Company: Lakewood Amphitheatre and Wolf Creek Amphitheater
Title: General Manager
Akeasha Branch took a part-time job at Ticketmaster in college and parlayed that into more part-time jobs at various box offices in Atlanta. She wanted to be around live shows and events, so she just kept working. She was always asking for more opportunities, and she counts herself fortunate that her persistence wasn’t annoying but received with a friendly ear. People thought of Akeasha when new opportunities arose, and when Lakewood Amphitheatre needed a seasonal box office assistant, her bosses at Ticketmaster recommended her.
At the end of the season, the woman who would become Akeasha’s mentor and friend, needed a full-time box office assistant at the Fox Theatre, and the general manager at Lakewood recommended Akeasha. It wasn’t long that the full-time box office manager position at Lakewood opened up and her former general manager took her back with open arms. The road Akeasha traveled involved a lot of hard work and staying in good positions with everyone she met along the way.
Once at Lakewood full-time, Akeasha soaked up everything she possibly could. She spent most of her time working closely with the marketing director, still a friend of hers (and colleague again for over 20 years). She was part of a regional ticketing professional group and went to national meetings, and spent time listening and observing her general manager who supported Akeasha and included her as the business evolved.
After 6 years, Akeasha became the marketing director. It was a tough decision for her, because she did love ticketing but she knew she wanted to keep growing. After a couple of years and company leadership changes, she was asked to become general manager of Lakewood.
Akeasha was fortunate to work closely with her local accountant and gained more resources and examples of great venue leadership with Live Nation. She keeps a good relationship with the venue’s community and with her team.
In 2013, She enrolled in Georgia State University’s Executive MBA program. Akeasha somehow crammed schoolwork into her already busy schedule. Those 17 months were though, but provided an amazing journey of learning and opportunity. Many people thought because Akeasha got her MBA she was going to leave Lakewood. However, her MBA goal was always about personal growth and preparedness, and she knows it is a big reason why she’s a better manager and leader.
Today, Akeasha continues to learn and experience the many facets of her job, her venue and industry she work in.
Tell us a bit about your day to day – and what you love most about what you do?
I think what I love most about what I do is that I don’t necessarily know what my day-to-day may bring. I can have a to-do list and plan of attack and have it go sideways because a surprise project comes up or a show is looking to confirm. Lately, I’ve found that I really love getting my hands dirty. I get to work with my operations team and work on the venue. Every time I walk by Cellar 89, our wine bar, I think, “Hey – I hung those string lights. They look really good!” I also love leading our orientation sessions. It’s about 90 minutes of me talking with new employees about our venue, Live Nation, our service model, and the great fun we have working at the amphitheatre.
What was the best piece of career advice you were given?
It is okay to stand up for what you believe is best for your venue and team. I was told that it’s my name and responsibility here every day, and that this doesn’t mean I’ll always get my way but I should always get my say.
What was the biggest challenge that you face in your role? How do you tackle that?
I am constantly working on my delegating skills. I feel such a huge sense of responsibility for my tasks and it is incredibly hard to let them go. I literally have to tell myself that it’s okay to share my workload. I’ve decided that delegating is how we learn and that if I do it, I will have a stronger team. Someone taught me, so I must do the same.
How do you unplug at the end of the workday or workweek?
During the season, workweek is fluid when we have shows on the weekend. Days just seem to run together. During the summer, any chance I can find a long afternoon open I will spend it at the pool. I am definitely a sun and water girl! I need vitamin D to keep me going.
In moments of uncertainty or doubt, how do you build yourself back up?
I have a variety of positive phrases that I often say to myself, use when giving advice and really truly believe in. I do feel that everything happens for a reason and that I’m only given what someone else trusts and believes I can do. I believe there is an answer out there. I re-read past notes of encouragement and thanks. Sometimes I’ll just call my mom to talk. Inevitably, it comes out and she reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to.
What tools/apps do you use on a daily basis that you can’t live without?
Waze! Unfortunately, I’m constantly late. I use it to get to the next place as fast as I can. I’m also a Microsoft Outlook girl and have OCD about my email inbox. Anything over 50 in there sends me into a panic. It’s like a to-do list and I like to cross things off of it.
What’s your favorite thing about your workspace/office space?
My office has four different colored walls which are now mostly filled with pictures of live shows, some signed posters, calendars, and travel memories. I love the memories the walls hold for me. I love to watch people’s faces as they walk in for the first time.
Is there a woman (or women) past or present that you admire or look up to for inspiration and motivation?
There are a few: my mom, my Aunt Sarah, and mentor/friend/former boss, Sunshine Tucker. Each of these women are incredibly strong. Both my mom and aunt made career changes mid-life and continue to educate themselves. My mom inspires me to never stop learning. My Aunt Sarah has the most matter-of-fact, outright tone and speaks her mind without ever making anyone feel less. Sunshine has a kind and generous heart. She taught me how to take care of your staff and that you can care and be a boss at the same time.
If you were given 3 more hours per day – how would you use them?
I would likely split them with a little more time to work out and to see my friends and family in the summer.
What 3 pieces of advice would you offer to other female entrepreneurs?
There is always a way. Get creative, think about who you know, and use your resources.
It is okay to change your mind. I often answer with “yes” very quickly, but will follow up with it, and I know I reserve the right to re-evaluate and change my answer.
Ask questions in a large room. Everyone wants to know the answer but no one ever wants to ask.
Fun Fact: What Song Best Describes Akeasha’s Life?
“Lucky by Jason Mraz. It’s all about love. I’m totally in love with my life, family/friends, and what I get to do every day. I’m lucky with how this venue has helped shape my life and my experiences. I really couldn’t ask for much more.” Branch says.
Want to learn more about Akeasha Branch? Follow Akeasha and her company at the links below.
Company Website: Lakewood Amphitheatre