NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Former aide to First Lady Michelle Obama, Lola Tomorrow, spoke at Illinois State University on Thursday.
The session, “Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Experience: Introducing Lola Tomorrow,” was part three of a four part series called, “Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Series,” hosted in partnership with the Multicultural Center.
Tomorrow is a millionaire CEO who got her start majoring in event planning at ISU. She shared her journey about being dismissed from the university due to poor grades and then pleading with then university president Al Bowman to allow her to continue her matriculation.
“I stalked him first cause I tried to get to him through calling and they wouldn’t let me get to him. I waited to see him come out to his car,” she said.
Tomorrow graduated in 2008 and in less than a year she was working as manager of events for the National Parent Teachers Association. She applied for the job on a whim even though the job posting required five to seven years of experience.
“The woman who interviewing me says to me, ‘I know you’re not qualified. You’re really great. But there’s something about you and I think you can do the job,'” said Tomorrow.
The opportunity to work for Obama came when the first lady launched her “Let’s Move” campaign in partnership with the PTA. Tomorrow said she was offered the job after the event because Obama’s team observed her crawling on stage to use a pocket steamer on a table skirt.
“The only thing I kept thinking in my head is people are going to see this on the news and they’re going to see these wrinkles and they’re going to think who is the event planner behind this event,” Tomorrow said.
Students had a chance to ask Tomorrow tips for their businesses. She told students to utilize their resources and use their campus experience as preparation. Tomorrow said her experience with being involved with registered student organizations laid the foundation for her to run a multimillion dollar company. She said she came back to her alma mater so students can see what’s possible.
“I personally believe the moment you can see what’s possible is the moment you can create it for your own life,” said Tomorrow. “I wish somebody would have came and told me when I was that student and I was struggling trying to find my purpose, my place, that all of that was going to work out for my good. So, I’m really hoping that students see what’s possible.”
The fourth part of the series, “Tomorrow’s Speed Networking Experience,” will allow students to network with ISU entrepreneur alumni. The event is Nov. 30.
In Spring 2024, Tomorrow is launching “Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Institute.” Students will receive help in various facets of entrepreneurship including developing their business and creating profitability strategies. Tomorrow said the eight-week course is to give students the tangible experience of what it takes in the world of entrepreneurship.
“It’s one thing to learn it in a book. It’s one thing to read it in a book. It’s another thing to now have the tangible experience from entrepreneurs that are actually doing it,” she said.
The deadline to apply for the institute is Dec. 4. Students interested in speed networking and the institute should contact the Multicultural Center.