The iCan Collective held a fireside chat with the owner of The Silver Room, Eric Williams, to discuss his pathway to success, a week after he hosted one of the signature events of the season, The Silver Room Block Party.
Afenya Montgomery, founder of The iCan Collective, decided to host the first fireside chat of the series at The Silver Room with Williams because of his years as an influential member of the community and his leadership and experience as a successful business owner. Montgomery, a nurse by trade, launched The iCan Collective to create a sense of community amongst creatives, business owners, and more because she found a dearth of those resources when she first began her own business.
“I wanted to create something for people who needed that because sometimes friends, family don’t understand the business side of things so it was important for me to find like-minded people and build something great,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery said there’s much to learn from Williams in terms of how to create community for a purpose larger than just selling merchandise.
“I decided to have this event because The iCan Collective is all about bringing tools and actionable resources to people, entrepreneurs, career professionals, and creatives to build things that collaborate and build a community that can depend and rely on each other for mentorships and things like that,” said Montgomery.
Williams revealed during the conversation that his desire to work for himself dates back to his early years as an independent salesman after attending the University of Illinois at Chicago where he pursued a degree in finance. He said he opened the original Silver Room in the Wicker Park neighborhood 20 years ago with $7,000 in gifts, donations, family loans, charged credit cards, and more. He shared one crucial piece of advice: try not to borrow money to start a business.
“Now, there’s creative ways to raise capital, you have social media and crowd sourcing which is great, you can make a product and prototype and sell a prototype before you actually make it,” said Williams.
The origins of The Silver Room Block Party came from a feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo, according to Williams. He said the original idea was just to have a block party at his former location.
“One year I was like this is whack, I spend all of this money to go to somebody else’s festival to set up and the music is bad and I just wasn’t really vibing with that because I could take the money to be at their festival and start my own,” said Williams.
Williams recalled the first year roughly 200 attendees participated. At the most recent Block Party held in Hyde Park, he estimated 30,000 people attended the daylong affair.
“I’m really happy; everyone had a good time, it was peace, love, freedom and joy, and the music was really good,” said Williams.
Following the chat, both Montgomery and Williams reflected on their conversation and the impact it had on the audience.
“I had a great view of the Silver Room and now it has propelled it to the next level; I love it,” said Montgomery. “I think this is a place where I can continue to have events. I will continue to look toward the Silver Room as kind of one of our hubs.”
Williams said he hoped that attendees learned something new from the experience. He said for his next venture, he would like to mentor and consult with prospective business owners. For the time being, he does not intend on opening another Silver Room. He said he hopes people recognize from the Silver Room’s example that people can produce a successful business without major outside assistance.
“I think entertainment is a big part of our lives and culture; the music, the art, makes us feel good and it’s inspiring and I think it can be a hub for inspiring other people to do other things,” said Williams.
Individuals interested in being featured by Montgomery or learn more about The iCan Collective, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals interested in contacting Williams can reach him at email@example.com