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Chinny Francis: In the Same Space with Serena Williams, Normani & Shavone Charles? Attending the #ForbesUnder30Summit was Surreal



I can’t believe that this past week, I sat in the same room with some of the most accomplished, hard-working and phenomenal individuals. I have always been an avid reader of Forbes’ online magazine and haven’t we all dreamt of being featured on one of Forbes’ popular lists? So, an opportunity to attend this year’s Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit, Michigan was one that I couldn’t pass on. I shared my experience on Instagram and you can check that out at #BNat30Under30.

When Forbes sent out the email the day before the conference began, asking participants to pick up registration tags to avoid long lines at the venue, I thought to myself “I’ll just go to the venue early the next morning and pick up my registration tag.” Let’s just say that was a mistake.

The summit was off to a great start with special sessions for scholars (and I’ll digress to how I received the opportunity to attend the summit). In 2017, Forbes launched the “Under 30 Scholars Program” to give students across the U.S. an opportunity to attend the summit at a subsidized rate. I got selected and your girl hopped on a plane to Detroit, Michigan! One of my key takeaways resounded across sessions on the first day is the importance of building a strong network. Basically, nobody has a rule book on how this life thing is done, but there are more experienced professionals to learn from. Another big takeaway is intentionality. We have to accept that personal and professional growth doesn’t just happen. You must have specific goals, put in the work and block out distractions, all of which are definitely tougher than they look as motivational quotes.

Shavone Charles, a professional breaker of glass ceilings, who led global music and youth culture communications at Instagram and Twitter before launching Magic in her Melanin, shared lessons from her career journey and going after your definition of success. Shavone is also on the marketing and advertising category for the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

(Side note: I met Shavone the previous day and literally froze because why so awesome???)

I was looking forward to Kwame Onwuachi‘s session because what Nigerian doesn’t get excited when you recognize that Nigerian last name? You guessed right! None. Kwame is an award-winning chef based in Washington, D.C. and he confidently shared with the audience, stories of his first restaurant failing, making a huge comeback and re-embracing his love for cooking. Ohh, you have to listen to this funny story about an extended not-really-vacation on the continent.

And I met Serena. Serena Williams. The Serena Williams. Forgive me for being so extra but I was in the same room with one of the world’s greatest athletes and she said “I wasn’t the best player, I wasn’t the most talented, I’m not the toughest girl, I’m by far not the tallest, but I worked the hardest.” I might need to post that on sticky notes and remind myself daily. Did you know that Serena was the only athlete on the 2019 Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women? Do you remember when, in 2017, she said her guilty pleasure purchase was property? I mean, we won’t all be Serena Williams but hustle ohhh! 

She also shared her journey to launching her own fashion brand.

Okay, just look at that cover!

Attending the Forbes Under 30 Summit was an amazing experience. It also reinforced a life lesson. Although some things are out of our control, we can curate our own experiences. Not everyone gets the same results from the same events or opportunities life presents.

To catch up on more sessions from the Forbes Under 30 Summit, you should definitely check out #BNat30Under30 on Instagram. I ended the summit with new friends at the Essence x For(bes) The Culture happy hour and it was perfect. Oh, how can I forget Normani’s beautiful performances?

1 Comment

  1. Mary Edoro

    November 6, 2019 at 10:17 am

    So proud of you Chinny! The experience must have been so inspiring. I enjoyed following the #BNat30Under30 summit. Thanks for sharing.

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