HB’s 2019 Hustler’s List highlights Black women across the beauty, entertainment and marketing fields. These women are blazing paths in their respective lanes while embodying the definition of a true hustler.
Event producer KayCee Nwasike has been curating and building unique experiences for celebrities and brands for the past five years. The 29-year-old event producer is one of the masterminds behind high profile events such as the 365 Black Awards, ‘The Set Gala’ celebrating Offset’s birthday, The Official Essence Festival After Party, and most recently, her beautiful rendering of the Tila Studios Black Art exhibition at Art Basel.
We spoke to Kaycee about how she found her footing in the fickle industry, and the faith and dedication that keeps her motivated.
What is the story behind your hustle? What keeps you inspired?
My biggest inspiration and motivation behind my hustle is my desire to support others in their vision. I believe that everyone on earth has purpose and that purpose is connected to someone else’s. I spent a lot of time tapping into alignment with my purpose. I am inspired by creating moments that matter for people and brands that have a vision for their business or message. My dad is also a constant source of inspiration. He encouraged me to always stay true to my vision, to move strategically, and he truly believed I could do and be anything –that I should dream my biggest dream, and go after it.
Describe the moment you knew that you had a knack for event planning:
I had started freelancing for an Event Producer as his project manager and the first event I had to manage was the Cedric the Entertainer Celebrity Golf Classic. My boss really challenged and empowered me to be a leader and to spearhead this project despite it being the first event I would have ever coordinated. The learning curve was definitely in effect, but what I began to realize is that I was great at problem solving and making difficult decisions. I was charged with coordinating golf teams, facilitating check in, organizing a silent auction, and managing gifting. By the end of that day, I was physically exhausted but mentally and emotionally charged up. It was the first time proving to myself and to others that I can be an asset in this industry–that I can do this!
Were there any obstacles in pursuing this work as a life path?
At first it was difficult to really break into the event industry. Like so many people who begin a new path, I was hit really hard by the fact that I didn’t have a ton of experience in production. My first jobs and internships out of college were in PR and Marketing. What I began to realize after a lot of frustration was, I had to create my own opportunities–I just needed to get into this industry any way I could. My church used to put on an annual film festival and there had been a need for some volunteers in the events and PR department, so I signed up. I got to know another volunteer who was the owner of his own PR company and he eventually started hiring me to help with logistics for red carpet events. It got to the point where I had an event every weekend, and from there things kept falling into place for me. I overcame that initial hurdle with persistence, a willingness to learn and be mentored, and through those things I started to get more and more aligned with my goals. I still have my fair share of obstacles, but I draw on that memory to remind myself that I have the wherewithal to overcome again.
What are some misconceptions people have about what it takes to plan big events? What would you like people to know about the skills behind the glitz and glam?
I would say that the biggest misconception behind event production is that it’s low stakes and easy, just picking menus and linens. There are some important skills that are required to really execute at a high level. Critical thinking, attention to detail, brand expertise, managing production deadlines, client management, and budget management are just a few of those skills. I have spent the past several years producing events for internationally recognized brands, and that raises the stakes. The expectations are bigger, and so therefore the challenges are greater. If you don’t perform, its consequences are leaving a negative impression of the brand with its guests or wasting chunks of the budget, and in that case you’ve done more harm than good.
If someone wanted to get into your career path, what would you recommend they do?
My advice is two fold: take advantage of all your resources. Volunteer to help with an event, sign up to be a production assistant. The name of the game is exposure! My other piece of advice is to try and find mentor. Someone you connect with. Someone who will hire you to do check in, or to be a brand ambassador, or to help with load in and load out. The reason why that’s important is because the output, of event production is: glamour, fun, celebrities, etc , but that’s only one part of the work. The majority of your days are spent negotiating, coordinating, shaving budgets, and producing creative. I’ve been in environments where there are entry level employees who want the job , but not necessarily the work. Having someone who can vouch for you is a great first step because a lot of the beginning days are going to be based off of referrals and conversations that will literally go like, “Do you know anyone who can help me run the door?” Align with someone who will look out for you when opportunities arise.
What is one of your career highlights and why does that moment stand out to you?
A definite career highlight was the work I did for an art studio that made their inaugural debut at Art Basel. This moment stands out for me because that particular client is a black female millennial entrepreneur, so I saw a lot of myself in her, I understood what was driving her, I knew the courage it took to really show up in a big way. It was exciting to be apart of someone’s vision. I was able to curate an experience for someone who’s business was at a pivotal point and that speaks to the heart behind why I love events. I get a lot of professional and personal satisfaction from building with others. I was fortunate enough to work with a client who trusted me and allowed me creative freedom with event design. The event was so successful it was featured in Forbes and several other publications. That was a first for me, and definitely my proudest moment to date.
What is your dream event to produce?
I would love to do set design for Beyonce. What stands out to me when I see Beyonce live, aside from the fact that she’s Beyonce, is her production is impeccable, so creative, so progressive and I would love to have an opportunity to work with her on creating a concert experience. I remember sitting at the Dodger stadium and watching production tear down after her Lemonade concert, the level of production and management just felt like the ultimate feat in design and production.
Catch up with KayCee, here.