Generating Buzz On The Street

As an intern at Bad Boy Entertainment, Shawn Prez did not view the other interns as his competition. Instead, he looked to the company’s executives as the people he had to keep pace with. Prez’s desire to run with the head honchos led him on a journey of success that, in just four years, took him from intern to Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ road manager to senior director of promotions for Bad Boy and eventually to CEO of his own company, Power Moves Inc.

Prez, 33, of the Bronx, New York, was at the top of his game when he decided to give up his corporate job to start his own business. He launched the New York-based Power Moves Inc., a full-service marketing, promotion, and event planning agency in 2001, using about $20,000 from his personal savings.

The road to entrepreneurship was fraught with challenges. Early on, Power Moves lost one of its largest clients, and Prez was left pondering his decision to fly solo. With the bulk of his income gone, Prez did not give up. Instead he re-evaluated his plan and continued to move forward. “I had to stay true to my vision and keep growing. Adversity makes you stronger. Your real introduction into business is not always going to be sweet,” Prez says.

His 10-employee firm posted $600,000 in revenues in 2003 and $1.3 million in revenues last year. Prez projects $3 million this year. In addition to its full-time employees, Power Moves operates 32 street marketing teams across the country and abroad.

The street teams, typically consisting of young people who serve as the eyes and ears of their respective communities, are at the center of the company’s specialty: guerrilla marketing.

Power Moves adopts a grass-roots approach to marketing and promotions. Its street teams interact with people face-to-face by handing out fliers, CDs, and T-shirts at concerts and clubs; plastering utility poles and walls with posters; and promoting products at neighborhood hangouts like record stores and barbershops. “We have a niche here,” explains Prez. “If the urban consumer says whatever product you have is hot, then it spreads. The hottest products are always validated by urban consumers.”

Despite his successes, Prez says Power Moves still has a hard time convincing many in corporate America that its unconventional marketing approaches are effective. He says proposals from Power Moves are often heavily scrutinized.

However, some corporate executives are catching on. Power Moves’ clients include Sean John Clothing Co., Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, 20th Century FOX, Pepsi, AT&T (1-800-COLLECT), and Calvin Klein (Crave).

“The ideas they presented to us were phenomenal,” says Susan Hearn, marketing consultant for Spike TV. “They’re very out-of-the-box creative thinkers.” Power Moves headed up a campaign last fall to launch Spike TV’s reality show I Hate My Job, hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton. The company created a publicity stunt featuring 50 Sharpton look-alikes placed throughout Manhattan. The feat garnered national media attention. Power Moves was also the marketing and promotional force behind Combs’ wildly popular “Vote or Die” political empowerment campaign.