I am an entrepreneur by trade and became intrigued as a young adult. I began my career in real estate and still involved in the business. I also owned two restaurants one was in New Jersey and the second one was in Harlem, NYC (125th St). The manager of my restaurant in New Jersey came to me one day and informed me that he would be resigning to attend classes in film school. I would run into him again 18 months later at the post office and by that time I was no longer happy being in the restaurant business, so I decided to leave the restaurant industry and also try my hand in film school. During my time in film school, my thesis film was supposed to be a 12-minute short film, but I ended up going back to my home town of Newark, New Jersey, and creating a 45-minute film and then proceeded to add some behind the scenes footage to make it longer. To make a long story short I basically created an hour-long project that I was then able to sell in VHS format throughout the city, state and ultimately throughout the country. I quickly realized that I could commercialize my creativity. There was no turning back from that point on.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Being confined to only the Hollywood market of business as an African American in film and television had many road blocks as the industry just wasn't ready to expand as it has as of recent. They would say "Black Films or Films starring Black actors would not do well internationally." Traveling opened my eyes and broadened my horizon to endless opportunities beyond America. It allowed me to realize that what Hollywood used to say about films starring Black actors was completely untrue.
My career in international productions started in Africa and it allowed me to transition into other international markets like Beijing China, the United Kingdom. Currently, I am developing a project in France. I have ten years of experience in the Africa market, but four years into the decade that I started to implement my experience in film/tv production into the African market. I saw an opportunity to help uplift the quality of production on the continent that included music videos for the top artists in West Africa (Ghana). This was an opportunity for me to network with some of the world’s biggest brands through the music industry. This ultimately translated to me working with various brands who were also keen to come on board with some of my television productions as sponsors.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it?
Yes, some thought I was crazy to dedicate so much of my time over the past 10 years to the continent of Africa. Since most never traveled there, It was hard for them to visualize and or understand what I was doing and what I was trying to build that I couldn't carry on building here in America. Social Media has been very helpful, because through it, I was able to share through pictures and videos my positive experiences in Africa over the past decade. Now, everyone I know wants to come to Africa with me, even my celebrities friends in Hollywood and in the music industry look to me to involve them in projects I work on in Africa.
What would you do differently in hindsight?
I've learned to embrace my journey and all the failures that come along with it. Sure I could go down a long list and say, I would do this or that differently, but there are extremely valuable lessons and teaching moments in one's failures. I am so much wiser as a businessman now and I credit my failures more than I credit my successes. I wouldn't trade much of anything in my book of life. It's my unique journey, failures included and it all makes up who I am now.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Traveling. Having a global mindset and being good at not only forging relationships, but being able to maintain & grow them over time.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
How to better leverage my finances. As an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to use the same "Dollar" (or whatever applicable currency) to catch up, keep up and move forward; sometimes not in that order. Having a mentor would have been beyond helpful.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Have a plan and execute it. Understand the "End Game" for the business and or objective. Be passionate about all that you do, but at the same time, challenge yourself and your judgement. Audit your judgment from time to time to assess the direction of your business and the direction your taking it. Trust your gut, but triple check it. I like to work backwards now, meaning I think of all the negative "what ifs" first and only If I can address them and or live with the worst that can happen, do I move forward. No longer do I move off a simple good / passionate feeling without challenging it first.