Before your favorite emcee began ranting on Twitter and news about the latest rap releases was as pervasive online as spam ads, AllHipHop.com (Black Enterprise Rising Stars Award winner, 2006) was dishing out the goods on all things hip hop. Fast forward 12 years–the website is now a multiplatform news source valued at nearly $17 million thanks in large part to former chief operating officer, Jamilah B. Creekmur.
Founded by Greg “Grouchy” Watkins and Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur in 1998, Jamilah was a hidden force behind the brand, helping to ink major deals and monetize the site. She recently ventured out to build her own businesses, which include publishing and digital business development. BlackEnterprise.com talked with Creekmur about the business of AllHipHop.com
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What was the impetus behind growing AllHipHop.com from a traditional site into a multimedia portal?
Jamilah B. Creekmur: If you’re in one space and you’re not thinking of expanding your brand onto multiple platforms, you’re doing your brand of disservice. We wanted to take the AllHipHop brand into new spaces, and I was there to figure out how to put business models behind these great ideas.
You spearheaded major deals with Nike and Verizon back when few hip-hop sites were on the web and there was great talk of this “digital divide.” How did you do it?
A lot of it has to do with understanding the client and customer. We never bought into the fact that the black audience was not online. For AllHipHop statistically, our numbers really shifted and looked more like general market numbers. We were able to go into Nike and show that although we’re speaking to the black audience, we’re also speaking to a multicultural audience. It made it easy for us to be able to have these multiplatform and multicultural conversations with brands like Nike and Verizon. Also, we were cultural participants in the brand that we were bringing to Nike.
How important is it for businesses to be cultural participants, especially when it comes to the digital space?
There’s no better way to understand an audience or a culture than to be an active participant in it or be so well versed in that experience that you have an authentic relationship with the audience. If you’re not [cultural participants], it doesn’t mean you can’t authentically represent the needs of that specific audience, but you have to understand those needs and understand how to communicate the needs of your audience to clients or the company you’re trying to solicit sponsorship or advertising dollars from.
You said AllHipHop is valued at $17 million. To what do you attribute that success and growth?
You literally have to always think of how to expand and how to put business models behind great ideas. We were always thinking about different ways we could leverage the platform we had, and we were thinking about new platforms we could create and take our audience with us, versus meeting our audience where they were.
You ventured from AllHipHop and now do consulting and help other companies generate online revenue. What are misconceptions companies have when building a business model for the digital space?
One misconception is that people aren’t spending like they used to spend online. Companies need to find the place they can get the most value for that investment. You really have to be open to evolving and move forward at the pace social media is going. You want your audience to see you growing, developing, and being a trendsetter.