Using creativity to build a business is one of the best ways to become successful in business. Sekou Andrews has found a way to use the art of spoken word to help inspire others to reach their peak, be it through performance or speaking engagements. Andrews recently made history by becoming the first poet to be nominated for a Grammy Award in 12 years. He lost to Michelle Obama.
Andrews spoke to BLACK ENTERPRISE to discuss what his business is based on and what he is gearing up to do.
BE: Tell us more about your company Poetic Voice.
Andrews: My company is SekouWorld Inc. and “Poetic Voice” is the speaking category I created that seamlessly blends inspirational speaking with spoken word poetry. I felt that, at business events, art was used as the break from the speaker content instead of the vehicle for the speaker content. So, I fused performance and presentation to create a keynote speech that feels like Hamilton meets TED.
My goal is for Poetic Voice to become a sought-after speaking category throughout the industry, and I’m preparing to train a legion of new poetic voices that will inspire global audiences.
What were you doing before you became a full-time poet and business owner?
Before I became founder/CEO of SekouWorld Inc., I was a teacher and an aspiring actor and recording artist who “accidentally” fell in love with spoken word poetry. So, 17 years ago, I quit my job as a teacher to become a full-time poet. Since then I’ve won two national poetry slams, done national tours, received numerous awards including a GRAMMY® nomination, and built a 7-figure company, all through poetry.
As an entrepreneur and artist, are there any difficulties that you face in terms of business?
As if being a black, hip-hop artist with dreadlocks in corporate America wasn’t challenging enough, the biggest difficulty I face with businesses often is the word ‘poetry.” Conversely, it is also my biggest differentiator that has helped me convert a platinum-level client list of global Fortune 500s into fans. I had to be especially strategic with the language I used in contracts, marketing, and even HR, to re-frame my value to clients as inspiration, entertainment, and thought leadership all in one.
What’s the most important thing to do to prepare when doing speaking engagements?
The most important thing to prepare before any speech is your mindset. There are hundreds of techniques I teach public speakers, but all of them can be sabotaged or enhanced by the speaker’s mindset. My Stage Might™ system teaches leaders how to approach every stage with the confident mindset that they are mightier than any mistakes they make.
You’ve been nominated for a GRAMMY in the “Best Spoken Word” category, what are your thoughts about this achievement?
I am incredibly excited about the GRAMMY® nomination because it’s a personal honor and a milestone in my mission to help build an industry for spoken word poetry. With Sekou Andrews & The String Theory being the first spoken word poetry album to be nominated in 30-years for “Best Spoken Word Album,” it provides one more way for contemporary spoken word poets to see new possibilities and models for their careers in mainstream media.
What inspires you to inspire others?
I may find inspiration in things like the works of another poet or a breathtaking sunset, but what’s important is that I’m always intentionally seeking it and harnessing it instantaneously in order to inspire others with it later. In my upcoming book on the power of inspiration, I teach that inspiration is circular. So, how I inspired someone previously may be what inspires me to be inspiring to the next person.
As far as business, do you have anything planned for the immediate future?
As the coronavirus pandemic changes everything for everyone, organizations are prevented from inspiring live audiences at a time when people need to be inspired more than ever. SekouWorld is partnering with clients to virtually deliver inspiring content to their employees, customers, and communities. From digital keynotes and commencement speeches to customized videos and virtual Stage Might™ training, we’re helping leaders up-level their voice and influence in order to motivate their communities through this difficult time. I’m also continuing to work on my book, developing a podcast and TV pilots, focusing on growing my family, and producing my next album so that we can win the GRAMMY® this time!
If you could do anything over, what would it be and why?
There is very little in my journey that I regret or would change. I believe I’m doing exactly what God put me on this planet to do. If I could change anything, it would be to act a little sooner, believe in myself a little more, and jump off each cliff without hesitation.