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Build Your Own Future – Interview With Ram Media Group Founder Nehemiah Burney-Porter

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Nehemiah Burney-Porter
Jobs are difficult to come by for millennials, so it’s no surprise that many create jobs for themselves as entrepreneurs. Launching a company is not as easy as it sounds and requires tons of hard work, but the rewards are incomparable. With more and more people aspiring to become entrepreneurs instead of working a 9-5, there may be some questions that are overlooked in the process. To give a clear look into the life of an entrepreneur, we connected with Nehemiah Burney-Porter, Founder of Ram Media Group. He runs a digital marketing agency that specializes in maximizing marketing ROI and measuring content effectiveness. Nehemiah recognized value and demand in digital marketing early on, giving him a head start in the industry. He was able to give insight into building a business and what you have to do in order to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

What are some surprises that have risen after the start of your own business?

Honestly, the biggest surprise for me was the amount of legal and tax paperwork that was needed to make the company legitimate. Everything from insurance, corporate quarterly tax reporting and the legal aspects of registering for an LLC. Not to mention figuring out how to pay myself and separate the two incomes. You go from working your job from 9 to 5 and then going home, to having to be an accountant, HR manager and salesperson in your non-working hours.Another surprise was realizing how fluid I needed to be in my product offerings. I went into business thinking I would just sell my Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics reporting expertise like I did when I was consulting for other companies. But I quickly realized that if I wanted to continue relationships with these clients that I would have to be their go to for any new supplemental tools they were looking at getting into. Essentially, I was already a SME (Subject Matter Expert) at the reporting sides of Google and Adobe but most of these companies need an data strategy SME who is tool agnostic. In less than a year, I had to learn the pros and cons and how to implement at an enterprise level close to 20 different tools all ranging from cloud based data lakes to machine learning implementations.

What are some risks that you have had to take when starting your own business?

The biggest risk that I take over and over again is putting my name or brand on the line to prove my value as an expert. In my industry, people aren’t paying you to get work done, but instead they’re essentially paying you to know more than them on a specific subject. Because of this I find myself going toe-to-toe with very intelligent and powerful people within these companies. And if I’m wrong about something, that’s it. There’s no training or conference they will send me to to get smart on a subject. That contract would be cancelled and they’ll get someone else in there.I also picked up and moved my life when I signed my first major client because they were 2 hours away and I needed to give them a lot of face time. Its unnerving putting everything on the line with no real safety net. Knowing if it doesn’t work out I would have to move again, or downgrade my life a bit to make ends meet. But honestly that became sort of a driving force for me. Knowing how easily I can lose everything makes me work even harder to stay ahead in this industry.

Have you had to ever make an irrational decision to safeguard your business?

Yes. Before when my biggest client wasn’t enough to go full time with, I got wind that one of my smaller clients were thinking about switching providers so they could get more face time or whatever. Work was good and they were happy with results, but there’s something about southern culture that they want to see you every once in awhile. Anyway, they were meeting with a local agency the next day out in Houston (or so I thought). I bought a last minute plane ticket and popped into their offices to take him to lunch. Come to find out, once I landed I get an email telling me he was working out of the florida offices. So I bought another ticket and that lunch became dinner. Well $1300 and many hours later I was able to keep that $400 a month client. The worst part was a couple of months later I had to let that client go to make time for a bigger one. I don’t know if it all was worth it.

How do you enter an industry and make a lasting impression?

To put it simply, do good work. I was lucky enough to be doing the same exact work for a number of different companies before I branched out on my own. I was already getting recruiting calls on a regular basis and I changed those to sales leads. The Philadelphia data analytics industry is a pretty small tight knit community. So by doing well at a number of different companies, word spreads. The problem is Nehemiah Burney-Porter is already a proven data analyst and business strategist with a strong resume. But Ram Media Group isn’t. That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. How to take the name that I built for myself in this industry and get my company name to outshine that.

Why do you think business owners fail more frequently?

In my experience, people don’t market themselves well enough to stay afloat. You can have a great product but at the end of the day you need people to buy into whatever you’re selling. It’s not easy and at times you can start to take rejection personally. But once you find your niche or specific target demographic it becomes easier. Or you may have to be open to change the product somewhat to give it an edge. At first I thought I knew my target (smaller ecommerce companies just starting to get into online sales). And I was missing left and right. But then I kept signing large services based companies. The work changed significantly and the pressure of perfection was significantly higher and not exactly what I wanted. But I adjusted and kept working. Learning from failure is a big necessity when trying to go out on your own. A “no” isn’t an “I don’t need this product.” It’s an “I don’t need your version of this product.” Your job as an owner is to figure out and produce what version sells.

Owning a business is not easy, what recommendations would you make to an aspiring business owner?

The biggest mistake you can make when starting out is trying to make something that everyone thinks is great. Find the people you want to sell to and listen to them. A lot of people that have nothing to do with your offerings may try to give you advice, but from a business standpoint they’re not important. Take failure as a learning experience and the biggest thing is don’t give up. There is A LOT you will have to learn along the way that may not have anything to do with your main product but everything to do with running a business. Lastly, you don’t have to be ahead of all the competition, just ahead of your clients’ needs.

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

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Q&A with Tobias Peggs: CEO of Square Roots

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When you think of farming, wide sprawling hills with rows of stalks and veggies comes to mind.  You probably imagine a farmer as a dude with a plow with denim overalls, not necessarily as an entrepreneur. Square Roots is a startup that is changing the way we think of farming.  Cofounded by Elon Musk's brother, Kimbal Musk, this company is disrupting the industrial food complex by closing the gap between the food that farmer's grow and the consumers who buy them.In the heart of Brooklyn in a old industrial parking lot sits a bunch of unassuming shipping containers.  The last thing you'd expect them to contain would be two acres worth of growing produce, but alas, that is exactly what's inside of them.Your typical apple travels a huge distance from where it was picked to the grocery store shelf.  In the process it looses the vast majority of it's nutrition.  Square Roots attempts to resolve this inefficiency by providing a place for produce to be grown in an urban setting.  It does this by growing produce in shipping containers hydroponically (a method of growing without soil).  Each shipping container is manned by a farming entrepreneur who is responsible for creating their own business plan, marketing and distribution logistics.  Once the produce is ready for harvest, farmers deliver the fresh goods directly to your office/home, connecting the farmer with the consumer in a more intimate and conscious way.A couple weeks ago I took a tour of the urban farm led by of Square Root's CEO Tobias Peggs.  Here's a look at some of the things I learned along the way:

How much produce can one shipping container yield on average?

One shipping container can produce about 50lbs of leafy greens.

How long does it take a plant to get from seed to harvest?

This varies depending on what type of vegetable is being grown but take for example a head of lettuce: it takes about 2-3 weeks for the plant to go from seed to harvest.

Tell me more about the tech that goes into growing food in shipping containers.

To replace sunlight, we use red and blue LEDs, which are really the only two types of light plants need for photosynthesis.  Each shipping container is modular with a controlled climate.  My background is in artificial intelligence, so every aspect of the conditions in each shipping container is controlled by AI.  Say we had an heirloom seed that grew in southern Italy in the 1800's.  We can look to see what the climate was at that time and replicate it's environment within the container.   This way, instead of literally shipping food from southern Italy, we just ship the data about that environment and use it to grow exotic foods locally.

What control do farmers have over what they grow?

Our farmers are 100% entrepreneurs.  They decide which seeds to use.  They also are responsible for their own branding and marketing and how to distribute their goods.  This is our first cohort of farmers, they don't have to use the Square Roots name, but most choose to.

Is there anything like this currently being attempted?

There's one in particular being attempted in Japan.  A large portion of farmland was rendered unusable after the meltdown in Fukushima.  Because of this Japanese consumers now have stamps on the food which literally says "Proud to be grown indoors".  So people are attempting it, all of them in different methods. I would say we were the most modular.After the tour I got to sample some of the shipping container-grown produce.  The picture above is from a mustard green.  Believe it or not it was really spicy!  I never thought of leafy greens as spicy, but regardless it was bomb as hell in my salad.As populations rapidly grow and change in cities, so must the way we produce and distribute food.  Not only does the current method of industrialized farming diminish the quality of our food, but it also disconnects the farmer from the consumer.  Square Roots presents us with a wildly innovative solution to these issues.  Where does your salad come from?  Mine came from a badass shipping container in Brooklyn.
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How this successful entrepreneur spent his 35th birthday

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Over the weekend I was going through my Twitter feed. Rather than seeing a ton of political "artistry" and random gifs, I stumbled across this incredible set of non-obvious business strategies (or better known as tweets) that may be some of the largest pieces of gold someone can read when they want to start a business.Twitter has received it's fair share of opinions within the past year, but it's safe to say that if used correctly; it's the most powerful social network on the planet.Scott Gerber, a New York based entrepreneur, best selling author, father, and straight up bad ass, celebrated his birthday in an unconventional way. The "Super Connector" took to Twitter to grace us with 35 "non-obvious business strategies and lessons" that he has learned over the past decade in business. Below are his tweets directly quoted from his Twitter feed. If you care to follow Scott, you can do so at @scottgerber.

Lessons From Scott Gerber

1. Beware of "boss metrics"

Macro trends are great IF they are based on the right micro trends. Macro trends can easily be manipulated to show a rosy picture while making major micro issues seem smaller or irrelevant. Ensure your KPIs align with your true performance.

2. Optionality is your life blood

Your job is to maximize optionality everyday in everything you do. There should never only be one path. In fact, try never to only have two potential paths. Always have a variety of obvious and non-obvious traditional and non-traditional options.

3. Bad Decisions

Bad decisions are due to failures to ask the right people the right questions. Don’t be “surface level”. Ask follow up questions. Don’t mistakenly believe what you want to hear. Instead probe deeper on what you actually hear.

4. Two rules

Two rules if your goal is to one day sell your business. 1) Be a revenue multiple company. 2) If you aren’t a revenue multiple company, see rule #1.

5. Anecdotal evidence

Never allow your team to use “anecdotal evidence”. First, anecdotes are not evidence of anything nor are they based in facts, science or statistical relevance. It's simply opinions on top of gut feelings and emotions. Poor decisions come from this sort of “evidence”.

6. Train with fake fires.

Train with fake fires. Your company needs a good fire drill once in a while. What happens if you don't raise money? What happens if your biggest client fires you? Get smart people in the room. Figure out how you would disrupt your own business and solve the issue.

7. Never give a “definitive yes”...

Never give a “definitive yes” to a contractual term without reviewing it in its proper context. A one line term can easily become 100 lines or be defined by 100 terms that you never agreed to. It can also mess up other terms if everything is not contemplated as a whole

8. Don't just listen

Don't just listen to what's being said--listen to what is not being said. More importantly, listen to what’s not being said on purpose. People that try to sell you something are often expert in the art of mindful editing.

9. Automating

Automating humans out of a process still takes lots of humans. Don’t be fooled by the concept of “automating a system”. It often takes more man-hours, money, time and technologies than the task itself is worth. Look at the full picture before you invest time or treasure.

10. Follow the bonus.

Follow the bonus. If you help others hit their financial goals, they are more likely to become an ambassador of your BD efforts with their colleagues. Building a partnership with someone who is top line revenue based versus quota based is different. Align incentives.

11. Never partner with adulterers or known cheaters.

11. Never partner with adulterers or known cheaters. If they are willing to screw over their spouse, they will have no problem screwing you ten fold if it suits their needs.

12. Sell with a “2-for-1” mentality.

Sell with a “2-for-1” mentality. Many companies get one big client name and are happy with that. BUT they forget the big client has dozens of divisions. One client could actually become 2 or 3 clients once you open the right doors. Don’t stop after the hardest one!

13. The 3rd party

Don’t let a 3rd party control your destiny, cash flow or your decisions. Whether you need an investment, a platform or a vendor, if a 3rd party becomes a vital piece of your plan you are taking a bet. Calculated bets can be smart, but don’t kid yourself. You’re making a bet.

14. Don’t be a conventional scheduler.

Don’t be a conventional scheduler. We’ve been taught to think in blocks of time (ie 30 minutes). Why have a 12 minute meeting, then burn 18? Think in smaller chucks like 2 or 5 minutes. When you adapt to this, you're capacity and efficiency will dramatically increase.

15. The Final Offer

Know the final offer you’d take before the first offer. Before you do any deal, know your absolute last stand deal--the absolute worst terms you are willing to accept. Having that thought out beforehand will stop you from making bad deals that aren't in your best interests.

16. About Acceptance

Don't ram your model into new industries and assume the other side will understand it (or accept it). Engineer your model to adapt to the lingo, structures and terms of the industry. Make the numbers work using the financial standards of that industry.

17. Always be the first salesperson.

Always be the first salesperson. If you don't know how to sell your product, no one will! Even if you aren't a professionally trained salesperson—or the tech guy!!—you need to learn to articulate your value proposition and see what people really need.

18. About Department Heads

Have your department heads always do every task in their department before they are allowed to assign it to anyone else. This will ensure that they know what success and failure look like beforehand.

19. About Sales Meetings

In sales meetings, always ask more questions than you answer. Answer questions with follow up questions until you have the most amount of detail possible before you fully answer. Most prospects will TELL YOU what they need and how they want it. You just need to ask and listen

20. Know your team’s real capacity.

Know your team’s real capacity. Break down your staff's tasks into units and total task costs. You would be shocked to see how “busyness” and real time communication gives the false impression of full capacity.

21. “Layer”

“Layer” your business over time, not all at once. Layering new revenue centers is certainly smart, just don’t try to do it all today.

22. Buying into passion and enthusiasm can be a disaster.

Buying into passion and enthusiasm can be a disaster. Don’t get caught up in hype and sexiness (or a good salesperson's spin!). Never make instant yes decisions no matter how good you feel. Even if they feel right, you should still do your diligence.

23. Train your brain

Train your brain to think about what is wrong, not right. What could go badly, not well. And why something won't work, not will. Your love for your idea, your process or your product can be your worst enemies.

24. Invest in the right systems BEFORE you scale.

Invest in the right systems BEFORE you scale. Failing to create the processes and systems needed when things are manageable will become incredibly costly longer term—and more time consuming and tedious.

25. Rules of the DM

Expect that anything you send via email or send via DM to anyone about anything will get out there and will be made public at some point. It will. Don’t be an idiot.

26. Surprise Yourself

No matter how “conservative” you believe your internal projections or goals are—LOWER THEM AGAIN. Surprise yourself, don’t be surprised.

27. Sell your way out of financial trouble

Sell your way out of financial trouble. The idea of “raising money” or “raising debt” is not a good mindset to be in if you find your company in a cash crunched position. You might end up getting financing, but relying on it is a fool’s errand. Sell! Sell! Sell!

28. Are your customers asking the same question twice?

If customers ask you the same question twice, you've failed them. When customers ask a new question, write it down, formalize an answer, and find ways to promote that answer (eg FAQs, call center scripts, website, etc.) so that another customer will never need to ask again.

29. Never blindly listen

Never blindly listen to someone who doesn't have to live with the consequences of the decision. Advisors are great but you must make final decisions. Getting an "I'm sorry it didn't work out" from an advisor without any downside won’t won't make you feel better in the end.

30. Unlock your entrepreneurial mind.

Unlock your entrepreneurial mind With everything that happens around you, go beyond the surface and ask "why", "how", "is it the best", "what's better", and "how would I do it." Feed on curiosity and your ability to ask great questions will be sharp when you need it.

31. User adoption isn't simple or guaranteed.

User adoption isn't simple or guaranteed. Changing user behavior is not easy. Remember: everyone is busy (life, family, work) and you want to add yet another thing. Remove as much friction as you can. Save as much time as you can.

32. Shut up after yes

Once you've got a 'yes' shut up and stop trying to further sell. You can't go further than a win, so shut up. I’ve met more than my fair share of people that lost deals because they kept selling past the ‘yes’.

33. Everyone always has an angle.

Everyone always has an angle. Know the angle before you react to the situation. Don't end up a pawn on someone else’s chess board.

34. Community is crucial.

Community is crucial. The power of association and coalition is more powerful than being a lone wolf. Build one. Be a big part of many. Give more than you take (and don’t be a taker or a sleepy networker!).

35. A Quote to End Them All

Live by this quote from one of my mentors and you’ll be better for it: “You can’t cheat real time. And real relationships take real time.” With my addition: “But your job is to find ways to cheat your time to create more real time.”Here's to liven out that last quote. Thanks for the free advice Scott and Happy Birthday.
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Costume Designer Janelle Nicole Carothers Interview

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Inside The World Of Costume Designer Janelle Carothers

Being the costume designer for some of the most beautiful women and biggest names in entertainment sounds like a dream job, and Janelle Carothers does just that. Dressing big names like Cassie, Ne-Yo, and Chris Brown, she is no stranger to getting up close and personal with celebrities. Janelle’s role in film greatly impacts the characters wearing her clothes. She looks into the finest details to create the perfect look, whether it’s for print, live performances, or commercials.
It comes to no surprise that she was born fashion savvy. Her personal style is self-described as “tomboy-chic,” with pieces that we can find in our very own closets. “So my day-to-day fashion consist of layers to pop on and off as I go in and out of meetings, in and out of malls, on and off sets, in and out of fittings. My fashion staples are, leather jacket, white T, great fitting jeans, boyfriend blazer, long scarf, big shades, shirt dress - I can get a million looks out of those 7 items. My personal go to brands are Celine, Madewell, Rick Owens, Adidas, Acne, Alexander Wang and of course I love piling on my SLATE accessories. I love to be comfortable and look effortless.” Versatility is key when it comes to picking out pieces for herself.An outfit tells a story about the person wearing it, and Janelle keeps that in mind each time she is on set. By studying the characters, she figures out their personality, their occupation, and so on, so she can style them accordingly. “It's more about How can I help the actor and the director tell this character’s story without saying a word. Does she make a lot of money? Is she happy? Is she insecure? What does she do for a living? All those things have a "look". What is that look? That look may or may not be "fashion". But, my job is to keep you entertained. Executing the vision of the powers that be into making you believe this character is who they say they are.” Her passion stems from the ability to tell a story through clothes, not just for fashion’s sake alone.Though her livelihood is her dream, it did not come without obstacles along the way. “The challenging part was all the different catch 22's. Get a job to get experience, no one will hire you until you have experience. Get into the union. Can't get in the union unless you find a union job. Can't get on a union job because you’re not in the union. It's almost like it's designed to make you quit, but you can’t. But, every obstacle you overcome bears a new obstacle. This is life. I look back and see how far I've come, I look ahead and see that there's still so much more to do.” Janelle has faced what many millennials are also facing today. Finding a career proves to be difficult, no matter the industry.As an entrepreneur, she has worked tirelessly to get to where she is today, each day to improve the next, setting up her future with each move. Creativity and entrepreneurship comes hand in hand, especially in the costume design industry. “This is something that you have to choose over again, almost everyday. So many things are going to come along (bigger, better, prettier, EASIER), don't jump ship, stay the course. Know that all days on this journey are not created equal. You got to take good with the bad. Keep going. Don't give up.” She began her career assistant a stylist for Chris Brown before he was a big name. When he blew up, she followed him on tour for three years. Her perseverance paid off, time and time again, as she has elevated her portfolio with television, music videos, working with Director John Singleton, and much more.One of her most popular projects was working on the movie The Perfect Match, starring Paula Patton, Terrence J, and Cassie Ventura. Watching the film, you can tell that each piece was meticulously thought out and chosen according to the personalities of each character. “Great and talented crew. I'm grateful the director, Bille Woodruff, entrusted me with his vision. And, I mean Cassie, Lauren London, and Dascha Polanco are too gorgeous and you can't make them look bad even if you tried. So all in all, when projects like that come around you just say yes one thousand times.“While there is no such thing as a typical day for Janelle Carothers, she stays humble and expresses her gratitude for being able to work in the competitive and demanding industry that is costume design and styling. She stays grounded by her son, who motivates her to continue chasing her goals. “ Knowing that God chose me to take of him. Knowing that I'm his sole emotional, physical and financial support. Knowing that God allows me the opportunity to feed us and provide us a great life by doing something that I love so much. That alone is worth its weight in gold. The least I can do to show God my ENTER all gratitude, is to stay motivated and keep going.” She has many more surprises in store, and whether we realize it or not, we’ll be seeing her work everywhere we go.carothers janelle
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