Friday, October 24, 2014

Forbes Under 30 Summit

Wow, I am definitely still in recovery mode after the past few days in Philadelphia for the Forbes Under 30 Summit. If you follow me on social media, you are probably sick of hearing about it but I thought I would do my best to summarize my highlights in one (overly long) blog post.

The Summit started on Sunday with a music festival featuring Wiz Khalifa and Afrojack. I had no idea I was such a fan, but if you happen to follow my SnapChat story, you saw how quickly of a fan I became.

Monday was the first official day and started with a motivating one-on-one interview with Peter Thiel. He spoke about how their were only two businesses in the world; ones in competition and ones that are one of a kind. He touched on how we are almost programmed from grade school to be in competition with each other and the value on being in competition if you come in as #2. Very interesting thoughts and something I will definitely dive deeper into in a later blog post.

Then, we heard from Monica Lewinsky. I will admit, I too was apprehensive about hearing her speak and was skeptical about why she was selected. By the end of her speech, I was standing up along with every other person in attendance giving her a standing ovation. I didn't realize this was her first public speaking engagement in ten years until she came on stage and told her story. I think I was ten when we all learned her name. I had no idea of the depth of the scrutiny that went into her life and couldn't believe she was 22-24 while this was going on. That's two years younger than me. The actions that lead to her name recognition have been put into perspective for me and I have a deep admiration for her honesty. I've heard a lot of comments since mentioning that I heard her speak and some ignorant jokes but I ask that you please take a moment and suspend your judgement to read the transcript of her speech. She spoke on the power of one's story and is using her own to speak out on cyberbullying. When you hear about the complete destruction of her character and the comments that were made against her for the world to read, its deeply saddening. Even now, 16 years laters, people are still critical of who she is. I am so impressed with her courage to speak out and take on such a public role to prevent others from falling victim to cyberbullying and media destruction.

That afternoon, I attended a panel featuring Kat Cole, the President of Cinnabon. She spoke a lot about women in the workplace and how having a seat at the table and having a voice at the table are two completely different things. After doing research, I discovered that she too is from Jacksonville. She started working at Hooters in high school and had opportunities with the company and was eventually named a Vice President at 26. (SERIOUSLY?) Of course, there was a lot of criticism and she too commented on how she went from Hooters to Hot Buns. She shared one of her favorite quotes from her mom, "Don't forget where you came from but you don't you dare let it define you." Really powerfully speaker and I instantly became obsessed.

Tuesday morning started with a Rocky Run which concluded at the iconic steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum where we were joined by the Temple band playing the notorious Rocky Theme Song.

Sara Blakely spoke later that morning and she was another one who I instantly developed a girl crush on. I had no idea Spanx was a $1B company. She is a hilarious story teller and told her story from the start when she worked as a chipmunk at Disney. Her story was so impressive from how she saved $5,000 selling fax machines door to door, found a manufacturer in Charlotte to make a prototype, wore her red back pack from college to the presentation with Buyers at Neiman Marcus and then pulled them into the bathroom to have them try Spanx on when she suspected a lack of interest, to calling friends and making them purchase Spanx in Neiman stores across the country, to hosting her a pretend staff meeting in her living room for the Oprah's favorite things show. My favorite quote, "I did not have the most experience in the industry or the most money, but I cared the most."

That afternoon, I attended sessions with co-founders of Birch Box, Rent the Runway, and Dannijo. The Dannijo girls were the sweetest duo I've ever met and I loved hearing the role social media played in the development of their businesses. (PS. I gave them each one of my business cards and they complimented me on my letter press! Thanks Dad!) After the panel, I stepped out in the hallway and spotted Lauren Bush Lauren. I've been a fan of Lauren's since high school when she first launched FEED and I knew I had to speak to her. I awkwardly stood around until I could I introduce myself and discuss hunger with her. Guess what? She knew about FeelGood! This was a real pinch me please moment and I loved speaking with her!

The programming concluded with a  much anticipated one-on-one with Mala Yousafzai. I've been reading about Malala for a few years and my excitement for this conversation only increased when she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize a few weeks ago. I loved her candid conversations and she even told a story about how one of her English teacher's showed no mercy for a late assignment after she won the prize. When asked about her paper Malala responded "Miss, I won the prize and was quite busy." If winning a Nobel Peace Prize isn't an excuse to be late on homework, then what is? She spoke freely about her brothers and their relationship and that despite her advocacy for education, she did not support them having iPhones. At 17, she was one of the most articulate and humble speakers I have ever experienced. She spoke on her passion for girls' education and how we should fight terrorism with books and teachers instead of weapons. When asked if she thinks about how different her life would be if everything had not happened she responded by saying "this is what I've chosen for myself and I am happy with it." She spoke about living your life based on the happiness that you bring to others. Again, so poised and impressive... I want to be her!

Over the course of the conference we heard from quite a few entrepreneurs who have created insane products such as Uncharted Play, Kano, and Enrou to name a few.

The Summit ended with a delicious food festival featuring some of the Top 30 Chefs Under 30. The winner made an incredible Sunchoke Soup. I don't even know what sunchoke is but I went back for two cups.

On the final day, I did a Social Entrepenuer tour of Philadelphia with the Mayor of Philadelphia and Randal Lane. I sat next to Randal Lane at lunch and impressed him with my food Instagram skills.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading. This event was so meaningful to me and I am honored to have been able to attend. I find that life is made up of peak experiences that motivate and change  you at your core and this was one of those peak experiences for me.



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