By: Lindsey Cotton
What is the Bougie Brunch?
Created and curated by four successful women of color to introduce a platform in which other women of color could network with women of like minds. It's an avenue in which women of color could be given tools to help each other break the glass ceiling of corporate America.
The Bougie Brunch is the brainchild of four women: Joi Adams, Lyndsay Christian, Shawanda Green, and Ericka Hatfield.
Bougie Brunches are held throughout the year in various locations affording women the opportunity to be part of the networking process in a locale close to them and take those tools back into their own sister communities.
I had the privilege of speaking with Lyndsay Christian, Chief Marketing Officer for The Bougie Brunch Group, who was able to give insight into the Bougie Brunch and how a conversation over lunch launched a new network for women of color.
How did you ladies connect and how did the concept of the Bougie Brunch come about?
Ericka and I are college mates and sorority sisters. Shawanda and I met here in New York through a mutual friend a few years ago and Joi recently moved here with and we met mutually through friends. We were sitting at my birthday brunch last April and at the end of the brunch we started talking about how we could continue this momentum of being with amazing like minded professional women. We started tossing around ideas and said "let's host a brunch. Let's tap into our network, sell tickets, and reach out to our various contacts, pull them all together and we successfully hosted a sold out brunch within two months." There was such a need and a huge response from women after, wanting to know when the next one would be! They wanted to experience the Bougie Brunch. A few months later we hosted another one and it has taken off from there.
What would you say is one of the biggest challenges and/or roadblocks you see for women of color professionally?
Some of the biggest challenges or roadblocks we have observed is that women of color are not given seats at the table. There is a lack of representation in corporate America and in various other sectors in which women of color are not present and don't have a voice. So the BB group's mission is to solve that problem of under-representation by giving women of color voices and platforms and opportunities. Through our various events, panel discussions, and networking mixers the idea is that we connect our database of amazing mid-to-senior level women to corporations. We have connected with Google, L'Oreal, Etsy, and one of our dynamic supporters Young and Rubicam (Y&R), which is a global ad agency to host events. They come on board, send recruiters to our brunches, host panel discussions and invite our network of women so that they have that immediate connection to our database as opposed to having to look online. The overall mission is that we create a "Black LinkedIn" if you will, for women of color. We are building our database. We are building our network, all by hosting these events and eventually we want these companies to see that we have the talent for you partner with us and let us help make it happen. Every woman should have a voice and an opportunity.
If you could give the women attending one piece of advice what would it be?
The biggest piece of advice would be to leverage your network and stay connected to the women that you meet at the brunch. There are some heavy hitters that attend our brunches and the spectrum runs the gamut. We always say to the women there to connect with at least one woman in attendance and stay connected to her — someone whom you think you can learn from and/or help. Our feedback has shown a lot of success stories with women helping each other or partnering with each other. The biggest take away or piece of advice is leverage your network and connect with your accountability partner. The whole idea is networking with a purpose, and what's the point if you come to an event and you never connect with anyone? It's all about who you know in order to ascend, so having that relationship and connection is important.
How would you encourage the women once they attend to continue to help and celebrate each other once they leave the event?
I would advise the women to support each others endeavors, support each other's businesses, and hold each other accountable. We always encourage the women to self-promote but also help other women promote. Women who attend the brunch are forming a sisterhood and it becomes this platform even on social media commenting on each others' photos and cheering each other on. It's just continuing that support and encouraging each other because we are all here to rise and how can we all rise if we are tearing each other down?
As you ladies go forward with the Bougie Brunch what do you see happening as you grow especially coming up on your one year anniversary?
Our goal is to host internationally, and connect with women all over the world. In fact we received an inquiry from a woman who lives in Abu Dhabi wanting to connect with us to host an event there. We see this movement really taking off via a fast trajectory. Part of that, however, is also gaining more support from corporate sponsors as we need funding to be able to take it to the next level. So, it's working in tandem and reaching out trying to spread our message, so that corporations can see what we are doing and come on board and help us fund this but ultimately the goal is to take this internationally.
Another aspect of the Bougie Brunch is Bougie Blessings. The BB Group selects a charity or non-profit that assists children or women of color to receive donations during the brunch. Guests are able to donate on site and “bless” the organization immediately. Not only are the women of the BB Group helping professional women of color, they are also reaching out and making sure they have an impact all the way around. Several more Bougie Brunches are planned for this year. Don’t sell yourself short ladies, do what it takes to make sure you are in attendance at one if not all of the Bougie Brunches!