Name: Phaon K. Spurlock
Profession: Owner of BKLYN LEAGUE, men’s apparel, accessories, and home goods e-commerce shop; Communications Manager for Prudential Financial’s U.S. Businesses; Founder of LuxuriousPROTOTYPE, an online men’s lifestyle magazine
One Word That Describes You: Driven
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
It is truly an honor to be recognized as a BEMM of distinction. Often the hard work of non-celebrities go unnoticed, so to be recognized by a leading magazine for all of your hard work in the community and personal ventures is phenomenal.
Also, through our stories as Men of Distinction, we are teaching and setting examples for the younger generation of men. To be a part of a class of amazing and trailblazing men motivates me to continue to stand up for what I believe in and to never forget that I’m not doing this for self, but doing it for community.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
During the economic down turn in 2008, I was working for a marketing and advertising company that I really loved. It was my first real job outside of college. I really thought nothing could go wrong. I was receiving great accolades from my boss and everything seemed to go well, until my department was laid off. It was a rough time for me. I was basically in New York City on my own.
Luckily, I had amazing family and friends who supported me while I was trying to figure everything out. I pulled my resources together and was able to get a job at another marketing and advertising agency, which didn’t last long. Sadly, after about a month at my new position, many of the team members were laid off due to the agency losing a majority of its clients. I found myself back at square one.
In college, I owned a successful promotions company, so I decided to start a similar company in New York called Prototype Media + Marketing. I took a risk and about two months after starting the company, I landed a major contract for an activation with McDonald’s. If I wouldn’t have taken that risk to start the company and struggled a bit, I wouldn’t have been where I am today. I look at my struggling point as a learning experience that I will never forget.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
In a relationship of any caliber, I look for honesty. Without it, we can‘t have the important conversations that should be had.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
My most recent project is BKLYN LEAGUE. BKLYN LEAGUE is a socially conscious men’s apparel, accessories, and home goods e-commerce brand and store. We sell items such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, outerwear, bags, pillows, original artwork, and handmade soy-based candles.
What makes BKLYN LEAGUE unique is that we partner with Brooklyn-based non-profit organizations to give back to the communities in the borough. As a resident of Brooklyn, I feel it is my duty to put in an effort to enhance the livelihood of those living around me. My colleagues and I are true believers in community. We are also looking to change the dynamic of what it means to be an e-commerce store. Although we are essentially everywhere, being that we are online, we would like to make an impact in the place that we are based. It’s about taking online offline.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Don’t’ doubt yourself! That is one the biggest mistakes we can make in life. We can be the roadblock to our own success if we do not watch out for the signs. Take risks in life, no matter your age. If you fail, then you have learned what not to do and that you can never say that you didn’t try.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
I believe in doing some soul searching to figure out what you are most passionate about socially. Once you have found out what motivates you to make a difference, seek out those who have similar interests and ask tons of questions. Ask questions such as: “how did you become involved?” or “Can you assist me in getting involved with what you are doing?
Also, while keeping in mind that your path may not be the exact same [as my own], this will give you a frame of reference; the way you approach “making a difference” can be anything from mentoring, public speaking, offering free services, volunteering, donating, etc. As long as your heart is in the right place and you are positive in your approach, you will make an impact. It may not be completely visible in the beginning, but trust me, all good deeds have an impact.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I review any materials that are provided to me. After reviewing the materials, I do light research on the attendees. This is key to build rapport with someone who you haven’t met. By having someone’s background information, you can figure how you may connect.
Usually, I prepare notes prior to the meeting. This sometimes is [in the form of] questions, and other times it’s general comments that I would like to make regarding the materials I received. This is also key for efficiency, because no one wants to be in a long, drawn out meeting when there is nothing effective happening.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
My best vacation was when I went to Nevis, hand down. This trip was great on so many levels. First, the island is absolutely gorgeous and really untapped. There are no chain restaurants, no casinos, no highways. You go to Nevis to have amazing food cooked at mom-and-pop restaurants, relax on the pristine beaches, take in the lush scenery and wildlife, soak in the rich culture, and to escape from the madness that can be city life at times.
Also, while there, I found out that the first people of African descent to arrive in Louisiana were from Nevis! I’m from Baton Rouge, L.A., so when I heard this, I almost felt instantly at home. The people of Nevis completed the feeling for me. The people were the nicest group of folks I’ve ever met while on an international vacation. I loved the trip so much that I wrote an article on my experience.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I really would like to travel to West Africa and spend some time in some of the countries. My plan is to take a DNA test to see where my ancestors hailed from, and to visit those places in 2017/2018. I’ve traveled to several difference countries and loved the experience; however, I think I would have a very touching experience to visit a place where I know my relatives lived. As a person who loves history, this is my personal journey to discover my family’s history.
Anything else you’d like to say?
If you have something that you want to do and you think that you need to hold off because of monetary or timing issues, just do it. If you believe it is your passion, it will show through your presentation, which can attract investors. Also, put it into a plan that has actionable steps. Maybe it will take you longer than what you expected to do it, but at the end of the day, you are putting it into motion. Believe in yourself.
Also, make sure to support others who are trying to make a difference. We as human beings need all the support we can get. One more thing, never be afraid to ask for a help, as “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.”
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @blackenterprise and join the BE Modern Man conversation using #BEModernMan.