SXSW: Aftermath in the DMV


As a representation of the reality that the marathon of collective work and responsibility continues, the Washington, DC chapter of Mastermind Connect proudly hosted SXSW: Aftermath event on April 18th, 2019, at Bin 1301 Wine Bar and Lounge.

Gathering for educational exchange is an ancient art form. It fills - and sometimes creates - gaps, so that a new philosophy can be born. In today’s socially evolving world, the ancient art often shines brightest in the form of panel discussion; a public exchange of ideas, giving experts and audience members the chance to discuss a particular topic (Wikipedia). Panel discussions are often used to delve into politics, issues affecting communities, and academic topics.

Mastermind Connect fashioned SXSW: Aftermath to intrigue, inspire, and inform Washingtonians of all things bossy, techy, and startup-y, via the lenses of those who experienced the South by Southwest Music and Innovation Festival first hand.

For those unfamiliar (or living under a rock), SXSW is one of the pillars of the start up, innovation, and tech community. Every year in Austin, TX, folks travel from all around the world to not only “keep Austin weird” (a local small business slogan) but to also hear, experience and collaborate on what might next change the world. Amongst those world changers Three DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) based entrepreneurs, Shelly Bell, Michell C. Clark and Kezia Williams, not only attended the latest iteration of SXSW, but actively participated based on their respective brands. With such brain gain occurring in the nation’s capital, we thought it would only be right to allow these three dynamic innovators to serve as our panelists to execute a knowledge transfer to the greater DC community.

Each innovator started off giving their recap of SXSW 2019, and offered a past, present, future look into their respective brands and work. It was incredible to hear how different, yet connected, their experiences were. For first timer Kezia Williams, the experience was as much personal as it was business. She recalls enjoying the music, and events just as much as she did the networking and business development. Michell, who was “flewed out” to Austin via a branding sponsorship, gave us a look into the intriguing world of social media influence and how it can be a lifestyle, as much as it is a career. Shelly, who was at the festival on behalf of her company Black Girl Ventures, and a 3 year veteran of SXSW, built on her fellow panelists insights. In addition Black Girl Ventures hosted several events that assist women founders with start-up capital of over $5,000.


As the crowd and panelist settled in, the conversation pivoted to a real talk discussion on how the work of innovators is setting the stage for Generation Z to stand and jump off into the creativity they wish to bring to the world. The largest population to ever walk this earth (Gen Z) is also slated to have the most access due to the internet of things (IOT). According to a Gallup Student Poll, 40% of students grades 5-12 plan to start their own business, while 24% are already learning how to start and run a business.The Millennial entrepreneurs and innovators that seek to understand, partner and support this sign of the times generation will be the Henry Ford’s of the future. “Forehumans” of the industries Generation Z will add the economic nitrous-oxide to and inevitably cement the foundations of generational wealth. All things people of color and women have been historically restricted from exploring. Also, all things Shelly, Michell and Kezia vehemently understand and take advantage of in their work.

As our conversation and exploration began to round its way back to Washington, DC. we discussed the ever present, ever-exhausting “what do you do?” culture that exists here. While we are all aware of it, in our own way, the panel gave rise to the reality that there is a subculture to this that boasts genuine and fruitful collaboration through connection. In essence, there are those of us that when we ask this question, zealously mean it. What’s more, we understand that our personal and professional work along with our collective desire for real economic equality requires a deep and honest connection between ourselves and those whose answer to this question we align with. This topic was a seemingly perfect end to our discussion, as it guided us from closing out our panel to opening dialogues between all those present who eagerly wanted to explore; some for the first time asking others: “so, what do you do?” with intention, and purpose.

The SxSW: Aftermath event was an incredible experience for all involved, and we are immensely thankful to our location sponsor Bin1301 for allowing us to make this happen.