Omar Hamilton’s OHPsalms Builds Lasting Travel Experiences for Clients
I would think it’s safe to say that when you are enjoying what you are doing and it’s beneficial to all involved, then it’s a good thing. I would go further and say that when you are doing the same thing and making money from doing it, it’s a great thing!
There are many people who have had jobs that they enjoyed and had an opportunity to do something else to bring in extra income and then it turns out that what was once a ‘hustle’ becomes the main source of finance. Not that they would abandon their ‘day’ job, but, when the hustle becomes a greater source of income, then what do you do?
This was probably a question Omar ‘The Big O’ Hamilton faced and as you will soon find out, a question he answered and has benefitted from and still does.
Who gets paid to travel, take trips and have fun with colleagues, while still calling it work? And who gets the chance to actually ‘escort’, perhaps, the most powerful woman in entertainment, a Miss Oprah Winfrey?
I think it’s safe to say that that man is Omar Hamilton.
BlackEnterprise.com: When did you start OHPsalms and what does your company do?
Omar Hamilton: OHPsalms was started in the early 2000s. I used to be in the music business. I managed talent and had a production deal distributed by Sony, plus served as a marketing consultant on a few projects in the entertainment industry. I literally fell into doing events, and then really started to make a name for myself. Today, OHPsalms is a media and entertainment company that produces events on a local and international level. We specialize in destination events, weddings and in 2012 even created a festival in Barbados.
How did you get into event planning and what skills would you say are necessary to make it a successful business?
I started out planning birthday parties for friends who were in the entertainment industry. Because of my background, artists from all genres of music would come to these parties, hang out and have a good time. People started supporting my events because they knew they would get a VIP experience without pretentiousness. Shortly after that, a noted event production company sought me out and asked me to become a partner. The number one skill I’ve learned to make any event a success is patience.
I know you do annual trips to the Caribbean Memorial Day Weekend and each year it has grown, what gave you the idea to start that up and what are your future aspirations regarding that annual trip?
I used to produce a BBQ upstate for the residents of my neighborhood in the Bronx. I wanted to capture that energy and put it towards something else, something larger. So one year I took a trip to Jamaica (birth place of both my parents) with a few friends from my alma mater, Howard University. I was pretty well traveled as a child because my mom always took me and my brother on vacations to the islands, but something about the experience I had with friends inspired me. I was thousands of miles away from my residence, but at the same time felt at home. Every year after that first trip to Jamaica, I would pick a different destination and kept inviting more friends and the trip took on a life of its own.
I have traveled to and built a strong relationship with tourist boards from St. Lucia, Barbados and Curacao. They served as sponsors during trips to their islands. I want to continue to create a community of professionals who give back to each other, their communities and the islands we visit.
Living in New York and doing events overseas must be challenging, how do you obtain sponsorships and arrange events based in the Caribbean, yet you are based in New York? What goes into planning the events and how long does it typically take?
New York City is the capital of the world! I’m fortunate to be here because most companies, brands and countries that I do business with have offices and representatives here. It makes the partnerships easier to manage and reinforce.
On the flip side, we live in the age of technology. Most of my meetings with Caribbean reps are done via Skype. Someone once said to me, “We live in an age where we can sit behind a computer all day and make millions.”
Depending on the size of the event, I could start planning a year before; smaller scale events require less but no matter what, I keep a detailed calendar of all my meetings and deadlines. Organization is the key to it all working out smoothly.
For your ‘Limin in the Sun’ annual trip, you give back to the island, as evidenced in this statement given to your guests, “A requirement of the trip, all guests attending will have to donate a book and a small financial contribution that will go towards a local Barbadian school library and computer facility.”
What made you decide to include this and how do your guests react to this stipulation?
We are fortunate in this life to have the opportunity to travel and experience the world. With every blessing received I believe we should give one back. I thought it was important that youth in Barbados saw people who look like them doing well. I also want to leave a clear message behind in every country I visit. My #travelfamily (our popular twitter and instagram hashtag) was enthusiastic and happy to participate in this new trip stipulation. Most of them asked if there was any way they could do more!
You have very esteemed company (Lawyers, executives, doctors, artists, etc.) accompanying you on your trips, is this a requirement when people choose to embark on a journey?
It’s funny you ask that, we are a relatively small group. I’ve managed to maintain a really great vibe each year because I require a personal reference from all first time trip members. I’ve been told the process comes off a bit elitist but the travel family is far from exclusionary. I am charged with curating a trip on which people can have a great time so it’s important that I have a screening process. It’s like seating tables except I do it for vacations. I’ve strategically placed people together at dinner tables and in casual beach conversations that have ended up in business deals and long lasting friendships.
Typically, how many people go on this or any other trip of this caliber?
Depending on the island, I can host anywhere between 100 – 200 people.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in having this type of business?
In this, or any type of business, just follow your passion. Be persistent.
You were the official on-island consultant for Harpo Productions when Oprah Winfrey did her interview with Rihanna in Barbados. How did you obtain that role and what did you do for Ms. Winfrey and company?
I was referred to the Project Manager of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” because I have the ability to navigate the island and I have great connections with local businesses and the Tourism Authority. After one conversation with HARPO they realized I would be a perfect fit to help them with the logistics of the visit to Barbados, and I was hired.
I helped Harpo rent equipment on the island, get a freight of equipment cleared at customs, expedited all employee arrivals and clearance through customs, routed their ground transportation, gave producers shoot locations and set up Ms. Winfrey’s security.
Overall, I got Harpo full cooperation from the Barbadian government that made filming a lot easier for them.
What’s up next for Omar Hamilton?
Through OHPsalms, I plan to expand events overseas, keep being a liaison for companies wanting to do business in the Caribbean, and create an international forum that makes it easier to give back to worthy causes in the Caribbean.
This year, look out for OHPsalms and the #travelfamily in Curacao May 23rd – 28th.