Growing: My Reflection on 2020 + VRA's 4th Anniversary
CEO, LaTecia Johnson, looks back on 4-years of growth and reflects on the agency's pivot this year.
I was really quiet on the Visionary Rising Agency front because for the last 18-months really needed to put our heads down and get things done. A large portion of that time has been spent in the COVID reality, but before that, we spent 2019 really preparing for growth in 2020. Our plans were meticulously made, partnerships were cohesively ironed out, and SXSW 2020 was going to be the start of a MONSTROUS year for the agency.
And, then, SXSW was canceled. We watched silently as every single project was placed on hold, then inevitably canceled. As the world grappled with what was going on, our team grappled with the reality of what would never be. I cried, helplessly, as I lost the most money I’ve ever lost in a single day, and faced with the reality of things, I gave my entire team the week off, then five more. Being an entrepreneur during this time has been a tough and difficult road, but we’ve been able to navigate by being willing to move quickly, pivot fast, and change direction if needed.
During our 6-week hiatus, I took a lot of time to think about what I wanted this agency to be and how I wanted to move forward. I thought about the things that were holding us back from reaching the next level and thought about what we needed to be if we were going to come back. On May 13, satisfied with the answers, I called my team up and asked if they were ready to go. I shared with them the future of the agency – from our website redesign to our restructured services, and the types of clients we would work with first. We set the launch date for June 1st, and then, George Floyd crossed all of her timelines.
That week was one of the hardest I’ve ever lived through because after watching the video, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I was done being quiet. The team and I delayed our launch to the week of June 18, and in the interim reached out to partners to start the conversation on what can be done in the long-term to ensure equity for Black creators. Some of those partners came on board and are helping us to build those programs, others were not at the right spot in their pivot to join us, but all agreed that this work needed to be done, and so here we are doing it unapologetically.
I’ve learned a lot about being a leader and growing a company during this time, a lot of the lessons I’ll be sharing soon, most are just gut checks on what it takes to lead during a crisis, and how it’s okay to have moments where you don’t know what’s coming next. I’m learning and growing. The thing I am most proud of is navigating a team of proud Black creators to work they can celebrate and to tell the stories of our people through the lens of our lived experiences. It’s long hours, both structured and not, and it requires a level of commitment that far exceeds any moment I can recall, but the work is fulfilling and calling us to dig deeper every day.
Here is where my 4-year reflection on where the agency stands:
- We’ve done really great work Since launching in 2016, we’ve served the needs of 300+ clients, ran campaigns in 230+ countries, and generated millions in revenue and earned impressions for our clients.
- There is still work to be done Despite the initiatives for parity and diversity, Black creators still occupy less than 5% of decision-making jobs in the creative industries, and Black entrepreneurs receive even less in VC funding, while contributing the most to these endeavors and possessing $1.6 Trillion in buying power.
- We are committed to doing this work Visionary Rising Agency is a Black-owned and staffed agency that understands the needs of our demographic in a way that others couldn’t possibly. Not only are we committed to telling these stories and helping brands reach diverse audiences, but we are also committed to employing diverse creators who see the world differently. To meet these needs, we’ve launched Good+Rising, a vertical committed to fostering inclusiveness for Black and POC influencers and brands in the Health, Beauty, Wellness, and Lifestyle industry. We’ve sought out partners who will help us in our quest to expand, educate, and elevate creators during this tumultuous time, and most importantly, we’ve committed to this work by expanding our team and making key hires who will help us achieve the next level on our journey.
I can’t wait to share with you even more about the work we’re doing and our commitment to building the future of work for the creative class one idea at a time. We’ve been here doing this work and are excited the world sees the value in honoring these stories and can’t wait to grow even more. Dreamers go to sleep; Visionaries go to work. We’ll see you at work.