D’ana of COVL Speaks on the Growth of Her Brand, The Rapid Evolution of Visual and Digital Content, Her Upcoming Project with Essence Festival and More.

I appreciate how the concept of an artist can range from a variety of different fields. I’m also a huge fan of the direction that the world is shifting to which is focusing more on visual and digital aesthetics whether it be social media, website related content or elsewhere. D’ana of COVL is one of the incredible forces out there that’s contributing to the growth and overall expansion of digital creation.

COVL, which stands for Collections + Volumes, is the graphic illustration company that D’ana started back in 2012. Using the brand as her foundation, D’ana of COVL has taken her storytelling abilities to new heights by working with brands such as the New York Times, Corona, Champs Sports, Agenda Show and many more.

I had the opportunity to chat with D’ana of COVL and she name dropped her biggest digital inspiration, the longest project she’s ever worked on, making COVL a tangible brand and what’s to come for the future.

1 – How did you get started in digital design?

I always owe my start in digital design to the power of suggestion. Without someone suggesting that maybe I was in the wrong industry, I probably would’ve never tried.

2 – What would you say your source of inspiration was?

When I stumbled across Hattie Stewart something clicked and suddenly it all made sense.

3 – What was the first ever digital piece you created?

Man, off the top of my head, I illustrated over a photo of me. And, I wasn’t even using PS back then. I was using Pixelmator so imagine that!

4 – Do you remember that first digital design you created that helped contribute to your come up? What was it?

I don’t. Which is a shame yet at the time I wasn’t going so fast that I can imagine whatever piece it was still holds true to who I am today.

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5 – What is your creative process like? In other words, take us through the first step of creating a design to the final step.

My process is simple… well, at least for me. I always start with a color scheme because it sets the tone/mood of what I’ll create. Then, I’ll play around with shapes and patterns until it feels right, even if the piece never sees the light of day.

6 – It’s evident that depending on the coloring, the number of layers and the piece itself that some designs will take longer than others. Time-wise, what was the longest piece you’ve ever done?

A project once took me an entire week because it consisted of 72 illustrations and a custom alphabet. The campaign I’m currently working on takes the cake. It’s a month long project and it’s definitely keeping me on my toes.

7 – What is it about adding color that you think makes your designs stand out?

Color has always been my form of therapy, so it all comes from a very open and vulnerable place. It was never intended for it to be consumed by others yet over time it has positively impacted others which in return positively impacts me.

8 – It’s been said that some of the best creative minds see colors when they’re in the process of creating. Do you find this relatable?

Color is everything. It’s what connects us to many things from what we eat to what we wear. Some minds embrace this fully and others are too naive to understand it’s full potential.

9 – The world of digital is growing and thriving every day. In your opinion, how important has creating digital content become?

I identify myself as a digital artist. I’ve allowed myself to encompass any medium that thrives within the digital space. I’ve never underestimated its importance because it rules everything around me. It’s how I connect with new and familiar faces, it’s a portal for me to take such a mere idea and execute it on a level I could never fathom had this era never existed. Reaching a mass audience without having to overexert your resources still mind boggles me yet it’s exciting as hell.

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10 – You’ve been given the amazing opportunity to create a piece for this year’s Essence Festival. How did that happen?

Someone once told me, “Build it and they will come” and that has been my mantra ever since then. I am always putting COLV first and by doing so, I live in a world where I can unapologetically be myself and fortunately, that has led me to opportunities with brands that appreciate that.

11 – Speak a little bit more about your upcoming COVL x HERSPAWN editorial project.

Simple: we just wanted to have fun and create. Sometimes you just need to play dress up and flex those creative wings.

12 – Talk more about the COVL brand. Are you only putting your focus on digital creation or are you looking to spread yourself out into other lanes? If so, what are those lanes?

This year I’m all about challenging the current facets of COVL and introducing it into the physical realm. That’s all I can say for now : )

13 – You’ve managed to be apart of a lot of dope collaborative projects. Which one would you say was your favorite project? Why?

I try not to play favoritism because it subconsciously puts a constraint on my future endeavors. So to be real, I still don’t have a favorite project. They all have equally contributed towards my growth, happiness, and love for design which is a win-win, right?

14 – What else can your fans expect from you for 2018 and beyond?

Becoming more present, more tangible experience, and more COVL magic!

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REC Philly Co-Founder Will Toms Speaks on the Rise of the Brand, The Freethinkers Membership Program, REC Philly’s Biggest Highlight, Working with Wyclef Jean and More.

It’s interesting to think that there are so many different kinds of creatives in the world that are thriving and contributing to our culture. They range from photographers, videographers, writers, actors/actresses, visual artists, musicians, fashion stylists, DJ’s and so on. Although the list is extensive, it’s disappointing to think that a lot of the creatives out there lack the resources to gain an opportunity to showcase their creative talent. This is where REC Philly has stepped in to bridge that gap. From a small music group that consisted of a few friends to now being one of the most recognized creative agencies, REC Philly is using their current streams of resources to give back to emerging self-starters and entrepreneurs. Ultimately, these resources connect the talents to the opportunities they need to build a foundation for their brand.

I had the chance to speak with co-founder Will Toms about how REC Philly started, their membership program, the biggest motivating factor for the brand, linking up with Wyclef Jean and much more in our interview below.

1 – How did you guys come up with REC Philly?

REC Philly came as a pivot from a prior business that my partner Dave Silver and I had in 2012 called Broad Street Music Group. Back in 2012 we were in a space where we always had musician friends but we realized that we’re playing management roles to rappers and creatives and such, we realized how difficult it was for hip-hop artists or musicians in general to get the opportunities that they were trying to get as far as opening slots on shows that were coming to town or even just knowing who to go to for services. So we were just out here saying to ourselves that if we don’t have the resources we need, we have to start building. At that time, both my business partner and I were in a fraternity so we basically had the resources of fraternity houses. We came up with the idea to create a space on an off night and allow people to express themselves, sort of like an open mic. Dave was out doing that at Temple out of his frat house and I was doing similar things over at IUP where I went and it just caught on.

2 – The team is apart of a lot of different things but before putting REC Philly together, did you have any experience in like music, photography, event planning and such?

When I was a kid I wrote a lot of poetry and I always had a passion for film production. I was doing TV broadcasting and journalism and that kind of stuff throughout high school. I ran the TV studio when I was in high school and then when I got into college I ran the TV studio there. I was able to produce a couple of shows so I figured my trajectory would be somewhere in the lines of producing TV for a big network. I actually got the opportunity to intern for NBC when I was in college and they gave me the opportunity to work in news and then they gave me the opportunity to work in the creative department and that’s where I fell in love with creating content and I knew I wanted to build an agency after that. That internship gave me that spark.

3 – Aside from Philly being a city of talented musicians, what inspired you guys to get into helping other creatives?

With my background in understanding communications, I always knew how important TV and media was and how it controlled the way people viewed themselves and how people understood each other. I knew that whoever was controlling that had power. I always said to myself how interesting would it be if better people had this same influence and power. As Dave and I started building with these artists, we just realized how little access these creative people in Philly had to the smallest things like business professionals. You know, the real resources to build. I’ll speak for myself first, it was really important for me to have people have that sort of access because it came to down my economic understanding. We live in a capitalistic society so if anyone is going to have a say in what the f*ck is happening, we have to have capital. We gotta know how to do business and as a young black potential entrepreneur I was like, it has to be easier for people who didn’t have the luxury that I had to be able to build their businesses. That was the driving factor for me.

4 – REC Philly has planted their flag in the city as far as events go but you guys also have your hands in a few other things outside of that. How exactly does REC Philly work as far as getting people access to what you offer?

That’s a great question. So essentially our business model is broken down into two sides. One side of our company is a more traditional creative agency where we help solve the creative problems from the hip-hop artists who need a music video up to Comcast when they’re trying to go to SXSW and engage with more millennial audiences. So in that realm, we’re creating content for brands of all sizes. Then on the other side of the coin, we have what we call the creative incubator. That’s the newer side of things. We launched a membership program called the Free Thinkers membership. That was a response to us saying instead of doing a little bit for a ton of artists, we want to do more for fewer artists. And the people who really understood what we were building and want to buy in and support that, they’re able to pay a low monthly cost for a membership that gives them access to our spaces including our studio space, our venue and more. They also get discounts to all kinds of service providers so, for example, an entertainment lawyer. If we get one of out creatives in contact with our entertainment lawyer, right away we can get them up to a 30% discount just because they’re REC Philly members. Essentially, I look at the Free Thinkers membership as a gym membership for creative people.

5 – Does REC Philly offer management for the creatives you work with or is it more so them just paying you for a specific service and you cater to that?

No, it’s not management. That’s the one thing that we’re not. Reason being is because typically management deals are structured with a manager who gets a percentage of ownership of everything. They make like 20% or 25%. For us, while we’re working together, we create things but the artists retain 100% ownership over everything. So when they sign up for membership on a high tier, they’re actually given an account manager internal. But the account managers’ job is to make sure the member understands all the resources that they have at their disposal and they can help manage projects. So for example, an artist says “hey, I want to throw an event.” We’ll say ok cool, let’s connect you to a venue. And then we’ll ask questions about the promotional strategy and XYZ and then we’ll help move that project from start to finish but everything that’s paid out to us is based on the services that we’re providing. But, when it’s all said and done the artist owns everything.

6 – You guys are doing something that not a lot of people have been able to do and you guys have a lot of support. What has been one of the biggest motivating factors to keeping REC Philly a household name?

For me, it would have to come down to impact. I hope that doesn’t sound cliche but it’s definitely impact. It comes to taking a step back and realizing what we’ve done. For me, I get excited when I see our internal staff. These are the people who have been with us for years and I’ve seen their professional development because of what we’ve been able to have them do with us. They are out here literally doing things that they are genuinely excited to do. Sitting back and looking at one of our members who’s a videographer. Last year, we were able to put over $12,000 in his pocket through projects that we were doing with him. Or a guy like Guru Media is who now a day to day shooter for A$AP Ferg through an oop we were able to throw him. We connected him to Tory Lanez randomly. Tory came by our studio and said he was looking for a shooter. I told him I had someone I wanted to introduce him to. They connected on a Thursday. Tory had a show that following Friday and believe it or not that same weekend Tory took my homie on tour with him. To see the impact that’s caused by the strategies, that’s the most fulfilling thing and I know there’s creative hope. Other cities and other countries need creative structures just like this to give people access to opportunities and resources.

7 – I know a lot of the team is pretty engaged in social media but how does the team manage to stay on top of what’s relevant in music, fashion, photography etc?

The one thing that works in our favor is that we are our market. The people that we’re servicing, these creative entrepreneurs are extensions of ourselves. How do we stay on top of new music? It’s the sh*t that we’re consuming. How do we stay on top of digital trends? That’s who we are. Scarlett is the queen of the internet when it comes to memes and new platforms and things like that. I think that’s our leverage. We are the people we’re servicing. I feel our team is the best people in the world for what we’re doing and that makes things easy.

8 – REC Philly has been apart of and done a lot of different things. What would you say is the teams biggest highlight and why?

I would say our SXSW show back in 2015. I say that because it was such a pivotal moment. You know how at SXSW there’s a Chicago stage and then there’s like Tokyo houses where people from that region come out… we went down there and bootstrapped our own show and this was all in the middle of us transitioning from Broad Street Music Group to REC Philly. We brought down like 12 acts from Philly and we were able to get an official Philly stage and when we got back home, we felt like we were really able to accomplish what no one else could’ve done to that point. And, I think the city realized that. When we got back and people saw what we were doing, there were so many inquiries of who is REC Philly, what is the brand, what are they doing etc. Every SXSW after that, the same thing has happened but just on a larger scale. To put things into perspective, David and I raised about $12,000 to throw that show and we had Lil Uzi Vert, Freeway on the same stage and this was when Uzi was on that same run before his breakout. This was when DJ Drama and Don Cannon were literally taking him to every single show and letting him pop up and do shows. When we got back to Philly and realized there wasn’t a Philly presence similar to what we did, we were able to go and tell the big brands like Comcast and Temple University. We were able to tell them that there’s no presence for Philly here. Fast forward to 2016, we raised $100,000 and helped create something called Amplify Philly. Once we did that, it really set us apart.

9 – Aside from REC Philly growing as a name, in what ways do you feel it has grown into an overall brand?

There’s a couple ways. The first way, the REC name I kind of gave it an acronym and that’s Resources for Every Creator. I think the brand has grown in a sense because it has really become that. I think we’re at a point now where people look at that logo and they respect it because when you see that logo on a flyer or on anything, there’s almost an inherent level of value that you know it’s going to have. And that’s just based on us consistently delivering quality experiences, quality content and more. I’m obviously biased and close to the whole thing but I think that’s what people look at us as. What I want this to ultimately feel like is when you see that blue check on Twitter and you know it’s official, that’s what I want our logo to become. You’ll see it on people events flyers and peoples content but not so much on behalf of the brand being important. More so saying what the brand has done is done with quality and you can trust it.

10 – I noticed that REC Philly has a hotline number. What exactly do you guys use that number for?

Great question. So that number that you see is what we call the REC line. We use that number to engage our fans on a much deeper level. I understand that we can always hit people through Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and email but it’s getting to a point that with social media now, even if you have a million followers when you post something that doesn’t mean a million people are going to see it. It’s with the understanding that if we can only connect with our fans through email and social media, we don’t really own that relationship. If Twitter and Instagram were to die tomorrow, how will we then engage with all of these people that we’re trying to reach? It’ll be difficult. So that number allows us an address book for everyone who supports our company and it just gives us a much better way of engaging with our audience. So at any given time, someone can call or text that number and get any info about anything that we’re doing. Members such as musicians can easily text that number saying something like #studio and from there they can get easy access to studios to book a session.

11 – I know the team was able to put something together late last year with Wyclef Jean. Talk a little about that. Is there anything else that might come from that event?

The Wyclef event came as a partnership between us and Professor Timothy Welbeck of Temple University. Prof. Welbeck conducted a Freethinkers Interview with Wyclef covering his upbringing, the state of hip-hop & more. This was a great experience, hosting an auditorium of students, artists & creative entrepreneurs eager to learn from the musical legend. After the first sit down, Wyclef was excited to come back and further the conversation earlier this month.  We got to chat a little deeper about the trajectory of REC Philly and he’s taken interest in what we’re doing.

12 – What can we expect from you and the rest of the REC Philly team for 2018? Any big surprises? 

In 2018, we’ll be increasing our focus on our technology and membership program. This will start to position ourselves less as an entertainment company, and more as a tech company that serves entertainment brands. Watch out for the growth of membership and the launch of our web app in 2018, as well as a mobile app in early 2019. You can also look out for the growth of our creative agency, powering really strong entertainment experiences this year.

DJ Nolita Speaks on Building Her Brand, Tips for Being a Great DJ, Rolling Loud Festival, Touring with Bali Baby and More.

There are a lot of difficult professions when it comes to being a part of the music industry or being involved in event curation. The one position that is never overlooked though is being a DJ. When you think about it, pretty much every emerging or well-established artist has their personal DJ. Any music-related event you go to has multiple DJ’s who spin for a period of time. Although this may look like someone who’s just spinning records and shuffling a few songs on their Macbook, being a DJ actually takes a lot of talent and a wide range of music knowledge.

I had the chance to chop it up with DJ Nolita about her inspiration in becoming a DJ, some key factors in being a great DJ, staying consistent with social media, the pros and cons of being on the road and more in our interview below.

1 – What got you into DJ’ing?

I have an extensive branch of musicians in my family. I was going to school for fashion design and immediately realized I wanted to wear the garments and not make them. So I graduated high school with a fashion major and taught myself how to produce music and DJ in the process of preparing for my senior year graduation.

2 – Being a DJ obviously means you have a love for music. Was that always the case for you growing up?

Yes! Not to toot my own horn but I always felt like I had a good ear for music. I’d always play a song and just know and feel it in my heart that the audience I was playing for would enjoy whatever I pressed play on. In growing up with many musicians in my family I was introduced to music and the industry extremely early on. Spice Girls was my favorite movie growing up, around the time I could remember I lived in Queens with my mom who wasn’t around very often due to career choices and whoever came to visit myself and my babysitter at the time was subjected to watching spice girls at least 4 times before they left. I was 6.

3 – When were you able to get your first set of DJ equipment?

Luckily, my mom made sure I had all the equipment I needed as soon as I brought to her attention that DJing was something I seriously wanted to do. But my mother was always extremely supportive in anything I wanted to do, so any hobbies I ever told her I wanted to participate in or get into she would always make sure I had the proper materials to get myself started.

4 – Did you always see yourself pursuing this as a career? In other words, did you see this as something long-term or did you look at it as a hobby?

I did not. I thought I was going to be going to F.I.T or NYU obsessing over college papers and deadlines. I feel like I have a lot of balls kind of just going for my dreams and winging it because that’s a big risk, sort of like a gamble. Things are going pretty smooth though. Once I confirmed with myself that I loved the exploration of music, what I can do and how I can create my own to make people experience any emotion, I started to see it as more of something I could do long term.

5 – What was the first DJ gig you got? How did it happen?

I honestly don’t even remember. I do remember it being in the Lower East Side Manhattan, and my equipment at that time was really heavy.

6 – The road to recognition as far as being a DJ is a bit more different than most creative professions. How were you able to build your name up and get the looks you deserved?

I think a lot of the recognition I get as a DJ comes from not only my style, taste, aesthetic and respect for the arts but as well as the respect I was getting before I was a DJ. When I was a lot younger I was always like the lil hood princess or the little girl that everyone looked out for because they knew my family or people my family affiliated with. More on a creative side I think a lot of the recognition I get just comes from how I’ve grown my brand from dirt, how dedicated I am, driven and bossy. Everything has to go a certain way or be of a certain stature or I won’t attach my name to it and I take pride in enforcing that with any project I endure, any event I DJ etc.

7 – In your opinion, what are some key factors that make a great DJ?

Main key factor or little rule I try to stay on top of is to consistently, visually remind the people that I’m for them. It’s so many different aspects to being a DJ that I feel like often people get stuck in one realm and they forget that there are one million other categories that contribute to this one thing. What a lot of people don’t notice is that me specifically I’m doing 50 jobs at once to make sure whatever artist I’m on is going to get picked up by whomever we discussed. I’m playing A&R, I’m doing artist development, I’m setting up radio placement for artists, blog placement, making sure their music is getting promoted etc. A lot of DJ’s want to be the star. And that’s not our job. Like Yeah! it’s totally cool to be seen but what are you doing to contribute to good music getting where it needs to be? What can you do for an artist aside from getting them on one radio station or just putting their music in your mix? The most important factor is to make the music the star and the star the music.

8 – What are some things you struggled with in regards to building your name and craft?

I struggled mainly with getting the attention of the bigger brands I wanted to work with but realized that’s something that does happen with time. I learned pretty fast how to produce and DJ, and at the moment I felt comfortable I was jumping on the idea of working with corporate brands, not considering the fact that I still had to keep working on this new craft and it would all come in due time.

9 – You’re about to head out to Miami in May for the Rolling Loud Festival and do a set with Bali Baby as well as a full-blown tour with her. How did you manage to link up with her?

Yes! I’m extremely excited about the #PlayGirlWorldTour Bali and I linked through an A&R that wanted us to meet and catch a vibe because she needed a DJ. We immediately clicked and from that point on it was just like “come be my DJ for A3C.”

10 – You’re also about to DJ an upcoming event with the music publication Daily Chiefers on 4/20. How did you manage to link up with the site and make that happen?

I have no idea. They contacted my team and we made it happen. I’m extremely excited though. Myself, Smokers Club and Daily Chiefers have all been following each other for a minute now so it was only a matter of time before we set up the big link up ting.

11 – In your opinion, what do you think is a better experience – being a DJ and playing at a variety of different events or being on the road with a particular person and/or group? Why?

Definitely, love touring with a particular group/person but I would have to choose being a DJ and playing at a variety of different events simply because I started DJing for myself and not for anyone in particular. And tour gets tiring usually towards the end just being away from home so long and constantly being on the road in comparison to spinning at a variety of different events. I get to rage out and show people what I feel like pure genuine fun and happiness is like.

12 – Social media is crucial to building any name or brand. Although DJ’s offer a different type of service than most, how do you think a rising DJ should go about utilizing social media? What are some key tips?

I’m horrible at social media so I’m gonna give tips on what I think we should all do including myself. I would say stay extremely active and consistent with posts, and if you’re gonna go for it, go for it and don’t hold back. People often feel like they have to have X amount of numbers to achieve something and make it great and that’s not the case all, just be consistent and if this is your goal from jump stick with that goal. Be respectful and organized, communicate with people that may look up to you, be kind, mind your business always, don’t trip too much and if you have to think twice about posting it you probably shouldn’t post it.

13 – As a DJ, what has been the most important piece of advice anyone has given you?

Tuck all my cords so no one knocks my power out.

14 – What can DJ Nolita fans expect from you in this second quarter of 2018?

More new Music, more opportunities for artists to be heard, DJ Nolita Merchandise will be dropping soon, and the rest you’ll just have to get watch out for.

Brea Simone Speaks on the Event Production Industry, The Rising Culture of Connecticut, Creating ‘Now You Know Entertainment’, and More.

There are so many young creatives in the world today and with the overflow of content, it’s hard sometimes to gage in on just one. But, when you recognize that “one” who is actually putting in the work day in and day out, you constantly await their next move. Also, we live in a society where everyone is proud to shout out their stomping grounds and hometown. When most feared to say where they were from, Brea Simone stepped up and let her following know that the emerging culture of Connecticut will not go unrecognized. Combining an outrageous work ethic, love for music and event planning as well as a solid rolodex of connections, Brea took her name and her brand to new heights. Not only has she put the pieces together for herself but she’s also lent a hand in helping out some of Connecticut’s hottest musical talents, up and coming entrepreneurs and visual creatives.

I caught up with Brea to talk about her upbringing in the event and music industry, the misconception of Connecticut, expanding on her talents, Now You Know Entertainment and more.

1 – How did you end up in the music/event industry?

I’ve had a love for music since I was little. I was fortunate enough to grow up on many different genres from my mom and my father. My mom was more of my R&B, Jazz, Hip-Hop influence while my dad contributed to my love of Rap, Rock, Pop, and Freestyle. I’ve always been a helper so I would go on twitter at times and tell people to send me their music. I liked being the girl in school that knew of the new artist before everyone else. Coming home from school and going on nothing but hip-hop blogs to see who’s new and who dropped mixtapes. I always wanted people to go to my MySpace page and ask what song was featured because they liked it lol! There was even this site called Tagged back in the day. I used to want badges from people with the music symbol. Even though it was dumb, I appreciated people that appreciated my ear for dope sh*t. When I was in college I worked as an intern for an Africana Center. I ended up putting together a poetry night and had some local performers share their talents. I packed out the room for the first event I ever did and from there, the rest is history.

2 – Your name/brand has grown a solid reputation throughout the years. Being that you’re from Connecticut and there’s this misperception of Connecticut out there, was it hard to get your name to the masses?

I was fortunate enough to be on platforms like Twitter and Instagram before people really gravitated towards it. It definitely helped me with getting my brand out to the masses. When I initially started I really had no end game like, “okay Brea, you have to get a following on social media.” It just kind of happened with things like #FollowFriday on Twitter and just meeting new people all over. I was shy. My twitter gave me a voice to be myself and interact with people. Then once people found out I was from CT I grabbed their attention more because they 99% of the time knew nothing about it. So I used that to my benefit as much as possible.

3 – Although CT is apart of the tristate, why do you think it gets such a bad reputation as far as new talent goes?

I think what makes it hard for CT is that we are between two major cities, New York and Boston. It’s easy to overlook because we don’t really have anything appealing for tourist to come to see. We don’t have a professional team for basketball or football. We mainly have UCONN and the Casinos. There’s nothing driving individuals to be like, “let’s go to CT today!” And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it just means people here just have to work 10x harder. I will say I appreciate it because it’s not oversaturated here. People move to the big cities where people are there already trying to make a name for themselves so there’s more competition when you are an outsider. I truly think the CT market is a blessing because of that. No one is coming here to step on toes of the people already creating. That goes for all the smaller, overlooked states. I think if more people got into that mindset, CT would be grateful and thankful and start focusing more on the right things.

4 – You seem to have taken on the title of “Connector of Dots” and have had that title for some time now. What is it about connecting people together that makes you love what you do?

I’m naturally a helper. I put people before myself. And I don’t do it to get recognition from others. I do it because I feel good when someone else is happy. That’s really what it is about to me. If I know that I helped someone achieve something, whether I get the “thank you!” or not… regardless, I know I’m doing what I was put on this earth to do. Some people may think its foolish but I live by what energy you put out into the world, is what you get back tenfold. You may talk down on me behind closed doors and I may know about it, but if something comes my way as an opportunity for someone, I put those feelings aside and focus on the business. That’s just the nature of my title and I live by that.

5 – You’re a woman of a lot of talents and wear a lot of different hats. What exactly is the brand of Brea Simone?

The brand of Brea Simone is an experience. Your brand is built off what you have people walk away with after being exposed to it. I want people to walk away informed if I do a panel. I want people to walk away with a contact if I do a networking event. I want people to walk away saying, “wow, I had an amazing time” after leaving one of my parties or events. I want people to come across dope new talent if I bring attention to it. It’s not a half-assed effort. It’s really hard work and dedication. I want people to feel that. Your brand speaks for you. What you bring to the table as a team or individual speaks to the masses for you. So I want people to walk away happy and satisfied with anything Brea Simone is involved in. And I understand I can’t make everyone happy. That’s a given. But I know if 9 out of 10 people are happy, they will either come back to the next thing or go to their friends and tell them about me. Word of mouth is a powerful
thing. Perception is also a powerful thing. I think since I’ve realized that early I’ve been able to build a brand that will have longevity not only in Connecticut but in other areas as well.

6 – Which one of your talents do you think have helped your career the most? Which one are you going to be investing more into this year?

I think one of the greatest things about me is my ability to connect with many different
individuals all over. I think it’s important to have an extremely diverse Rolodex of contacts. And I don’t mean diverse in regards to just ethnic backgrounds. I mean it in regards to the kind of talent people have, the different skill set one can offer, different people in random locations and more. You never know, you might be stranded in Arizona one day and remember a kid you met at a show in NY who runs all of Phoenix and you followed them on IG. All it takes is that one memory, that one great impression to keep a connection worth years to come. I plan on expanding my network to many different areas. I don’t want to stick to typical locations. I want to reach more.

7 – How has the evolution of social media impacted your career?

Social media has helped my career a lot. People used to refer to me on my college campus as the twitter famous girl because a lot of people did not have a high amount of following in my state like I did lol. Social media has allowed me to connect with people I never thought I would be able to hold a conversation with. I’ve met many great people and established an amazing network off being online. It’s truly amazing when I sit back and reflect on it. I think now little things like IG changing up their posting has messed up a lot of influencers and creative from running their personal brands/businesses on the platform. I’ve recently stopped posting as much on IG. I thought I read that they are switching back and if that is the case I know myself and many other peers of mine will be happy lol. I think for me, yes obviously, me being a woman is an advantage. I can use the fact that I have pictures up on my IG to then message individuals on IG about business and they have a face to match the message. Rather than just sending an email. People get emails all day. If I can make a connection over a social media platform I would
rather do that any day. Social media has allowed me to shoot my shot and make the winning shot at the buzzer. I love it. I can’t wait to continue to evolve with it.

8 – You just launched your brand, Now You Know Entertainment. Elaborate on that.

Now You Know is my baaaby! I started the idea in January of 2017. When I first came up with the name, I just wanted to do artist showcases. Originally it was going to be once a month, then I changed it to quarterly. I then realized I didn’t have the budget to bring an artist from OT to Connecticut every 3 months so it was back to the drawing board. I did an artist showcase in the 1st quarter and then did a panel in the 2nd quarter. The 3rd I took a break because I needed to prepare for A3C where I had moderate a panel and the 4th quarter I ended up doing networking events. I realized that the platform could be a lot bigger than I initially thought it could be. The possibilities were endless with what I wanted my audience to know. My panel was the ultimate thing that ended up showing that to me. So many people came out and just spoke to me once the event
commenced letting me know where they traveled from and how happy they were that I put together the event. That’s when I realized I had something special I needed to keep going with.

9 – In correlation with connecting the dots and bringing people together, what intrigues you about throwing an event?

I love everything in regards to planning an event. I get a rush off of the process. It’s like a high for me. I love brainstorming the idea, calling venues, making contracts, doing the walkthrough, setting up and executing. People may think I’m crazy but I even love it more when little f*ck ups happen and I have to fix it really fast without anyone at the event knowing. For example, on my way to my NYK Panel, I got a flat tire. No one in the event knew it happened until after the event was over and I told people. It’s all about keeping your composure and knowing what to do when things like that happen.

10 – In your opinion, do you feel women in this industry get the credit that they deserve?

Nah, I don’t think they do. But I’m starting to see a lot more women are getting credit as of late and I’m happy for that!!! I think that women always have to try 10x harder. And if you’re a black woman in the industry, that doubles. I hope it can change though. I truly believe women run the world. Women are the brains and masterminds behind a lot of amazing things. Your favorite artist or creator might have a strong team of men behind them but there’s probably really one woman who is solidifying a lot of the decisions behind the individual. But people would never know. I hope that can change in the future.

11 – What does the new wave of entrepreneurs, musicians, creatives, etc from Connecticut look like? You’ve lent a hand in helping a lot of people from CT so what up and comers are you working with now?

Connecticut is so versatile. I don’t think you can put one sound, one look, one vibe or feel to the state as a whole. I think that’s why I love it so much. People aren’t afraid to be themselves here. I think we’re trying to take the nightlife back. A lot of the clubs have shut down so venues are slim to none in the city. A lot of places also don’t want to be involved in hip-hop things anymore. And I’m sure that’s universal. But right now, it’s hitting CT hard and all at once. I think the creators here are determined. They are resilient. They want their voice to be heard. They want to make a mark and get CT the attention it deserves. The musicians are hard working. The promoters are savvy. The hosts are becoming more creative. And the list goes on.

12 – You’ve had the pleasure of collaborating and working with some dope individuals. What has been your favorite project thus far? Why?

Devin Cobbs is the most phenomenal person I have been able to work with. He’s such a great friend and really opens doors for anyone he deems worthy and I’m just so fortunate and blessed to be one of those individuals he gave a shot as well. From my first 40oz bounce in CT back in 2016 to working side by side with him last year at the Meadows festival…I’ve learned so much from him and I can’t thank him enough. He took a chance on me. He spoke on my panel as his first panel event. I was so happy when he said yes. Just because he’s shared so much knowledge with me, I knew he could change people’s lives in that room when he spoke about his journey. I think the most fun I had working with Devin was the 40oz Hamburger Helper event. The vibe was just good, he trusted me to set up on my own, run around and then once all the hectic things calmed down we got to enjoy the event. That’s what it’s about. Getting your responsibilities settled, keeping the sponsor happy and just having fun.

13 – If you could think of one person to collaborate on a party/project with, who would that person be? Why?

I’d love to do something with DussePalooza. That whole team is full of rockstars. They all have their own talents at the end of the day but they really come together to throw a GREAT party for people. It’s not just a party either. It’s an experience. From Peeje’s graphics, to Raven’s photos, to Karl’s recaps, to Chris and Low’s hosting… it is just phenomenal. Kam is amazing and has a wonderful soul. Kaz is awesome and so full of happiness. It would be an honor to work with them one day. *Super fangirl mode*
14 – What can we expect from Brea for the rest of 2018?

Growth. I expect failure as well. I can’t grow if I don’t fail. People may not see it and that’s fine. But when people do see my final product of my vision, I hope they will know it took me a lot to get there. I’m not sure what God has planned for me for the rest of the year but I’m ready. That’s all that really matters to me. I’ve been blessed enough to make it this far. I’m just fortunate enough to wake up and do what I love every day.

Erin A. Simon Speaks on Effective Marketing and Advertising, Content/Creative Strategizing, The Evolution of Social Media and More.

There are a variety of things that go into building up your brand but being able to effectively market and advertise it to the masses is crucial. In today’s world, being a smart strategist plays a huge role in how you draw people into not only who you are as a person but to whatever your brand/product is. Not to mention, the importance of visual representation has become much more of a challenge for brands due to the rapid evolution of social media. Erin A. Simon knows a thing or two about content strategizing and growing a vast audience for your brand through your social media presence. After putting the time in for companies like REVOLT TV and Cycle, Erin has been able to build a strong following of people who turn to her for tips and tricks on how to properly introduce themselves and their brands to the world.

Erin opened up about the importance of marketing and advertising, being an effective content strategist, living in a world where content can sometimes be overly saturated and a lot more in our interview below.

1 – What inspired you growing up that made you want to get into the entertainment industry?

Honestly, growing up I never aspired to work in the entertainment industry haha it just naturally happened that way. I was a big science kid so I wanted to work as a Physical Therapist, Psychologist or Forensic Pathologist. I was always interested in how the human body works and how people think and etc. But, once I created my website called boxofmess.com at the age of 16, that path completely changed. I had a platform that allowed me to talk about sports, music, interview athletes and celebs. What started as a hobby eventually grew to a platform that had over a million unique visitors and over a million YouTube video views. From there I continued working in the sports industry until my mentors told me to move more over to music for various reasons, so I did. Now, I’ve found a way to be in both music and sports, which is exciting but unexpected back when I was growing up. That’s the great thing about life, things that are meant to happen just happen and I’m glad it happened this way. And even still, my career is changing, I went from being a journalist to now a content developer. This new adjustment has allowed me to exercise both my creativity and strategy/business side.

So, growing up, I was just lucky to have two parents who believed in me and helped support me in any way. Those two in addition to my family inspired me to chase after my dreams, wherever it would take me. And I so happen to end up in the entertainment industry!

2 – Was being a part of this industry something you were striving for throughout your time spent in school?

I never really strived to work in the entertainment industry, I strived to be one of the greatest in content development and creation. For me personally, I saw the ability to cross over into any industry as the most valuable asset that anyone could have. No matter where you go, you are doing great work. Personally, I felt that aiming for a goal within my self will always have a positive outcome, no matter where I was.

Building my morals, values, self-confidence, skill-sets, problem-solving skills and more within myself has helped me to maneuver within this industry. I think doing this first helped me avoid any negative temptations that come with this industry and also to handle any and all expectations.

It’s great working in this industry, I’ve met so many wonderful people, mentors and have worked on some great projects. But, I think striving to be a better person at the end of the day will always positively surpass the drive to work in any industry.

3 – Aside from the music part of your life, you’re also a huge sports fanatic. Which one of these do you enjoy covering or talking about more? Why?

I enjoy covering both, I think ultimately it is about the stories. Each person has a unique story, angle, experience that could shed some light on things. Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the way people think, play, work, live life, tell their stories and more. So, having the chance to do that in both fields is wonderful! Music and sports have always been great passions so I don’t think I would ever just pick one. There are so many connecting factors between music and sports, so in some form, they often have similarities. Goes back to that saying, rappers want to be athletes and athletes want to be rappers. And it’s fairly true haha but that’s because sports and hip-hop or black culture have always been interconnected in various forms. And not just that, people of all walks of life come together for both music events and sports events, so to see how similar the music and sports industry are has been very interesting and has definitely made it a greater experience covering both. So, at the end of the day, I love talking about both! Just don’t talk crap about my Eagles though lol kidding I don’t care if you do, go ask my Giants and Cowboys friends.

4 – You’ve always been someone who constantly talks about proper marketing and advertising a brand/service and also execution. What are some major factors that contribute to successful marketing and/or advertising?Great content. But, the content is only king with quality, context, and distribution. I think people may not see that ultimately content is anything in audio, video, written or visual form. Developing the most effective content to market yourself is important and necessary. I’ve helped to create content for media platforms, for NBA players, for small businesses and at the end of the day all of them are looking, seeking and needing content. Now, as a creative strategist, I can’t speak to all forms of advertising and etc, but at the end of the day, some major factors are context, quality, and distribution.

5 – For those who aren’t fully aware, what exactly is a content/creative strategist?Creative Strategists are ambidextrous thinkers who utilize both strategic skill sets (research, consumer insights, data, critical thinking, etc) and creative skill sets (content creation, art/design, concepting, writing, video editing, journalism, etc) to develop the most effective content that will assist their clients or company to reach a specific audience, achieve a certain ROI or even to get a certain amount of views per month.

We come in all shapes and sizes and can specialize in different fields, like myself, I focus more on content development within media but, I’ve also worked with others who are creative strategists in advertising. It’s a wonderful role and more companies are starting to seek individuals like this. This year I plan on doing workshops in various cities teaching fundamentals of creative strategy + content development to hopefully get more people interested in jobs like this.

6 – In your opinion, what is a good content strategist?A great content strategist is someone who is able to both thrive and succeed off of success and failure when it comes to content. Content creation takes time, research and effort. With the changing times of social media and platforms having to adapt constantly, the best content strategist are those who are able to analyze the changes, understand their audience and develop an effective concept based on the information that they have in hand.They are someone who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and try something new or far out there when some companies say no. They are able to effectively be strategic and creative simultaneously and last but not least, they are able to work in a collective group. Some of the best creative strategists, content strategists, and strategists, in general, have been those who’ve been able to work with others and work with people who are smarter than them in another field. You never want to be the smartest person in the room, always strive to be around others who are smarter than you in other fields so that you learn more. The knowledge you get will only strengthen your ability to be a better strategist.

7 – How important has digital content/creative strategics gotten over the last few years based on the evolution of social media?It’s become extremely important especially since the first line of defense or action is social media for most companies. People consume content in different forms and mediums such as podcasts are still being explored. Everyone craves content and looks at content all day since it’s easily accessible thanks to cell phones. The need and importance for content, ownership of data and distribution is going to become greater. More importantly, those who develop platforms that allow other content creators to easily create are going to win even more. Strategies for content will continue to adapt but will always be implemented. People and businesses are starting to understand that content and strategy/business go hand-in-hand. No longer can you keep them separated, they must work together. And now we are seeing a shift where creators are becoming the powerful influencers and they are the ones that are creating effective content not only for themselves but developing platforms for others to create content and for businesses.

8 – What would you say are the pros and cons of being a content strategist? Secondly, how do you keep online content relevant in a world where everything is fleeting so rapidly?

Pro: You create content

Con: You’re surrounded by content all the time

Haha I know that sounds weird but as a content strategist, you get to create content, amazing content that people could see for days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime. But, the downside is you are constantly looking at content all the time. So, it can sometimes be overwhelming and you need a break from social media and other platforms. But, every day is exciting and seeing updates for social media and etc is always a pleasing challenge.

9 – You’ve worked for some pretty reputable sites such as REVOLT and you also had a hand in creating content for Hypefresh Magazine. Now, you’re over at Cycle. At this stage of your career, how are you constantly inspiring yourself to be better than you were before as far as strategizing what your audience likes to see?Actually, I’m no longer at Cycle. However, right now I’m building up a podcast that I co-founded with my friend Brandon and also working on some other opportunities. But, I continue to inspire myself by looking at things that others may not think is important to content development but it is. I look at art, I watch the Discovery Channel, I read literature, I find inspiration in all different forms and things in life. I think opening your mind and expanding it beyond what you know or think you know is important for growth. It helps you understand so many different audiences when you jump into their world and learn from people in their world. So, I strive to be better and become better by doing this and exploring different communities. We may think we know what our audiences want but how do we really know if we don’t interact and engage with them? or even ask them! So, making myself step out of my comfort zone, talking to people, and exploring different cultures and readings has inspired me to become better.

10 – There have been multiple debates about people calling themselves content creators, journalists, digital strategists, etc. Social media has created this thin line between all of these and people are beginning to box everyone in as “bloggers.” What are your thoughts on that?I think naturally the worlds have come together as one. There isn’t this sort of “elitist” or “exclusive” level as much as it was before when it came to journalism, content creation and etc. We’ve moved away from traditionalism and have moved into a place where anyone can become the next best thing because of these more easily accessible platforms. And I do think that anyone can call themselves a content creator because everyone creates content, but there are certain titles that come with a lot of experience, degrees, and knowledge that shouldn’t be used so freely if you do not have any of those.

This thin line has caused problems though, it confuses some people in knowing, for example, the difference between a personality and journalist. We see this issue often even on ESPN. There is a difference and especially in how someone covers a story or industry and sometimes someone can be both. However, social media shouldn’t be viewed as the definite truth of everything. There are people on that platform who have no titles on there but are some of the greatest at what they do. I think those titles just help people identify those within a community to either engage, work with, and etc. But ultimately, the work speaks for itself and should always speak for itself. And that ultimately determines someone’s title. Don’t call yourself a digital strategist if your work doesn’t back that up, don’t call yourself a content developer if you haven’t developed content for a company, a brand and etc for a few years and simply put it for specific motives. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t what you are, you will get called out for it and ultimately social media is just social media, simply one view or example of ourselves, nothing more and nothing less.

11 – Tell me a little bit more about the Grass Routes Podcast. How did that come about?

Grass Routes Podcast was created when Brandon “killabh” Hall and I met in an Executive MBA program at Rutgers University. What started as a fun project has expanded into something unique and great. We are able to tell our stories and showcase other people’s stories, which is something that I’ve always been interested in. We’ve accomplished some great things, going viral twice, building a core fanbase, and even having our episode placed on every major music website. I’ve never explored the world of podcasts in terms of content development so this is definitely a new territory and challenge for me but also very exciting! We have personal and collective goals for this podcast and I hope others enjoy it and are a part of our grassroots.

12 – What is the rest of your 2018 looking like? Should your fan base be expecting anything special?

For the rest of 2018, I have plans to work with several brands and create great content! I’ll be doing content development + creative strategy workshops in both Philadelphia and New York City soon and plan on working with a few professional athletes within the NBA, boxing world and more. So, you’ll see a lot more diverse content coming from me this year.