Issa Rae says the most beneficial partnerships that helped her achieve success stemmed from organic relationships she made along her career journey.
The critically acclaimed creative was one of the most anticipated speakers to hit the stage at Blavity Inc.’s AFROTECH Conference this year. When talking about her career with Simone White, Senior Vice President of AFROTECH and Talent Infusion, she shared that one of the keys to her fruitful Hollywood career is her team.
“I have a lot of help,” she told White. “There’s an appearance that I do a lot on my own and I don’t. I have great partnerships. I have great leaders that I work with, and some of those people have been…we’ve been building for years together. And it’s been about establishing a relationship and a rapport, and being clear about what their intentions are for the future, and then showing up to deliver. So, those are like the most natural collaborations. And then, of course, there’s a natural process of just seeking people out and meeting people.”
The Rap Sh!t creator and executive producer noted that before people wanted to lend a helping hand to her, it was important that she wholeheartedly believed in herself because it sparked other’s people confidence in her vision. This led Rae to open up about how she was able to scale her business when money was tight with the help of her inner circle and acquaintances because it allowed her to cultivate casual long-standing relationships and friendships with other people.
“I mean, honestly, they [people who helped] came along with the ride. Sometimes you just have to, as many of you already know, sometimes you have to do something yourself to make people know that you’re serious about it,” the 38-year-old said. “And as someone who doesn’t like to ask for help and who didn’t have any money, it really was about people around me coming once they saw that I was doing something and wanting to help.”
The Hoorae Media founder gave a couple of examples by telling stories about how two of her best partnerships turned friendships. The first one came from someone she met on her educational journey.
“I think one of the most valuable, one of the most valuable team members that I had early on was a girl from my school, a fellow writer who was just like, ‘You’re doing this web series and it’s amazing, but it is on struggle. You could like increase the production value so much more. And I’m going to school for this, let me help you.’ And I was like, “Alright then, help me then,’ and she did. And so she became a producer of Awkward Black Girl,” she said.
The second instance she disclosed was about the person who runs her “audio everywhere” record label, Raedio, whom she met at a “wine down” girl’s night she hosted in her home.
“During that moment I had another friend who like brought her…I used to throw wine-downs at my apartment and it was very simple, just come and turn up, and she brought her man,” Rae began. “You don’t know him and y’all are like, it’s already a very small, in the corner. Like, what are you doing? You’re never gonna be invited again, but he ended up being a valuable person down the line because he saw like, you know, ‘You’re getting traction with this series. Do you have a mailing list? Are you creating a community around it? Like do you have social media pages?’ And he made a list of things that he thought that I needed to expand and scale that business and missed opportunities.”
“I thought that that was so genius and valuable. And he spoke my l love language of agendas and was super organized in the email. And I was like, I, you know, brought him on board. And now he runs Raedio and he’s had so many different iterations of,” the co-owner of Hilltop Coffee added.
After spilling about how that newfound work relationship outlasted her friend’s and the guy’s dating timeframe, she discussed the significance of knowing when it’s time to release the reigns and get the necessary help needed to become a well-oiled work machine.
“People have come organically and helped. And then it was about like identifying, oftentimes with their help, like the holes that are needed ’cause people at the company, and especially with startup culture, you wear a lot of different hats. Everybody wears a lot of hats and after a while it gets overwhelming and they get in positions where they’re just like, ‘Look, I can only grind so much. I need support.’ So you have to decide with your limited resources at times where to go,” Rae explained.
She continued, “For me, it always came down to what I wanted to prioritize. Like is it the productions? Is it, you know, um, the business side? What is it? So that’s generally how I decide who to hire.”
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