Editor’s note: Emily Wells is Greenlight Community Broadband’s Marketing & Sales Manager. 

WILSON – When visitors come to the Gig East Exchange or attend one of our events, we often hear the question, “What does the name ‘Gig East’ mean?”. If you spend a little time in Wilson, it’s easy to see that we kind of have a thing for gigs of all kinds.

The most obvious inspirations are the gigantic, spinning Whirligigs created by Vollis Simpson. The other gig is all around you as you stroll Historic Downtown Wilson and runs through the homes of over 12,000 Wilson residents. Greenlight Community Broadband’s gigabit, fiber-to-the-home internet service delivers the fastest speeds in the state to Greenlight members, giving Wilson the nickname “North Carolina’s Gigabit City.” 

Photo courtesy of Greenlight

Emily Wells

So, that covers “Gig.” “East” denotes our desire to be a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation for Eastern North Carolina. We are growing an ecosystem that is open and accessible to Wilson and all of our surrounding neighbors. However, it is very convenient that “East” can also be an acronym for the conversation topics we specialize in: entrepreneurship, the arts, science, and technology. In an effort to get more of these conversations started, we created Gig E.A.S.T. Gab. A mix between open mic night and TED-Talk, Gig E.A.S.T. Gab is meant to provide a platform to anyone with an E.A.S.T. idea so that they can test it out on an encouraging audience. 

We held our first GEG on July 22nd at the Gig East Exchange and our first participants truly knocked it out of the park. Attendees listened to a diverse group of speakers from various industries share their personal stories and professional experiences. Each presenter spoke for three minutes and received audience questions for two minutes. It was so encouraging to watch new connections take place, conversations grow lively, and all in attendance listen and learn from each other. The mood was casual and lighthearted and fulfilled all of our hopes of what this time set apart for thought exchange could be.

Photo by Emily Wells from GEG event.

I was struck by the recurring theme of persistence that was present with each speaker.  There is no straight line to success. The path to accomplishing goals is often riddled with hardships, setbacks, breaks, and reevaluations. Each entrepreneur, artist, and educator that spoke experienced hardships, but proved that the determined can make it to the other side. 

Melo Simmons, the owner of DiFrent Level Barber Studio, spoke to this early in the evening. He shared that once he learned the science behind cutting hair, he was able to learn business skills to help him fully realize his potential as an entrepreneur. His road to that realization was not without doubt. He shared, “I knew a lot of people with talent, but I never had talent. At least, I didn’t think so until now. I started to realize that my talent was always heart. I was the person that would just always do things… I did everything. There was nothing that I didn’t do. That would be my advice to someone trying to start their own business. Do everything.” 

 Having a goal in mind does not necessarily mean that you have the resources to make it happen. Rashaad McNeil, owner of R&M Photography and Videography Productions, spent years working at a job he was not passionate about so that he could fund his dream. “When I started working, I was twenty-three,” he said. “I used that to fund my passion. I got photography equipment, lights, and a MacBook to write and record my music. Through all that I felt a calling to it, but it’s so hard sometimes because you get discouraged.” As of this summer, Rashaad is a full-time entrepreneur. He will also be traveling to New York later this year to record his first album. 

Jennifer Byrd, Executive Director of Wilson’s Imagination Station Science and History Museum closed out the night with an energetic explanation of how thinking like an engineer can turn potential failures into new lessons. In her teaching experience, students became easily defeated when their theories or experiments crashed after the first try. Once they were taught how to think like an engineer, their mindset shifted. She shared that process with us, “Think like an engineer. Try something, learn from it, and keep trying until you get the results that you’re looking for. That’s how you will find your answer every time.”

These are just a few of many special insights from the first night of GEG. The entire session can be found here on our YouTube channel. We are always looking for new participants and ideas, so stay tuned to our website and social channels for next month’s GEG. We’d love to hear from you!