Ashley Smith of TALMA Event Planning Sits Down with BGF
It is always a joy to witness young, professionals exploring their passions and turning them into profitable careers. To witness the mental shift within a community of youth who are saying, “No” to mediocrity and settling into corporate jobs, and instead saying, “Yes” to entrepreneurship, side hustles, passion projects, and doing what they want. It is even more gratifying when that inspiring young creative professional also happens to be a badass Black woman. That is the case for this sassy young boss, Ashley Smith, founder of T.A.L.M.A Event Planning, a Chicago based full event service and consultation brand. I am fortunate enough to know Ashley and was grateful to attend the launch event for her business, this past summer. Over the months, watching her work with so much joy and passion, then seeing the dynamic results and client satisfaction, I knew it was the perfect time to let her tell her story to our readers here at BGF. Here is what she has to say about herself, her passion and the many wonderful things T.A.L.M.A has to offer!
BGF: So Ashley, tell us more about yourself. Who are you?
I am 29 years old, born and raised in the City of Chicago. I attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated in 2011 with my Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. I would say that I am a very genuine and real person; I'm ambitious, a go getter- a very “take control and get things done” type of girl. I want to inspire people, especially young children, to go after their dreams and do what they love. I'm honest, I love to laugh, and I love to help people especially youth in disadvantaged communities. I value family, friends and relationships. I also believe in personal wellness and self-love--surrounding yourself with good energy and good people and giving those things in return.
BGF: Where did the idea for TALMA Event Planning stem from? How did you come up with such a unique name, TALMA?
Around the age of 25-26, I was unfulfilled in the banking industry where I worked full time. I was learning more about business ownership and begun to educate myself more on Black business and how Black ownership is so important in our communities. I’ve always loved coordinating and planning big events and special moments for family & friends. Bringing joy and life to those people and the special milestones that they allowed me to be a part of has always made me very happy. Once I realized I had such a passion for this I began to devise a strategy for making this my full-time career because that is the only way that I knew I was going to be truly happy, doing what I love.
Once I came up with the concept, I then had to come up with a name that matched the vision. I thought about this for a while as I wanted it to be meaningful and significant to me. That meant incorporating my family in some way. I grew up in the middle of a family with two sisters and a mother who raised us largely on her own. A few years down the line my sister had my niece as well and our bond has been unbreakable. So T.A.L.M.A is an acronym for those 4 women and myself. It is our family and our strength. T is for my mother Tina, A is for my youngest sister Asia, L is my niece LaMaiya, M is for my sister Meka , and the final A is, of course, myself, Ashley. That name inspires me every time things get hard or I feel like I’m ready to give up. I know their strength is behind me.
BGF: Why this business and why this season in your life?
Planning and organizing events and trips has always been something I enjoyed and that I love seeing other people get to enjoy as well. When I began to realize that something different than what I had always pictured could be my end game, I started to think about how I could make this my life’s work and what I wanted to do. I believe this season of life is where I really grew into myself and decided that I would do what I love and what made me happy, as opposed to what everyone else thought was logical. This is essential not only for myself but for the sake of the communities and lives of our people.
BGF: Who or what has been your greatest motivator?
I think my greatest motivator has been my desire to contribute to the advancement of the Black community, doing what I can to make a small yet significant mark and leave this world a little better than I left it. I really value love and family, so being the best future wife and mother to my future family is a really great motivator to me as well. I want to put my future family in a better position than I was afforded as a child. In addition to making my family and framily (you know your friends that are so much more than, like your family) proud and being the best person I can be for them if no one else.
BGF: What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
A really huge challenge has been getting out of my own way and overcoming those things that I can actually change. Being disciplined and working through those tired days and staying energetic and positive. We have some truly amazing Black people that have been doing amazing things and I think a lot of times we forget that they’re human. It is hard, being a superhuman with a full time job, an entrepreneurial endeavor while inspiring others and being a good person. It is hard work, but it is surely possible.
BGF: What would you say to a younger you, who may have had a dream of changing the world through their gifts?
I would yell with as much energy and enthusiasm that I could muster up, “Fear nothing and go now.” Time is precious and life is short so move with purpose and tact and be strategic about it, but move swiftly. Go after your dreams and fulfill your purpose and wait for no one because you never know how much time you have. Be kind, love people, help people, but by no means let anyone hold you back.
BGF: What is on the horizon for T.AL.M.A? How can people find you via social media?
I have quite a few things up my sleeve for T.A.L.M.A; a lot of them are still in the baby stages, but one in particular that I want people to look out for is a community development/fundraising initiative that I am pursuing as a part of the organization. It’s something that is very near and dear to my heart; I’ve always wanted my work to have purpose and I don’t think that there’s a better purpose than providing opportunity to our people in disadvantaged communities and that’s what the next endeavor for T.A.L.M.A is going to be all about. I am truly excited to share it with the world when the time comes. Be on the lookout in 2018!