Vol. 6, No. 12 | Take That, Take That*****
I remember when I was opening Studio No. 7 (the first time, pre fire), one of my liquor sales reps, with tears in her eyes, said how good it was to see someone like me opening a space. I was the only account that she had where a black woman was at the helm. This wasn’t that surprising. Her company only carried small craft brands. What I didn't realize at the time was how rare she was and that in all of my years in the industry she would be the only woman of color that I saw on the sales side.
I thought about this after a day of tasting spirits with liquor reps. They were all great, but it reminded me of the lack of diversity in the industry. There are tons of issues, but I think a big part of it is that so many people don't know that careers in beverage exist. Before I opened a restaurant, at no point did I understand the opportunities that were available in the liquor industry.
I think it's because we've long been taught that success has to be one thing. As recently as three years ago my mom told me that it’s a shame that I wasn’t a lawyer— that someone as smart as me should be doing something with it. To be clear my mom is a great person. It’s just that she’s an immigrant that was taught that success means being a laywer or a doctor. She also doesn’t understand what I do at all. And for a very long time, I didn’t either.
Years ago I was having an existential crisis. I was getting ready to finally open the space, but was still trying to figure out who I was. I happened to be having this breakdown with one of my friends who worked in HR at one of the largest ad agencies in the country. As I bemoaned to her that I didn't know what I was. She said oh, you're a creative. Wait a minute. What? I knew that I was creative, but until that moment I had no idea that it could be a noun*. She explained that Weiden had a whole department of people like me. They had functional titles like copywriter or art director, but they were just called creatives and that’s exactly where I’d be.
My mind exploded. After reading a bunch of things about ad agencies online, I went on LinkedIn and reached out to creative directors in the area. Only one responded to me— Jo, a black British woman that was a badass executive creative director, a unicorn in another industry that is lacking in diversity**. We met at the W downtown for cocktails and as I explained my plight she said oh you're definitely a creative. We went on to have many more of these meet-ups. She’d give me mock assignments each week that thrilled me. The way she ripped apart my ideas and challenged me to defend them was a priceless education. She thought I should go to a portfolio school and pursue advertising. I thought about it, but with a restaurant opening months away, I wouldn’t have the time.
However, I look back at these moments and I know that my life unfolded and continues to unfold exactly how it should. This was supposed to be my journey. I'm just grateful that I followed the little voice within me that told me to move this way or explore that. I was meant to go to journalism school. I was meant to open a restaurant***. I was meant to meet Jo. All of these things led me to where I am now.
Anyway, I said all this to say…your heart is already leading you to the answer. The journey is never wrong. Define success your way. Don’t allow anyone to place limitations on you. Follow the money****. Explore niche industries. Creative is a title.
* Spell check continues to tell me that “a creative” isn’t correct English.
** To this day, every time I see creatives in Atlanta my heart breaks a little because I know that no one told them that they should or could be in advertising. And they’re needed there.
*** Nothing delights me the way food and beverage does. It's how I know I'm on the right track.
**** Don’t chase money, but understand where it's being made…so that you can make money.
***** I don’t know how I ended up with this as the title of this week’s newsletter.