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Inaugural BCE Conference Offers Wisdom for Creative Entrepreneurs

BCE Conference Planners
Over the course of several months, Kristen Cawog, Valeria Ocando, and Wes Jackson planned and promoted Emerson College’s inaugural “Future of Creative Industries Conference.”

It’s not just anywhere that two undergraduate students can produce a star-studded event like the first annual Future of Creative Industries Conference, but Kristen Cawog ’21 and Valeria Ocando ’22 made it happen at Emerson.

Both majoring in Business of Creative Enterprises (BCE), they had been thinking of such an event since before the pandemic began, along with Wes Jackson, their mentor and BCE program director. He said that Cawog had put together a slate of guest speakers for the summer and fall, and “when Valeria joined the team we realized we had the extra muscle to pull this off. We did briefly consider pushing it to the spring, but we decided to ‘test it out’ virtually during December when we saw the on-campus semester would end earlier than usual.”

To pull it off, Cawog and Ocando handled virtually every detail of planning, promotions, and production, with guidance from Jackson and a bit of assistance from the offices of Alumni Engagement and Media Services.

Bobbi Brown and Wes Jackson
Bobbi Brown ’79, MA ’12 shared stories from a career that began as a waitress and struggling make-up artist, and became successful entrepreneur and make-up artist to models, movie stars, U.S. Presidents. She also described the vastly different experience of her first launch of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics more than two decades ago, and her latest venture, Jones Road.

The “test,” as it turned out, was a smashing success, drawing more than 300 attendee registrations. The December 15 event was headlined by a conversation between Jackson and cosmetic entrepreneur Bobbi Brown ’79, MA’12, who shared insights on her career path, business experience, some Emerson memories, and a delightful sense of humor. 

The panel discussions featured highly accomplished artists and entrepreneurs, who also shared their experiences, admiration for one another’s work, and some truly valuable lessons. At the end of five hours of conversation, Professor Brent Smith, Marketing Communication chair, took the screen for a few parting words and synthesized much of the day into a thoughtful summary, some of which we share here:

  • As we listened to Bobbi Brown, Antoine, Xaiver, Barry Cole, One9, and Carmela, April, Stephanie and Ebonie, we should maybe challenge ourselves to consider not merely what the future will bring, but what we will bring to the future. We’ve heard a lot about innovating and being empathetic, so maybe that’s a reminder for us that the future is ours. We have a say in what it will look like, feel like, and, more importantly, what it will mean for us and everyone. 
  • In terms of just innovating, what Bobbi Brown said earlier in the day — Don’t really fret about your competition. It’s a big world, it’s ever-changing, there’s it room for all of us — That’s important to keep in mind. 
  • Carmela, April and and Stephanie suggested that we follow our spirit, especially if it keeps us awake every day, all day. So I believe it was mentioned, ‘If you can’t stop thinking about it, then do not stop working towards it.’ Pretty sage advice. 
  • We heard about making sure your ‘will outweighs your skill.’ If that’s what’s called for, then always have the will and somebody will see that maybe they should give you a chance. As you go on forever be a student — learn the technology, learn the coding, as Barry Cole says and One9 told us. Learn the production, learn about the cameras, learn whatever it is you need to learn, but make sure you’ve got the will to make your way to getting the skill — to make your way toward getting a chance from somebody.

In order to share all of the day’s wisdom and conversations, the planning team will soon publish its video recording on the conference web page.

They will also look back on the experience with a sense of learning and accomplishment.

At first, Ocando says, “I felt very challenged because of the nature of the conference being all online. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but thanks to our amazing team and our ability to adapt to this new environment, we made it happen. I am most excited about the fact that we created a new legacy for Emerson College and can’t wait to see what the future holds!” 

After a short winter break, the trio will regroup to begin thinking about the next conference. In the meantime, Cawog will complete her final semester at Emerson, and as a driving force behind the student-run Five Cent Sound Magazine, and Ocando will continue to build her own art-inspired fashion start-up, Vival Garco, which she developed through the Emerson Launch Startup Bootcamp.

Fashion, Leadership & Innovation panelists (clockwise from top left): Carmela Osorio Lugo, Head of Design and Production at Attire The Studio; Stephanie Howard, Founder and Creative Director of How and Why Design; April Walker, CEO of Walker Wear; and moderator Ebonie Jackson, Director of the Women’s Center for Gender Justice at CUNY York College
Creative Culture Entreneurs panelists (clockwise from top left): Xavier “X” Jernigan, head of Cultural Partnerships at Spotify, Barry Cole, Music supervisor and publisher; One9, filmmaker, producer, director, artist; and moderator Antoine Hardy, an affiliate instructor in the BCE program.

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