Imani Ellis


Personal Instagram: @ImaniImani

Brand Instagram: @theccnyc

Brand Website:

How does New York inspire you?

Harlem is the epitome of art, renaissance, and creation. When I'm walking down Malcolm X Blvd, I can just feel it in the air. I can feel all of the creative geniuses that have come before me and I'm inspired by that energy.

You started your career as a publicist at a pretty popular television network and you're still there, which based on the narrative around Millennials, would be considered uncommon. What has kept you there? How have you been able to ensure you’re thriving and growing?

I love working in TV because I'm constantly inspired by the people I work with. I work with really creative, innovative and passionate colleagues. Also, I’m working on projects that are super fun and inspiring to me. I think it's important to ask yourself if you're really passionate about what you're doing. That might seem like a no brainer, but I like to constantly check in with myself because you have to love it when no one is watching. That's how you know it's real.

What skill sets would you say are most transferable between your work as a publicist and as a founder and vice versa?

Being resourceful and having a must-win mentality. From anything like locking an interview to collaborating with other creators, it starts with “okay, how is this gonna get done?” because we know it needs to get done. And I don't usually have a plan B. I mean I can whip one up but I really go 100 miles an hour toward the goal. If you approach things that way it's like the universe conspires to make it happen.

Can you share the story of how TheCCnyc was started?

I wanted to create a safe space where creatives could just be themselves, so I invited a few friends over to my apartment and we talked about an incredible range of things--from feeling unsure to wanting more resources. From there, my friends and I have been able to really put time into The Creative Collective and build out a community for curious creatives who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. TheCCnyc celebrates the fact that we're human and we need to be able to take off our cool and be your most authentic self. It's been incredible to see how it's grown, but it also shows that it resonates with our community because people need community more than ever.

Growth is a process. How do you navigate and stay true to the vision while pivoting when necessary?

I think there's incredible beauty in being vulnerable and asking for help. When I first started posting on Instagram, I was posting a lot of the generic inspirational quotes you see everywhere. It wasn't until I started being more transparent with the captions that people started really responding to them. For people that are building something and not seeing traction at an ideal rate, my advice is to always start at the place that feels natural to you and people will always gravitate towards that. Sometimes I think we're trying to create what we think people want instead of standing where we are and saying, “This is me.”

When it comes to growth, I think it’s also important to be open to feedback and self-aware that because you're so close to your idea, you may not see it as others do. Don’t take criticism as insult but as widened perspective. We live in a society where everything has to be larger than life but there can be an incredible success in having something that's very niche. So instead of trying to have a lemonade stand in all fifty states, become the best lemonade stand in Brooklyn. Then, when Jay-Z and Beyonce are in Brooklyn, that's where they’re going. If you start to think like that, you’ll find that the people will come. I’d rather be the best in NYC than ‘just okay’ in every state.


How do you want people to feel after they attend a CCnyc event or consume content?

We want them to feel inspired. We want them to feel like there is hope and realize that next steps are not always huge victories. Next steps can look like starting your website or making a new connection. We want to break down what success looks like and redefine it. If you're not happy with yourself, if you don't have a community, if there's no anchor and you're chasing the optics, it's just not fulfilling. We want people on our Instagram page to see these incredible icons coupled with a quote that says, "life is not always easy". And when we put together an event and ask speakers to amplify their stories, we want them be transparent with their advice and say, "There were times when I was scared..." I think that's what people want, to know that they're not the only ones who've ever felt scared or alone or intimidated or unsure. We want people to feel like they're home.

Attending CultureCon last year, the growth was massive and certainly impressive but even more so was that you all were able to maintain a super welcoming, familial energy. How was the team able to pull that off? Can you give us one thing you kept, one thing you changed and one thing you tweaked from year one to two?

We decided to keep a small room feel despite being in a much bigger room. Our entire team is made up of such inspiring and brilliant people and everything we do is very intentional. So we coupled these larger than life icons and speakers with inspiring creatives who walk amongst us and are uplifting our community. You didn’t just see John Legend, you also saw the homies sharing that same stage. We always include interactive moments and activities that bring out your inner child in us because we have to adult all day long.

In terms of what we wanted to change, it was the size. The first year, we had over 400 people on the waiting list. So for a year two, we knew we’d need to find a much larger venue.

Last year, our panels were back to back to back because we had so much good content. Our hope is for the next one to have even more opportunities for people to break out into small groups and workshops and again, to feel like even though there are so many people around, they’re still able to find a tribe.

How would you describe Blackness?

Incredibly resilient. Creative. Innovative. Leaders of the new school.

How about Black women and womanhood?

Juxtaposition In All Ways - Incredibly strong. Incredibly empathetic. Inspiring. Creative. Doers.

What's something that you think everyone should do at least once?

They should go to Los Tacos and order some steak and chicken tacos. They are the best in the world.

What's on the horizon for you?

I'm moving into this place of peace. It’s important that I’m able to sleep at night so good sleep and a life filled with peace have become a priority for me. That being, I’ve decided to do more things that genuinely make me happy like going to museums, going upstate to visit my sister on her farm and saying yes to rest. I'm always going to be a hard worker, that's just in my DNA but I need to experience life. I want to live life while I have it and that means for 2019, saying yes to more things that maybe don't affect the bottom line but make me incredibly happy.

How do you stay motivated as you strive to achieve your goals?

I listen to a lot of Super Soul Sunday with Oprah. Everyone should listen to it. It’s incredible. I also surround myself with doers and they keep me inspired. There are days when I'm so tired, get on Instagram and see friends announcing new things or working towards their goals and it gives me a boost. It’s not a competition but ambition is contagious. And lastly, by being constantly in communication with God and leaning into my family who I adore.