It is not about being a millionaire. It is about having choices. Being debt free allows me to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. This is especially true in my business. Whenever I speak on stage to business owners around personal finance I continually share with them the importance of having their money right so that when a life changing opportunity comes around they can jump on it.

Recently a real life example of this advice came up in my own life. A few weeks ago I was attending a local connecting event called Venture Cafe. It is a gathering that happens once a week and it brings people for all walks of life under one roof. There are entrepreneurs, artists, 9 to 5 employees, CEO’s, non-profit directors, venture capitalists and much more. This particular night I was attending for the sole purpose of support of a friend who had never been before and I wanted to introduce her to the “ecosystem.”

Before the workshops begin each week the executive director of Venture Cafe Karen Barnes jumps up on the table and begins. She shares new events that are happening around the city for entrepreneurs and then announces that Venture Cafe is heading to Miami in two weeks for an event where only founders and investors would be present. Immediately in my head I start to think “oh yeah all these guy companies are going to go down there to get more money for their start-up.” Karen continues to explain that only minority owned and women owned businesses are invited!

Now she has my attention and before she can even get down from the table I have searched for a flight to Miami and made sure I was not speaking anywhere else during the time of the event. When Karen got down off the table I asked her to send me the email with the information so I could apply. A couple of days later I bought my plane ticket not even knowing if I would be accepted to this “invite only” event.

Say YES and figure it out later!

That is what I did! I did not know what this event was going to be about, all I knew is that it was being put on by Venture Cafe Miami, it was invite only, and all that would be in the room was founders and investors. As soon as Karen sent the form to complete I completed it and began to wait. I waited for three days to hear back from the event organizers, but my invite finally came and I had ten minutes to head to Eventbrite to secure my spot. By the time I started to enter my information it was four spots left! I landed one of those spots and now knew it was time to get prepared.

The event “Capital Days Florida” was going to be different from any event I had ever attended. People that was going to be there would be mainly from two different groups: Founders and Investors. With one common mission: Doing business and moving forward one way or another.

The week leading up to the event I worked on my numbers. I researched those that would be speaking. I connected to whoever I could beforehand and I had my elevator pitch prepared. I was excited to be attending the event with two of my favs Karen from “The Feeling Friends, and Shalisha from “The Geek In Heels!” I have known these ladies from the beginnings of their businesses and they have been killing it! We were all ready to get all that we could out of this experience.

I arrived in Miami and headed to the my hotel downtown which I booked for $200 under price and when I settled in my room I studied my numbers again. I went to sleep and got up the next day to head to Capital Days Florida. The event started with a continental breakfast including assorted drinks to give everyone checking in an opportunity to meet others. Next everyone headed to the main room where there was an introduction done by Leigh-Ann the executive director of Venture Cafe Miami and a Fireside Chat. Before the chat began Leigh-Ann shared the alarming statistics of female founders received 2.2% of venture capital investment and black women founders only raise .0006%!

The Fireside Chat had two venture capitalists who shared what they look for in businesses that they want to invest in. Both individuals had completely different criteria and it proved that presenting to investors has to be individualized. After the Fireside Chat we moved on to the workshops. The first workshop I attended was “Billion Dollar Mystery Markets: Why Smart Investors Are Embracing The Overlooked & Underestimated.” In this workshop you could quickly tell that everyone was on the same wavelength.

No one had to explain certain concepts or ideals because everyone has been playing in this same playground for years. Because of this all the discussions were productive and led to solutions that could be used by those in the workshop. Also because people were from different parts of the country you could learn of ideas working in different cities. The workshop was so good that the hour and a half went by fast and no one in the room noticed that lunch had started.

That is how I knew everyone at this event was working in their passion and we were all in our element.

Lunch was up next and if you think that was going to be a time where everyone would just be sitting and eating their cuban sandwiches in complete silence you are mistaken. I sat down at a table with others and within a few minutes I was talking to someone next to me about a business problem I had been having for a year! He listened to the problem and immediately started sharing how to solve it. He had the solution because he has executed it before in his own company. He showed me that the path I was considering would cost too much money and bring me future headaches.

All this advice he gave me for free and without hesitation. This was the ongoing theme the entire day. What problem do you have and I will see if I can help you solve it or find someone that can solve it for you.

After lunch we headed to our second workshop which I chose “Diversifying Corporate Venture: How Institutions That Value Inclusion Are Winning Big.” This session was led by Madison Jacobs of Google, Michael Finney of the Miami Dade Beacon Council, and Ivan Rapin-Smith of Watsco. In this session I learned a little bit more about the work that Google is doing with start-ups around the country. Also how there are non-profits that will spend their money with for-profit businesses if those businesses can help solve a social problem. Think in terms of social entrepreneurship.

Once the second workshop was done we headed outside of the Perez Art Museum to afternoon cocktails and listened to a VC to VC Pitch which was cool. This was another opportunity to connect with others at the event. Once the hour was complete it was now time to go to “Dinner Deconstructed.” I have never been a part of anything like this, but what happened is that we signed into an app, answered some questions and then we were paired with five other people for dinner. To top it off each dinner was held at someone’s house in a secret location. Such a cool concept!

Dinner was absolutely fantastic! Not only did we have a private chef and butler, but the conversation was phenomenal. Having dinner with someone who has presented to President Clinton and worked with one of the Kennedys to others who have started multiple successful businesses, art shows, and been responsible for millions of dollars in investment. On top of all of this being served three course gourmet meal!

This entire trip cost me less than $500 including flight, hotel, food, transportation and I promise you I am going to make that back 10,000 fold! This was about being in the room. So many people miss out on opportunities because you are not in the room. People present the room to you and you are not able to step in the room because your finances are not right.

In order to take advantage of Capital Days Florida I needed to have the disposable cash to get there. Money for plane ticket, hotel room, uber, food, and gas to get to and from the airport! Without the money I would just be hearing about from those who went. This will not be the last event like this I will attend. All this did was light a fire in me to know that I have to get in more of these rooms so I can gain the knowledge I need and take advantage of the opportunities given!

More pictures from this awesome event!

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International Financial Literacy Speaker and Author

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