BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: MEET DON SAMAD OF 1ST AVENUE MARKETING & PUBLISHING LTD.
“The creative process can be applied to everything,” says Don Samad of 1st Avenue Marketing & Publishing Ltd. (1st Avenue). As the Executive Creative Director of the Brooklyn, New York based branding and outreach company creativity is his job. As the company’s co-founder, he also realizes the importance of creative application in order to maintain a successful business.
For Samad, creativity is life. A self-described renaissance man, he certainly seems to live up to that description. His career spans administration to education to the arts. No matter what he is doing, though, he says he always strives to find a creative approach. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he studied art. Early on, however, he realized that the modern world stands still for no one. So, Samad used his foundation in the arts as he transitioned to and honed his skills in the more technical aspects of graphic design to adapt to the modern day demands of the creative business.
Like many of us, he started his company while still working a full time job in corporate America. It was during his entrepreneurial beginnings that he realized that pursuing his own endeavors provided more satisfaction than the daily grind, among the world of the nine-to-fivers. Not only did he find satisfaction, but he began to discover a certain security in his efforts. “I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Samad shares. He adds that that same spirit runs in his family and he has always been drawn to those with kindred aspirations. So it was only a matter of time before he would finally strike out on his own in 2006. In an ironic twist of fate, he received further confirmation by way of the financial collapse of 2009. Amidst a declining economy, he joined the ranks of thousands when he was laid off.
Today 1st Avenue is a bustling agency. What started as a boutique creative services firm has grown into what Samad describes as a one-stop shop. Though, he is very careful to not use the term consultant when describing himself or his company. Though consultative, his approach to business is very much hands-on, guiding clients through the entire process. The agency uses a simple 4-step plan for business and concept development. During the process he and his team guide clients from what they call Venture Development–where they help to solidify a client’s initial idea for a project, product or service–all the way to Marketing–where the project is introduced to the public via branded campaigns. Additionally, because of the depth and breadth of the team’s experience, they are able to provide the full spectrum of business development services from graphic design and proposal writing to specialty printing–all in house.
As so many of us have, Samad started out with a particular idea in mind. He knew that he wanted to help start ups grow and succeed. He knew the reason so many fail to cross the 3-year hump is lack of capital. So as he grew his own business, he was exemplary in his actions. Instead of choosing the fanciest or most expensive approach, Samad has always been cautious of how money is spent with regards to the return on investment. At once, he exercises his scholarliness and prudence when he says, “It’s about a shift in the paradigm.” Samad believes that any business or person can succeed, if they are willing to shift their thinking. “Take a look at what you need versus what you can afford,” he says. Many small Black-owned businesses cannot afford multi-million or even multi-thousand dollar campaigns, but they can grow into them. It’s about choosing the best option for you and reinvesting the profits over time. “Substitute creativity for money and don’t live (or invest or spend) beyond your means,” adds Samad–a piece of advice that we could all stand to apply in business and life.
Samad applies this very thinking to his clients. Before a dime is spent, it is his job to make sure the client understands the process and how it will benefit them or their organization. His ethic is reflected in his success. Along with a great team of other creative and business savvy minds, he has turned his part time hustle into a sought after firm, because clients know that they can count on 1st Avenue. Beyond, teaching clients how to maximize their dollars, he says his focus is quality. “Clients come to me, because they know I will take every step to ensure quality.” Whether it is providing an extra layer of proof-reading or otherwise, Samad says it is his job to confirm whether the client really meant “phat” or “fat”. “New York is a dog-eat-dog world,” so to remain competitive it is imperative that quality be the focus–“more over it is the right thing.”
Unfortunately, Samad has also learned no matter how great your product or service, there are some who just won’t get it. As he puts it, “The biggest challenge for any business is to effectively meet the needs of your client base and to do it in such a way that they appreciate it enough to pay for your services.” He remains positive, though. While there are some that won’t get his vision or appreciate his efforts, there have been so many that do. He adds that his children are his biggest inspiration. At ages 18 and 14 they are watching. So he considers his every action and the impression he has on them.
As well, the support of family, friends and the community has been overwhelming. He cites his mother as his greatest supporter, but he is always moved when someone refers a new client to him. “It’s a vote of confidence, that they believe in my skills.”
When it comes to Minding Your Black Business Samad is realistic, yet hopeful. The Black business community is plagued by the “crabs in a barrel” analogy–a notion that no one is willing to help or see others succeed. “I think that there a lot who feel this way, but there are also many who don’t,” says Samad when sharing his opinion. More often than not, he finds himself meeting people who hold the same beliefs of community and partnership. So, Samad believes that there are enough of the positive thinkers to create a shift in how Black-owned business in perceived, “The trick is to just get us all in the same room.”
To learn more about Samad and 1st Avenue Marketing & Publishing Ltd., visit the website.
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IMAGES: 1ST AVENUE MARKETING & PUBLISHING LTD.