What do you do when you have talent and ambition? If you’re Richelle Wilkins, you pursue your dreams and start your own business! On August 1, 2015, Richelle officially launched the event agency, FitLife Events, which provides “event solutions to organizations that promote, support and enhance the fitness lifestyle.” But, where did this experience and desire come from?
From technology expos, to special events, to small and large association and corporate meetings, Richelle has diversified her ten years of experience in the events industry. At the beginning of her full-time career, she was a project manager, where she was tasked to organize a one day summit. After organizing it and thinking, “this is COOL, I think I like doing this!,” she got a job organizing technology expos for the government.
Richelle always had a desire to move back to Florida, the state where she went to college. In 2006, she took that step and moved to Orlando, where she worked for a special events planning company, Wizard Connection. There she fell in love with events, and wanted to make a career out of it. Although, Richelle loved being at the company, she was born and raised in Maryland, and couldn’t stay away too long. She eventually moved back to be closer to her family.
Now, nine years later and moving her way up the career ladder, Richelle has stepped out as a business owner, in which her primary responsibilities are business operations. Her strongest effort, being a new business, is toward building the brand and getting her name out there. “My focus is to work with a lot of companies I use for my personal fitness [heavy in the Crossfit world] and network!” Working with industry partners and doing something that benefits people in the long run is what this company is all about.
Richelle formed FitLife Events based on her passions! “It’s exciting to actually do something that you really love.” A healthy lifestyle is a key component for Richelle. Now, she gets to bring her event planning skills into something she cares deeply about. “There’s a need for this and I’m excited to explore!”
However, love it or not, owning your own business is about putting yourself out there. With that comes rejection. “It’s hard to hear, but not everyone needs or wants your services.” It’s not easy, but it’s part of the deal.
For many, Richelle included, it’s hard to understand why others don’t believe in you the same way you do right away. “Nothing is instantaneous, you have to work!” You may know what you’re doing, but you have to put the time in and work, in order to prove yourself to others. “You may know it, but you have to realize that there’s a learning curve and a ‘way of doing things’ for everywhere you go.”
In this industry especially, it’s difficult to get people to see your vision. “Many times the company you’re working with has done the same thing for years and isn’t open to change.” Often times it’s the newer generation trying to work with the older generation, who doesn’t want to implement new ideas. “It’s frustrating! We play a big role, but our voice is not necessarily heard.” Patience is important.
Shifting over to PCMA, Richelle is currently the co-chair of the Emerging Professionals Committee at the Capital Chapter. Overall, PCMA has provided her with great support. “Just hearing that someone else has gone through the same thing you have is super helpful.” Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to share resources and hear new ideas. You’re always around people who think like you do. “I’ve developed so many relationships that have turned into great friendships!”
To the new and veteran professionals, Richelle leaves the following advice:
1. It does take time. Learn what you can and volunteer often. Networking will help you in your career. “You will learn so much, so fast, if you stay connected!”
2. Never stop learning. There are so many educational opportunities. “Take advantage of them!”
3. Leave work at work. “The work will still be there tomorrow.” It’s important to establish a work/life balance.
4. Never stop believing in yourself! “Take risks!!!”