Collaboration in business is an important aspect for growth when you have the option to do so. When Black companies can get together to create something that can be beneficial to both parties, then everyone wins when it is a success. As an artist, collaborations can be essential for growing your audience and expanding your reach.
Recording artist, Khalil “Saint Cassius” Walton, Harlem’s own, connected with a neighborhood business and spoke to BLACK ENTERPRISE about the collaboration, future plans, and how the coronavirus affected his business.
As a recording artist, what made you decide to start your own business, and how do you separate your artistry from your business acumen? Is it one and the same when it comes to how you do business?
I contributed to records for artists. The most recognizable contributions are the Bruno Mars single “Just the Way You Are” & J. Cole’s most-streamed single “No Role Modelz.” My initial music business was the management of intellectual property I accumulated. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit but in music, my focus was on helping creatives, specifically of color, to create and independently manage their intellectual property. I’d like to believe I’m equally as artistic as I am business-minded. My ability to find business in the art is one of the principles I’ve built my reputation on.
You’ve recently collaborated with a local Black-owned business. Could you tell us what that is, who you’ve partnered with, and what plans do you have for it to become successful?
I created a record called “Harlem Hops” as a tribute to the Black-owned craft beer bar in my neighborhood. Their musical taste along with their spirit for giving back to the community was on par with what I moved back to Harlem to do. I suggested we pair the record with a beer. We were able to bring the vision to fruition with Harlem Hops, Harlem Blue, and Four City Brewery. I’m deeply grateful to Kim & Kevin at Harlem Hops for pushing it to happen. We’re nearly sold out of the collaboration already and the record has been streamed over 100K times.
Being that you are an entrepreneur, is there anything else you’re working on that you’d like to discuss or is there anything you’d like to work on next in the near future?
My next project is one of my favorites because, like the beer collab, it ties in multiple artistic disciplines. In late 2020, I released a song called “Brown Skin Girls.” The single artwork is a beautiful piece created by one of my favorite painters Lauren Muller. We are hosting Lauren’s first exhibit at Kente Royal Gallery in Harlem and auctioning off the original canvass piece that we used for the “Brown Skin Girls” piece. Anyone in the community will have the opportunity to see the piece in person and purchase the piece along with 5% of the streaming rights of the song. We want the community to have a more tangible relationship with the art they consume and we want to maintain the ideal that music is a creative art and not just a part of the sports and entertainment industry. The auction will span the length of the exhibit, the full month of June & the recipient will be awarded a certificate of authenticity for their portion of all streaming sales. Hopefully, we’ll create a model for others to follow and as the badge of honor for owning our own rights becomes less of an ego stroke and more of a new economy, we’ll be seen as innovators and early adopters.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you and your business aspirations? Did you have to change anything businesswise?
Our experiential marketing has always superseded our digital marketing. The pandemic changed everything. Our ability to be charming in person and develop relationships was lost in the quarantine. I was fortunate enough to bring a baby girl into the world right before the quarantine. Watching her grow has become a symbol of the way the company has grown. We’ve taken our time to determine what impact we want to have in the community, with whom, and how we intend to go about it. We’ve become savvier in the digital space but have leaned in even more heavily to make sure our physical presence is felt. The craft beer collaboration has helped, the gallery exhibit will be the next step.
What suggestions and/or advice would you give to anyone who is looking to become a successful entrepreneur?
The best advice I have is to find an entrepreneur and study under them. The spirit of an entrepreneur, the detail, the responsibility, and the mental ownership is necessary for anyone to be successful. The diamonds are always there, we just typically see them as rocks. It is the entrepreneur who has the foresight to see them as more and takes on the task of turning them into beautiful treasures. The ability to watch someone do that allows you to dream your own dreams with realistic expectations. If you pair your experiences with books that detail actionable steps and where to start, why to start, how to start and methods to guide you, I believe anyone can make something from nearly nothing. Good to Great, by Jim Collins, Tribes by Seth Godin, Do You by Russel Simmons, and The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey are books I recommend to everyone I work with as they’ve reinforced what I saw from entrepreneurs around me.