ECE Coffee Talk: When To Ignore Your Inner Voice

In the ECE Coffee Talk series, one of our agents or artists shares a more personal post full of musings and/or insight – basically, talking and rehashing life as if you were sitting across from each other sipping coffee. Today ECE Philly Location Managing Director, Kaitlin Sweeney, shares with us her background and how she became ECE’s youngest LMD. Grab your mug and pull up a chair.
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My grandfather once told me that most of us know what we want to do from a very young age, and I think that’s true. What do you want to be when you grow up is a question constantly asked of us as children. We are told to dream big, reach for the stars, and that we can do anything we set our minds to. Sadly, for most, over time a little voice steps in and convinces us that maybe our dreams were a bit too big. We slowly forget those dreams we had and head down a path more easily achievable.

So, how did I ignore that voice and end up in the career I knew I wanted to be in since I was just a kid?

I neither came from a family of musicians, nor did I have “connections” to anyone in any sort of music business. I was, however, lucky enough to have parents who pushed me to be confident in myself and to learn as much as I could about what I wanted to do. They believed that I could do anything. I understand what a luxury it is to have parents like that. One truth I have learned is that anyone can accomplish almost anything as long as they surround themselves with people who believe in them.

When I look back at my experiences in grade school, high school, college and beyond, I am grateful, but not surprised that ECE is where I landed.

As a child, I had an undying passion for music and performing. In 4th grade, I started a band, held auditions at recess, and “cut” kids that weren’t quite what I was looking for (terrible, I know). I wrote original songs, taught the “dancers” choreography and tried to perfect our show on a rickety homemade stage in my backyard. I had every neighborhood kid convinced that this little band of ours was going to make it big, and we practiced constantly. I’m pretty sure that they only believed we would make it, because I believed it.

While growing up, I never worked on projects I didn’t feel passionate about. However, when I believed in a project, all I did was work on it. Throughout high school, I ended up captain of every team I made. I was good at getting others excited about whatever activity I was passionate to be a part of. In college, I did everything I could to focus my time on being better at music. I was writing music, studying music videos and new dance choreography, and reading every book possible about how to get into the music industry. Educating myself on the extremely tough industry I was trying to break into really caused me to understand how much harder I needed to work to make my dream happen. I was completely willing to do it.

After college, I moved back up to New York and started recording music while waitressing in my spare time. It took years of research, putting together bands, and performing for a lot of people (and, occasionally, for no one) to eventually get major label interest. As it often happens, the deal I was working on didn’t pan out, but I did learn many valuable lessons climbing that ladder. I was told no many times. I heard yes many times. Most importantly, along the way, there were a few who gave me invaluable, constructive criticism. That feedback (the good and the bad) from agents, club managers, label reps, etc., not only made me want to work harder, but it also taught me firsthand the right and wrong ways to critique people. There is a big difference between the type of feedback that makes people want to quit, and the feedback that makes people want to improve.

Around 2009, I unexpectedly had to have a major vocal cord surgery that sort of forced me out of the music scene I had focused on for so long. At first, I was crushed, but it pushed me to change directions. I became the head advisor to my college sorority and started to focus my efforts into instilling confidence in other people by helping the young women in the chapter understand what they could accomplish together. I became largely involved in a dance competition event called Airband that the campus had put on every year which helped to raise money toward the philanthropies of each participating organization.

The girls wanted to win, and I knew they could as long as they worked insanely hard to put a routine together that could beat the sixteen other groups. I coached the girls every day for several months teaching them choreography, helping them mix and choose the music, come up with a concept, etc. During those endless hours together, they realized that they could put something outrageous together within a short period of time that would make 60 girls with little to no performance experience look like pros. Check out this video from the 2010 performance (the action begins at the :57 mark).

We won seven first place titles through the years that I worked with them, and I couldn’t have been more proud. The endless hours spent working with the girls on this annual competition taught me that I love watching people succeed and achieve things that make them proud of themselves. Managing a group of 200 women also helped me to become a better listener, a better teacher and a cheerleader for others’ successes.

I can look back now and see that my past experiences all support the same trend; that truly believing in something makes others around you believe the same. That strong internal belief aligned with the support of those I surrounded myself with has led me here.

I am currently the youngest Location Managing Director at ECE, and I’m more honored to be in this position than anything I’ve done prior. I am surrounded by people who love their job, who believe in the integrity of our company and our product, and who know how to teach and guide others in the same ways I’ve found to be so successful over the years.

Is it scary to take on a role like this and try to build an office in a large competitive market where you’ve been virtually unknown? Of course it is. But the reason I know it’s going to work, is because I believe it’s going to. I wholeheartedly believe in this company, and I know that’s why I am fortunate enough to have the team I have here in Philly. My team also believes in this company, and I know that’s why together we have been able to sign some of the most incredible talent in the area while still being the new kids on the block. We have made connections and built relationships with the city’s most impressive event professionals. We have loved befriending and getting to know each and every person who calls our office with an event to plan. It has taken time and a lot of work, but we see successes each and every day.

I didn’t accomplish any of this on my own. I wasn’t able to achieve my dream job because I’m better than anyone else. Quite the contrary. I worked hard and, still, am constantly looking for ways to improve. I am lucky enough to keep up with my passion of performing with my band, Speaker City, along with helping incredible artists build their own careers. Oh, and I work with a dream team of people who make each day a joy.

Dream big. Educate yourself. Have confidence in your abilities. Be ready and willing to learn from mistakes. Regardless of the career you’re hoping to achieve, never let that little voice convince you to give up.

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