For the past 30 years, Mary J. Blige has curated the soundtrack to the lives of women across the world.

Now, while music is still at the forefront of her way to send messages to the masses, so is her Strength Of A Woman (SOAW) festival.

Returning to Atlanta for its second year, SOAW is bigger and better – yet, the goal remains the same: to provide a safe space for women of all walks of life to receive the resources needed to not only survive but thrive too.


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Blige shares that the conference has given her inner child the space to be free. 

“She is so happy. She is so fulfilled and free,” the “Real Love” crooner told AfroTech. “She’s just enjoying it and embracing it all and just having a good time. She’s playing.”

Remaining Intentional Throughout It All

What’s more, the intentionality behind the festival was everything to Blige, which is why she tapped the Ayars Agency, an Atlanta-based brand and marketing firm, to lead the charge to bring the weekend’s events to life.

“The number one goal for us was to elevate, empower and educate women who look like us. That was the goal,” Ayars Agency Founder Ashaunna Ayars said. “We want to have women leaving with tools and information and resources to grow their business, or about their health, or about their children. We want to empower them, we want to let them know that they can do anything that they put their mind to. We want, again to give more resources, so we gave out a ton of grant money to local organizations and businesses.”

For Ayars, the vision for the weekend was met.

“I think we accomplished that. I think women left inspired, they left with more than they knew about anything that they were passionate about,” she explained. “They left making friends and building community. They left happy and celebrated, so I think we accomplished the mission.”

The Ayars Agency also prioritized hiring as many young Black women as possible in various roles that ranged from moderators to production to administration and beyond.

Uplifting The Next Generation

“We had women in all roles throughout the weekend, not just administrator roles, but we had women doing the lighting at the concerts held at the State Farm Arena, we had women building stages and doing the tech packs for the stage,” Ayars said. “We also had women programming the screens on the stage — so not just in traditional roles, but women were also in roles that you typically see men in, so that was another goal.”


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With year No. 2 behind them, the goal is not only to continue to scale but to remain intentional about everything, from brand partnerships to concerts to venues and beyond as SOAW continues to grow.

Bringing Mary's Vision To Life

Another goal for Ayars and the team was keeping Blige’s vision for the festivities alive.

“I think staying true to her brand identity, you know, Mary’s been ministering and speaking to the hearts of women for over 30 years,” Ayars shared. “And in her evolution, she has begun to be passionate about many things, not just women’s hearts. She’s passionate about women’s wellness. She’s passionate about our spirit. She’s passionate about us being financially literate. She’s passionate about breaking into new industries like tech.”

Ayars continued: “So looking at the things she’s passionate about, that’s how we built our programming. That’s how we selected the talent we had to speak at the summit. That’s how we identified partners that we had working with us for the festival. So yeah, it was really an exercise in identifying and leaning into her passion point and expanding on that throughout the weekend.”

As SOAW continues to grow and expand, the goal for Mary J. Blige and the team is to continue to provide a space for women to not only show up as their best selves but to encourage and connect with one another along the way.