Know your "WHY?" then HOST your first EVENT [Interview with Shana Bryant]

Updated: Oct 20, 2019


Knowing your "why" will have you sailing the high seas!

That sounds pretty miraculous when you say it out loud. Well it kind of is. There is so much written today about the importance of getting grounded in your why. Well "why" would that be? All puns outside, it's because it grounds you and gives you direction.


I had a great conversation with Shana Bryant, founder of Shana Bryan Consulting, and she made it clear how that why will make it easier to make decisions in your business. In particular in hosting events for your business.


I have yet to throw my first business event, but what I learned about starting with "why" and being clear on the value and outcomes you want to provide, is a critical role.


Since we were on the topic events, Shana left me ready to get my first event on the ground like....tomorrow. Okay maybe not that fast, but my wheels are turning. 


If you've been thinking about doing a live event in your business, listen to the episode to learn what top considerations you should make, including how to bring in speakers and what to expect from a cost perspective.


Episode Transcript

I am always amped to have conversations with people who are pushing to make a bigger impact. And my guest on the show today is doing just that with a heart of service and some expertise you all-around events. So I am talking with Ms. Shana Bryant who was the founder and CEO of Shana Bryant Consulting. She specializes in project and event management producing high impact conferences that empower women and girls, prioritizing tasks, strategy, brainstorming sessions and strategizing, planning and execution for busy professionals, entrepreneurs, and non-profits. Shana is laying it all out on the line. Everything from full-time entrepreneurship to helping us get started really towards making our first event as an entrepreneur. So let's get into the conversation with Shana.


Candace Spears: I am really, really thrilled to have on the show with me today. Ms Shana Bryant. Shana, welcome to the show.


Shana Bryant: Good morning. Thank you for having me, Candace.


Candace Spears: Yeah, absolutely. You know, y'all listeners over these next 20 to 25 minutes, we are going to go through an interesting journey of both getting to hear more from Shana and just her story and just digging into Sydney events stuff. So I'm excited to get in here. Now, Shana, you have just this, from what I can tell, right and Shana listeners for you all, we kind of met through Instagram as most of my guests do. We met through Instagram and one of the things that I can really tell is that you have this major heart for service and I think it comes through in your actions, the conferences you hold, you know, your work with the youth and helping them and others along career and entrepreneurial journeys. Why are you doing this? What's your backstory?


Shana Bryant: So my backstory is, I was a 16-year-old teenage mom and I have an amazing village and support system. And I can remember specifically when I told both of my parents that I was pregnant at that time, they were recently divorced. But both of them were very supportive. Aunts, cousins. I definitely feel like, I had a village to help raise my son as a single mom. And over the last decade or so, I have done some tremendous work personally, my mental health, emotionally, to really become the woman I am now, which is I consider my best self. And I love everything about myself. And I know that a lot of that is attributed to the people in my life over the last decade, in particular, that have really sewed into me. And that has been mostly women and women of color who have really just, I would say, been my cheerleaders and held me accountable and really just demonstrated what it is to be an amazing person.


Shana Bryant: And the service definitely comes from particularly my dad who was a coach year-round, coach within the community. He is, I would say, is an activist within his own right. I definitely watched him. Lots of kind of big brothers, you know, he did basketball and football and baseball and really gave back to his community. And so I've watched him do that and he's been an educator for over 30 years. And so I just really like service, you know, it's kind of your rent to humanity and it feels good. It's important to be a productive part of society and I think it's just necessary.


Candace Spears: Hmm. Okay. So it was all coming together for me. Now I'm just here. You tell your story. Like I can see that, I can see your passion and I love that quote that rent to humanity, right? That's locally that, that our services are rented. Humanity. I can resonate with that a lot. So now you have the fortune and opportunity of, you know, being of service to other people along their journey full time. You are a full-time entrepreneur. Can you tell me of how making that leap, what was the turning point? How did you get there?


Shana Bryant: So I got fear after I'd say a decade of being a volunteer, serial volunteer as I like to call it. So there's a lot of work with local nonprofits. And even before that, I was teen moms score. My son's programming, pop Warner football, his programs. And so the pop Warner, the T-ball intramural I don't know why I'm losing this word, but yes. So I was always kind of teen mom and supporting that. And so what I realized now was that was the setup for the event planning that I'm doing now. And so in 2016, I became official with like, you know, legal documents. And in 2018, August of 2018, my employer informed me that I was going to be laid off. They gave us four months' notice. And I had a moment of about 48 hours where I was like, “God, I've never been fired. What's happening?” And realize that ask wouldn't it be nice to be a, you know, my own boss was now happening, so I'm four months, I had to secure some contracts and once that happened, December 1st of 2018, became a full-time entrepreneur.


Candace Spears: Wow. It's funny how you know, you talk about, you know, "God, I want to do this. I'd like to be my own boss." And then situations present themselves that you may not necessarily see like, “Oh, this is it.” Like this is the thing that you've been asking for right here. But then, wow, they lead to where you are today was this awesome.


Shana Bryant: I just want to add, this is why I'm a big proponent of “Say what you want.” Like, put it out there manifested, put it out there in the atmosphere because you don't know when. But typically most things happen right on time when you're ready for them.


Candace Spears: So with your expertise and event planning, Shana, as an entrepreneur, you know, we see people throwing events all the time, businesses, even new entrepreneurs. What's the guidance? What should we be thinking about when it comes to hosting an event and when should we even think about using an event?


Shana Bryant: So I like to have the conversation with my clients around really knowing like “why?”, right? And so a lot of times I may be doing fundraisers or galas or launch parties, and there are two ways of thinking about it. One is, you know, is this a fundraising effort or is this just an engagement to create visibility? and you know, fundraising can include that, but, are you making them aware of a new product or service? You know, we can do a launch party. It can be around a new book or a new branding, a new look and feel. So even when we think about like party promoters there's a specific reason to be doing those kinds of events. But it is important to really be thinking about why you should not just be doing events because you want to do an event. If you want to bring folks together, you don't necessarily have to put that on the premise of your business per se, right? Like you can just bring people together. But I do think it's important to have a "why to have an end goal." Whether if they increase your newsletters, just subscribers or followers. So you bring these people in a space for whatever that thing you want to tell them about shit with them, provide, information that demonstrates you are an influence or influencer. And kind of sharing what your thing is. So it is important to do, not for the sake of 20 events where I like have a purpose, have a reason, and provide some level of value when you are doing these events.


Candace Spears: Okay. So get super clear on your why and what's the value there.


Shana Bryant: Yeah.


Candace Spears: Okay. So now that you see, I see a lot of times events that have fantastic speakers, right? Like they look magnificent. Like they literally look like a little room of heaven. And then when you, from a budget perspective though, if you're starting out and just getting your feet wet into the event space, do you have to have a massive budget or like, I mean, what can you get away with to do something nice?


Shana Bryant: So I think knowing, for me, the events that I do, I just bring, you know, everyday women, right? That I believe are doing amazing things. And so something that dictates for me who I even asked to be part of what I'm doing. They have had to at some point, whether it's directly or indirectly, you know, through my network or I haven't had to have had an encounter with them. That really made me feel good that I know that they are women that are not competing, that are genuinely about empowering and uplifting other women. Right. And so it doesn't really matter, like per se the content or what I'm asking you to speak on. You know, I typically will recognize that this is somebody that you know, is about sisterhood, is about empowerment. And then from there, a lot, most of my speaker is, do not come with C, right?


Shana Bryant: So sometimes these women, this is the first time they're speaking in public and I just think they have a story of value that needs to be shared. And so you don't necessarily have to have a budget. Yes. If you get to a place where you know, you can provide an honorarium in the past, it's, you know, a $50 gift card or you know, but typically if somebody is an expert and if they're an entrepreneur who's building their own business and trying to build their own network and following they will be more than willing to do something for free. Right? Like you bring the people and I'll provide the message and now it becomes a win-win for both of us. Right? Like you get access to whoever attended. And you know, I'm building this brand of bringing these amazing speakers.


Shana Bryant: There are times where you should be thinking about, you know, a gala, right? Like who is your keynote? You want folks in fundraising, you want folks to really remember who that keynote was. You want folks to be talking about it. Hopefully years, that coming. So the next year, so that they, I know this person always had an amazing content and part your amazing content. I know for me, I typically think about the people I want to speak at my event and then I fit them into what the content and the flow of the day is going to be. So I may have heard somebody's speech and then I just make a mental note of like, at some point, I'm going to be able to use this person. I don't know when and I don't know what.


Shana Bryant: And then somehow some way it always ends up working itself out that, that person would be perfect because they empowered me. And if they can move me, I believe that they can likely move others in the masses. And so not always, you know, don't overly concern yourself with the budget or be like you have to pay someone top dollar to have an amazing speaker. It can be like your best friend that you know really is grinding it out, is doing amazing things and they have a story, right? And you don't always have to be completely polished if it is that kind of an event fundraiser. Recently we, one of my clients had Rashad Robinson from the Color of Change, right? Like we know he's powerful. We know he's moving, we know that he was going to have the impact necessary and we had to pay him. But it doesn't all just have to be like that.


Candace Spears: Okay. And you know when you talked about story, right, your best friend, what the story. That is interesting. So I've been in scenarios with other organizations where, you know, we're trying to figure out, "okay, who are we going to bring in to speak?" And you know, everybody's looking around the table like, "well, who do you know? Or who would be a big name draw?" And sometimes the things that we underestimate are the people who have the stories, like the story, can be a powerful thing, no matter who they are, to kind of have a highlight and kind of draw people in. So that's very cool. Very cool.


Shana Bryant: And I will say that yes, big-name draws are, I think once you get to a certain level you have access to sponsors and you've learned how to do that. And so then you can, you know, some ABC listers depending on, you know who you are. So yes. And that matters too, but you gotta be at a place where you can actually afford them before you start to like, think about like, you know, "can I bring Angela Bassett?", Right? Like, no, unless you have a connection and she was on for your big sister Angela to somebody, you know, be jumping. I'm just putting that out there for what you want.


Candace Spears: So, so, so, so, so, so true. So kind of start where you are. Okay. So tell me a little bit about this. Do you encounter people? I know, do you encounter it or have you seen it? Is it a thing? Are there some entrepreneurs whose business is built around just throwing events? Like they'd make money off of just throwing events? Is that a thing?


Shana Bryant: I think there's a thing. I think there is again, party promoters, right? Like the thing, we all want to have a good time. We all wanna you know, good DJ, good music, good ambiance, good location. If that is your service or that is your business, yeah, you throw amazing, amazing parties. I would say, you know, even thinking about if your business is event management, event production, right? People hire you to help them put on amazing events. I would caution towards feeling like I wanna you know, I want to put on events and again that we talked about early and not having a why and a purpose for why you're doing these events. Cause at some point whether you want this to be the perception or not. At some point somebody was like, "Dag, they always doing events" and that may or may not be what you wanted to, like you may want to be somebody that people look at you like you don't need to meet meaningful events for a reason, but because you're churning them out on a regular basis you may just turn into the party promoter, right?


Shana Bryant: Whether you see it as a parking or not, you may see it as a networking. You know, I do great networking events all the time if they don't have a specific topic, if they don't have, a specific like "reason", a "why", again, "a why you're doing it?". I don't encourage folks to just be the person that is always throwing events.


Candace Spears: So be very specific about your "why" or understand that the positioning that you're putting yourself in, if that's what you've used to do.


Shana Bryant: Right. Because then it becomes hard to like, if that's not what you were trying to do the perception is already out there. And so now in front of like, "no, no, no, that's not why I'm doing this. I'm doing this you know, this was professional development" and well, you know, like do it around topics of transferable skills and salary negotiation. Then like, if this was professional development and not just like networking and fun and food.


Candace Spears: Right. Right. Got you. So if we're hosting any events for the first time, what are the top three things that we should keep in mind?


Shana Bryant: I would say thinking about location, right? It is important like if, is it T accessible, right? Like "can folks just hop on the train or whatever?" And blocked in any way with where a transit city and so how folks are going to get there, where it's location-wise is important. And when thinking about that, if that location like, bring on beyond memorable and then thinking about cost, right? Like it costs to feed people. You know, maybe you have a bar limit. And then thinking about like location and like the day, the time of the week, like be conscious of like, there may be other things going on in that space. And so making sure that yes, even thinking about Boston, you know, there is not like a general calendar of like, Oh my goodness it's 12, you know, events going on at the same time. But I do think that you can be somewhat aware of, kind of where you're doing it. We got this location. It's important to understand that your budget and then understand who the target is, right? Like, who is this for again, right? Which kind of goes back to your why.


Candace Spears: Okay. So understand the location or ambiance, the cost and who's the target, and what's the why behind it.


Shana Bryant: Yep.


Candace Spears: Okay. Makes sense. Now you, who will understand your why very well, I'm sure you've got a couple of events of your own that are coming up here really tied back to your, you know, helping people along their journeys from a career and entrepreneurial standpoint. You want to talk a little bit about what you've got going on and really if people want to hear more from you, learn more from you, how they can do all that.


Shana Bryant: Sure. So I have a couple of brands. One is Let Me Lead, which is a girls' conference for middle and high school girls and that is happening on September 28th and 29. And that is just a two-day conference focuses on mental health in the movement. And we will have two days of panel discussions, workshops. She knows speakers focusing on how we can teach our girls on what mental wellness is. And so I'm really excited about that. That's coming up under the umbrella of both of the events or brands under the umbrella of women's and girls' empowerment. And the second one is my brand Hustled Times Two, which is the idea that you can have the best of both worlds. So you can have a career and you can have a side hustle you can be career-driven and entrepreneurship focus.


Shana Bryant: And so my next upcoming event is the end of the year, fourth quarter, a career and entrepreneurship conference. Second annual Hustled Times Two career and entrepreneurship conference, which is November 2nd. Really excited about that. That's a full day of workshops and keynote speakers talking to both social capital, transferable skills, salary negotiation, collaborative leadership, have about 14 women lined up to do that. And so really excited about both of the brands and closing out the year with some really impactful events that not only inspire and empower but also leave our women and girls with some very practical next step resources to really walk into who they are and be their best selves. And so folks can learn more about both of those events. On my website, which is Shanabryant.net And then you can follow me on my social media handles, Instagram and Facebook at Shana Bryant Consulting. So yeah, that's where you can learn more information about some of the events that I am, I'm churning out as we close out this new year, this year.


Candace Spears: Awesome. Well, let me tell you since we have been talking and started this interview I've been first on very inspired just from your story at the very beginning and even making the leap into entrepreneurship in your heavy heart for service. And even the learning that has happened from an event perspective, that's something that I see in my future. Not too distant future, but I hope that everybody that's listening to Shana has really taken into heart. I heard you repeat over and over about the importance of why and understanding your why. And I think that's important not only for events but just in business in general, right? As entrepreneurs, Why are we doing what we're doing? So I just want to say a big thank you again, Shana, for being on the show today.


Shana Bryant: Absolutely Candace, thank you for engaging on Instagram and giving me the opportunity to kinda share what I do. And I will close. I will say that yes if you know your why, it will guide you to those  "2:00 AM I'm grinding it out." And I think for me, my biggest why is I'm also giving back to my 16-year-old self, which is never going to change. And so it's not going to be hard to ever figure out like, why am I doing this again? Because it's necessary. It really does feed myself.


Candace Spears: I love it. Well, listeners, I hope you'll take every little inch bit chrom of what you have heard today and take it and put it into action for yourself. So have a great day. Have a great evening. Whenever you're listening and I will talk to you again very, very soon.


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