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UMD x Influencer Panel!

This Tuesday, the AMA held an influencer panel pop-up event hosted by entrepreneur Taija Thomas. Taija created her own company, Zoe Elle Co, and partners with companies in the sustainable beauty & fashion industry in order to create social media and marketing campaigns.

Taija also brought with her four influencers: Casey Dworkin, founder of Sylven, a sustainable, luxury footwear company; Zena Salum, a fashion designer and content creator; Courtney Folk, founder of Renewal Logistics; and Mac Conwell, influencer and founder of RareBreed Ventures.

AMA members talk with Taija Thomas and four other panelists via Zoom!

So what does it mean to be an influencer? Courtney, who comes from a background in business, said that being an influencer meant “using your network to help other people,” while also leveraging this network to find sales opportunities. Casey agreed; she said that using influencers is a great way to grow a consumer base. Both women emphasized the steadily growing impact of influencers in marketing; the influencer market was only worth $1.7 billion in 2016 but is expected to be more than $13 billion this year!

Mac offered a different perspective. He works as a venture capitalist and uses his position as founder of RareBreeds to invest in startups and underrepresented entrepreneurs. “If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, I’m one of the sharks,” Mac said, referring to his role as founder. More than simply swaying a consumer base, being an influencer means that “you have a voice” - a voice that can also be used to amplify social causes. Mac mentioned that sometimes using your voice comes with a risk and cited activist Colin Kaepernick as an example who ultimately gave up a career to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

How does one become an influencer, and what lessons can we apply to our lives as students? Especially for entrepreneurs and people freshly out of college, it means a lot of cold emails and reaching out on social media and LinkedIn. Mac said that as a new entrepreneur, he didn’t have a lot of people to connect with professionally; to rectify this, he would find professionals on LinkedIn and guess their email address, essentially emailing people until he found an address that didn’t bounce back. He also offered a tip to students: when connecting with other professionals, use long subject lines that speak directly to them so that they’re opening every email with a purpose.

A final word of advice from influencers to students? If you speak out, “do it as loud and proud as humanly possible,” and be authentic to yourself.

Are you interested in learning more about our influencers? Find more information below!

By Jacqueline Zito


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