What Made GRIT 2023 Unbelievably Fun

On January 26-28, 2023, the GRIT Conference brought together innovators from different sectors and industries. The event highlighted the “Hidden Gems” or world-class innovators living and working right here in Savannah. This piece is Creative Coast writer Bradley Mullis’ take on Savannah’s two-day innovation conference.

What value do you add? And even more so, what problem do you solve? 

Nobody came out and said it, but that’s what the GRIT Conference was about this past weekend. Two days of high-energy, cutting-edge panel discussions and keynote talks at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center gave us the opportunity to look inward and find our inner problem solver.  

I wasn’t able to make it to every workshop this weekend, but the ones I did get to had several nuggets of uplifting information that I left with. 

The Digital Marketing panel was focused on helping attendees find the best way of interacting with the audience they’re trying to reach. Some of those takeaways included solid messages, such as: 

  • Be consistent
  • Develop trust
  • Post frequently 

But the most important theme was building up the human experience we all share. Shanice Laurence, the founder of shesamotivator.com, had some great advice for people just getting started with their digital marketing efforts. Start with your interests, share your stories, and build a community around what you care about. Pretty wholesome, right? 

The reality is that not every business sees immediate interest in the product they offer, and consumer demands change hourly. A business has to be nimble to adapt to a modern world, but that’s still not a surefire way of success.

Jesse Blanco (far left) moderated the Food For Thought Panel featuring (L to R) Amanda Russ Cifaldi (Pomodori Italian Eatery), Monique Silén (Kayak Kafé), Alton Brecker (Bar Bubbly Savannah), and Trey Wilder (Treylor Park Restaurant Group).

Jesse Blanco touched on this in his Food for Thought Panel. There’s no way anyone could have prepared for the environment that came with COVID. Restaurants that survived the pandemic came into a very different world on the other end, one ravaged by a changing labor pool, increased costs, and shrinking profit margins. Jesse asked his panel, all experienced restaurateurs in the Coastal Empire area, how they adapted to this new environment. I really liked Monique Silén’s answer to this question. 

“We know food has gone up, prices and more,” she said. “For us, it goes to looking at the bigger picture. Looking at everything in the operation, and seeing where the money goes. Is it being used efficiently?” 

Her response focuses on how money is used and if it’s being spent correctly. But I liked this part of her answer. “It goes to looking at the bigger picture.” 

Katie Schuck (Savannah Regional Film Commission) moderated the Insights and the Intersection of Entertainment and Gaming panel featuring Jason Loia (Dolfin Ventures), David Johnson (Undertone FX), Bridget Gaynor (SCAD), and Shawn Woods (Lewoo Equity Partners),

The daily stressors of life make it easy to get bogged down in the details and the tedium of repetitive processes in our businesses. It’s something that distracts from the end goal, and muddies the waters of our thoughts. 

But the best encouragement I found came from the Insights and Intersections of Entertainment and Gaming. Jason Loia, co-founder of Dolfin Ventures, spoke about how to break into the gaming industry, and what it took to persevere when facing obstacles.” 

“The founder has [to have] the grit to stick through it,” he says. “We’re going to hit a thousand bumps in the road, and if we can’t stick with it, it’ll never get into orbit.” 

It’s a good reminder for all of us as we begin the return back to the work week. We are no strangers to failure in our businesses or even our personal lives. Each new idea we pursue has could lead us to greet failures old, familiar face. It’s tough, but sometimes…

You have to just grit your teeth and work through it.