Aspirations are overwhelmingly positive and leave you in a blissful daydream, but dreams are not enough to climb your way up the corporate or creative ladder. It’s going to take risks, a few action plans, and confidence. A budding network can do no harm as well. Dee Poku, the co-founder, and CEO of Women Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE Network) has all that and more. The former Hollywood studio executive is charismatically passing on the torch of success to women across the world through her company’s many conferences, workshops, and showcases. She continues to step up the game of ‘ways to empower women’ by using her network of powerful and leading women in and out of Hollywood.
Poku’s next gig is The Other Festival, an event every young entrepreneur needs under their belt. A week before the event Poku chatted with us about her newly founded festival and how it’s going to shake things up. She is in full execution mode, but she’s been here before, she knows the ropes, and she’s already set to see the motivation on the faces of people leaving The Other Festival.
The one-day event boasts an impeccable roster of speakers such as supermodel Naomi Campbell; activist and actress Rosario Dawson; and Melissa Ben Ishay, founder of Baked by Melissa. The objective of Poku and her team is to motivate, connect, and support a “squad of renegade businesswomen.” Poku says Millennials are the “self-starter generation” and she hopes to support their “boss spirit” with The Other Festival.
The Unites States of America is on the brink of the possibility to have its first female president. There is a lot of support around Hillary Clinton’s campaign with her gender being a driving factor for some, but most don’t have her network. Poku mentions that women are very entrepreneurial, but tend to stay small and grounded. The Other Festival is here to help them expand their business, perspective, and network. The interactive festival gives its attendees the 101 level of entrepreneurship while feeding their pop culture buzz with music from singers such as Justine Skye and Sophie Beem to name a few.
Poku is ready to meet the young women who are “fresh and excited” and still holding onto “the feeling of I can do this.” She admits it can be a lonely place when you’re an entrepreneur and has faith the event will answer the questions people arrive with. “I hope to give them an extra fire in their bellies to keep going,” mentions Poku. She goes on to say that women neglect to take advantage of networking opportunities like this yet men do not. “Women don’t have it high on their list. You need to be out there to make it useful in the long run.”
Becoming a networking sensation like Poku does not happen overnight and as mentioned before, it takes risks and action plans. Before she became her own boss Poku was a marketing guru for the likes of Paramount Pictures and Focus Features, two of the film industries heavy hitters. She confesses leaving her career in the industry to start WIE Network was one of the scariest things she has ever done. “I started out in corporate and at the big names. When you leave that identity, you don’t know how much that company was your safety net and has prestige.”
Luckily, the change made Poku stronger and grounded. “I had to find myself, to deal with rejection… It passes, so hold on and you’ll get there.” WIE Network is her mothership of linking successful women with the resources and knowledge they need. Its first symposium was held in New York and Poku brings The Other Festival to the Big Apple on June 11th. “New York is the can-do city,” mentions Poku. Originally from Accra, Ghana, the London, England raised advocate feels endowed by the people and energy of New York.
Although WIE Network had a broad idea in leadership and issues when it first came to fruition in 2010, Poku is excited for its new adventures like its first retreat later this year. She is eager to build on the brand’s multimedia network to support women in their careers. The already global company has given Poku so much to be thankful for. While growing up in the United Kingdom the average thirteen-year-old is already mapping out his or her career, being talented in mathematics and the sciences, Poku naturally headed in that direction. She graduated from the University College London and began to rebel on her career path. “Sometimes when you’re young you’re naive.” Poku does not regret her choices of moving into fashion, film, and then entrepreneurship along the way.
WIE Network and The Other Festival attract innovators of all kinds and the names leave Poku in awe. “I feel a sense of lightness and happiness, whether they are corporate or household names.” Her overwhelming gift of modesty and confidence is a luxury to those who aspire to do big and meaningful things in the world. Poku’s definition of girl power is “having the autonomy to do whatever you want to do and not feeling restricted with no impediment.” We can all applaud to that.
By Yegide Matthews | Photos: Courtesy of Sarah Ayache/Ogilvy Public Relations