After a successful career in public relations and marketing, Angela Yu Bae founded New Jersey-based event planning business Angi & Co. Two years later, a client led her to another opportunity working in the nonprofit world. Today, Bae is also the executive director of Zimele USA, an organization helping to fight poverty in rural South Africa by empowering women with financial literacy and small business skills. Below, she tells us how she started Angi & Co and connected with Zimele, and how she balances her work for both passions.
From PR to A & Co.
“My career started out at a boutique public relations agency working with a large furniture retailer. Our team managed their local and national PR campaigns and traveled to store grand openings and special events. Later, I joined in-house marketing departments for two other companies, working on North American showroom and trade show events. I loved the role that our team had in the larger picture of business growth and market representation. In 2012, after having my second child, I started Angi & Co so I could continue to nurture my entrepreneurial spirit in event planning and have a creative outlet.”
Getting over self-doubt
“Despite having experience in the corporate world, breaking out on my own felt intimating. I needed to face my fears of not being “good enough” and wondering if I could pull off successful events on my own. This feeling of self-doubt even had me questioning how to value my services and what to charge clients. As I continued to complete projects, build a strong team, and nurture vendor and client relationships, I was able to realize my own self-worth.”
A client become a call to action
“My involvement with Zimele started when they hired me to plan their annual gala in 2014. I decided to go on their ambassador trip that year so I could learn more about their work. When I returned, I had a renewed purpose and outlook, inspired more than ever to support an organization that did such transformative work. I also felt extremely connected to women. Though outwardly we did not look alike, we were connected as women, mothers, daughters, entrepreneurs and community members. I realized that I am a Zimele woman too.”
“After the 2014 gala, I joined the Zimele USA board of directors and in 2016, I became their executive director. I continue to juggle both Angi & Co and Zimele responsibilities thanks to my flexible work schedule, a supportive husband/family, team and board of directors who trust me and have faith in my ability.”
Identifying the “Why” moment
“During my first trip to South Africa, we were in a group meeting with the Zimele staff learning about their program model, which includes financial literacy and small business skills for women, and a level of community social services—creating pre-schools/daycares, or helping orphans and homebound neighbors. Someone asked if the women are compensated for their time working on these community programs. We were told no, that the Zimele model of community development reminds us that each individual has talents and skill to help another, that even the smallest of businesses has a responsibility to give back. At that moment, I felt like she was speaking right to me. When I came back from that trip, I had a renewed perspective on my work and planning the Zimele gala. I wanted to do my best not just because I wanted a happy client, but to create an experience that would inspire every single guest to support this amazing work. From then on, I always think of the “why” in every project that goes beyond just the service we are providing.”
Thankful for her partners…
“At Angi & Co. we have 3 other lead planners (Linda, Jessica, and Marie) and a wonderful group of day-of assistants. I’m so thankful for each one of them and the way everyone supports each other. Even if someone is not a lead planner, she is more than willing to help when needed. As the number of planners has grown, we’ve been able to increase our client workload and expand into other event categories. This growth would not have been possible without them. I often say that my last name is Bae but they are also in the BAE family (Bad A– Entrepreneurs).”
..and her tribe of supportive women (like Elevation!)
“I also belong to a network of amazing women who encourage and inspire each other. They are also my tribe. When something great happens, they are among the first to celebrate and acknowledge accomplishments and milestones with each other. When someone needs a moment of support, they are always there to listen, brainstorm and pull together to lift each other up. This group of women have helped not only to be my cheerleaders but also referred me for dream projects.”
Interested in hearing more about Zimele? Angela is planning another ambassador trip to South Africa this fall. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.