As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder,” I had the pleasure of interviewing EJ Jamele, the founder and CEO of crowdMGMT, an elite artist & brand management & production company.
EJ Jamele is the founder and CEO of crowdMGMT, a brand and talent management firm, that represents an elite roster of multi-faceted artists across the billion dollar beauty and lifestyle industries. EJ is an expert brand and artist manager and TV & new media producer with over 15 years in the business to prove it. crowdMGMT services the biggest names in fashion, lifestyle, pop culture, celebrities, global media and TV networks, including: VOGUE, Vanity Fair, Essence, L’Officiel, #LEGEND, ABC, VH1, FX, The Kardashians, Ciara, Diddy, Balmain, Versace, Neutrogena, L’Oreal, PUMA, Jennifer Hudson, Angelica Ross, V Magazine, Health Magazine and many more.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My vision for crowdMGMT first materialized during my time working in the talent agency environment in New York City, because I recognized a gap in the market for thoroughly representing, identifying, and growing burgeoning artists and their respective businesses. I found myself wanting to be more involved in the overall talent scouting, development, and business strategy processes as opposed to limiting myself only to the exploitation of developed talent. I set out to assist hard-working and deserving artists, provide more hands-on business and brand development services, product development and to create career longevity for artists in their fight to stand out in a crowd.
While managing my first client, Zeke Thomas, we found success in landing him his own record label imprint, record deal, Times Square Billboard campaign for Life Beat, and a series of concerts and other high-profile branded DJ gigs, TV appearances, and tours. As word spread of these achievements, clients just kept calling. With continued hard work and dedication, I created crowdMGMT in 2010 and I found myself in the business of protecting and nurturing artists while simultaneously applying my business skills and acumen to help them grow their futures and bottom line. With a team of experts around me, we continue to grow stronger and strategically expand the crowdMGMT family with intention.
My vision for crowdMGMT was to build into an elite brand and talent management firm. A strategic global community of multi-faceted artists who work together and encourage one another, believing that collaboration is the key to success, and we fully embrace that in everything we do.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I started my company by accident as a rebellion to the agency structures I came from. Despite their impressive success and financial power, I didn’t see where I fit in there so when I started to represent artists on my own I was terrified. I was worried that I wouldn’t have the relationships to make thighs happen fast and furiously as I intended and boy was I right. I quickly learned that my pitches and requests needed to be 10x better than that of a big-house management or agency team. After enough no’s I had to start being more bold and showing up at offices. I remember one time I showed up and told, then President of Tommy Boy Records, Rosie Lopez that I had a meeting with her when I didn’t just to get her ear. I am sure glad I did because that meeting resulted in two single deals, a label imprint deal and a couple appearances on Lala Anthony’s Full Court Life on Vh1
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
That’s an easy one actually… family. My blood and chosen family is so important to me and I manage people’s livelihoods which is serious business. My actions affect my direct family but also the families of all those I manage and work with and I take that very seriously so getting back up again is never an option, it’s a must.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are amazing today! I have a roster of incredibly talented folks, but even more importantly I adore them as humans too which makes my job so much more exciting and fulfilling. That in combination with the fact that I have the best team and network in the world is how I have been successful. I try to remember to tell my team how much I appreciate them and adore them everyday because they literally make it possible for me to do what I love everyday.
Grit and resilience is absolutely contributing to our climb at crowdMGMT, so don’t get me wrong, this is not a 1995 pageant queen answer overly packed with political correctness. It has been very hard to get to where I am today but commitment, communication among my team and clients and transparency to all people I encounter has put us in the position to do business with everyone from start-ups to multi-billion dollar companies everyday. To me, our resume speaks for itself and so I see every client and opportunity we come across with equal importance, value and urgency. Servicing the client no matter what has gotten me here and I am not going back.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There’s so many mistakes that have educated me, but a funny learning moment for me was when I was accompanying a client to Melissa Gorga’s home for a filming day. I was there as MGMT to support my client who was taping for BRAVO’s RHONJ. As I was walking through the house with her remaining in the background, I accidentally leaned on an unsecured countertop and dropped it onto the floor while my client and Melissa were on camera. I was mortified and thought for sure my client would be upset with me, but luckily Misa Hylton had a great sense of humor and thought it was hilarious thankfully, because it made the cut on the show! The lesson learned was that while cameras are up, touch nothing!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I will go with what others tell me regularly on this one. My company stands out because both my employees and my clients refer to themselves as a family. We are truly in this together and our successes and failures are all of ours. I am most humbled and astonished when I see the eagerness my roster has to support each other. Those that do business with us regularly make a point to compliment me and our team about this and it is so motivating to me!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Set office hours!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Without a doubt it’s my parents. To this day they don’t totally understand what I do nor fully comprehend how my industry works, but their passion to support me has never waivered. Without the confidence that has given me, I am not sure if I would have made it through the hardest times to turn my passion into a career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We support a myriad of movements including mental health awareness, human rights, sexual assault awareness and I actively work on the executive team for Trans Tech Social Enterprises, an incubator for LGBTQIA+ Talent from marginalized communities founded by my client Angelica Ross.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. There’s no fast way to the top.
- Why: I always struggled with knowing when enough work and time was enough in the beginning because achieving big goals for my clients is and always will be a long game with strategy and pace.
2. Not every job you’re requested for is a job meant for you.
- Why: If something doesn’t feel right or sound like a good fit for you, then stay away.
3. You will miss out on fun.
- I have had to sacrifice so much time with my family and oldest friends to move my career forward. Although I don’t have any regrets, it is often hard to find the balance in that because the reason I work so hard is for my family and loved ones to progress but missing time with them is tough to justify sometimes.
4. It’s going to be hard, but be honest, always even if you feel stupid or afraid.
- Why: We ALL “F” up and being honest about that or admitting that you don’t know something can lead to faster answers and foster collaboration across your team and network. Don’t pretend.
5. YOU WILL BE TIRED, A LOT!
- Why: It takes a lot of your time to run a company, especially in the starting and growth phases so pacing yourself and accepting that personal time will be interrupted are critical points of sacrifice to embrace.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
I struggled for years to find a way to calm the “F” down after work each day because I work in such a high-paced industry and success is in the details and organization which is endless at times. For me, the solution is my daily prayer time. I realized years ago that I needed that time daily to connect with God and myself so that I can go into my days clear-headed and connected to who I am and what I am about. As a queer person, I struggled to find my identity in my religious or spiritual practices and beliefs. I am still learning and don’t really have a name for how I identify spiritually or religiously but I believe that living life with love and care for yourself and others is very important and the only way to achieve fulfillment and to afford yourself a clear conscience.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I actually thing there are enough quality movements out there to support, so this is tough for me and I’d have to say that equality and open-mindedness can solve a majority of our most important global issues, so for me it’s continuing to encourage folks I encounter including myself to listen with the intent of learning and not with the intent of waiting to speak could help us all tremendously.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow my company at www.instagram.com/crowdMGMT
And you can find me at www.instagram.com/EJ_Jamele . :)