Imani Ellis is one of this people who makes you wonder if there are in fact 24 hours in a day. By day (9 to 5), she is a corporate communications director. By night (5 to 9), she creates, fosters, and cultivates real community for millennial creatives of color on a huge scale as the founder of Creative Collective NYC and the genius behind CultureCon, which is going down this weekend, October 12 at Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn, New York.
With speakers like Tracee Ellis Ross, Lena Waithe, Kofi Siriboe, Quincy, and more, it’s hard to believe that the fast-growing annual CultureCon is only in Year 3. The conference helps young POC creatives learn how to make the most of their hustle from the best in the game with engaging panels, breakout sessions, and a marketplace featuring Black-owned brands—all while helping them connect with each other to create beneficial networks that will last a lifetime.
We interviewed Imani Ellis herself ahead of CultureCon this weekend to pick her brain about how to make the side gig the main gig and what inspires the woman who inspires so many others.
What inspired you to start CultureCon?
CultureCon was built to cater to creatives and young professionals of color with a 360 degree approach. We not only want to ask them what they’re working on, we want to ask them how they’re doing. There are conversations on funding your side hustle, navigating your corporate role and the importance of mental wellness. The goal is to facilitate brave spaces for curious creatives and we want to make sure people walk away inspired and ready to act.
As you continue to expand on your dedication to create spaces for multicultural creatives, what do you feel is necessary to inspire the next generation of world changing doers?
I think it becomes more and more necessary to have transparent conversations. To implore our speakers to tell the “not so incredible” moments from their journey too. I think that this honest dialogue can adequately prepare future creatives for what’s to come and can inspire them to push through adversity to reach their goal.
What does community mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur has really helped me to realize that most things are figure-outable. You may not always have the answer but if you surround yourself with smart people, someone does. I take that notion with me everywhere I go now and understand that I can ask for help and there is no weakness in that. In fact, it makes me brave.
Someone on Twitter explained CultureCon as “church on a Saturday with a college course taught by your hero…a vibe of a concert without the rapping or singing—just a forever good feeling that lasts for days.” In three words, how would you describe the CultureCon experience?
Inspiring. Empowering. Home.
You’re quite the fashion influencer on your Instagram! If you could pick one song that reflects your style identity what would it be?
“There is no finish line.” --Jerry Leo, Executive Vice President, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, & Production
As someone who juggles a “9-5” with a “5-9,” what advice do you have for others working toward growing a passion project?
Give yourself deadlines in you 5-9 just like you would in your corporate role. Ask for help and delegate if you can. Have a clear goal and create tangible steps of how you’ll reach it. Be kind to yourself.