The premiere episode of Hey Awesome Girl with Tivi Jones features Joye Speight, owner and chief event designer of Virtue Events. Joye has been working in the hospitality industry for 25 years planning events from New York to South Florida. She has created one of the most highly sought-after minority women-owned event production companies in North Carolina, Virtue Events, and has been voted “best event planner” for nine years in a row by Durham Magazine for the curation and design of her events.
Joye is a serial entrepreneur, who has many businesses such as a luxury candle line Virtuos Lifestyles. Entrepreneurship is in Joye’s blood. Her family’s legacy in Speight’s Auto – an auto mechanic shop in Durham, NC – service dates all the way back to Black Wall Street.
Joye says people refer to her as a “fixer” because she’s great at solving problems and providing invaluable advice. The entrepreneur’s friendship with our CEO and host Tivi Jones dates back 10 years and in this episode, you’ll witness the two bonding, laughing, and having a real talk about the challenges they’ve faced as Black entrepreneurs.
If there’s one takeaway from this episode, it’s Joye’s advice to “Don’t be an asshole to yourself!” – meaning, stop doing things to make your life harder.
Delve into this episode to hear about running a business from the master herself.
BIGGEST CAREER WINS
Throughout this episode, you’ll notice Joye’s ability to coherently synthesize ideas and list them as if she’s teaching a master class. She says there have been three biggest wins in her career.
The first is the ability to take concepts and execute them. For example, Joye tells a story of how she transformed a concert in an art gallery into a massive festival, now called The Art of Cool Festival, that focuses on jazz and emerging artists. The Art of Cool is now one of Durham’s most successful festivals, bringing an audience of 10 thousand people.
The second win was being asked to organize President Joe Biden's campaign’s arrival in Durham in 2021. The president arrived with Kerry Washington, Cory Booker and highlighted small business owners in Durham.
The third win was opening Suite Four, a premier event venue in the heart of Downtown Durham. “We took a space that was empty for three, four years and made six figures from it,” Joye says. She created community, built relationships, and highlighted hospitality professionals like caterers from marginalized communities.
BUILDING A BUSINESS WHILE CREATING COMMUNITY
Helping marginalized communities has been key in Joye’s life. Her advice for every entrepreneur is to have a crystal clear WHY behind their business. She says for the first 15 years of her business, she was mostly focused on making money and mastering her craft, but at some point, that wasn’t enough.
Then, I made the decision to connect my mastery to my legacy and use the two together,” she says.
“My mastery is bringing people together. And the tool is through events. My legacy is economic development, equity, inclusion, and community building, which dates back to my family’s legacy in Black Wall Street,” she explains.
After connecting her mastery to her legacy, Joye became more fulfilled.
Joye says if you’re just starting out your business or if your business has become stale, you need to ask yourself this question– “What are you doing to impact your community?”
Then, she says, you need to figure out what the impact is you’re trying to achieve and connect it to your why. If the two don’t meet– it’s time to reevaluate. If they do– sit down and strategize.
“For me, building community was always easy because I believe in treating people like I want to be treated and that everyone's worthy. I can go to bed at night knowing I was consistent, honest, and authentic,” Joye says.
But she warns that there are some people who will perceive your help as a threat.
She says if someone comes to you and tells you you’re not doing as well as you could, take the time to hear them out and see where they’re coming from.
Navigating those experiences is hard.
“Ultimately, in order to work in any type of diversity, inclusion, equity, or economic development, you have to be a strategist, a therapist, and a conflict solver. The reality is not black and white. It’s gray,” Joye says.
Joye explains that the exchange of ideas is crucial because it helps increase the impact on the community. It’s important to know what your goal is, however, she says, not every argument or issue is going to be about the goal, it’s about the systems and processes to get to that goal.
Joye provides us with a clear plan on how to navigate difficult conversations to maximize impact and achieve the goal. Here’s a quick outline:
- Brainstorm and outline every person who is at the table. What is their definition of getting to the goal?
- Then, brainstorm what the objections, pitfalls, and roadblocks are and address them.
- Communicate. Delegate and outline the communications strategy. How often will you communicate? How often you’ll need to create a task list with deliverables?
She emphasizes that communication is key, it is the core of any project. The minute communication breaks, the entire project could crumble.
Tivi asks Joye, “How do you get to that place where you can approach these challenges with grace and understanding?”
“It takes practice,” Joye says. “I’m by nature a very aggressive person, I’ll say what I need to say. You have to make a decision– DO YOU WANT TO BE RIGHT OR DO YOU WANT TO MAKE AN IMPACT?”
Well, that’s some food for thought.
Tivi asks Joye about the biggest growth opportunities she’s experienced and mentions she herself has had many moments to learn from and challenges running her own business.
“You’re killing it!” Joye tells Tivi.
Tivi is hesitant to admit that at first, but then Joye says, “We have to stop apologizing or downplaying our growth. Own it. You did the work!”
“I receive that,” Tivi says.
We are witnessing the power of community during this exchange. The power of two Black women entrepreneurs who have learned from each other for the past decade.
Joye takes the opportunity to share a story with the listeners about a lesson she’s learned from Tivi. She remembers Tivi having just started her business and six months down the line, she asked Joye if the two of them could collaborate on some projects together.
Joye said, “Wait a minute, don’t you have like 12 clients?”
“Oh,” Tivi said, “I fired them!”
Joye points out she realized something at that moment– she didn’t know she could fire clients. Every few years she talked to her friend, Tivi had fired a whole other set of clients.
“And that gave me so much respect for you,’ Joye says. “You have to be a bad bitc* to do that versus me who’s so loyal.”
Then we arrive at one of the most valuable lessons that Tivi teaches us.
“There's a time and place for loyalty,” Tivi says. “I didn’t understand what I was doing back then. I just knew that something wasn’t right with the client. What I realize now is that I have to be loyal to myself and my vision. The reason I wasn’t comfortable was that I wasn’t choosing MYSELF.”
“Exactly, Joye says. And that's the greatest lesson you ever taught me. I should have fired a whole bunch of people a long time ago.”
PLEASURE EASE AND ABUNDANCE
Hey Awesome Girl’s mission is to help women have more pleasure, ease, and abundance in their lives. How is Joye cultivating those things in her own life?
“I suck at it,” Joye laughs. She says before the pandemic, it was easy for her to hop on the plane and go somewhere, but once the pandemic hit, she doubled down on work.
What’s stopping her now?
“I created another job for myself, Joye says. “I thought I was creating a business and I created a job.”
Let’s unpack that. What’s the difference between being an entrepreneur vs. having a job?
Joye provides us with two reasons someone becomes an entrepreneur:
- They want to be able to focus on their passion.
- They want freedom of time, money, and experience.
“When youre going into your business if you make a list of every single thing that has to be done in your business, and you write beside it who is doing it and you are on more than three of those tasks– that’s a job,” Joey says. “The only difference is you can't get fired from it because you're the boss.”
She says most entrepreneurs will be in that “job” phase while their business is still a startup. But she warns that if you’re in years 5-10 of your business, and you’re still doing most of the tasks, then it’s not a business, it’s a “glorified job.”
“Just like you have a spirit as a person, your business has a spirit. And if your business is taking away from your spirit, it is a job.” Joye says.
Joye is working tirelessly to find more pleasure, ease, and abundance in her life. She realized that working on opening up a venue in the middle of the pandemic was taking away her spirit. “I got to a point where I just wasn’t happy,’ she says.
Joye says she has a giver’s heart and sometimes it’s hard for her to not overextend herself. She shares that a lot of people who she’s helped with events have stabbed her in her back.
“It sounds like you’re an overgiver,’ Tivi says.
“I don't feel that, I feel like I have a ‘save a hoe complex’,” Joe says.
“Well, where you go…” Tivi says,” cause you know them hoes don’t wanna be saved.”
“It’s like I see a hoe, I wanna save them and that ain’t my job. That’s Jesus’s job," Joye laughs.
And that’s one powerful lesson right there.
On a more serious note, Joye says she has redefined the meaning of abundance. “Most people think about abundance in just a monetary capacity. There’s an abundance of everything, like relationships. If we focus our energy on the abundance of life, the money will come,” she says.
I wasn’t wrong noticing that Joye speaks like a true teacher. We are excited to announce that after five years of consideration, after Tivi gave the idea to her friend, Joye is finally launching a master class for people on how to grow their business! Stay tuned!
Joye says she worked so hard that initially, she couldn’t see how launching a course teaching people how to work had been beneficial, but now she realized that event planning is just her tool to her mastery–which is building communities and experiences. “And that is a transferable skill for any industry,” she says. “There are people who find value in access to me and they've been able to leverage these tools to build their business. So who am I to keep it from them any longer?
As for advice for her younger self, Joye says, “Trust, but verify.”
What she means is to trust people to be themselves and see them the way they are. To verify–ask people what their experience was working with this person, and keep in mind that you can’t change people.
“I’ve only been hurt by people. I’ve never been hurt by my business,” Joye says.
I hope that you have enjoyed this episode as much as I have!
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Demi Vitkute is a Media & Editorial Manager at Hey Awesome Girl and Director of Hey Awesome Girl with Tivi Jones show. She’s a passionate storyteller, fashion aficionado + crazy cat mom trying to change the world. She’s a journalist, editor, and media consultant. Demi is the founder of The Urban Watch Magazine and has written for The Washington Post, Inside Hook, and Promo Magazine, among others. You can follow her on IG and Twitter @demiivit.