People You Need to Know | Aysia Woods of Events by AW (@AysiaWoods)
We recently had a soft-launch brunch to announce the arrival of Twenty Somethin’ & Black in D.C., where we were joined by a few of our favorite D.C. influencers for brunch and little girl talk. The event went extremely well, but its flawless execution could not have happened without help from THE Aysia Woods of Events by AW – yes, the capitalized “THE” was necessary.
We did not have to worry about a thing when it came to planning the décor, location, or menu because Aysia was there to manifest our last-minute idea into a structured production. We can truly rant about her forever, but we wanted to introduce you to the superwoman that is Ms. Woods and share her story with you on how she is managing to build her own business while still navigating the corporate world.
By day, Aysia works in The George Washington University’s development office – also, her alma mater – but, after hours and weekends are dedicated to growing her personal brand. Her venture into event planning actually began as a Meetup.com group called Art of the Journey (AOTJ), and after seeing success very quickly, she launched Events by AW after receiving requests for her event services.
Through both Art of the Journey and Events by AW, Aysia creates moments that make people feel special. You can count on her gatherings to be intimate, give you a signature cozy feeling in your soul, and allow you to easily make true connections with the other attendees who were previously strangers. Since the launch of Events by AW in January 2017, Aysia has collaborated with local DC-based companies like SoulCycle, Art Jamz, and Mythology Restaurant and partnered with many popular local bloggers. She’s walking proof that when an opportunity is presented to you, you have to simply accept the challenge.
TS+B: What ignited the spark in your business venture? What inspired you? How did you get the idea?
AW: For the most part, everything grew very organically and almost unintentionally. Art of the Journey came before Events by AW and, at its conception, Art of the Journey had a rather different business model than it does today. I initially started AOTJ with my mom (who had owned a jewelry/bead store in the Philadelphia area for years) and it hosted creative excursions for women. It was exciting because our family had previous small business experience and my mom and I always wanted to dive into a venture together. We would seek out artists to teach various hobbies and crafts to women who felt like they were in a rut. As well-intentioned as our vision was, it wasn't a good business model for us and it grew stagnant. We had just one very successful excursion.
Meanwhile, I had just graduated from The George Washington University and all my closest friends moved out of Washington, DC. I was the only one left in the city. After some lonely wallowing and attending too many awkward meetups, I decided to start my own group on Meetup.com with events that I would enjoy. Turns out over 400 women also liked my Meetup group. This is Art of the Journey now. It has become a social group and community of like-minded women who enjoy real, meaningful connection. It completely grew out of something that I needed in my own life.
Can you explain the process of how you take your event ideas from being a vision into reality?
With Art of the Journey, it’s easy because I’m creating an experience I would personally enjoy. That’s what I love about it! I feel like all the ladies are my close friends and we all enjoy similar things – great food, tasty drinks, honest conversation, pretty atmospheres, being comfortable, but also getting out of our comfort zones when necessary. I get to be as creative and experimental as I want to be in terms of setting up décor and making food.
When I work with a client, it’s a very different process. Some clients already have a clear vision of what they want and only need me to execute. Some don’t have a clear vision and those are times when I guide the client along very strategically. We discuss the look and feel, the goal, the budget and more. I usually ask simple questions like, “What colors do you like?” or “What do you not want?” I find clients can always answer those very quickly. Then it’s up to me to keep the balls rolling in an organized manner while making sure the client, vendors involved, and I are proud of the final product.
How would you describe your event style?
My own events tend to have natural colors, tons of greenery and florals and are airy and chic. I enjoy incorporating hospitality tricks I’ve learned from traveling like always serving water in a glass (never plastic) or how to properly serve charcuterie. My events certainly have feminine décor, but never “bubble gum girly.”
What advice would you give to someone just starting in the real world as a Twenty Somethin’ and Black woman
Remember how many options you have. Don't get stuck into thinking there's a right way or one way to build your ideal life.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur?
Make a move, then analyze. If you do it the other way around, you'll be stuck wondering which direction to go forever. That advice is for everyone.
What are the most important action steps in creating a successful business?
I'm not nearly qualified enough to give this kind of advice yet! All I know thus far is that you have to get started and trust the rest will fall into place.
How should someone find the career that they love?
By testing, learning, and exploring all your interests. Internships and classes are great for this. I've been fortunate enough to have tried my hand in many industries before I started my ventures - from museums, magazine journalism, Anthropology, and fashion. I've tried a lot!
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
The biggest is probably getting over-eager when one thing goes well. There was a time when I hosted three Art of the Journey events a month, and I couldn't figure out why the attendance was dropping. I realized you have to keep things rare and special to keep people engaged.
To what do you most attribute your success?
My family, work ethic, and God.