I am originally from Lathrup Village, MI (a suburb of the city of Detroit). Growing up, I've always been a people’s person and had a natural inclination for branding and marketing (even before I knew what it was). It's funny because before I had any official roles in the entertainment world, I was introduced to it in a large way at an early age. Growing up as a child living in Metro-Detroit, which was the home of Motown and many gospel music legendary families, it was common to run into someone that was part of the industry, but never had I imagined that I would one day be one of them. I remember when my church hosted a major event in Detroit that took place at Ford Field Stadium (the stadium of the Detroit Lions), and I was on the special operations team. I was responsible for talent logistics from the airport, to the hotel, and to the venue and it was intense! I was overwhelmed but loved every minute of it! I remember later asking my pastor’s daughter, who was in charge of the special operations team, “What do you go to school for in order to make this type of work your every day?” She replied, “I believe this falls under Public Relations.” It was this conversation that influenced me to study this field in college.
In May 2010, I received my Bachelor's of Communication in Advertising & Public Relations from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. However, in Grand Rapids there's no entertainment scene (with the exception of Grammy winning gospel singer Marvin Sapp who I built a great rapport with accidentally when my pastor requested me to sing at his church) and was introduced to corporate public relations. Upon leaving Grand Rapids I moved to Chicago where I worked in a marketing company that trained me not only in direct sales, marketing, brand development, and mentorship, it also trained me in all the fundamentals I needed to start my first business. In October 2011 I opened my first business, Mainstream Marketing in Baltimore, MD. Mainstream Marketing was an office that I lead with 30+ employees offering our clients the opportunity to sell brands to major big box retailers like Costco and Sam's Club. Though the company grew tremendously, it didn't connect to my personal passion. This lead me to follow my dreams and move to my favourite city, Atlanta, GA where I opened my current company: The David Brand. The David Brand, which bears my name in it's title, allows me to grow in my passion and help people and their personal brands to grow and flourish. Since it's inception I have been able to collaborate with a host of mainstream celebrities including Sheryl Lee Ralph ("Dreamgirls"/"Moesha"), Drea Kelly (Ex-wife of R. Kelly/VH1 Hollywood Exes), Trina Braxton (WeTv's "Braxton Family Values"/TV One's "Sister Circle"), Evelyn Braxton ("Braxton Family Values"), TC Carson ("Living Single"), Wyclef Jean (Grammy winning R&B group The Fugees), LaTavia Roberson (original member of the super star girl group Destiny's Child), Terri J. Vaughn (actress/director/producer /"The Steve Harvey Show"), Byron Cage (Grammy-nominated gospel music legend), Micah Stampley (Stellar nominated gospel music artist) Fred Jerkins (Dark Child Entertainment) and more! With these clients I have had placements on Essence, DishNation, Entertainment Tonight, TMZ Live, TheJasmineBrand, Bossip, TheShadeRoom, and more!
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant
changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
What sparked my interest in starting the business was when I get to shadow a friend of mine, and mega publicist Vaughn Alvarez, at another event he was working: Atlanta premiere for Think Like a Man Too in June 2014. There I was standing on the red carpet next to Kevin Hart, Lala Anthony, Terrence J, and Ludacris while escorting R&B giant Syleena Johnson and I thought, “How cool is this?!” When I originally received my degree in Advertising and Public Relations I always dreamed of working in entertainment, but never thought it would actually be possible because I went to school in Grand Rapids, MI where this top notch movie premieres would never happen. This caused me to reignite the things I learned in school, and start to proactively learn more of the ins and outs of the Atlanta entertainment scene and see what are the real needs of the celebrities in the area. So for the next year or so I spent a lot of my free time volunteering for events and working on different projects for free in order to build my network and grow my industry visibility. In 2015 I signed my first client and, The David Brand was born.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The first initial hurdle for me was the belief that I could even do it. I’ve never been on first name basis with a celebrity before, much less represent one! As a result of my inexperience, I made honesty my best policy. I was intentional about being forthcoming with any new clients and letting them know, “Hey, I’m new to this, and still building my network. However, I assure you that I will always do my best to always provide value to you while growing your brand.” With this disclaimer, I could tell my clients appreciated my honesty and it allowed me to create a closer bond with them as we “figured it out” together.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I definitely experienced contention from my family about my entrepreneurial endeavours. There were family members that said things like, “Oh here he goes again…” or “Are you going to make money this time? Because that’s kind of important…”I even remember an uncle of mine saying, “Go ahead and do your little business, but don’t you worry, in a year you’re going to be coming back to work for me.” Needless to say I’ve proven them wrong, and I’my grateful for my determination to do things my way, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The biggest thing that has worked for me in the past is understanding that this is a giver’s game.Far too often I see people reach out to talent trying to solicit business and get on retainer without building a relationship with them first. So I’ve always built my relationships with people by first giving them something they would value. I remember with one client that I worked with for several years, I had her phone number for at least a year prior from another client and never used it, but held on to it for the right time. The right time eventually came when a major expo came to Atlanta. I didn’t know anyone at the expo, but decided to drive to the Georgia World Congress Center (where the event was being held) and simply asked to speak to the person in charge of talent booking, not knowing what to expect. I remember offering my current client roster at the time and they were not interested in booking any of them. However, I took a risk and offered the name of someone I didn’t work with yet but still had the phone number to. I got the soft approval that they would be interested in the talent first, even though I didn’t represent her, I used that phone number to call her, and offered to handle all of her logistics for free. She participated on the panel and became a client for several years.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
If I could talk to the young entrepreneur in my early phases, I would tell myself, “pace yourself. Nothing is built overnight, but it will be built.” Far too often I found myself, and still do at times, comparing myself to other people who have been working in the industry for 10, 15, and sometimes 20 years longer than I have. I have a tendency to be impatient with progress, but as long as I remind myself to simply stay in my own lane, it takes away a lot of the pressure.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
I would encourage any upcoming entrepreneur to maintain a clear focus of why they started the business to begin with. This will be necessary to help navigate through the tough days (which there definitely will be) and realign one’s focus to get back in a space of positive energy and forward momentum. There is purpose behind that new idea/business venture. Above all, it is of the upmost importance that the business purpose manifests in order to accomplish what it was meant to do and reach the people it was meant to reach.