All Articles Tagged "business"
Getting fired can feel like the worst thing in the world. But it doesn’t have to. See getting fired as an opportunity and it could be just what you need to jump-start your career.
As anyone involved in the music industry knows, public relations is an ever-important part of launching (and maintaining) one’s career. How you handle your relationship with your target market could either help or hurt, so having someone on your team whose job it is to manage and leverage those relationships is crucial.
Meet Sasha Brookner founder of boutique public relations firm Helio PR. Over the past 16 years, Brookner has worked with artists such Ceelo, N’Dambi, Katt Williams, Goapele, Ledisi, and Lira. We chatted with Sasha about her background, what it’s like being a publicist, and how she believes the branding and publicity paradigms are changing for emerging and established artists.
Check out the interview below!
MadameNoire (MN): What inspired you to be come an entrepreneur and launch your own PR firm?
Sasha Brookner (SB): When I was growing up, my mother and grandfather both had their own businesses. I was able to see the freedom they had as business owners. That was always in the back of my mind.
I went to UCLA and majored in history. During my last year, I didn’t have enough credits to graduate on time, so I decided to do some internships in publishing, A&R, promotion, and the last one was publicity. It was cool because I was working directly with writers to develop stories. I didn’t have to deal directly with the politics of music executives and labels. That was the beginning where I figured out I could do this.
As soon as I graduated, I got a job at Red Ant, a subsidiary of BMG, as an assistant publicist. When Red Ant went under, an associate called me up and wanted me to come over to The Courtney Barnes Group. I worked there for a couple of years and branched out and started my own company.
MN: What were some challenges you faced early on?
SB: When you start your own business, you have to be the rainmaker. At the time, I had saved up enough money so that I really wasn’t stressing it that much. Public relations is great because there wasn’t a lot of overhead. I started working at home. There weren’t a lot of hurdles because I was already seasoned as a publicist. Everyone told me that if I really did a good job and focused on whatever I was doing, things would spread word of mouth.
Another challenge was that I had to be very creative because I was working with independent grassroots artists who didn’t have radio, marketing, or worldwide tours. We were up against corporate firms who are already established and working with major label artists. In the beginning, you had to be much more creative with pitching.
MN: Who was your first client?
SB: N’Dambi. She had such an interesting story. Before we knew it, we got her in L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Hommes. She was getting so much press even Erykah Badu (who she sang background for) was like “Wait, who’s doing your press?” This was before the female neo-soul thing took off. Now, it would be almost impossible to get a background singer selling CDs out the trunk of her car into these outlets.
We get 85 percent of our clients through referral. That started with N’Dambi. Then, Ledisi and Goapele were calling me. I saw artists that were falling short in marketing. That was our niche in the beginning. We expanded to painters, graphic designers, actors, and spoken word artists.
MN: What is it like to work with mainstream celebrity clients versus more grassroots artists?
SB: It’s easier. We started working with Katt Williams during the end of his Wildin’ Out season on MTV. He was taking off with Pimp Chronicles. When you’re working with someone who everyone wants to interview, it’s more work, but it’s not as challenging. It’s not like you have to pitch. Then again, there are problems such as personalities and missing photo shoots. When there’s a lot of money involved, there are a lot of issues and then you have to do crisis management.
Grassroots artists are my favorite and more satisfying. You’re taking people who normally wouldn’t get this type of exposure who are seasoned in their craft and helping them get to a plateau that they probably would not have.
With bigger artists you don’t want to over-saturate the market because you are getting so many requests. With independent artists, you want to do as much as you can that is quality press.
MN: How has the PR world changed over the years?
SB: The biggest shift has been the digital world. When we first started off, it was just magazines and television. Magazines worked four-to-five months in advance. Now, you can do a story and 24 hours later the story is up on an online site. The pieces are much more topical and newsworthy.
When I started off with music artists, they were just in musical publications talking about music. Now, the majority of my clients are all using fashion (and other creative avenues) as outlets to promote whatever projects they have.
MN: Why has celebrity branding become so prominent in our culture?
SB: The word “branding” has become a buzz word. I like my clients to be more fluid. I like to go and let it happen organically as opposed to typecasting someone, putting them in a box, and then selling that to the media.
However, I understand the importance of creating an identity that is recognizable to the people and the fans. Some people skip over the “Why are you important? What void do you fill?” You definitely have to live your brand, master your craft, and be known for something.
If it doesn’t match your personal brand, you shouldn’t do it. There are people like Taylor Swift who turn down movie scripts all the time that don’t reflect who she is. Or, someone like Immortal Technique, a rapper, who turns down corporate endorsement deals.
Reinvent yourself. Beyonce is the paragon of this. Do it so that it is an evolution and not a marketing scheme.
MN: How would you advise the everyday woman trying to build her brand?
SB: Interacting on social media is important. You have to figure out a way to mix the professional and personal. I’m really big on presentation. Find a good photographer and good writer for your bio.
That’s really important and is the first thing that you should do. When you’re dealing with media, they are top-notch English majors that went to journalism school and know their stuff. You can’t just hit them with something that is wack.
Network. I’m on Facebook all the time. I realized that all these people (like editors at Vogue) who may not have gotten back to me before were following my political tirades on Facebook. They loved my radical ideas and were like, “If you need anything, just shoot me over an email.” I realized that I was creating more relationships when I wasn’t even trying to.
Go to the sites that you want to be on and look for the Contact or About Us in the masthead. You can reach out to editors just to establish a relationship.
MN: What has allowed you to get so far in your career?
SB: Picking clients wisely is important. I won’t take on a client if I don’t think I can get them any press. I don’t care how much they’re paying. The industry is so small. People talk. We get 85 to 90 percent of our clients via word-of-mouth. I don’t want anyone unhappy. We’re very selective, however, yes, you do have some pay-your-bill clients.
Be proactive. Meet people. I always tell people, “Be careful. You could meet a guy at a party. He could have on ripped jeans and Birkenstocks and you pay him no attention. He could be the brother of the CEO of Coca Cola. You never know who somebody is.”
Be organized and get back to people. There are a lot of publicists I know who don’t. Even if I get back to say that an artist isn’t available or we can’t do it at this time, I make a point of trying to get back to people. I know publicists who worked at major labels and ignored everyone. Then, they branched off and started their own PR firms and those same editors won’t deal with them.
MN: Where do you see Helio PR going in the next few years?
SB: People have been asking me that for years, but it’s really just been consistently what I’m doing such as finding new acts that are dope. I don’t see myself being in a high-rise or corporate entity.
Although I only have four to six clients at a time, they are clients we are really invested into. What I do sustains my lifestyle. I get a lot of freedom. I get massages. I sleep eight to nine hours. What I do affords me the ability to live my life and do what I want to do.
Haitian-American business owner Yve-Car Momperousse started her international business, Kreyol Essence, after a visit to the hair salon that didn’t turn out quite as planned. As a woman with natural hair, Yve-Car understands the importance of hair care and ensuring that your tresses are strong and healthy. As a woman of Haitian descent, she understands the importance of hard work and making a social impact. Thus, Kreyol Essence was established. This line of eco-luxury beauty and personal care products is made exclusively in Haiti using organic and natural ingredients and provides many women and men in Haiti with employment and financial security.
Yve- Car spoke with MadameNoire about the impact that owning an international business has had on her and Haiti.
MadameNoire: What inspired you to create Kreyol Essence?
Yve-Car Momperousse: One is I had what I call a “hair catastrophe.” I was going to an event and wanted to look my best and I went to go get my hair straightened. You know, using the old hot comb, and the hairdresser did a great job. My hair looked wonderful, but two days later when I went to wash out the press, my hair came out with it. And you can imagine that that was quite an experience to see your hair falling out in clumps.
So after crying, I pulled myself together and like any good millennial I went online to try to understand what caused my hair to fall out. It was then that I learned about heat damage and when I was thinking about what I could use to regrow my hair, it dawned on me that there was an oil that my mom used to use which essentially solved every issue in the house. It was put in our hair, it was put on our skin if it was dry; it was like our Robitussin. And I couldn’t think of what it was called and I called her up and she said, “Oh it’s Lwil Maskriti” which translates to Haitian Black Castor Oil.
I went to the store thinking, “Ok, I live in Philadelphia… There are plenty of Africans and Caribbean folks there. I should be able to find the product.” What I found was castor oil from China, India, and other places. They were all refined. They had hexane, bleach, and other additives. So, I jokingly said to my mom, “This is crazy. Can I get some of your stash from Haiti? How wonderful would it be if women could have access it?” And she said “That’s a good idea.” When we started thinking about what the social benefits to the country would be as a result of making a business out of this, that’s what really inspired me to start Kreyol Essence.
MN: What was the process like of starting your own international business?
YM: There is never a dull moment. When we first started off, it didn’t even dawn on me that what I was actually building was an international business. And coming to Haiti and making sure that I understood the process of actually creating the oil. Which means that I had to be willing to go up and down mountains. I had to be willing to sit there with the local women and understand how to make the oil, how long to grill it, all the details/cultural nuances. When doing business in the country, there was definitely a learning curve around it.
And then, also understanding how to translate that into marketing and operation in the States. So I have two lawyers, two accountants, and pretty much two of everything. I have learned a lot along the way, but it certainly was a challenge that I am happy to say that we’ve been victorious in learning.
MN: Can you speak on some of the obstacles and rewards you’ve had while working with Haiti?
YM: One obstacle, the first one I remember, I was going into a meeting with a possible supplier, and the American way of thinking is the more you buy, the lower the price. Right? Pretty much how people think in business. So, I’m sitting here going into a negotiation with that mindset. The supplier is telling me the more I buy, the price goes up. I couldn’t even comprehend that that was what he was saying to me. I’m responding in one way, he’s responding in another, and my cousin, who is a local, says to me “Stop talking.” And he proceeds to sort of mediate and I watch how he’s negotiating with the supplier, but essentially, this is a cultural norm where this is a belief in the U.S. and certain international parts. Even though I am Haitian-American and I’m speaking the language and all that, but not understanding the cultural norms was big.
On the rewarding end, I have to say that the most rewarding part is working and hiring women in the business. There are a lot of hair, skin, and body companies, but in addition to having a great product, the social side of our company, we’re very intentional with what we do. I specifically focused on hiring women in Haiti because even though 40 percent of women are the head of household in Haiti, most women are abused emotionally and physically. I remember one woman telling us when we first hired her how, for one, she was able to make sure that she could go and buy water, something that simple, for her and her family. And how she didn’t have to worry about fighting men or others for the public water, but she actually could afford to just get water. And how much pride she felt that she could do things for her kids herself that at times her lazy behind husband may not be able to do. The fact that she had an income commanded a certain respect in the house.
MN: Are there certain procedures/regulations you must follow while working with Haiti?
YM: There are a number of procedures that we must follow because we are an agribusiness. Again, I always say the back-end of the company, it’s not just beauty products, [and] we are vertically integrated. We grow everything from A to Z. When you’re bringing an agricultural product into the United States or into Europe, you have to get your product tested. You have to make sure that what you’re planting is not going to have an adverse effect on the environment. Registering a business in Haiti is not for the faint of heart. It’s a process that takes four to six months whereas in the States, it takes two weeks. And the cost is double here. I would say that things are a little bit easier now than when I started a few years ago, but we had to go through the hurdles when we first started.
MN: Can you discuss the social impact that Kreyol Essence has had in its communities?
YM: In Haiti, one of the impacts is environmental. Haiti only has one percent of its tree covered lash. What that means is that you’ll hear a lot of people dying of mudslides. You will hear that farmers are not able to cultivate crop which they need in order to eat and live and to help provide material in the country. By us planting castor beans in Haiti, we’re helping with some of those environmental issues like soil erosion, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions and all of the things that we talk about in the States when it comes to global warming.
Another impact is the economic development. We are slated to create 400 jobs in the next two years right here in Haiti. Most of those who work for us, not only will they have employment, but when we think about the farmers that we will employ, they will make three to five times more than what they’ve made in the past because of our structure.
…And then lastly, economic development from the standpoint of exporting. Part of how a country runs and is able to have money in their system is based on their GDP (gross domestic product). Part of that comes from exporting. Haiti does not have a large export business, so by us exporting our product that’s huge. It also adds to country branding because unfortunately, when people think of Haiti, they think about the earthquakes, they think about poverty, they think about all of the negative. I think when you see our marketing and you see our products, people are surprised and they say, “I didn’t know that this type of richness and beauty exist in Haiti.” We have to start changing the images that are portrayed for the country so that people can come visit and enjoy and see what we have to offer.
MN: What makes your products unique from other brands?
YM: In addition to the ingredients, it’s our formulation. The fact that we really stay true to being as natural and organic as possible, and the formulation, comes from ingredients that are unique.
I think we are one of the few that actually infuse so much castor oil into our whole line. Oftentimes with these different beauty products, if they put a half a milliliter of something, they throw it on to the label and create a whole marketing piece out of it. We are actually using the maximum amount of shea butter, castor oil, aloe vera, and all of the other ingredients. When it comes to our products, which is associated with a particular type of woman. It’s a woman who not only wants to look and feel great, but a woman who also does care about the world that she lives in. The fact that we really work hard to have a social impact and connect that to beauty, I think tends to resonate and appeal to our customers.
Learn more and shop Kreyol Essence at www.kreyolessence.com.
Are you in love with your job? Chances are your boss can tell. But what if we all invested in our jobs the way we invest in our relationships. Career crushing might be just the key to getting your career to love you back.
According to Amanda Miller Littlejohn, a Washington,DC – based personal branding coach and creator of The Branding Box, a personal brand home study system designed to help individuals clarify their message, position their expertise and increase their visibility, “This is a great time to be a Black woman.”
“Women are embracing their natural hair, getting into shape and shedding generations-long bad eating habits. It’s like a renewal. We are embracing digital tools, starting websites, and expressing ourselves,” says Littlejohn. However, are you ensuring that the brand called YOU is clearly defined? Can it be leveraged to bring you new opportunities?
We spoke with Littlejohn about some of the personal branding mistakes she’s seen individuals make over the years. Check out the blunders she identified as well as her tips on how you can turn these mistakes into successes and starting building your personal brand today.
1. Having an “Employee Mentality”
Amanda Miller Littlejohn (AML): Many are comfortable marketing and promoting the company or person they work for, but have hesitation when it comes to promoting themselves. They think of self-promotion as braggy, obnoxious or self-serving, when in fact they would do the same thing, if not more for their employer, especially, if they are in a marketing role. People who go out and decide to do their own thing and start their own business can still suffer from that mentality when they don’t want to step out of the shadows. They might want to promote the work of something bigger, instead of promoting their own brand. They sometimes forget that they are the bigger brand.
To fix this, embrace the spotlight. Speak up when people ask you questions. Step out when you are invited to speak. Look for opportunities to share what you know. At the end of the day, your brand may be all that you have in the next fifteen years.
2. Waiting Until The Last Minute To Build Your Brand
AML: Many times individuals may wait until they are ready to switch jobs or get new clients to start building a brand. A lot of people come to me in that situation. They need to start building a brand immediately because they need an opportunity. That’s a backwards way to go about doing it. Building your brand steadily is more authentic. Opportunities will come to you.
College is a good time to start building your brand. Work on your Linkedin profile (and build your experience) during your undergraduate years. Collect recommendations from advisors and professors. Build the social proof that you need to create credibility around who you are. Although most people won’t be able to look at your college transcript, they can look at your Linkedin profile and see if you are highly recommended, dependable, punctual, etc. Nowadays, everyone is previewing Linkedin profiles before they hire you. That’s a really easy place to put positive information about yourself.
3. Not Being Proactive
AML: It’s a great thing to get opportunities that come your way. A better thing is to go after opportunities. The best thing to do is to create opportunities. For example, an example of me waiting for an opportunity would me waiting for you (the reporter) to reach out to me to schedule an interview. Me being proactive (or going after the opportunity) is me calling you up and [pitching] my expertise directly, and saying, “ I know you write for MadameNoire, would you like to interview me?” Me making an opportunity would be realizing that you may not be interested in me at the current time, but [deciding] to create a blog and write something that is reflective and fills a need for the audience I am trying to attract.
People have to be more proactive now because the barrier to entry to create have fallen drastically in the last 15 years. When I was in high school, if you wanted a magazine, website, or newsletter, you had to go to people to make that happen for you. Now, anything you want to do is within reach. If you want a TV show, you can create a YouTube channel. If you want to write a book, you can type it up and submit it to Create Space. This is a response to the technological advances we are experiencing. There are no excuses for the person that has something to say and wants to create a platform.
4. Using social media only to “be social”
AML: A lot of people use social media for recreation and as a way to keep in touch, but don’t use it as away to make it work for them. I love seeing funny things on Instagram, but are you also putting out your expertise and services? Are you making it for you? I use Instagram to create more awareness around my brand, what I’m doing, what I offer, and what I can do for a new client. I am building an audience. If your social is just fun and games, it’s like you are working for it. It’s not working for you. I don’t think people think strategically. Everyone doesn’t have to use social to create new clients or new business opportunities, but you should be thinking about how social can help you get the things that you want. How can you use it to connect with people across the country or around the world? Use it to create for more credibility for yourself. Your biggest fan might become your biggest customer.”
5. You don’t invest in your brand
AML: In the next 15 years, people who have taken the time to make sure people know who they are and what they can do are going to have a much bigger advantage over those who haven’t. The work world is getting leaner and more efficient. Companies are getting smaller because we have all these tools. In the workplace, questions that test your proficiency with WordPress, digital photography, page layout, video or sound editing will be commonplace. It’s because tools are universally available, inexpensive, or even free. If you don’t know how to use them, you will be behind the times. It may get more cutthroat as far as where opportunities go. For people who are creating opportunities and building their brand, they will have a big advantage over others who are waiting for things to come to them. Investing takes time, thought, and sometimes money. Don’t be afraid to take courses and fill in some skill gaps. These are investments that appreciate. Once you have knowledge and understand how to position and promote yourself, your career always benefits. We invest a lot in how we look, but how are much are we investing in how we “look” in the perceptions of the marketplace? How much are you investing in your reputation and how you come across to other people?
Each year companies embark on a new mission to entice more customers to try their products. They’ll step up their game when it comes to advertising and even try new marketing tactics in hopes of obtaining their goals. The fast-food industry in particular will be quite busy in efforts to change their “bad food” image. Here’s what you can expect to see in 2015.
As we progress into the year, we’ll keep you up to speed on important announcements.
Productivity isn’t just for the office. These celebs have advice on how to run your life like a business and check the “success” box in your personal and professional life.
Keep A Calendar
How do you live a purpose-driven life? By writing down the path to that purpose. At work, a calendar keeps you focused on what you need to do to get the job done.
A life calendar will do the same. Have you heard of the Seinfeld Productivity Method? Former procrastinators swear by it.
With love and butter. That’s the slogan of Thundercakes, a bakery that serves custom order cakes, brownies, cupcakes, cheesecakes and cookies to the Syracuse University and surrounding community. Thundercakes was founded by Syracuse University senior Courtnee Futch in 2012 when she was only a freshman. Under her direction, the company has won over $20,000 in grant funding and several business and entrepreneurship awards. We caught up with Futch to learn more what inspired Thundercakes, how she manages college and entrepreneurship, business challenges and success, and why she’s on track to rake in millions in the next five years.
Madame Noire (MN): What inspired you to start Thundercakes?
Courtnee Futch (CF): I never had any entrepreneurial goals. A moment of desperation is what launched me into my passion. It was midnight on March 25, 2012. I finally checked my banking account after avoiding it for several months. I had $6.14. I panicked and immediately starting thinking what I could do to make some quick, legal money. The first thing that came to mind was baking. I’ve always been a baker and was self-taught, but joined the culinary team when I got to high school. People already knew me as a baker on campus so it was easy to launch. The first thing that came to mind was Thundercakes because my nickname was the “Chocolate Thunder.”
I made a group on Facebook called Thundercakes by Courtnee. The first thing I made were 40 bacon chocolate rice crispy treats with white chocolate and caramel drizzle. It sold out in under an hour. Everything took off on its own and spread far beyond what I imagined. People have been able to order from a menu and eventually from the website. On the Syracuse University campus, there really isn’t too much as far as gourmet dessert options. That was me. Now I am filling a very specific niche in the marketplace.
MN: You’ve made over $80,000 in profit over the last two years. What processes did you put in place to generate such a profit?
CF: Baking is a very interesting industry to be in because typically there is a very good profit margin when you are running the business the way I run it. By not having a physical storefront location, I am saving so much overhead. It doesn’t cost me very much to rent my kitchen. Ingredients don’t cost a whole lot. Each of the things on my menu, I only make them when people order them. That saves a lot of time and allows me to be really scant with my resources. I take that money and put it to the side for my education and my salary. I’m paying myself, which is something I wasn’t doing at first.
Could you earn more money by staying in the same position? While rare, it is possible. By making just a few simple changes to your resume, job title, or even your facial expressions you can add zeros to your salary pretty soon — either at the same company or your next one.
A recent study pointed to likeability as one of the number one ways you can increase your salary . Employers who think you’ll work well with others and find you generally likable during your interview are more likely to pay you more. So pick up a copy of How to Win Friends And Influence People and smile your way to getting paid more for the work you’re already doing.
From Latina Madre
When it comes to personal finances, many women tend to let their husbands take care of all of it, including mortgage payments, investments and retirement funds. However, with many women now being the breadwinners or raising children alone, it’s time mujeres become knowledgeable in handling money too. While you don’t necessarily need to become the next wolf of Wall Street, it pays to be knowledgeable.
Read more finance news at LatinaMadre.com