Girl Connected provides 20 aspiring female professionals a chance to participate in a year-long, one-on-one mentorship with an industry giant
Marketing maven and CEO of Lola Media Group, Lola Plaku, kicked off the Toronto chapter of her Girl Connected mentorship program event at Daniels Spectrum Feb. 28.
Plaku, who’s been in the industry for more than a decade, created Girl Connected because she wanted to do more for the future generation of female professionals.
“With the vast relationships that I have built in the music industry, I wanted to find a way to help empower the next generation of women who wanted to do what I did or chose a similar career path,” said Plaku.
The Toronto native decided to do this in part by hosting an event with her four 2020 mentorship instructors: Rigo Morales, vice-president of A&R and artist development for Atlantic Records; Nicole Wyskoarko, executive vice-president of urban operations at Interscope Geffen A&M Records; Krystyn Price, director of talent relations at Complex Networks; and Adam Zia, CEO of The Zia Firm.
According to the Girl Connected website, the initiative offers the public larger conversations about the entrepreneurial landscape, examining the role of leadership and success. These conversations focus on building influence, exercising power and creating a positive culture, while providing grassroots discussions that give guests an opportunity to explore the concept of staying connected.
Plaku, who has partnered with Factor Canada in the past for public conversations in Atlanta, London, New York and twice in Toronto, worked with the foundation again to create awareness about the concept of her mentorship program. Once applications were finalized, they opened online for four weeks to any interested applicants — which allowed them to receive 200 submissions. However, Plaku only had the chance to interview about 45 people. “Most of the applications, if not all of them, were incredible and I was flabbergasted at how amazing the applications were…it was so hard to pick people,” Plaku said to a packed room.
Plaku said she ended up choosing the final 20 women based on who she felt would be an amazing resource to the city. These women will be learning about A&R (artists and repertoire), the music business, music administration and event marketing, by working with their specific mentor.
The Feb. 28 event was the only time the four mentors appeared together for a public conversation. But Plaku says she’ll be announcing more events with different guest speakers.
During the PUMA sponsored event, Morales said, “When a man is thinking, a woman has already thought.”
Morales, who works with numerous artists at Atlantic and is an active member of The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammys), emphasized the importance of Plaku’s initiative.
“I just don’t think there are enough female A&Rs in the business,” said Morales.
Morales described A&R as “organized chaos.” However, the two hottest hip-hop labels right now are Atlantic and Interscope and they just so happen to be run by women.
Additionally, Morales said a woman’s intuition with music is a little different than a man’s.
“The [music] business in general needs to nurture that [intuition] a little bit more.” Morales said that he hopes when he sits down with his five girls, they’ll extract every piece of information he has. He says he’s looking for the next female version of himself because he has a lot of wisdom he wants to share.
Wyskoarko, who’s worked with Canadian artists such as Alessia Cara and Justin Bieber, said she’s never done anything like this before and is excited to see what’s to come.
“I’ve always tried to make a difference [so] if I can hire a woman or if I can suggest a woman — anything I can do to just pull more of us in, to have that voice,” said Wyskoarko.
Wyskoarko said she never had a formal mentor, so for her, it took some time to figure this business out. She said that giving these already talented women in the program an opportunity like this, will provide them with the tools to rise and succeed.
“If you have a little bit more guidance, information and support that I didn’t have … who knows what you can do,” said Wyskoarko, who is approaching her second anniversary as a vice-president at Interscope.
The event ended with an empowering Q-and-A and an intimate meet-and-greet style conversation, with the audience hovering around the panellists and Plaku, who acted as the moderator of the event.
Plaku said that she hopes the first quarterly event gave the public a glimpse into the 2020 instructors’ careers, journeys and their hopes for this program.
She says Toronto has “so many talented individuals who constantly contribute to the musical landscape globally” and that she wants to better equip them with this initiative.
“I want to make sure that the women in our city, who are interested in these ‘behind the scenes’ roles, have the necessary tools and resources to grow with the talent that is coming out of Toronto and to be able to not only keep up, but succeed globally,” said Plaku.