Cool Jobs: ‘Branding Queen’ Talks Creative Career Path and Juggling Entrepreneurship with Day Job

Tola Lawal, founder of SixOne7Creative makes it happen

Tola Lawal, founder, SixOne7Creative (Image: Lawal)

We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.

Not familiar with Tola Lawal? Well, you should be. The 30-something ‘marketing professional from New York has worked behind the scenes and can be attributed to being the driving force behind launching Diddy’s Blue Flame Digital Ambassador program or producing Carol’s Daughter’s nationwide campus tour. Tola’s groundbreaking work and influence from her peers inspired her to launch her own marketing and branding firm, SixOne7Creative in 2011.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Lawal to discuss how social media has influenced her brand, how she juggles a demanding full-time position along with running her agency, and the people that have influenced her career success along the way.

BlackEnterprise.com: You’re a Jill of all trade— in addition to brand strategy and marketing, you also manage talent. How did you get into management?

Tola Lawal: Artist management actually found me. I manage music production team The Olympicks. They have produced a lot of stuff for Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Lil Wayne, the entire Young Money team, and Matthew “Got Koke” Furdge who did “Beez In the Trap” and TI’s “Memories Back Then”. I initially started working on the marketing and branding for The Olympicks team and then toyed with the idea of making it a management relationship after a few years. I have amazing mentors, Lanre Gaba (VP A&R Admin at Atlantic) and Michael Brinkley (Big Sean’s Manager), who have guided me on this journey and I’m enjoying the ride!

Why did you decide to start SixOne7Creative? With so many marketing agencies, especially in New York City, what makes your agency different?

SiXone7Creative is for the youth and young adult consumer/market. Our focus is the millennial niche market. While many agencies tend to steer away from that age group, we run towards them. We know how to inspire and influence them. It’s a combination of being very social, being very candid, not insulting their intelligence, and understanding and leveraging their influence. Talk with them, not AT them. Speak their language. Ask their opinion, ultimately engage them. Understand their value. To us, they are the key influencers. When I was an undergrad at Pace, I was president of the Black Student Union for a few years, and my team and I made sure that we had a robust year full of events, panels, and activations for my peers to enjoy. Black History Month was a huge month for us. Working with the college market delivers a sense of appreciation and gratitude as opposed to entitlement. We love the feeling we get when we bring these experiences to students. The reception is always great and my inbox is always flooded!

You have a background in digital marketing as well. How are you using social media to advance your personal and professional brand?

You’re only as strong as the brand you consistently reflect. I make sure that my social media platforms do just that for me. All of my platforms should represent what I’m about – marketing, music and makeup!

What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur?

There is a lot of gray area that you sometimes face as an entrepreneur. The unknown can feel risky, but my team faces and overcomes this together. We meet, have conference calls and live and die by our calendars!

How do you juggle your demanding full-time position and your side hustle (SixOne7Creative)?

I wouldn’t refer to SixOne7 as my side hustle. It’s my passion…my other full time job. Balance is not always easy but things easily obtained are easily lost right? Honestly, lots of organization, time management. Google calendar alerts make it easier to get through the day.

Who are people within your industry that have inspired you?

There are several. Tina Wells recognized the impact that the youth consumer had before people were paying attention. She started her company at 16!  There’s also Marc Ecko. I don’t think an explanation is needed here. He’s just amazing. His book “Unlabel:” Selling you without Selling out is one of the best reads of the year. Myleik Teele from Curlbox was gracious enough to host the Carols Daughter tour that we did this year and I learned so much from her in those few days. She is a wealth of knowledge. Just reading her social media posts keeps you on your toes. And lastly, Marc Cuban. He’s just a genius!

Your past/current client list is very diverse. What is the process for determining whether you’re going to be a good fit with a client?

I have to know exactly what a potential client is looking for. I’m also big on energy, so I have to meet with the decision makers in the situation to see if there is synergy. If it’s a project I have no personal interest in I won’t do it, no matter how big the budget. I feel like people work harder when they like a project. Beyond making sure that SixOne7 is the right fit for the client, I like to make sure that the client’s expectations are realistic and they fully understand and agree with our plan of action.

You recently did a national college hair tour with Carol’s Daughter. What was that experience like? How has that opportunity impacted your business?

The Carol’s Daughter Healthy Hair Tour was beyond amazing! We literally spoke this opportunity into existence. We saw a need for it and acted on it immediately. Visualization with action is a powerful thing. After the tour we were approached by a few brands to execute similar activations, and have been working some a lot of the curly girls that were on the tour with us. It has been great and we look forward to some of the things we have in store for the next 12 months.

What’s next for your company/brand?

2014 is going to be an amazing year for the company. We have a couple of campus tours coming up, some beauty brand activations and a few other things up our sleeve. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

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