20160528_202051Last week my cousin/business partner Melina and I went to the PowerNetworking Conference in Prince George’s County, Maryland. For those of you who don’t know, Prince George’s County is one of the wealthiest Black communities in the country. The location of the conference was important because one of the major objectives of the conference was “To help Black people build wealth that can be transferred intergenerationally.” This wasn’t some get rich quick scheme. There was no Pre-Paid Legal booth. These were real business owners committed to the empowerment and economic development of the African American community.

Now I’m a skeptic by nature. When Melina and I first heard about this conference last year from a friend we both looked at each other and said, “what got into Rainy?” She was so excited and energized and ready to start a business and get to work. She couldn’t stop talking about the conference and the people she met. Her eyes sparkled as we listened. So this year when the opportunity came up Melina and I decided we needed to be there.  Still not fully convinced we would drink the Kool-Aid, but we were willing to attend with an open mind.

Let me start by saying I’m easily overwhelmed. I can be a bit of a drama queen. So I tend to stay away from crowds of say 1,500 people for that very reason. Also, the amount of information you are given and the number of speakers, presentations, workshops and exhibits was A LOT. Again, being easily annoyed, I was uncomfortable with the daily schedule and the way the sessions were set up. I like things nice and neat and I like my schedules to have lots of white space on the page. Let me tell you, there was no white space. This conference is jam packed with information. JAM PACKED. So as we were looking over the material the night before day 1 and I was complaining, Melina told me I was thinking way too hard. So I decided to wake up in the morning and go with the flow. Where ever that may lead.

20160526_094354The days are structured like this. The morning sessions start with PowerTalks. These are 17 minute “mini” presentations from various speakers.  Those last for about 2 hours. In the afternoon they have what are called Workshop Intensives”. These are 1.5 hours sessions, some of which were longer versions of the 17 minute presentation. These talks go until 10pm on the first 2 days. There are approximately 7 of these workshops going on at the same time. So as Dr. George Fraser said “you have to make a choice”.  It is impossible to go to all of them. Some of them were held again over the 3 days. But some were a 1 shot deal. So Dr. Fraser suggested that we decide the first morning what our goal was. Why are you here? What do you want to get out of this? Once that was determined you chose the workshops that were in line with that goal. I had 2 goals. The first was branding and marketing, how to a position SJC and myself as a brand to set both businesses a part from the competition. The second was to find additional streams of income, what other business ventures could I get into. So we looked through the program with those goals in mind and chose the PowerTalks and Workshops that suited our needs. We had a plan!

Here’s the thing about a plan….. Sometimes jet lag sets in. Sometimes you can be a little overwhelmed by 3 hours of PowerTalks. So when we decided to take an afternoon break for an hour or so before the Intensive Workshops we really didn’t know it would turn into a 2 hour nap – causing us to sleep through the afternoon workshops. Oops! So we decided to make the best of our time in DC and we wanted to see the Dr. King Memorial so we took an Uber over to the Nation’s Capital, met my friend Jeunesse for dinner and did some sightseeing.

20160527_085856We were much more focused on Day 2. Still not quite ready to drink the Kool-Aid but again, starting the day with an open mind. The PowerTalks were informative. Trevor Otts‘ presentation “The Solopreneur vs the Entrpreneur” was the standout for me. After lunch we split up and I went to a workshop called “Make Them Buy: Build a Multi-Million Dollar Business, Brand and Attitude.” This was the moment where I started looking around for that glass and wondering what flavor Kool-Aid they were offering. The workshop was led by Sherrod Shackelford and LaVon Lewis of PDG Branding & Marketing. Let me just say that 1.5 hours was not enough. There was not an empty seat in the room and there were people standing up along the back and side walls. Sherrod and LaVon are two young, energetic, handsome (and yes, articulate) young men who have found their place and built a business based on experience and hard work. I was willing to buy whatever they were selling! The skeptic in me was starting to fade away. They never stopped talking! After the workshop they had a table set up where there was a constant revolving door or activity, accolades and admirers (yes ladies I saw you).  Melina went to a workshop led by Simon T. Bailey called “Shift Your Brillance – 5 Steps to Thrive in Business and Life.” She came out of this standing room only workshop with a homework assignment, a list of books to read and what is that? A glass of Kool-Aid??

Day 3 we attended a workshop “Learn How to Generate One Million Dollars Cash Investing in Real Estate” given by Dr. David Anderson. This is where shit got deep. I don’t even know how to properly summarize this talk. But let me just say that by the end you would have thought we were at a midnight church revival. There was lots of head nodding, and hand waving and “Mmm Hmmm” going on in the room. And the phrase “they don’t want you to know” was said more than once. Deep Y’all.

In the end it was a very positive experience. I love being Black. I love being around positive people. I love being around people who want to do something. Anything! But don’t come at me with some bullshit. I don’t want to hear it from you unless you’ve done it, lived it, traveled to it, read it. Something! I have a Master’s Degree in Religion so I know a cult when I see one. Don’t try to convince me of something that doesn’t pass the sniff test. Don’t tell me that you make $100k/week when I’m not really convinced you even have $100. I know an Instagram millionaire when I see one. Anyone can call themselves and expert, an author, a world-renowned speaker. But what do you really do?

There is often talk in the community that we don’t support each other. That we tear each other down. This conference was proof to the contrary. You had over 1,000 business-minded and entrepreneurial African Americans who came together with a singular purpose – to build wealth. Notice I said build wealth, not get rich. Getting rich is easy. But who benefits from you being rich? You, your spouse and kids? But true wealth, that lasts for generations after you’ve passed. True wealth ensures that not only is your family taken care of but the fruits your business ventures take care of families you don’t even know exist. We have to stop thinking so small. Stop being so self-absorbed. And realize that none of us can do this alone. We need each other. That is what networking is all about. You support my business I support your business. If I don’t need your service I will recommend you to those that do. Is it that difficult?

So did I drink the Kool-Aid? Maybe a shot glass full. We’ll see how it goes next year.