International Women’s Day may be over, but we’re still celebrating Women’s History Month all month long by bringing to you a series of interviews with several successful and influential women that we thought you would love to hear from.
Dominique Brown is an Event Producer and the creator of Coin Convos, an event series that provides a collaborative networking environment for young Black professionals. We had the opportunity to speak with Dominique about how she got her start in event production to which she admits happened by accident.
“The crazy part about my role now as an Event Producer, was that it all happened on accident,” she says. “I had no clue that an Event Producer was a real thing. When I decided to leave my job as a Publicist, I took an odd job working for an Interior Designer just to make ends meet. I instantly fell in love. I loved watching a space come together and how people would react to the color choices, fabrics, and our ability to create a timeless space. At that moment in my life, I knew God had given me something special.”
Dominique also shared how Coin Convos came about, why it’s important for cities with large pools of Black talent to have social networking events, valuable lessons learned in entrepreneurship, and so much more!
At what point did you realize you wanted a career in event production — and what was the first step you took towards making that happen?
The crazy part about my role now as an Event Producer, was that it all happened on accident. I’ve always been super visual and creative, and I worked at a PR Agency that typically had small budgets, so I had to be crafty when it was time to be impactful. I became the DIY girl for my team. I had no clue that an Event Producer was a real thing. When I decided to leave my job as a Publicist, I took an odd job working for an Interior Designer just to make ends meet. I instantly fell in love. I loved watching a space come together and how people would react to the color choices, fabrics, and our ability to create a timeless space. At that moment in my life, I knew God had given me something special — I had the ability to create unique environments. I was so new to the industry and understood the importance of being prepared for opportunities, so I proactively enrolled in Otis College of Art and Design to ensure that I had the skill set to be competitive in the market. I never had the chance to finish the program because as soon as my friends and past colleagues discovered I was interested in designing spaces, opportunities began to prevent themselves. One relationship led me to the next, and a year later I went to work for one of the leading entertainment companies in the world, The Walt Disney Company, producing events. I’ve since moved on to a new opportunity with YouTube Marketing.
What sparked the idea behind your Coin Convos event series — and how has it grown since you first started?
Coin Convos came out of a desire to find a sense of Black community in Los Angeles. I went to college in Atlanta — and one of the things that is really special about Atlanta is that there is a constant presence of Black culture. I felt like L.A. was missing that vibe. In Atlanta, you can go to a coffee shop, bar, or a restaurant and find young, Black professionals at every table. In L.A., there’s no such thing. I yearned for that moment here and since I couldn’t find it, I created it.
It’s interesting because Coin Convos started as a mixer/ game night kind of environment. There were no hosts or panelists during its first iteration. It was a unique sort of happy hour. I sent out a bunch of texts along with a few other young women, who were on board to launch the series at the time, and people actually came. Then I decided to add a couple of hosts to the next installment and more people came. Then someone asked if the hosts were going to be answering questions. So at the next event, we added a small speaking portion and more people came! There was no real formula. The programming evolved on its own and as we began to meet the needs of our guests, we have continued to grow. There aren’t any real rules which is one of the things that makes Coin Convos so unique.
At this point, we are into our third year of hosting events and the longer I go without an event, the more I get texts, DMs, or stopped by random people asking for the event. We’ve had two events in NYC and planning to hit a few other markets soon. Coin Convos has partnered with some great organizations and sponsors such as the 100 Black Men of LA, Champion, AquaHydrate, Martini & Rossi, and host of many others.
I’m from a city where there’s an abundance of talented black millennials and entrepreneurs — specializing in everything from hair, makeup, and blogging to music, photography, and event planning. However, we don’t have any Coin Convos style events in our city. How important do you think it is for cities with such a great amount of black talent to have these social networking events?
I think it is very important for concentrated areas that have large pools of Black talent to host social networking events. We are nothing without collaboration. We would still be slaves if it were not for collaboration. I hate to sound frank, but imagine how much further we would be as a culture if we worked together. What is unique to Coin Convos outside of most networking events is that there have been tons of businesses built, jobs secured, and romantic relationships formed through our events. I make it my business to ensure that we host our events in immaculate, high-end venues because the stigma that “black people don’t do nice things” is some b*llshit. I make it my business to curate an esteemed panel of people who have actually put real points on the board and avoid the social media famous “experts.” I especially take pride in creating an environment that is free from ego and pretentiousness. Everyone who walks through the door is welcome and equally important. Events like Coin Convos are needed to create and sustain the eco-system of entrepreneurism, recycle black dollars, and to continue to build successful Black communities.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about entrepreneurship thus far?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned through entrepreneurship is the importance of doing your research and maintaining strong relationships. Doing research will save you a ton of time and a ton of money. You become self-sufficient and make fewer mistakes when you make informed decisions concerning your business.
Great relationships will save you from yourself. Relationships help garner income and revenue streams. Most people will help you, introduce you, support your business, or even hire you, simply because they know you. When you are an entrepreneur, your business will have a level of dependency on others and how they show up for you will be the difference between sink or swim.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the government, boardroom, media, and sports coverage, in wealth, etc.. How important is a gender-balanced world to you?
Gender balance is a huge deal because as women we bare the heaviest load in society but we don’t catch the toughest breaks. We are naturally burdened with bearing children and leading our households, and then we are expected to work twice as hard alongside men only to receive a fraction of the benefits.
If you could celebrate someone in particular for International Women’s Day who has inspired you, who would it be?
The first person that comes to mind at this point in my life is Tracee Ellis Ross. I love how she is unapologetic about everything that she stands for and completely confident in who she is. She embraces her flaws and the things that make her unique, she pushes the limit with her fashion, she shares her raw personality, and she is organically herself 100% of the time. To me, that is the true essence of a woman.
What advice would you offer someone looking to start a career in event production?
ALWAYS BE WILLING TO WORK THE DOOR! Working the door at events gives you person to find out who is in the room, their affiliation, and unique ways to connect with them. When you’re at the door you are the gatekeeper and if you are strategic you will know more about a person than they know about you. It also increases your visibility. Make sure you look your best, be pleasant, and always be willing to help troubleshoot a situation at check-in. You are the guest’s first point of contact so you can make or break their experience.
I would also recommend anyone looking to get into event production to volunteer, intern, or PA for multiple event agencies or producers. It’s important to understand how a successful event is run. At the end of the day, we are onsite problem solvers and the best way to hone in on that skill is to actually do it. You’ll also develop relationships and learn different styles. The great thing about events is that a good event will always need staffing so there is always opportunity. Be relentless and genuine, it always goes a long way.
What is a quote that you live by?
I keep it simple and frank, “business before bullshit.” I try to take care of all of the business first so that I can party hard later. I can really relax and enjoy my time away from work if I am confident that the business is handled. Get the important stuff out the way so that you can make the best of your free time.
Dominique BrownKesha BXOXO Kesha