BE Modern Man: Martin Ekechukwu
Entrepreneur, music and marketing strategist; 42; Head of Media & Marketing, Brand Partnerships and Strategy, WHTWRKS, Inc.
Twitter: @martinchilaka; Instagram: @martinekechukwu
At WHTWRKS, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be in a position to create amazing content that connects with social and digital media audiences. Our role, and my role, in particular, as a marketing strategist, is to generate ideas that help brands connect with their target audience, leveraging culture while using influencers to drive the conversation. Influencers could be in music, film, or in a completely different category. But we don’t stop there; we create the campaign strategy for the brand and see it entirely to fruition by developing the content and launching it. The impact it has had on brands has been beyond our expectations. We not only tell incredible stories using culture, but also share our culture with the world even more while encouraging people that don’t look like us to pay attention.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN LIFE?
I’m most proud of my daughter and the young woman that she is growing up to be. Children are the best reflection of who you are. When they do well, are well adjusted, and prepared for the future, the sense of pride is incredible.
HOW HAVE YOU TURNED STRUGGLE INTO SUCCESS?
My first company, Village Tea Company, started as a massive success, but as with all good things that grow too quickly, the fall back down was painful and we never fully recovered. With all the challenges from my first company, I was very discouraged and initially swore off of entrepreneurship, but quickly realized that the failure and my failed approach was due to a lack of enough real-world experience. I narrowed down the skill sets I needed, returned to a corporate job, and eventually took my learnings from the first company, with my skill sets and got back to my entrepreneurial roots as a brand and marketing strategist, where we’ve been going five years now, with year-to-year, double-digit growth.
WHAT PRACTICES, TOOLS, BOOKS, ETC. DO YOU RELY ON FOR YOUR SUCCESS?
I surround myself with people that are much smarter than me. I am a decent student, but I learn better watching and paying attention to others and how they handle themselves. I wish I were one of those people that can read a ton of books and miraculously see improvements. I need more hands-on engagement for me to improve.
WHO WAS YOUR GREATEST MALE ROLE MODEL AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM?
My father was my greatest role model. I learned that no matter your accomplishment, you have to humble yourself and put your family first. In spite of all his achievements—Rhodes Scholar, Oxford graduate—nothing was beneath him when it came to providing for his family. As a family of immigrants, his greatest priority was our comfort. He taught the value of relationships and honor. My gentlemanship was sowed directly from my father.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE MANHOOD?
Manhood is not about masculinity. It is about understanding the responsibility one carries as a man not just to provide for a family and protect, but to also provide guidance towards duty, honor, love, and achievement. Manhood for me has always been about sharing with others my own story and helping those who have not had a traditional nuclear family experience to reach their full potential.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Help first and ask questions last. Our purpose on earth is to help each other in one way or another. If there is an opportunity to make some money, great; however, that should never be the driving factor.
HOW ARE YOU PAYING IT FORWARD TO SUPPORT OTHER BLACK MALES?
We as black males usually have poor access to resources, leadership, and advice when it comes to not only business, but life’s lessons. I haven’t been around a long time, but I do know that my role is meant to help others. As a marketing strategist, I volunteer with the minority program at my business school every year. I offer my time to young black males who have aspirations or are seeking feedback toward their career choices. I also happily speak during career day at local inner-city middle schools.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A BLACK MAN?
It’s not hard to say what I like most about being a black man. I love the feeling of being a descendant of kings and from a continent rich with thousands of years of history. Having been born and raised in Nigeria, the feeling of being black and the honor of being part of an African diaspora creates an incredible sense of pride. I love that we have our own culture, language, swagger, style, and frankly beautiful approach to all things creative and analytical that only we can deliver.
BE Modern Man is an online and social media campaign designed to celebrate black men making valuable contributions in every profession, industry, community, and area of endeavor. Each year, we solicit nominations in order to select men of color for inclusion in the 100 Black Enterprise Modern Men of Distinction. Our goal is to recognize men who epitomize the BEMM credo “Extraordinary is our normal” in their day-to-day lives, presenting authentic examples of the typical black man rarely seen in mainstream media. The BE Modern Men of Distinction are celebrated annually at Black Men XCEL (www.blackenterprise.com/blackmenxcel/). Click this link to submit a nomination for BE Modern Man: https://www.blackenterprise.com/nominate/. Follow BE Modern Man on Twitter: @bemodernman and Instagram: @be_modernman.