People gathered at the Macy’s department store in Downtown Crossing last week to celebrate the first anniversary of Get Konnected. The event was organized by Colette Phillips, CEO of the local marketing firm Colette Phillips Communication, and gave young professionals a chance to network. The day also featured music, wine and a fashion show. (Karen Spence photos)
|Colette Phillips, founder and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications, celebrated the first anniversary of Get Konnected last week. Phillips sees the networking event as a helpful tool for a diverse group of people to build and expand their network of contacts. (Michael Dwyer photo)
Loosened ties and casual business suits were the dress code last Tuesday as more than 300 people packed the second floor of the Macy’s department store in Downtown Crossing to enjoy music, wine and a DJ’s solid beats. But this wasn’t a celebration of the launch of a new clothing line — it was the first anniversary of “Get Konnected,” a multicultural networking event that organizer Colette Phillips says she likes to think of as an “equalizer” of sorts.
At Get Konnected, according to Phillips, young professionals can meet with powerbrokers or simply increase the number of contacts they have in their peer group.
“Young people need to start to build their own network,” says Phillips, the founder, president and CEO of local marketing firm Colette Phillips Communications. “What I’m doing is creating [a place where they can build] their own powerful network.”
Varied in age, race and profession, the crowd was a showcase of diversity not often seen in Boston.
“One of the things that has always bothered me about Boston is the … way in which people tend to congregate,” says Phillips. “Black people have their own thing going on, the Greeks, the Italians, the Latinos, etc.”
The focus on greater diversity distinguishes Get Konnected.
“[This] truly is open to all cultures, [and it] begins to break down comfort zones,” she says.
Phillips says an event like this may have helped her when she started her business more than 20 years ago.
“At the time, there were no successful communications and marketing firms,” she recalls. “I was actually advised by people against it. [They said] it was too difficult and Boston is not an easy town. I set out to prove that it could be done.”
When Phillips struck out on her own after nearly a year as an employee in the public relations department at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, she asked if she could work as an independent contractor for them. They agreed, and she had her first client.
Gaining more clients in Boston, however, wasn’t quite as simple — “It is not the easiest town in the world to make it as a person of color,” Phillips admits. But she says she tried to make the best of every opportunity.
“… People came to me when they had issues with people of color,” she says. “I saw it as a competitive advantage — I could help clients meet a broader audience.”
That became helpful when companies needed to do community outreach to neighborhoods of color. Phillips also started volunteering and joining the boards of various organizations.
“I put myself in places where you can begin to build your network,” she says. “I started meeting different types of people — serving on the board of the Urban League, the board of METCO, the Friends of Boston board, the Museum of Fine Arts’ council … I started meeting people in decision-making positions.”
Now, more than two decades later, Phillips says Get Konnected is her way of giving back.
A number of the men and women who attended the event said it is unlike any other networking event in Boston — a place that offers advice, if not encouragement, on how to advance one’s career in trying times.
“I’m doing the right thing,” says Lisane Parker, who works in pharmaceuticals. “You’re lessening your degrees of separation.”
Parker laughs as she says that she came to the event because her friend, Melody Torres, told her about it.
Laughing as well, Torres says, “Well, I came here to expand my network.”
Wali Halley, a telecommunications consultant, says he attended Get Konnected for the same reason and believes networking has long-term benefits.
“If you have patience, going to an event like this is great,” he says.
As Halley sees it, the more opportunities he has to network, the better.
“It’s based on your effort, and will determine how much [business] you do,” he adds.
Phillips says that’s what she likes to hear.
“People do business with people they know, and they do business with people they like,” she explains. “You have to have that social networking opportunity. “If you are connecting with people in a way [where] they actually see you at work, all of a sudden, you are not some person in left field.”