SAADA AHMED

ENTREPRENEUR. CO-FOUNDER, EVERYDAY PEOPLE. BROOKLYN, NYC

If you happen to have an internet connection, there's a really good chance you're familiar with Every Day People events. Either you’ve seen people rave about it on Twitter or you’ve stumbled upon Kadeem Johnson’s striking photos on your Tumblr dashboard and Instagram feeds. Everyday People was founded in 2012, and it was originally a monthly brunch party and gathering in New York City. Since its fruition, EP has expanded its magic worldwide. Throwing not only killer parties featuring performances by artists like Tweet and Jidenna, but even more, curating cultural, wellness and fundraising projects. Everyday People doesn’t just talk the talk, but it walks the walk and is in fact for the people.

Who would have the mind to dream up such an ingenious concept? Saada Ahmed. The EP co-founder graduated from college in 2009, and has held positions at companies ranging from 3.1 Philip Lim to Saint Heron before committing to EP full time. Ahmed is also frequently featured in collaboration with brands such as Glossier and J.Crew. The Kenyan native has managed to effectively redefine and restructure the brunch and party scene in an organic way. Talk about an influencer.

Our conversation proved exactly why Saada has been so successful in curating EP events. Saada’s vivacious personality flooded the air and I automatically felt welcome. So much so that her positive energy still lingered when the interview was over—as per the smile that was plastered across my face. This same atmosphere is reflected in her events. Learn more about this celestial girl boss below.

Krav: When did you know you wanted to go the entrepreneurship route?

Saada: I was dedicating a lot of time to Everyday People and that’s when not only myself, but my business partners decided that we wanted to do this full time. For example, DJ Moma—who’s our resident DJ—was working in corporate America for many years and he quit his job to pursue EP. Once I saw him commit fully, that’s when I realized I should too.

You founded EP like you said, alongside DJ Moma but also with Chef Roble. Take me through the moments you all spent coming up with the concept. How? Why?

It was pretty organic. It wasn’t something that was really calculating. I decided that I wanted to do a day party because I was going out a lot at night with my friends, I had some time away from New York and I was like you know what? I don’t like meeting people in these night life environments and not really getting to know them. And I wanted to have a place where people could network, especially people of color. In the beginning it wasn’t a party, it was an actual brunch. After the brunch was over, people were like, what are we doing next? They had a little space next door, people gravitated toward that area and Moma was DJ’ing, so it turned into a day party. Then, it grew from there. Roble, Moma and I are super close friends, so this brought all of our different worlds together. It became a great place to hang out with all different types of people.

How do the values instilled in you from your African heritage and upbringing influence the way you’ve curated EP events?

Hospitality and how you treat people is very important. Hence the name Everyday People. We don’t want to create an environment where people feel secluded or don’t feel comfortable. We want everyone to feel welcome. I meet a lot of people at these events but I try to give them the sense that whoever they meet there is going to treat them with respect. That’s all of our cultures. Mo is from Sudan, I’m Somali-Ethiopian and Roble is half Somali and half African American. In our upbringings, we treat others with respect, we want guests to enjoy themselves and that’s definitely shown through our events. You can come to this event and feel free to be who you are, we instill that in our company culture. 

Everyday People does an amazing job at showcasing an eclectic mix of people of color. In doing that, it fights stereotypes and has opened a significant window into what black joy looks like. Was this your intention?

It was not. I honestly think when you do things from the heart, the rest will follow. I never sought out to capture black joy, that’s just what it was. It was organic. It was people having fun and we wanted to take pictures. It was never an intentional thought and I’m really happy that we have someone like Kadeem on our team to capture those moments.

What’s your take on the power of social media and the impact it can have in the development of someone’s career?

Everyday People has grown because of social media. The photos are what people gravitate towards. It’s somewhere where you can express yourself through your fashion and find like-minded people. With whatever you do, if you can capture it organically people will gravitate towards it. Granted, now we have sponsorship's because we have to pay bills, but you can tell that it’s not run by a corporation pushing numbers. Whatever we do with EP as a brand, we follow with integrity first. We always ask, “Is this true to who we are?” With social media if you stay true to who you are, that can shine through. Whereas you can tell if someone is working for corporate America. It’s not going to be as soulful. Black Twitter is a great example. They can’t tap into black Twitter because they’re not of the community. 

How important is consistency when building a brand?

This is something quite new to me because I’m very whimsical and all over the place. Luckily I have a team that’s helping me understand the business side in staying consistent. It’s important.

You mention that it’s something new to you, so what kind of change has happened since you’ve become less whimsical and started to pay attention to how consistency can help your brand?

Now we’re working with a lot of brands and they like to see analytics. So you have to figure out those types of things. You have to monitor what you’re doing. Versus before, we weren’t paying attention, just having a great time. But, when there is money at stake and not just money, but keeping the party operating, spicy and new, you have to be on top of things. You have to be aware of what’s happening and that’s a big part of consistency. You can’t be repetitive, you have to evolve or die.

Your career path is interesting and very non-traditional.

I’m figuring it out myself. I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re doing in general and that’s when you can finally be okay with everything. You’re told that you’re supposed to do certain things: go to college, get a certain degree, work for this company for x amount of years and then move up the corporate ladder. But when you step back and come to terms with the fact that, that’s not what you want to do, its daunting and scary.

With that said, what steps do you advise for someone interested in a path similar to yours?

What really helped me was my team. You have to realize what your strengths are as an entrepreneur. There are times when I beat myself up because I’m not good at certain things, then I realized that I don’t have to be good at numbers or organization. There’s going to be someone on my team who’s good at that. Everyone brings something to the table. For example, I work on the creative of everyday people so I’m more involved with the photographer or brand activations. Whereas Moma, he’s similar to a CEO and he’s dealing with operations. Roble, his strength is food and catering. To grow as a company, you have to have a strong team and value everyone who works for you. Not just your partners but the interns, security and the servers.

 Is there anything that you wish you knew or done at a younger age that you encourage the upcoming generation to do now?

I’m first generation and my idea of success has always been academics and finishing college. I definitely think everyone should go to college but do what you truly believe is your contribution to society. My end goal is not to just create a party but to create safe spaces for our community. Whatever path I may choose—it might not be EP in 10 years—at the end of the day, my overall goal as a human being is to uplift, black people especially.

I remember reading that you got one of your internships after someone gave you their business card. What is the most useful thing that you’ve learned from your internship experience?

Networking. It’s not what you know but who you know. I remember when I first moved to New York, I would go to a coffee shop every day and send my resume to all of these people just to get an internship. I did not get one call. But the moment that I went out, spoke to people as my true genuine self and showed interest, that’s when the opportunities arrived. Go to those galleries, parties and networking events. Whatever your interest is be involved in those communities.

And when it comes to your style, I noticed it’s very simple but you incorporate standout elements and it works cohesively. What’s your style philosophy?

Keep it simple. I like balance when it comes to my style.

Follow Saada on Twitter and Instagram. Stay plugged into what's going on with Everyday People here!

PHOTOGRAPHYAndre Gray