Jan 18, 2018
30 Under 30, Class of ’18: Ayanna Prescod, Founder and EIC of OurBKSocial
Neighborhood: Crown Heights
Most Likely to: Produce a Broadway musical by 2020.
Favorite Quote: “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” – Althea Gibson
Everybody wants to be the boss. Or at least, most infatuate themselves with the idea of being a boss because of the association with power. But power comes with great responsibility, and often, an even greater price. If there’s anyone who understands this, it’s Ayanna Prescod. The 29 year-old Crown Heights’ native who founded OurBKSocial, the digital-platform dedicated to highlighting the parts of Brooklyn that are often left in the dark. Shedding light on stories that would otherwise go untold has made Ayanna more than a plug; but a power source.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now?
I remember being in the 5th grade and the teacher asked the class to say what we wanted to be when we grew up. Without hesitation, I said “CEO.” The teacher responded with, “Do you even know what CEO stands for?” I proudly stated “Chief Executive Officer.” I didn’t know exactly what field I wanted to be in but I knew I wanted to be my own boss.
When did your occupation become real to you?
OurBKSocial began as my way of expressing my love for Brooklyn. I shared local events, restaurants I enjoyed and places I loved to visit. As my Instagram began to grow, my followers demanded that I expand my range. So I created the digital platform, OurBKSocial.com. After the initial launch of the online magazine in December 2014, the site crashed due to the overwhelming number of request. I had not anticipated such excitement, but that showed me I could be successful at this.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work?
By staying in touch with my community, my readers trust OurBKSocial to tell the stories of the people and neighborhoods often overlooked. I have built countless valuable relationships with people and businesses. As a result, they now come to me with important information that may be a lead to a story or help with a project or event.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now?
The balance between living and working is the most challenging. I have a small team that helps me to keep OurBKSocial’s digital magazine and social media channels up to date, but as the head of this business, I am the one who assumes most of the responsibilities. It’s never been a 9 to 5 job. I’m always on social media or in the news to keep up with everything that’s going on in Brooklyn and that’s all while I’m covering events, leading community meetings, or spending time with family and friends. Work never ends.
What’s most rewarding about where you are now?
Witnessing OurBKSocial initiate real change in the community is most rewarding. Recently a restaurant in Brooklyn had a racially charged incident with a customer that was caught on the customer’s phone. The video was posted to social media and quickly went viral. Tempers flared, both the customer and the restaurant’s owners received backlash. I took action by quickly organizing a community meeting at the restaurant. I moderated a successful meeting where the community got a chance to directly speak with the owners. The community made suggestions on how the restaurant can improve service and the restaurant listened and implemented some of them. At the end of the meeting many were thankful that OurBKSocial gave the community a voice to create change.
5 spots in Brooklyn people should know about?
Gallery Players (199 14th St.) A performing arts theater in Park Slope that puts on a variety of some of the best plays, musicals and other shows. I wish Lin Manuel Miranda could have seen their production of In The Heights. It was beyond spectacular.
Café Buon Gusto (151 Montague St.) Arguably the best Italian food in Brooklyn, with an exceptional staff and an owner who goes above and beyond for his customers.
Crown Finish Caves (925 Bergen St.) An underground cheese aging facility in Crown Heights that may be the best kept secret of the neighborhood.
Alamo Drafthouse (445 Albee Square W) For anyone who despises hearing people talk at the movies — like myself — this dine-in movie theater, located inside the new City Point Mall, has a strict no phone, no talking, no lateness policy and even better food.
Akwaaba Mansion (347 MacDonough Street) A beautiful high-end bed and breakfast in Bed-Stuy that has become so popular it will be featured in a new docu-series on Oprah’s OWN network. If Oprah recognizes you, you’ve pretty much made it.
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date?
Nothing compares to the day I was called by the White House in April 2015—just 4 months after the launch of OurBKSocial—to cover President Barack Obama’s trip to New York, where he spoke at the National Action Network (NAN) Convention.
Who/what inspires you?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn at a time when community was extremely important. I would sit on my stoop and play with my friends. Neighbors looked out for one another. My parents knew my friend’s parents and we all would eat at each other’s houses. We were all one big family. Over the last 10 years, that community feeling has slowly disappeared. What inspires me is knowing that feel of community can be created again.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years?
In 30 years, I hope to be married with children and doing lots of non-work related traveling with them. I also see myself bringing the 1940s-musical movie, It Happened In Brooklyn, to a Broadway stage. Hopefully that gets me a few TONYs to put in my office. I also see OurBKSocial’s community initiative spanning out to the U.S. and abroad. And HELL YES I will still be the CEO!
OurBKSocial’s digital platform will continue to grow and we’re currently looking for investors and sponsors to help with our neighborhood initiative that will be launching summer of 2018. Also anyone with ANY Broadway/theater connections: I’m really, really working on producing my first show by this year. So at this very moment, I want to build as many relationships as possible to make that happen.
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