June 14, 2011
Behind the Music: Momager Sonja Norwood Grows ‘Family Business’ Tree
Many got to know Sonja Norwood via VH1’s top-rated reality show A Family Business, watching the “momager” tread the fine line between parenting and business. As the force behind the success of her star children, multi-platinum-selling singer Brandy and reality TV playboy Ray J, the wife and businesswoman often stood firm on her beliefs, handling family conflict with love and a bit of an iron fist. Norwood hopes to take that same stern passion and commitment to her clients with her new venture, The Norwood Talent Agency Corp., using her decades of industry experience to help new clients make their dreams of stardom reality.
As part of our continuing coverage of the business of music for Black Music Month, BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Norwood and talked to her about branching out with the new agency, advocating for women in the C-suite, and striving for a family-oriented company that puts clients first.
BlackEnterprise.com: We saw the inner workings of your family on the show. Some things got a little sticky when it came to being a mom and working with family. How do you balance being a mother and a manager? Norwood: The hardest part on show was that there were four different personalities who had to learn to work together and appreciate the differences. I’m always going to be a mother, first, and I love being a mother. I had to learn over the years when to become more of a counselor, and not be overly suggestive of things I’d like to see them do. I had to learn how to walk that thin line. I will fight for things I think are for their best interest. If I think they’re going in the wrong direction–as an individual or in their career–I will make it evident. I will lay all options on the table. Until I get that done, I don’t feel like I’ve done my duty.
Being part of a family that does business together can have its challenges. What advice do you have for others who might struggle with keeping it together? You have to understand that in business, there are things that are going to be said and done that seem disrespectful; but it’s not. It’s business. You can’t take things too personal. There are opinions. Take them, digest them, turn them into intelligence and see how you can do that together. My dad always taught us to do business when everyone is smiling. Don’t wait until there’s conflict to address something. Also, get counsel, such as lawyers and accountants, who are outside the family. You set your guidelines from the beginning. You sit down and decide people’s roles and decide how you’ll handle your business. We’re all willing and open to legal advice. We have goals and objectives for each person to do. Open conversations and open meetings–that’s how we do it. And we don’t handle things that we’re not experts on.
What inspired you to launch The Norwood Talent Agency Corp.? Since the show, we would sit around and have weekly meetings on projects we could do within the family and what we could do to bring more projects to the table. We’d been kicking around doing talent searches and talent showcases. We wanted to work with new clients and give children new opportunities. We thought it would be a great opportunity to help others and expand our reach.
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