You may remember Aqila Benjamin, affectionately known in the industry as Mimi, from her feature in the January 2019 issue of Queen Size Magazine. The issue where we sat down for a one on one to learn how she got started in the social media business. Well our lovely little caterpillar has blossomed into something beyond her wildest dreams. We had to catch up with her for an update and share the amazing news of her next BIG venture.
images by Philip Drew @pdrewphotography
QSM: Let’s talk a little about NYAO for those that may be new to it? What is NYAO and why did you start it?
Mimi: Netwerq Your Ass Off is an initiative that aims to help both aspiring professionals and experts alike, foster relationships that promote growth for their businesses. Starting in 2018 we have reached over 1500 inspirational individuals eager to elevate. With the mission to unify, mentor, and inspire we offer knowledge on networking, social media Comprehension & professional branding.
Welcoming entrepreneurs, professionals, artist and creatives from all walks of life to our workshops we install that motivation they need to continue to follow their dreams.
We achieve this by going back to the basics and discussing topics like:
• Creating & reciting an Elevator Speech
• When & how to follow up after an email
• Tips on Networking etiquette via Social Media
• Social Media Comprehension/Branding
And so much more!
•Networking etiquette 101
QSM: What have you been up to since launching NYAO? We started off with the NYAO seminars and tours; what has your baby grown into now?
Mimi: Since launching NYAO, with much rebranding and feedback, I have adapted to serve the masses. It can now be virtual through my NYAO University. Which is a 6 week program for individuals who need to gain in debt information to help elevate them professionally. I also also have my NYAO Bootcamp which is offered to companies and organizations for their employees. I plan out a full day of knowledge and workshops that cater to the tailored areas they need improvement along with my signature knowledge.
QSM: In the beginning you talked about the times when you just wanted to give up. But you didn’t, and because of that were you hired by some major brands to come out and speak. Can you share a couple of those names and how those opportunities came to be?
Mimi: Yes giving up was definitely something that I wanted to do on SO many occasions. Then I thought to myself if I won't do it then someone else will. Because I haven't given up on my dreams I have had the complete honor to work with Organizations like:
• Crusade Of Curves: Raleigh, NC
• Soulful Image Magazine
• Operation Arts
• Global Entrepreneurship Week at the University of Maryland College Park
• Van Zandt Management Pop Up: Stylist Series
• Black Speakers Network
• Google Digital Coaches-DC
QSM: And this is the power of Networking your Ass off correct?
Mimi: Absolutely! Most of these either came from me meeting someone at a Networking event I was attending. Or asking someone in my immediate Network to connect me.
QSM: If my memory serves me correct, before NYAO you worked at Fashion To Figure correct?
Mimi: Yes I did and it was one of the best careers I've had! It taught me a lot, leading me into becoming who I am professionally. I took away the true meaning of providing exceptional customer service and how to truly train and develop people. I created so many relationships with the customers that came through those doors. So when I started to venture out on my own I was able to invite them to my events. It was more than just amazing apparel and trend forward fashions. It taught me how to encourage people to take look within to find their confidence. I wouldn't trade what I learned working their for the world.
QSM: And you left that job to be a full time social media correspondent?
Mimi: I did. I remember coming into work one day and talked to my Mentor/Manager Reggie May at the time and told him what I wanted to do. Now he wasn't the first person I told this to but he was definitely the most supportive. I remember him saying to me "be ready to be in some uncomfortable situations" at the time I didn't understand what he was talking about at the time but baby he wasn't lying! I learned from experience that he meant be ready to preserver through rejections, failures & moments of self doubt. His words of encouragement always stayed with me.
QSM: What advice do you give to someone who feels they are ready to take that leap?
Mimi: My biggest advice is to be ready to be your OWN biggest supporter and cheerleader. Waiting on others to cheer you own and congratulate you will make you go CRAZY! No ones approval is as important as your own
QSM: Let’s talk about your next move. You are scheduled to give your next talk at Google. Give us the deets on that and how that happened. Because that is HUGE!!
Mimi: I promise you I can't even believe it myself! I am excited to be able to partner with the Google Digital Coaches Program here in DC. Digital Coaches program is designed to provide equal opportunity for all business owners and entrepreneurs to grow and thrive online. The event is absolutely FREE to professionals alike to gain insight on various business tools along with an AMAZING opportunity to Network amongst like minded individuals.
I remember learning about the program in 2017 attending an event that Shelly Bell the founder of Black Girl Ventures was hosting. So when I heard about the opportunity to submit information I was excited to provide it. I reached out to Brian Olds founder of Black Speakers Network and the rest is history! He pointed me in the right direction and I was able to submit my NYAO proposal and now I will be ending my year doing at the Google headquarters in DC!
QSM: I can't even fully express how proud I am of you. How can people get tickets to come out and support or just learn a thing or two?
Mimi: The Google event is FREE.99! They can snag their tickets through my bip on IG @thefullersideofthings.
QSM: Major congratulations to you. What’s next?
Mimi: Thank You!!! Right now I am in full planning mode for NetworkCon! Now THAT is like Netwerq Your Ass Off on STERIODS! Three days full of knowledge, motivation and creating life long connections. All jokes aside I am super excited about the evolution of NYAO and what Organizations I'll connect with next year.
QSM: Remind people where they can follow you please? Because I need people to keep up here and not get left behind.
Mimi: I can be followed on all three of my Instagrams. All websites and ticket information in bios
Netwerq Your Ass Off: