Aysia Woods is obsessed with human interaction. A self-described people person, her passion led her to create her own events company, Events by AW, while she was living in Washington D.C. in 2015.
She’s balanced various iterations of the company alongside full and part-time jobs over the past six years. The business and her team have grown to offer a full range of planning and event services.
But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to throw out her five-year plan for Events by AW and take her business offerings to a new realm: The Internet.
“When COVID happened and I was working full time at [George Washington] University, they were like ‘okay, everyone can work remote’ as things were happening. And in my head, I was thinking ‘this will be like a two-week thing’,” she said.
Two weeks stretched into three, and then the months started piling up. Time was accompanied by social distancing orders, mask ordinances, and adapting to a new normal.
Unexpected changes have been a constant theme for Woods during 2020. Events by AW thrived through public gatherings and social interaction. As people were forced to transition to a more online environment, Woods was forced to adapt to the new environment.
“I was pretty lucky,” she says. “The clients I had signed on with at the top of 2020 trusted me. I was very open and willing to learn as best I could to transform in-person events to virtual.”
Woods managed to maintain her entire client list as the pandemic raged throughout 2020. She attributes this to constant communication, working with each client to constantly reevaluate their needs.
“I took the approach of trying to be a sponge during all of this,” she says. “It’s been interesting for sure.”
Interesting is certainly an understatement. We’ve all had the opportunity to participate in at least one virtual event since March of 2020. The dynamic between virtual events and in-person events is…different, to say the least. The level of individual interaction is absent, and the group synergy is off. Woods acknowledges the difference but maintains that she tries to not compare the two.
“Nothing will ever compare to being in-person, whether that’s having an exchange, or getting a drink,” she says. “I’m more of the mindset that virtual events have a completely separate purpose in my opinion and I try to create the most dynamic event I can without thinking ‘oh, this would be so much better in-person’.”
A sense of normalcy is returning as 2021 marches on. But not everyone is comfortable returning to public gatherings just yet. So here’s the million-dollar question: how does an event planner create a space that is open to everyone but also caters to individual needs and concerns?
“I’ve been inspired creatively because I’ve seen how so many event professionals have been navigating this space, and it seems like the key is being really intentional and sensitive to meet people where they are right now,” she says. “People’s mental health states are in different spaces…everything is different.”
Inspiration from others is the main driving force for Woods. She has forged ahead with her business despite the setbacks the pandemic introduced, and her company has flourished. She cites the confidence she has in herself as her main driving force for navigating the pitfalls of being a small business owner. She hopes that other women with similar aspirations can come to find that confidence in themselves.
“You could be so talented and so great at something, and as women, as people of color, sometimes I think it can be really uncomfortable to talk about our skills, talk about the things we’ve done, and brag about ourselves a little bit. Confidence is a big piece of it, because if you’re not believing in yourself, who will? Just believe in yourself, and go for it.”
Woods headed for Savannah when the pandemic struck, taking the opportunity to be closer to her family.
“If I can work indefinitely, I’ll come down to Savannah,” she said. “And then when this is all over, I’ll move back home.”
“Well, clearly, I am still in Savannah,” she says, laughing. Her five-year plan was thrown out the window. But as far as her next ten years with Events by AW? She just wants to make it work.
“My mindset is that I just want to focus where I can provide value,” she says. “I want to remain where I’m adding the most value. I know that will shift as I grow and change. My mindset is much more fluid, but I do know that I’ll continue to change.”
Keep up with Aysia and download her latest e-book at https://eventsbyaw.com/