10 Questions You Should Be Able To Answer About Your Business

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One of the most important elements of being an entrepreneur, is being able to articulate key areas of your business. Whether you are talking to a potential customer, trying to differentiate yourself from other businesses, or seeking investment or capital, these are standard questions you should be able to answer.

  1. What do you do? This is the most common question that not only business owners get, but adults of all ages get. Can you simplify what you do to one word? One sentence? One “elevator pitch.” Simplification is important, because you want people to remember what you told them AND you want them to be able to share with others they may come in contact with.  My one word for Donda’s House is “access.” My one sentence is “We provide artist development and youth development.” My elevator pitch goes into more detail about what artist development and youth development is, and I also mention Dr. Donda West’s history.
  2. Who is your competition and how are you different or better? It is important to do your due diligence on companies or organizations that do similar work to you. Number one, you will often hear “Have you ever heard of x?” People may have an affinity for the brand or organization and they are curious to know your thoughts about it. Also, people think in patterns. If you can connect what you do to something they are already familiar with, it will be easier for them to digest (and remember) you. For the longest, people were describing their business as the “Uber of X.” You can even say like “The Boys & Girls Club, we do X, but we also do Y.” In business plans, this is called the competitive analysis. Subscribe to industry publications. Join industry membership organizations. Keep your eye on those who are top performers in your sector, and think constantly about how you can separate yourself from the pack.
  3. Who are your partners? Partners are key. Often, your partners will help to legitimize your company! Especially when you are new. Your partners include your collaborators, as well as your clients or recognizable contracts. Bonus points if you can reference any governmental agencies or institutions as partners. The most important thing you have as a business is your reputation. Partnerships help potential clients and partners to mitigate or reduce risk in doing business with you.
  4. Where can I purchase your products or services? This is super important if you sale goods or services. Most businesses are expected to have an online presence like a website, or a portfolio of some kind. Also, try not to make the spelling of your products or services to difficult, so that when people “google” you, they can find you! It is helpful to have something physical that you can leave with people like a sticker, or something else. Sometimes I don’t like to rely on the memory of a potential participant, I like to also collect their contact information and follow up.
  5. What is your plan for growth? If you don’t have a business plan or strategic plan, you should create one, otherwise it is like running a marathon without a finish line. You have to create milestones and checkpoints for your business so that you can measure growth and make adjustments as needed as you pursue your goals. At Donda’s House we are working off of a 10 year strategic plan that we wrote in 2014, that we are constantly adding ideas to. This is also important for potential investors!
  6. How can I help you? You should have 3 – 5 actions that people can do to support you. Do you need people to follow or share content on social media? Do you need people to test a product? Are you looking for case studies? Do you need legal support. Whatever those key priorities are, you should have ready to go, so that when you come across a supporter, you can provide them with the information or tools they need to help you. People are generally very generous with their time and with their network, but can’t help you if you don’t know how to ask for help.
  7. Who is your customer? Your business or service should solve a problem for a very specific customer profile. Who is your customer? Break down as much information as you can about their preferences, their spending habits and their demographics. If everyone is your customer… then no one is your customer. Really focus on developing this, and go find your people!
  8. What or who could threaten your business? You have to be proactive about the challenges and threats your business faces. If you would have told me 20 years ago that music would become digital and there’d be few physical records, I may have laughed in your face. Be mindful of what is happening in the world and in your sector and be prepared to embrace technology, policy (laws) and other external forces that could negatively (or positively) impact your business.
  9. How are you integrating choice into your business model? Even if it is a choice between (a) or (b), people often want choices. Think about how you are integrated choice into your business model.
  10. What is your marketing and outreach plan? You can have the best product or service in the world, but it won’t matter if people don’t know about you. How are you getting the word out about your business? What are you willing to invest (dollar wise) to help get the word out? Could you connect to another brand or business to help amplify the awareness of your business.


Mood Board: Capturing The Magic in the Net

Mood Boards are common tools used by individuals in visual-heavy professions like interior design, event planning, and graphic design. According to Dictionary.com: a mood board is an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept. Check out this How To Create A Moodboard resource from Canva.

I screenshot stuff I like from the internet and instead of keeping it in my private archives, I’ve decided to share it with you, in hopes that it may spark something in you or inspire you. I am also an avid Pinner on Pinterest. You can check out my Pinterest “pins” (items I’ve saved) here.


Cardi B recently released an album. She hosted a listening party on Fashionnova’s Instagram Story account. Here are some of the graphics:

Notice how all of the images are “on brand” with the album cover, including taking the very popular meme and converting it into a branded image. During the campaign they played a snippet of one of Cardi’s songs and many of the graphics had some sort of movement. Lessons from this campaign include:

(1) Brand Consistency – Fashionnova used the colors from Cardi’s album, so that everything worked in harmony.

(2) Brand Leverage – Cardi was able to access the 11.4 million Fashionnova following, in addition to her own 21.9 million followers. When it comes to amplifying your brand, you have to “link” or “connect” with other people who may not be in your network. You can assume that the people in your network are going to support you, but how can you build a bigger base for your product or service? What existing and established brands can you partner with to amplify your outcomes?


I could go on and on about Beyonce’s Beychella performance. Instead, I’m going to focus on lessons learned for those who are entrepreneurs.

(1) Accessibility is important. Beyonce & team likely knew that many of her fans would not be able to attend Coachella. So YOUTube & Coachella partnered up to stream it live… for free. It is clear that this was a coordinated effort BECAUSE Beyonce frequently spoke during the performance about the people watching at home. This was also a great move for YOUTube, because they can study whether or not Live Streaming Festival shows is a business venture they should pursue. While the concert was free, imagine being able to pay a fee to access this content in the future. Additionally, Tidal has been playing around with live streaming (via Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival), so this also gives Tidal insight into their streaming vs. YouTube’s streaming. It will be interested to watch what happens moving forward…

Additionally, people there using their phones were sharing their own captured content. Beyonce & Team were able to “control” the narrative and the imagery around what was shared because consumers, with options are generally going to go for the “official” and most high quality footage they can find.

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(2) Timing is everything. Within 24 hours, Beyonce’s website had tons of photos from the show, including lifting up her costume designer Balmain. Beyonce also had Merch available and ready to go within 24 hours of the Coachella showcase. In addition to the 99,000 people in attendance at Coachella, imagine those of us who streamed at home?! When we have access to such a major or captive audience, we have to be able to give them a call to action. We can’t rely that they will care in 24 hours. Take advantage of the moments you are given (press coverage, speaking opportunities, live shows, etc.) to earn some income (via books, merch, additional services, etc.). I like to call this “layering revenue.” The key is to be ready.

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(3) Be a philanthropist. It was also announced that Beyonce offered scholarships to students attending specific HBCUs. This program is called the Homecoming Scholars program and more information is available on her website here. This aligns with her #beygood initiative. Always think about how your for-profit initiatives, can be opportunities to support a cause or mission.

(4) When people visit your website, it should be clear what you want them to do. On Beyonce’s website the only text that you see is the OTR II tickets for sale. You can click the bars on the left hand side to see additional texts and areas of the site, but it is clear that the Call to Action is to first buy tickets for the On The Run Concert. Imagine your website as the roadmap to your brand. What is it that you want people to do when they visit?! Also keep in mind that you don’t have a lot of time to keep their attention so visually, prioritize the things that are important to you.

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(5) Lastly, I grabbed this screenshot from Lenny S (@kodaklens) IG Story of a Fenty Activation at the Festival. Generally, simple items in repetition are incredible. This activation was probably not very expensive and I am sure that everyone wanted to take a photo with it, so it doubles as a photograph background & signage.

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(6) Also this:

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Serves the same purpose as the Fenty Sign. It’s beautiful, serves a functional purpose of signage, and the little box in the window is the perfect picture frame! This was for the Revolve Music Festival.

So these are the items that grabbed my attention this past week on Social Media! Happy creating!

12 Lessons From JAY-Z’s 4:44 Album Release


Caption: The Last Time I Got To Visit The Roc Nation Office was Dec. 2016.

Because I’ve never been good at math, and 4:44 equals 12, I’ve decided to share 12 lessons we can all learn from JAY-Z’s newest album release. Plus it is no secret that I’m a huge fan of JAY-Z & Beyonce. I’ve written extensively about my adoration for Beyonce. When it comes to JAY-Z, I am most inspired by his longevity, his willingness to take risks and his commitment to social justice and philanthropy (via the Shawn Carter Foundation). 


JAY-Z’s newest album is set to drop on Tidal tomorrow, June 30th. I’ve been keeping a close eye from the initial announcement until now and wanted to share some tips that we can all adapt for our own enterprises:

  1. Create exclusivity which accelerates demand. We humans often find more value in things that are rare. By Jay-Z only offering his album through TIDAL, it creates more of a demand because it is more difficult to access. It will be interesting to view the metrics on TIDAL subscriptions between today (or actually dating back to the day before the public announcement of Jay-Z’s album) through 7 months (as Sprint is offering a ‘free’ TIDAL Subscription for 6 months). 
  2. Partner with other brands to amplify the message.  Sprint has 402K Subscribers on Twitter and 3.4 million “likes” on Facebook. JAY-Z is able to tap into their market through the shared social media campaign. The key to these kind of partnerships is to figure out a “win” for the brand. In the case of Sprint, they will obtain more subscribers from JAY-Z fans who make the switch, because they want the ‘free’ access to TIDAL. It also gives Sprint the opportunity to tap into the “hip-hop” community via JAY-Z’s fans who likely have a certain amount of disposable income. The listening parties are also happening inside Sprint Stores across the country, giving both brands an opportunity to tap into a different audience. 

screenshot3. Utilize fresh & unique colors. This peach & black color is an interesting combination. It is not a common color choice. It is also interesting that JAY is not including any representations of his physical self in the marketing that has occurred so far. It is likely connected to the content of the album and the overall creative vision of the project. What’s interesting is that that color scheme is now associated with JAY-Z and I’d imagine that we’ve all experienced enough impressions to make the association without even seeing the text. Notice that the add below does not have to even mention JAY-Z’s name or the name of the album. It just follows the brand identity.


4. Tap into influencers and taste makers. JAY is hosting several album release parties around the country, utilizing well known DJs in each city. Each of the DJ’s are promoting the album release parties on their social media channels, giving more added value to SPRINT. This also taps into the exclusivity piece. Most of the cities are likely areas where JAY-Z has the greatest amount of fan support, which is why data & metrics are so important, because both allow you to take calculated risks.


5. Utilize a variety of marketing platforms. Saturate the market. Utilize print and digital. Billboards and buses. The more that people see advertisements for the product, the more excited they become. The goal here is to make people feel like they are “surrounded” by your product.


6. Use gamification whenever possible. Embed a puzzle/create a sense of mystery. Initially advertisements with the numbers 4:44 popped up in Times Square. Eventually we learned that is the album title. What does it mean? Is it a time that is significant to JAY? Is it a time that is significant to humanity? It piques people’s interest because they want to know what it means. Spotify used a similar strategy when just before Prince’s music became available on their platform they purchased billboards and other ad space with simply their logo in white on a purple background. See the spotify ad below.


7. Let others do the talking for you. Allow your reputation to precede itself.  JAY-Z does have a Facebook page that is branded with the newest album and has been the primary source of distribution for most of the marketing materials. His Twitter Account is not branded with the album materials, but the product is well advertised on Twitter via Sprint, the influencers and the larger public. Lupita Nyongo shared a visual for the album here on her Facebook Page. Lupita is an accomplished actress, so tapping her to support this project is great, because again, there are going to be many fans of hers who may not be fans of JAY-Z (and vice versa). Not to mention she has 2.9 million “likes.” SPRINT is getting more impressions via Lupita’s page. screenshot

8. Align the personal and professional because it creates an echo effect. The world has been talking about the birth of The Carter Twins for the last two weeks. Jay-Z also made history earlier this month becoming the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Of course you want to hear from someone who is such a pioneer in the music space! It’s brilliant to release a project after a huge personal or professional milestone. When Blue was born, Jay released a singled called “Glory.” You can hear the song here.

9. Create dramatic visuals. In addition to the Lupita video, JAY dropped a similar black and white video of a black male running, seemingly out of breath. The videos are similar in length (10 – 20 seconds). The black and white is in stark contrast to the peach color of the album, but it is complimentary. Check out these stats on the power of video marketing from Boast.IO:

  1. Before reading any text, 60% of site visitors will watch a video if available. (Diode Digital)
  2. One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. (Forrester Research)
  3. 56% of consumers believe if a company has a website, it should have video content. (Animoto)
  4. The Average user spends 16 minutes and 49 seconds a month watching online video ads. (ComScore)
  5. 80% of consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important when learning about the company. (Animoto)
  6. Youtube has become the 2nd largest search engine – bigger than Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL combined. (Etail Insights)
  7. Video search results have a 41% higher click-through than plain text results. (Animoto)
  8. 50% of marketers consider customer testimonials, explainer tutorial videos, and demonstration videos the most effective types of video content used. (Asend2)
  9. 4 out of 5 consumers day demo videos are helpful. (Animoto)
  10. Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engines results page if it includes video. (Forrester Research)
  11. Online video accounts for 50% of mobile traffic, and is predicted to become 75% by 2016. (Cisco)
  12. 63% on consumers say companies who use video know how to reach their consumers. (Animoto)
  13. People stay 2 minutes longer on your site if you have video content. (ComScore)

10. Give people a short preview of what is to come. The videos seem to be a small piece of a larger story. They also include clips of the music. It never hurts to give a short preview of what is to come. The film industry has used this technique via trailers since 1913, and the fact that the practice still remains over 100 years later proves its value.

11. Once you have their attention, command the stage. You must have a clear CTA (Call to Action) once you’ve made all of this noise. It is clear that JAY-Z wants you to listen to (or maybe even watch?) the album, via the Sprint Platform, on TIDAL. Every single official thing that has been posted makes that clear. It is not enough to just post album artwork or project artwork. It is important to help people, help you, by informing them what you want them to do. It is also important that the message remain simple. When you have too many CTA’s it confuses and frustrates your audience.

12. Create multiple impressions over a specific timeline leading to the product release. Be very intentional about how you are going to market your product release. Utilize a calendar to actually plan out what will happen, when. Consider which brands, influencers and artists you can tap into, to support and amplify your work. The success (or failure) of your product or project release will be determined based on the metrics. Were you able to hit your targets in the timeline you planned?

I will definitely be up at midnight to experience the actual release of this project. I study brands like people watch sports, and I get so inspired and motivated by the brilliant things successful people do! Shout out to the entire Roc Nation Team and thank you for sharing your gifts with the world! Also, thanks for being so welcoming each time I’ve visited!

Marketing is a Competition for Attention

There are so many things competing for people’s attention.

The best marketing stops you in your tracks. It grabs your eyes. In terms of audio, it rises above whatever sounds may be competing for your attention. It makes you feel something.

I came across this Adidas Original Ad and was impressed because it plays with timing (the images are super dramatic in slow motion), the music compliments the pacing of the video, and sounds like a record, it drags, and last but not least it plays with iconic images of celebrities with Missy and Snoop making appearances. Celebrity Endorsements for products are usually so cliche, but this ad incorporates iconic fashion, hairstyles (snoops braids) and album imagery (Snoop’s Doggystyle Album Cover).


This new Originals Branding really sets it apart and Paul Gaudio, Adidas Creative Director. Learn more about him in this article here.


Preparing to Pitch: How Nike Lost Steph Curry To Under Armour 

I’m obsessed with studying business trends. I’m always looking for little nuggets to try to improve! I came across this article regarding how Nike missed out on Steph Curry & it’s interesting. Read the rest of the article here. When pitching, it’s important to:

1. Personalize the pitch. Whoever you are appealing to should feel like the opportunity, product or service was individually made for them. This means you have to do research in order to prepare a personalized experience. 

2. Make sure you know how to pronounce names & spell check! When you first sit down with someone, ask how to pronounce their name! You have maybe twice to make corrections before you start looking like you just don’t care. If you’re giving a PowerPoint presentation or you have handouts, double check the names. 

3. Be prepared to compromise and to ask the other person what are their wishes or expectations! Don’t assume that you know.

4. Industries are small! People talk! It’s important to be fair, equitable & intentional about your deals. You don’t want to have a reputation that you try to take advantage of other people. You may win initially, but word gets around quick. 

Read the article here! You don’t want to lose out on your own MVP! 

Validation Is A Form of Empowerment – Thank You Swizz Beatz & Canon


Caption: Swizz Beatz & Canon Team Up For “The Unknowns” Rebel With A Cause Project

I have so much respect and admiration for individuals that empower others. To me, empowerment is giving someone an opportunity, some training or some information that increases their ability to be successful… without you! Though I have been out of the classroom for going on two years now, at the center of my pedagogy was this quote:

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” ~ Thomas Carruthers

When I was in High School, I had the chance to participate in a Voyager Outward Bound Course through a program called Upward Bound. Voyager Outward Bound is basically survivor with safety measures. Essentially, you are dropped off with a small group, in the middle of nowhere, and you are your group have a certain number of days to navigate to your pick up location. You are not allowed to bring ANY technology. As a 16 year old, it was the scariest thing that I’d ever done. I learned so much, but the thing that stuck with me the most is:

“Do no harm.”

When we created “trash,” we had to bring it with us. When we saw animals, we were taught not to disturb them. We were taught to either leave the environment as we found it, and if we could better than we found it. If we came across a piece of trash that we didn’t create, it was still our responsibility to pick up the trash. Essentially, Voyager Outward Bound made the word ecosystem, come alive for me.

I’m obsessed with all things hip hop, so when I came across the article “Swizz Beatz and Canon Teamed Up To Bring Unknown Artists to New York’s Biggest Museums” my heart skipped a beat. In the last 10 – 15 years, Hip Hop has been so hallow! Excessive, dangerously materialistic and selfish… So anytime I come across an artist who is minimalistic, idealistic and generous, I am encouraged & inspired.

“We came up with the concept of—what if we could do a bunch of unknown artist I probably would never have a chance, and probably will never be seen in a gallery or in a museum or in an auction house,” Swizz says.

In most cases, all someone needs is an opportunity. Traditional institutions often reinforce class, gender and racial barriers and stereotypes. There doesn’t seem to be room in them for regular people because of barriers to access. Sometimes those who achieve that access create too much distance between those who don’t have access. Even more problematic is those who don’t have access are often blamed or shamed, but that’s another blog for another day.

What they were doing was holding a gallery showing, using a giant projector, on the exterior of the Brooklyn Museum and the Bronx Museum of the Arts as part of a campaign called #TheUnknowns, as well as filling the walls of Sotheby’s with the work of those unknown artists.

Swizz and Canon partnered to create a platform for unknown artists. Swizz was willing to use his social capital to validate a platform for lesser known artists & Canon was willing to use its corporate assets to support the platform. Read the full article.

We all have social capital and even if it’s just for one individual, we can validate them. Validation is a form of empowerment. For those of us in organizations (both for-profits and non-profits) it is our responsibility to not only pick up and carry our own trash, but to do no harm and try to leave people, communities and the organizations we find ourselves with and in, better than we found them. #TheUnknowns #Empower