being at Summit 21, my feelings of defeat, failure and hitting that creative roadblock started to disappear.

From the very first session I attended, I started feeling revived and re-energized.

Listening to Essence Atkins and Mattie James discuss the importance of living a well-balance life, nodding away as Alex Wolf shared gems on being authentically you even in the face of a demanding social media era, learning about managing my coins from Jereshia Hawk and gathering those entrepreneurial nuggets from fashion maven Nichole Lynel were everything I needed to rebound.

My mood instantly did a 180 turnaround and I soon realized that being in this environment — being at Summit 21 — was exactly what I needed to breathe some new life into my work and my life.

Day Two was no exception! And sitting in on sessions with Karrueche Tran, Tina Lawson, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, meeting new friends in the beautifully-decorated expo lounge with so many amazing experiences, dancing to my favorite tunes, reliving dope childhood memories like hula hooping, was everything I didn’t know I needed.

I returned home from the Summit so refreshed and grateful for this experience. It spoke to every fiber of my being and armed me with tools to improve my business and personal life, and this all came at the perfect time.

I left Summit 21 with a newfound love for my work and being in that space, at that moment, was exactly what I needed to level up. I never learned the dance for the “Before I Let Go” challenge, but I’m still practicing!


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