• Hanifah Jones

PHL Startup Week Recap

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending Tech Star’s PHL Startup Week, a week of networking and interactive panels on topics ranging from local entrepreneurship to creative education.

As a self-proclaimed awkward black girl (shoutout to Issa Rae), and an anxious hot mess, the idea of networking makes me break out in hives. There are a million ways it could go wrong, I might embarrass myself (as I tend to do) or even worse, come off as rude and unprofessional.

However, PHL Startup Week exceeded my expectations and gave me an entirely new outlook on networking.

From the organizers to the panelists and moderators, everyone was incredibly down-to-earth and welcoming. “Make sure you leave this event with at least three new connections,” said Delilah Cruz, one of the organizers of PHL Start-up Week. She opened every panel with this message, encouraging attendees to expand their networks and get to know each other.

The panels took place at various WeWork sites in Philadelphia, and I was very impressed with the venues. WeWork is a network of shared workspaces with branches all over the world. Each location had its own twist and made me feel right at home. The “stair seats” at the Northern Liberties location were my favorite!

The first event of the week that I attended was the “Building Wakanda” panel. The panel was moderated by Rashiid Coleman and featured Vinasia Miles (Forbes the Culture), Khoran Horn (VIII XII Hospitality Group), and Morrisa Jenkins (Freedom Apothecary).

Here were my key takeaways from the night:

  • “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” said Miles.

  • We should never feel forced to code-switch

  • Collaboration = Support

  • Engagement is key

  • Don’t dwell on the “no”

Next was the “She Innovates” panel that was moderated by Philly blogger Amber Burns and featured Sha’neil Johnson (Base Butter), Lauren Westerman (Classic Events by Lauren), and Charisse R. McGill (Lokal Artisan Foods).

Here were my key takeaways from the night:

  • “I didn’t choose to be an entrepreneur; it chose me,” said McGill.

  • Always have a side hustle

  • There will be lows, but there will also be highs

I briefly attended the “Philly Made” panel that Thursday, but I started to feel my fibro flaring up and left a few minutes after it started. But I really enjoyed the networking session/happy hour before the panel started.

There was an hour dedicated to networking before each panel, which allowed me to come out of my shell. I was able to connect with an alum from my alma mater (small world) and people who graduated from my high school (seriously...such a small world).

From CEOs to teachers, everyone in attendance was easy to talk to and genuinely interested in getting to know one another. I can honestly say that there were no egos present. Everyone had a smile on their faces and great advice to give.

I initially had a difficult time relating to the material because I walked into the room without considering myself to be an entrepreneur or a creative. Thankfully, I received some very wise advice: you don’t have to sell a product to have an entrepreneurial spirit. You don’t have to be a painter or a musician to be a creative. As someone who is passionate about creating content, it seems silly that I ever doubted my creative instincts.

In all transparency, I walked into each event knowing that I wanted to leave my job. I didn’t know that my next steps would be, and I needed some motivation. Listening to a group of men and women that I look up to was just what I needed! Every speaker and audience member that I interacted with inspired me.

A huge thank you to everyone who put together such an amazing event! I'm looking forward to attending next year's panels, and trust me, you won't want to miss it.

For more information follow the Philly Startup Week IG page: @phlstartupweek