Name: Derek Damone Ross
Profession: Founder & CEO, The D2 Group, a marketing and brand management agency
One Word That Describes You: Valuable
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
Using my platform as an entrepreneur, my extraordinary impact is educating and offering opportunities to the next generation through mentorships/internships not readily accessible to minority students. I’m passionate about sharing my story and knowledge with young men and women in pursuit of their dreams, and supporting them in their future endeavors. I’m blessed to have witnessed several of my interns/mentees be accepted into top-tier graduate school programs at NYU and University of Missouri, start their own businesses, and run for public office.
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
I’m truly grateful for the recognition, and honored to be associated with such a renowned brand and a distinguished group of men who are not only leaders in their professions, but also leaders in their communities. There is a motivation and a responsibility accompanied with this honor that I don’t take lightly. I plan to positively represent Black Enterprise and my fellow Modern Men of Distinction, both past and present.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
The BE Modern Man platform amplifies our visibility, and my goal is to be intentional with that exposure to help support black male achievement by educating, inspiring, celebrating, and empowering. Currently, I provide opportunities to gain experience in the field of marketing and public relations through internships, mentorship, and pro-bono consulting. Even bigger than that, I believe accepting the responsibility of becoming visible and sharing my story creates an opportunity for deeper connection and self-realization which I achieve through motivational speaking engagements. When I looked back over my journey, I was blessed to have someone give me a chance and spend time teaching me the ropes. Our young men need to see our faces and know our stories. Our stories connect us. Our stories provide a level of vulnerability that is necessary in showcasing the truth of our journey. We are not perfect and neither are our journeys. Perfection is not realistic, but working hard to be the best, most authentic versions of ourselves is a victory in and of itself. In the future, I plan on developing an even more robust internship program, and volunteering more of my time tutoring and mentoring young black males.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
Before I started my company, I accepted a sales position at a media company. This was not my ideal job, and at the time, I struggled with the decision to accept the position. I felt I was taking a step back in my career. I had recently earned my M.B.A., and felt that job opportunities were going to come automatically but that didn’t happen. I quickly realized I had to change my mindset. What I viewed as a struggle was an opportunity to enhance my skills in sales and media buying. During that time, I revamped my business plan and not knowingly began to develop The D2 Group team. I took a step back to define what success meant for me within my struggle. Once I became clear on how I could use this struggle for my benefit, it transformed my perception on the entire situation. Your struggle today may be with patience, but tomorrow your struggle may be with managing your emotions at work. Turning a struggle into success is not going to happen overnight. It requires patience and clarity, so you can find the opportunity within the struggle that will guide you to your success.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
I look for patience because it encompasses a myriad of merits. In a world where instant gratification has become the norm, patience has become a valuable quality because it builds character, develops faith, and is the doorway to wisdom. The lessons passed down by our elders and mentors are rooted in patience. Learning takes patience. Love takes patience. Building an empire takes patience. I’ve discovered strength and self-control in my battles with remaining patient in times when I wanted to move fast; when moving fast would have been the wrong move. I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have patience to wait on God. I’m grateful for the people who cautioned me to be patient. Your circle is incomplete if you don’t have someone that understands and can help you discover the power of patience.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
Currently, I’m working on the marketing and advertising strategies for the 2017-18 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) athletic season. We are also in the process of rolling out a multicultural, integrated marketing plan for the 2018 North Carolina Science Festival to educate, engage and empower more minorities with knowledge about opportunities available in STEM, and generating more awareness across the state. Another project we are implementing is the rebranding of Albany State University’s athletic program from graphic design to engagement strategy development. Lastly, we are finalizing media relations plans for the 2017 Queen City Battle of the Bands.
What is the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I’ve received was, “Do what you have to do, to do what you want to do.” I heard this quote from Denzel Washington and immediately posted it at my desk at my first job out of college. This quote served as a daily reminder that every day was a new opportunity to learn more, be more, and do more in my journey to one day start my own company.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Have the courage to dream big and step out on faith knowing that everything you need has already been placed within you by God. Failure is not final and it is an essential part of learning and growing. Our job is to tap into those gifts, do our part to develop those gifts fully, remember that all things are possible and work together for your good. And when everything is aligned, the universe will conspire to help you fulfill your purpose.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
For me, the preparation is in the details. Whether I’m attending or facilitating a meeting/event, I like to review and ask questions to make sure I’m clear and knowledgeable about the context and goals. From drafting any pre-meeting notes, questions, or ideas to organizing the agenda to ensure effective use of time, preparation is key. Preparation reads as confidence to the client, which builds trust and rapport. As an entrepreneur, rapport builds clientele.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
During my most recent vacation, I disconnected 100% from work to completely focus on myself, friends, and family. It gives me time to reflect and reconnect with myself, refill my creative reservoir, and focus on self-care and those most important to me, which is essential to keeping my mind, body, and soul healthy and happy. My best vacation thus far was this summer in Jamaica. This was the first year I took the advice of friends to shut down work and exist in the moment. The food was amazing, the power and beauty of Dunn’s River Falls was humbling, and to top things off, I met so many amazing people.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I don’t think I could pick one place. The world is too big and beautiful. My goal is to travel and experience as many cultures and paradises as possible. At the top of my list is Africa. I’m excited to explore more of my African roots and heritage.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I can remember speaking and believing that one day I would be featured by Black Enterprise. As I’m typing, I’m so filled with gratitude thinking about my journey to this point in my life. There is still more work to be done, but I would like to say to anyone reading this to make sure you pause to appreciate your accomplishments and the moments that matter. Continue to speak things into existence, activate faith, work hard, and watch the manifestation of your dreams come to life right before your eyes.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.