It’s so amazing to meet so many people in Chicago, who are really doing big things. This time around, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing, Cameka Smith, founder of The Boss Network– one of the leading online professional networks for women. I’m a member of The Boss Network, ladies you should definitely join. The Boss Network- boss being an acronym for Bringing Out Successful Sisters, is certainly making it’s mark across the globe. Find out how Cameka Smith transformed her career as a Chicago Public School educator into a worldwide women’s empowerment brand.
So, let’s talk about Cameka Smith pre- The Boss Network.
I’m from Chicago, born and raised here. I graduated from college at 22, with my Master’s degree in Education. When I graduated with my Master’s degree, I started off in higher education at Chicago State University, and then [I went on to] the UIC (University of Illinois- Chicago). I did student programming, advising, and counseling. I got recruited to work for Chicago Public Schools (2005), in a new department, called, Post- secondary education. [I] worked in the system for five years, it was amazing. It was the best job, I could’ve asked for.
Tell me about The Boss Network.
I started The Boss Network, because I have a background in event planning. I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. I [always] sold something, I did hair and nails. Entrepreneurism was always in my blood. In 2005, I started an event company, because I wanted to create events, work with charities, and try to get more support for organizations. [I started thinking] I could create a series of events that focused on professionals to bring them together, to talk about differences and network. I wanted to call it Boss (the acronym came later). We did two events in the summer. I basically partnered with a few women that I knew in Chicago, that were professionals, that were connected, and together we made it a successful event. From there, some women were saying how do we join, how can we be more involved. That’s when I sat down, around the time I got laid off, and said hey how can I make these events bigger than events. So, I started to create The Boss Network.
Fabulous. So do you have a team of people.
Yes, absolutely. I have a network manager who’s based in New York. I have a network coordinator, who handles a lot of the email inquiries, and membership stuff. Then we have two interns, and we have ambassadors that just support what we do, volunteer at events, and just spread the word about Boss, and what we are trying to accomplish.
How do you put together events.
I have ideas for things I want to see. I’m an educator, so for me, my events have an educational component. I’m always going to do something that is fun, that is engaging, [and] beneficial. So for me, it’s all about coming up with ideas on what members feel their needs are.
Y.S. Mag really likes to focus on the story, and how entrepreneurs really build things, so as an entrepreneur, what was your experience taking that leap.
It was a decision I had to make. You’re talking about a job making six figures to figuring it out on your own. You have to really believe in yourself. You have to have a plan, you have to have savings, but you still have to take care of business. So, I had those things in place. It was really about me putting down my strategic plan, my business model, and seeing how I could make this thing work. I gave myself time.
You have two years, and you can put everything in it; if it’s not what you want in two years, then you need to go back to square one and focus on what you worked so hard for.
Along the way, there are so many other things that you encounter. So we should talk about that too. So you have these fresh ideas, you have this vision, and it’s exciting in the beginning. People will support that, because it sounds nice. But as you start working on it more and more, people will start to discourage you. You’ll start to hear people say negative things, or you will start to feel negative, because it’s not as easy as you thought it would be. It takes a lot of work, a lot of hitting the pavement, a lot of relationship building, a lot of networking, a lot of late night hours researching. Then, you ask yourself, can I really do this. What have I done? Where do I start? When you keep that focus on the end goal, then that keeps you going.
…Wait, there is more. Check back with us tomorrow for part 2, of Cameka’s interview, find out how she keeps her brand thriving!
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