In the midst of the entire world being forced to stay inside because of Covid-19, creatives have been going to work on how to readjust to this new lifestyle. We’ve seen live DJ sets that turn into virtual parties on Saturday nights and companies having crazy online sales. Now, we have virtual conferences for people to view for free. Scooter Taylor and Tre’von Hill, the founders of QuarantineCon, have started something incredible online and are providing hope and motivation for other creative entrepreneurs during this time.
Believe it or not, QuarantineCon started from a text thread and came to fruition within the next four days. Tre’von discovered a platform called Hopin that was also hosting an online conference. He was so amazed by the features of the platform and being able to network with strangers in different cities, he immediately tagged Scooter to join. As they worked their way through the platform, Scooter brought up the idea to have their own event for other black creatives. As a true Gemini and Virgo pair, Tre’von was in-sync and right on board with him. We got to speak with Scooter and Tre’von about QuarantineCon, its mission and process, and their plans after Covid-19.
Tell us about yourselves, what you do, and how did you meet each other?
Tre’von Hill: My name is Tre’von Hill, I went to Morehouse and that’s where I met Scooter. I’m currently a fulltime entrepreneur and I’m based in Northern California, the Bay Area.
Scooter Taylor: What’s up, I’m Scooter Taylor. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee. I also went to Morehouse, an entrepreneur and based on the West Coast. I’ve spent the last several years building high-gross tech companies, and last week we built this. So, I’m doing this now.
What is QuarantineCon and what was the inspiration behind it?
TH: To start, the most exciting part of this is we did it in four days and we got over 4000 people to register. However, we’ve been building this friendship for seven-plus, going on eight years. We knew we were both movers and shakers, we would ask each other what are you working on and how can I help. Our friendship is literally based on partnership and how quickly we can knock out projects.
So, the inspiration for this particular venture was there’s been a general response to Covid-19. With social distancing and quarantine, a lot of big social gatherings, expos, and conferences have been canceled. One of the biggest events I was supposed to go to got moved to an online base. I found out about it and told Scoot so he could have it on his radar. It came to the day of, and as soon as I logged on that morning I was enamored by everything. I immediately tell Scoot to jump in, and for like 30 minutes we were just texting each other back and forth like ‘what is this??’ We were completely excited. He sees the networking feature on the platform, loves it, and says we have to do this for our friends and other black creatives. And the rest is history. That was Tuesday (before Sunday, March 22nd), and we did it in four days. We thought we would only get a couple hundred and ended up with 4500+ people registered. It was amazing.
How was the process behind the scenes as you were putting the event together and got closer to Sunday?
ST: To his point, we’ve been working together for seven years, so we know how we both work. We know our strengths, we know our weaknesses, and it’s a lot of synergies. I’m thinking what he’s thinking, we both see the plan, so that expedites the process. But those four days were long. Long nights, long hours, and a lot of it wasn’t pretty. I think we mentioned this on the live stream, but we’re in our parents’ crib right now, with a little laptop and some wifi. We didn’t do anything spectacular, just opened up the Google Doc, and very quickly started to operationalize what we were doing. The Google Doc was kind of our bible. So when we would plan and do all of this cool stuff, we would come back to it, center, and check things off the list. I had a quote that I shared with the team and it said, “work as if you can solve anything”, and I think that sums up how it was. It got more exciting as the days went on, but there were definitely ebbs and flows of feeling “this is going to work”, to the next night of thinking we were going to have to postpone. I think there was one full day of not sleeping for sure—it was intense, but it was worth it.
TH: I think it was also about what was our response to social distancing and this quarantine life. These are measures that our nation is doing to strategically protect those that are most vulnerable. While that is the main priority, I think me and Scooter realized there’s still a gap. We can feel good about being in the house and protecting ourselves and others, but what are we going to do with our time? How do we release that tension of social distancing? It’s really physically distancing, we can still have this main social element and bring people back together, it’s just going to take some hacking and creativity. And if that’s one thing me and Scoot can do together, we can figure it out. That was one big piece that pushed us. We also realized we’re going to be in quarantine for a while, so what will everyone be doing this weekend? We wanted to look forward to something and have some solid, high-quality programming where we can learn, engage, and network from the bed. It was something we thought was a good idea, and it pushed us to get it done very quickly so we could see if other people thought it was a good idea.
How did you know who to contact as a speaker? Was there a specific theme you wanted to have?
ST: I think the underline tweet was black creatives and entrepreneurs, but we didn’t explicitly say that. A lot of it was let’s go down our contact list, and we had some really amazing speakers. From Jewel Brooks Soloman, who sold a company to Amazon and is now the head of Google Startups, to Jason Geter, who was T.I.’s first manager and now has a technology company called Heavy Sound Labs. We had Skylar Marshai, of course, who is a creative, we had YouTubers like De’arra and Ken, the founder of Honey Pot Co., Bea Dixon, and we also had a doctor who is very important to us, Dr. Shemeka Banger-Hill of the Dayton Family Medical Clinic. We made a shortlist of who is creative, who is of substance. That person might not have the most followers per se, but they can add value. From there, it was more curation. We looked up and saw it was mostly black women on the panel, so we kept that going as well. Also, there was no way we could call this thing QuarantineCon without addressing the pandemic and calming the anxieties.
TH: Also to add, we sat down and thought about what are the main things we wanted people to get from this. We came up with learn, partner, and connect. The idea was can we create a container online where people can come in masses to do those three things? As we were looking at speakers, there were so many people we could have chosen and do plan on working with in the future. However, with this one, these particular people were going to be able to do all of those three things really quickly.
How do you feel now that you’ve had this successful event and were able to have two more within the same week?
ST: I got my first good night of sleep Wednesday night (haha), but we woke up the next morning honestly excited. The cool thing about it was people weren’t saying “good job”, they were saying “thank you”. Thank you for giving me this platform and sparking my creativity again. Someone told me they met so many genuine people at the conference. I think that right there made us want to go do more. We couldn’t just stop there, and we can’t just think about it in conference terms. We realized we actually have something way more special, we have a community of people now. Another cool thing was people who were watching the stream also created a Google Doc with their name, contact, industry and it was like 250 of them that did it. So that told us that people are looking for a community, people are looking for a place to go and really vibe. We have a lot of ideas that we’re activating on.
TH: It’s a great feeling of being overwhelmed because we were overwhelmed with something we didn’t expect to happen. I’ve literally sat and responded to countless DMs, all personally too, just saying thank you back to them. Someone reached out to me with a story of how I was speaking on the networking feature and being vulnerable because it does ask you to access your camera and talk to someone for three minutes. So basically she said that she didn’t want to do it initially, but after going through the conference and feeling the energy and hearing my words of show up, take the rick, we are your community, she said she did it. She networked, she felt alive, and we brought that to her. That feeling was one where it was the driving force. It told us there is a need for creative containers and new opportunities in digital spaces. We are using our creativity to create new ways for people to come together.
What was your favorite part of the conference?
ST: So many favorite parts. We decided to include a DJ on the morning of, around 3 a.m. That just added an amazing element to it. What I enjoyed most was people were engaging in the conversation right at the beginning. I was very nervous about how the response was going to be. We had all of these flashy names, then we also had a doctor. But people were actually engaging and learning things about Covid that they didn’t know. That was a highlight for me.
TH: The moment that was most impactful for me was literally pushing the button to go live. It was a culmination of all of these emotions and feelings—it was four days, but also eight years of ‘we did it’. We’re here, we’re willing to let people see what our idea looks like. Right after I pushed it, there was no going back. I didn’t know where we were going but I knew there was no going back from here. It was a feeling of release of that first project and a guarantee of we’re doing something now.
Was there anything significant that you both have learned from this experience?
ST: Just how special we are as a people. I hoped they walked away from it feeling that we as a people are excellence. We are the standard. We can show up, show out, we’re creatives, we’re CEOs, we’re technologists. It kind of reinforced it when I saw how excited everyone was while watching the founder of Honey Pot. We see this lady in Target, in commercials, and now she’s here chillin’. She’s sitting Indian style, got the tattoos, giving it to us real and raw and not trying to sugarcoat. So it made me feel like I can do that. I can do whatever I want to do.
TH: Mine is very similar. What we did wasn’t a diversity effort. I’ve had friends of mine that are outside of the African American/Black community, who expressed they came but didn’t stay the whole time, or have even asked is it cool if they go to the next one. I thought this was interesting that there’s a stigma around only throwing Black only events. Scooter and I don’t think like that—we have never prioritized doing something just for the sake of being black, we prioritize excellence. No one on our panel was a handout, we got the people that are crushing it and are doing it big in their field. They’re truly incredible humans, they just so happen to be Black. Each one of them work in fields that impact the entire world and we were able to get that. So what I’ve learned is one, we can do that, and two, we can prove that. We’re highlighting these people who are absolute professionals and experts in their field, with high-quality insight and knowledge and are giving them a platform to share with our audience.
What are your plans for QuarantineCon after Covid-19 has lifted and people go back to their regular schedule?
ST: The world has to look at itself and how it’s going to operate post-pandemic. It’s not going to go back to how it was before, there’s going to be a new normal. I think we’ll still be doing really cool formats online, but for us, we’re thinking super big. Now it’s how do we start doing in-person events, creative dinners, retreats, and even investing in businesses? That’s where we want to head to next, so everything we do is very intentional.
Since the first installment of QuarantineCon, Scooter and Tre’von has had two other events within the same week. The second event was a financial panel called Wealth Building 101, which featured Rob Boyd and Ashley Fox. This was to help center the mindset around investing and provide resources on best investment practices. Ending the week was a virtual gym that included over 14 trainers teaching fitness classes to nearly 300 people all while at home. Scooter and Tre’von have created a safe haven for creatives to go and take their mind off of current issues in the world. They have already made a huge impact within a week of them starting, and have more to come. Follow them and QuarantineCon to stay connected with their new community.