Eventbrite hosted the RECONVENE summit in May 2021, bringing together thousands of event producers. We’re sharing key takeaways from popular sessions – on topics like safely returning to in-person events, the future of virtual, and best practices for growing your audience – on our blog and our RECONVENE Recaps hub.

Junior High, a not-for-profit community space and arts venue in Los Angeles, opened five years ago to prioritise the safety and expression of marginalised artists. When the coronavirus pandemic turned life upside down, founder and director Faye Orlove had to make “a very radical shift” that ultimately led to vacating Junior High’s physical space.

Orlove wasn’t interested in going virtual she didn’t like digital events, she says, and for once, she decided to actually listen to her own preferences. So instead of reinventing Junior High as a digital organisation, Orlove and her team used the time to focus on an eventual reopening.

At Eventbrite’s RECONVENE summit, Orlove described how Junior High started small and scaled up. Here are four takeaways for event creators.

Watch Faye Orlove’s full talk below:

Figure out what ‘scaling up’ means for you

To Orlove, scaling up didn’t mean expanding, or opening Junior High locations throughout the country. It meant making what she did a livelihood. Prior to the pandemic, she and her staff were not paid everything they did was on a volunteer basis.

Now, because Junior High has scaled up largely by raising money during the pandemic Orlove and her staff are paid employees. Artists who, say, paint a mural on the side of the organisation’s new physical space will also be paid for their work. Junior High is now able to “honour all of the labor that goes into this project,” Orlove says.

Be open and honest with your community

Junior High had to break its lease and vacate its space, which meant losing an $8,000 (almost €6,800) security deposit. Though Orlove prefers to keep to herself, she experimented with vulnerability and opened up to her community. She shared her financial woes, and the community responded by stepping up to assist.

During the pandemic, Junior High’s GoFundMe raised $85,000 (just over €72,000). Why? Orlove attributes the generosity to a number of factors, but a big one is her authenticity and decision to let people in. The more honest she was about how “ruined” she felt, the more likely people were to donate. Junior High is now refurbishing a new space.

Practice authenticity and transparency, and people will respond in kind

Orlove’s big takeaway during the pandemic was that being transparent matters. Transparency is wonderful for a brand, she says, and it’s exactly what she wants to see from other brands. Share your authentic experiences with your patrons, and they will respond warmly and generously.

Orlove is carrying that lesson forward and will, for example, be sharing more of herself with her community on a new radio show.

“I’m trying to step more into this world of understanding that Junior High wouldn’t exist without me,” Orlove says. “Me trying to hide myself in the back wasn’t doing any favours.”

Remember: You and your instincts are what make a brand special

Orlove has realised that she’s not “some faceless entity.” Her advice to creators: “You are your brand, whether you want to be or not.” If you have a passion and pursuit bigger than yourself, value how you feel and what you think and what you’re enjoying, she advises. “Trust yourself.”

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