By Lisa Dumas –
Me’Shae Brooks-Rolling was as shocked as anyone to find that, after 23 years of ups and downs in the hospitality industry, she would end up going into business for herself, and becoming the first EventPrep franchisee in New York state.
One of Brooks-Rolling’s current stakeholders introduced her to the event-planning company, after she was downsized from Syracuse University’ s veteran’s institute, where she’d most recently served as director of special events and conferences.
And, according to Brooks-Rolling, it was one of the best things that could have happened to her.
“I am excited about the opportunity to own a franchise of this caliber,” Brooks-Rolling stated. “I feel as if my journey in the events, conferencing and hospitality industry has been preparing me for this moment in time.”
Brooks-Rolling began her career as coordinator with the New York City Office of the Mayor, freelancing in events management, and completing projects for clients such as FORTUNE magazine, Wall Street firms, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Then, after relocating to Syracuse in 2007, a decade later, she found her calling, which was the opportunity to use her skills in hotel contracting, a responsibility she’d become adept at mastering during her tenure at SU.
“When I first showed up on Paul and Steve’s doorstep [Event Prep’s founders], they weren’t sure why Kevin [a current stakeholder] sent me,” she said. “After some prodding, they discovered that I am adept at hotel contracting, which was just a portion of my job responsibilities at the veteran’s institute. I recall them mentioning the word ‘franchise,’ but it’s not something that resonated with me at the time.”
Following several meetings and conversations with Event Prep’s founders, Brooks-Rolling ultimately decided to take the plunge, and become a franchise owner with the company, which is a full-service event planning firm that has franchise owners located throughout the U.S.
Fortunately, Brooks-Rolling had also previously become certified as a financial literacy educator, and that knowledge has helped her navigate the process.
“This helped me to take a year off post-SU, and to practice what I preach in terms of financial literacy,” she stated.
Thus far, Brooks-Rolling has gotten high praise for her accomplishment.
“Both New York state and EventPrep are fortunate to have an MWBE-certified entrepreneur expanding their business into the Northeast,” Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (D – NY) stated. “Ms. Rolling’s dedication to serving this community is apparent in her work history. She will be a valuable asset to New York, and to the Northeast area for years to come.”
In addition, “As a 25-year member of the hospitality business, I recognize attention to detail, communication and execution,” Danny Liedka, president and CEO of Visit Syracuse, added. “Me’Shae epitomizes that, and is the consummate professional. If I had to run a high-level event that had to guarantee success, Me’Shae would be my first and only call. I have not encountered anyone in my journey in the same class as her.”
Ultimately, Brooks-Rolling said she is prepared to uphold that standard, and she’s also prepared to meet the challenge of being Event Prep’s first franchise owner in the region.
“My team and I look forward to providing a superior customer experience, whether servicing meetings and conferences for ten, 100, or 1,000 attendees,” she stated. “No event is too big or too small.”
Visit eventprep.com for additional information regarding the company, and view some additional tips from Brooks-Rolling regarding small business ownership, below.
1. Be true to who you are in spite of how others may perceive you. I began attending executive-level leadership training because that’s how I saw myself, whether others saw me in that light or not; and invested in myself with training at Harvard University’s division of continuing education and professional development.
2. Do not become siloed. Sow good seeds and cultivate relationships everywhere. Fraternize with affinity groups. One of the biggest mistakes full-time professionals make is not knowing anyone outside of their immediate purview.
3. Seek out mentorship. The axiom “iron sharpens iron” rings true. There are times I ran into the same high-level people at functions, and then I found myself at the same boardroom tables with them, until I thought, “I must be doing something right to be in the same circles as these ultra-successful movers and shakers.”
4. Consider entrepreneurship. If you are content with traditional employment and entrepreneurship does not interest you, then do not change who you are. On the other hand, if you have a product or service you strongly believe the marketplace needs, then consider quietly and discreetly laying the building blocks/foundation of your micro business enterprise while you are still gainfully employed. Had I not done so, I would have been at ground zero by the time of my third downsizing notice. In my particular case, entrepreneurship morphed into full-blown business ownership.
5. Be clear about your values. I value work-life balance and in retrospect, perhaps 9-5 is no longer for me because I now have more control over my time. For example, I no longer have to request PTO in order to travel with my husband to one of his lectures. All I have to do now is block the calendar and make it happen.
6. Save. Save. Save. This helped me to take a year off post-SU and have the ability to fund the franchise fee. I found myself practicing what I teach in terms of financial literacy.
7. Dress for success. People want to associate with and do business with people who appear successful. During my time of transition, I invested in upgrading my wardrobe and consulting with stylists because I wanted to polish my image even though I am the same person on the inside.
8. Just because you may not be valued in your present position, doesn’t mean that you are not valuable. Learn how to disassociate your self-esteem from negative treatment by others.
9. If you are a person of faith, don’t ever let that go even in the midst of dire circumstances and seeming defeat. My downsizing ended up being the closing of one chapter in my life, and the beginning of another.
10. Finally, be crystal clear about the funding source of your salary! I used to be ashamed to admit that I have been downsized due to the stigma attached to it. “People must certainly think there is something wrong with me,” I rationalized and concluded. While I definitely have areas of improvement, I now embrace these chapters as a part of my life’s journey in order to encourage others that the best is yet to come.