The inaugural IMPACT 17 conference—a pop-up music, fashion, art and tech event—took place last Thursday at the University of Miami’s Watsco center. The goal was to bring entrepreneurs, industry leaders and high profile influencers together in one place to share ideas and inspire young ambitious leaders of the future. As one of those young and hungry entrepreneurs in attendance, I would say, they did exactly that. Not only did I witness and learn from some of the most successful leaders in their respective industries; I was able to grow my network, teach people about my own media brand, EMCEE, and ultimately, walk away with advice and insight that will influence the way I will fuel my own passions and entrepreneurial goals.
The event kicked off with a free pop-up segment where Miami’s own 99Jamz provided entertainment while visual artists, fashion vendors, and various other up-and-coming brands showed off their work. It was great to see young creatives in south Florida all together in one room supporting each other, and certainly set the vibe for the day. Some of my personal favorites in attendance were visual artist Nate Dee, who was live-painting, showing his approach to the colorful and realistic portraits he creates; and the talented Art Crazy Photography, who has previously shot IMPACT 17’s very own host, YesJulz as well as other high-profile beauties such as Draya Michele and India Love. Kruzin sneakers as well as Hoopers Dream, were two of the apparel brands at the pop up, showing off their fresh accessories that they would later display for everyone at the conference on the runway.
From there I headed over to the main stage where the panels hosted by Chris Cruz of Y100 Miami took place. Opening up with a discussion on the state of entrepreneurship, the standard was set for the rest of the day by esteemed voices such as Jeremy Wiesen, professor of entrepreneurship at NYU, and founders from big-time companies such as Life In Color, and ANSA technologies. As a listener, it was very interesting to hear the panelists discuss the hard work and dedication they had to put forth to get to where they are today. The biggest take-away for me in this segment was John Henry of Cofound Harlem’s comments on what it takes to build a successful business from the ground up. He stated “if you are starting a business, forget about work/life balance. Make your company your life and you’ll lay down the foundation for the future,” which had all the panelists nodding their head in agreement. The over-arching theme of this discussion was: you have to follow your passion with extreme focus and dedication, pouring your life into it, to get the results you want. This was one of the most motivating panels of the day, and a great way to get the ball rolling for the conversations to follow.
After listening in on these panels, I was eager to get out and network with people in attendance and had the opportunity to follow-up with some of the panelists in the media room. Meeting like-minded individuals who have similar goals to mine as a partner of EMCEE, it was great to come together with people across all industries and levels of success. From fashion designers, to film-makers, to PR representatives, the IMPACT media room provided a chance for exclusive networking and an overall open and positive environment. This was essential to the success of the event because so many people were able to spread their eagerness to work, meet others in and outside of their industry and ultimately come away with new connections.
I was able to get backstage and have a sneak peek of the models preparing for the big show and caught up with Kaye Cox, lead model and model coordinator for “The Drop,” one of the featured clothing lines. From networking in the media room to gaining this backstage access, I wasn’t able to be in the audience covering the full extent of the panels the entire day. I did however get to catch a few snippets from the conversations on fashion and brand autonomy. One specific comment I found interesting was from James Smith of K2 Models. He related scouting the right model for his brand to brand autonomy for any business. Smith vocalized, “beauty is easy to recognize, but what is not easy to recognize is unusual beauty, unique beauty.” He continued to relate this approach to any business, encouraging brands to choose things that are unique–making whatever that may be–specific to their brand. From a marketing perspective, this speaks volumes. If you can achieve originality that people recognize immediately to associate with your name, it is invaluable to your business and growth.
As the event went into the night, the vibe began to transform seamlessly in the main auditorium opening up more of an entertainment feel. This is why IMPACT is unique, and not like any other conference you will attend. The organizers found a way to present quality information and insight from real business success stories, as well as bring out talent to entertain the audience between panels. The hosting switched from Chris Cruz to Miami influencer, YesJulz, CEO of 1am Creative, who is well known for her involvement in Miami as well as the hip-hop community. The evening was stacked with performers such as Jayaire Woods, Amon, Bruno Mali, Twelve’len and more with Y100’s DJ GQ on the turn tables keeping the sounds coming between sets. The switch from information to entertainment was just what the audience needed to be engaged throughout the long day. One particular act I enjoyed was the dance crew Young Legendz, who killed the stage with their group choreography and had the crowd wanting more.
As the panels came to a close the event became entertainment driven, and our photographer was able to get access to the stage and capture moments of the performers, DJs, and hosts to shine light on the music of the night. As we got closer to the headlining moment of DJ Khaled coming on stage, the auditorium was filling with more buzz and excitement. This was when fashion brands Alessandra Gold and Kruzin, Hoopers Dream, The Drop USA by Khasamarina, and Nonsense came out and killed the runway. Visions by Teonah and Lepremier Miami were accessory lines featured in the show as well, and all the models came to slay. The crowd amped up during this time and it was really a testament to the relationship between fashion and hip-hop in Miami, and how they work hand-in-hand. Following the runway show until DJ Khaled made an appearance, Ape Drums kept the energy going with dancehall sounds mixed with classic hip-hop joints that started an impromptu dance-off on stage.
Finally, the man of the hour, DJ Khaled, entered the building fresh off of his tour bus, which he had been traveling on promoting his latest album, Grateful since it dropped on June 23. Undoubtedly tired from a full day of promoting in Miami, the mega-star still came out full of energy blasting his classic “All I Do is Win” and shouting out 305, showing homage to his city. After the explosive introduction, he spoke to the crowd instantly mentioning his son, who has become his own little super-star even getting the “executive producer” credits as well as being the cover art for Grateful. Saying to the crowd “I’m a father now, I am the father of Asahd Khaled and when you see me just know i’m doing everything for him.” At this time, a fan walked up to the stage and handed Khaled a giant wrapped canvas. When Khaled opened the gift on stage he showed the gift to the crowd, a painted portrait of Khaled and his son together, which prompted a very excited “yes boy yes boy yes boy yes boy” shout out from Khaled, and many thanks to the artist who gifted it to him.
The rest of Khaled’s set was full of intensity while he amped up the crowd shouting out lyrics to some of his classic songs as they played. He also busted out his signature dance moves displaying some serious footwork when “To The Max” came on, making the crowd go nuts. Khaled was the most appropriate choice as a headliner for a conference encouraging entrepreneurs and business success, especially in his own home, the city of Miami. If there is anyone who has created brand autonomy, it’s the founder of “We The Best”. Using social media as a tool, he has coined unique phrases specific to him such as “another one,” “major key,” and now even “yes boy yes boy yes boy” as pop-culture phrases that everyone is aware are his own. His presence demands attention, and everyone in the Watsco arena Thursday night was giving it to him. After a live set of dancing and talking to the crowd, he then went behind the turntables and did what he does best. The liveliness was tangible from the stage to the crowd, and it was the perfect ending to a successful event for everyone who came out.
After attending IMPACT 17, I have acquired a new wave of motivation and feel as though I came away from the event with true insight that will guide me through endeavors in the future. The energy was amazing and full of positive vibes making everyone feel a little closer and more involved in Miami that day. The creators of the conference did a great job and I truly believe it’s success will only grow with each year. EMCEE’s own photographer Carlos Gallego got the exclusive shots of the event you see in this article. Check back here at EMCEE for when we post all of the images so you can get the full view of the outstanding IMPACT 17 conference.