Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer- NuAmerica Agency
Co-Founder/Chief Creative Officer-Uptown Magazine
Mr. Wright's creative talents, coupled with his keen business acuity, have earned him a reputation as a leader among his colleagues. His fifteen years of experience in the music, internet, publishing, advertising and fashion industries have established him as an innovator in delivering brands to urban culture. Mr. Wright is co-founder and CEO of the Harlem based NuAmerica Agency now in its 5th year.
NuAmerica Agency was founded to capture the true essence of urban/popular culture and provide a cultural context for companies wishing to communicate intelligently as well as relevantly to the hottest demographic and psycho graphic ever, the hip-hop generation.
Wright's experience with new enterprises has given him great insight into developing businesses from the ground up. He has become a specialist in establishing brands and creating innovate marketing and advertising vehicles. "Marketing is about vision, ideas and the critical process of execution. It is that task that we embark on with every advertising and marketing effort."
Wright's positions have included serving as an original member of The Source Magazine, senior director of marketing at Uptown Records, vice president of Loud Records, vice president/general manager of Volcano Entertainment and vice president of marketing and A&R at RCA Records, president of Yo! B. Consulting and president of Hookt.com. Under Wright's marketing vision these companies established their respective marks in their respective industries.
NAA is the first marketing, advertising and management firm designed to address and focus on the changing faces of urban culture. NuAmerica's clients include: Pepsi, Luster Products, Courvoisier, Rocawear, Apollo Theater, And-1, Uptown Magazine, Bulldog Bikes, Showtime Networks and Oster Products.
Wright has been a long time resident of Harlem where he lives with wife Yvonna Wright and children Lola and Marley.
When I thought about how I would describe Brett Wright, the phrase that came to mind was -
Brett Wright is just REAL and it was a pleasure to sit and talk with him. As a successful business man he brings an unpretentious perspective to things that is very provocative. As a community leader he offers a conscientiousness that will challenge the "why" of whatever it is you are up to. As a husband and father his confidence is magnetic; attractive.
He is REAL and that's rare.
DR: Tell me about what you do for a living?
BW: First I am an entrepreneur. I am an entrepreneur by nature. I happen to specialize in marketing and advertising, and have for the last fifteen or twenty years.
My professional career has been in starting different companies - first as an employee for various start-up companies like The Source Magazine and Loud Records and Vibe Magazine and various start-up companies -- whether it was as an employee or as a consultant or as an entrepreneur. The last six or seven years, I've left corporate America and decided to work on my own ideas. Having helped other folks build massive empires and multi-million dollar companies and not necessarily benefiting financially as at least I thought my contribution was worth, I decided to take my own path and develop some of the ideas that I had.
Over the years I have started an Internet company with some friends of mine and I have started a record company and not all have been successful. We got out of the gate. We had some which were very well funded that failed due to chemistry differences and philosophical differences or changes in market place environments and things like that. And then about five years ago I had an idea to take my collective experience and leverage the relationships that I have in the entertainment space and my knowledge of marketing and advertising and really develop a new paradigm for "urban marketing" as it is called. The concept was that hip-hop culture was hotter than it's ever been, the urban market was highly sought after by corporate companies -- general market corporate companies, and there was nobody really bridging the gap between what was going on in corporate America and sports and entertainment, as a cultural driver.
The concept of Nu America, which originally was developed by Andre Harrell and myself, was this multi-faceted big idea.
Andre started the record company and film company out on the West coast and I developed the advertising and marketing agency here on the East coast. The goal always was that the two would symbiotically fuel one another and leverage relationships. We would bring corporate opportunities to the entertainment space, the entertainments space would then leverage our relationships back to corporate America and we would have this melting pot of cultural and marketing evolution.
Click here to visit NuAmericaAgency.com
We got out of the gate and we did fairly well. Andre was successful in getting a record deal through Universal and we released some records there. We did a movie with Universal called Honey and that was rollin' and the advertising agency picked up...we had a nice balance of sort of big corporations looking to leverage what was going on in the urban space and some community based clients like The Apollo and the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer.
We're based in Harlem and I felt it was important to bring those resources to Harlem. We were the first advertising agency in Harlem - kind of having a community base, also with a big corporate base, that could help us pay our bills and be able to create, not all philanthropic, but the same sort of corporate services that you would get from a downtown agency, for some of the community based organizations and bring that thought process and opportunity and sponsorship model and advertising model and just change how they thought about their businesses.
Harlem was in a very interesting time. I moved up here in 1997. I called it the beginning of the New Renaissance. It was still sketchy. It was still a little dodgy in some people's opinions about safety; about opportunity...All these big companies were coming to 125th Street but what were they really doing? Bill Clinton was moving back here. There was a lot of hype and not necessarily a lot of action. I didn't want to be seen as one of those companies. I wanted to really be a company that:
Came here, we set up our tent, we are going to be here, we are going to invest here, we are going to build businesses here, we are going to create services.
The biggest issue that existed here was that there were no services. You've got all of this history and legacy and you've got these places that are landmarks and there hadn't been anybody that invested in creating the service businesses and employing the people here on a wide scale.
So that was my original motivation and we have been working hard at trying to figure out how we do that and keep contributing on both sides. On the corporate side -- how do we make money and build a business? But, how do we also do some things that are community based to help that balance of what we are trying to do from a company stand point.
DR: So, in light of all of that, what is the one thing that you would say gets you up in the morning; the one thing that really drives you?
BW: I mean there are a lot of things that get me up.
There's the ambition to succeed. I have grown up with a saying
"There are no points for second place".
I am a Scorpio and the most competitive person that I know on the planet. There's maybe one or two other people that are as competitive, and we respect one another and we compete a lot... My will to win and my drive, gets me up everyday...To be able to provide for my family to be able to provide opportunity for young people and employees and partnerships and my clients...I mean I get up everyday with a new task and a new headache and a new idea.
I am an idea driven person and what the company has allowed me to do is to have a platform to create. Whether it is on behalf of myself or whether it's on behalf of clients, I have a new challenge or a new problem to tackle.
The advertising and marketing business is a solution based business. We have to figure out solutions everyday for our client's problems. Everybody doesn't see them as problems. I see them as problems and we have to figure out solutions. If they are having a challenge with their marketing message, if they are having a challenge with their strategy, if they are having a creative challenge with the aesthetics of what their ads look like, if they are not connecting and communicating with the consumer, we have to figure out a solution to do that. We have to put ourselves in their world and understand their business and understand their company and how it works. And then knowing what we know about the audience, translate that down and create programs and activation and execution...things to help them fix those problems.
So that's the challenge everyday, and managing people which is always a challenge, and keeping people motivated and contributing back and educating folks and investing in people. At the end of the day, the opportunity that we create is really an investment in people's skill set and then learning and developing a philosophy and a rationale for business and for life --
at the end of the day.
I don't want to get too philosophical about it, but you don't really get a chance to reflect on it. When you do, that is what you see as your contribution and what you try to get up and thrive for. It gets lost sometimes but every once in a while you get to re-balance and shift...
DR: Is there something that keeps you up at night?
BW: I sleep good at night.
DR: You do?
BW: Yeah. I sleep really well. I believe in Karma. I believe in ethics. I believe in "your word is your bond".
There is a street side of me that if you say you are going to do something, you have to do it. I play by street rules but at the same time there is a corporate bureaucracy that you have to buy into...and all of those other things that you have to do.
I never burn a bridge. I have the same friends for twenty years. People that I do business with I have long term relationships with. I think it's based on a moral and ethical standard that I have held for myself and for the people that I am associated with.
I think people who have trouble sleeping have that for a reason. They are uncomfortable with things that they have done or thoughts they have and I try to keep that balance. At the end of the day, what we work for is not just about money. It's a large portion of it; that's what fuels the opportunity for success, but at the end of the day, it's about contribution to society as a whole and the people that are around you and
"What's your legacy?"
What are you going to leave behind? When you are done doing what you are doing, did your products or services have an impact on people's lives and was it positive and did you have to kill a bunch of people to get there. I believe that, ya know, it's Darwin and "survival of the fittest" but at the same time,
At what cost does your success come?
My personal mantra is that it should never come at other people's expense -- or not maliciously. I think competition is part of the natural spirit but, you always play by the rules and that comes back to you.
DR: For you -- success, what is that? I know it's the question that everybody throws out there.
BW: It changes. For me success is content and happiness. It's never been about money for me. When I made the most money in my life, I was the most miserable. Just 'cause I hated what I did. I hated the people that I did it for...
BW: Yeah. There was a lot of resentment around working for the almighty dollar and the almighty man.
For me it's really about finding a balance between content with my family, with my spirit, with my business. I don't deal well with stress so I don't like to be in stressful situations so as much as I can, I try to control my own destiny to some extent and be in a position to just be happy with where I am and live in the moment and try to better the next moment. That's really what it is for me.
We struggle everyday to build the business bigger and better so everyday that we get to play, is content for me.
DR: What would you say is the biggest contribution that you have made so far to the world?
BW: I don't even look at it that way. The world to me is the little village that I live in and what I hope is that the people who I have in my circle appreciate my contribution to them as a friend, as a human being. As a person and as a business person, I hope that clients are happy with the work and the effort with the stuff that we put forth. I don't think the global piece of the puzzle is there yet. I think that's yet to come. There are pieces of products and things and services that we have done that we are proud of.
The Apollo client for me is just a passion client. We don't make any money doing it, but to be aligned with an institution that is a global brand and helping to reshape their vision and their strategy and contributing to what they do on a daily basis and seeing it grow... I have been with them for five years now and watching it go from barely able to open its doors to, now an organization that is thriving and doing well... They have fixed up the façade that has basically been barricaded up with scaffolding for the last six years and that came down three months ago. There's a new marquee and there's a new state-of-the-art sign and they have just re-done all of the seats within the theatre and the programming is changing and it's just a great evolutional process and we have had a very small piece of that. It is humbling... This is The Apollo that I have looked up to since I was a kid and to be able to be involved in the decision making process and to make a contribution to them...
Click here to visit Uptown-Magazine.com
Another project Uptown Magazine, which is one of my entrepreneurial projects, that has brought back - we call it the New Renaissance. The spirit of Uptown lives on and we have kind of captured an energy and been a catalyst for this aspirational African-American society.
We've come a long way and we felt like we needed to create a magazine; a vehicle that documents, not only where we are, but how we got here, where we are from and how it's moving forward. So I am hoping that that is a legacy that, over the next 20 years, will continue to grow and make a contribution to society in some ways.
DR: Do you personally struggle with anything?
BW: Not really. I mean I'm a task oriented person so if there is something that is not right, I usually put forth a plan to fix it. So if there is a challenge, I address it generally head on and try to fix it immediately...but I mean...today, no. There is nothing...
DR: When you think about what it is that you want for your life, what would that be?
BW: I mean I'm living it! I mean, I have it!
Again, it's like I'm not discontent in anyway, really. I have a beautiful family and I have a business that is a challenge everyday, I have great friends. I get to go on vacation once in awhile...For me, I don't need much. I don't need much and I've got more than I ever thought I would have. There is a certain amount of fulfillment with...
For me it's not about millions and millions of dollars. It's about waking up and fighting the good fight everyday.
DR: Well what would you say to people who are struggling or who struggle with themselves - whether it's self doubt or just being generally resigned.
BW: I think that everybody has to go through a process of understanding who they are and what they want and be true to that.
I think that, as it speaks to the younger generation of African-Americans and minorities as a whole, we've seen a lot of success from entertainment and sports and all of those sorts of things and we think that's the glory. We think that fame and fortune is the answer and I think in some cases we are deluded by the idea and concept that that is arrival. We are more concerned about the end game as opposed to the journey.
I think you have to define what it is that you want and what path you want to take to get there. And we make choices. We all make conscious choices about what we are willing to sacrifice to get to that destination and what roads we want to take to get there. I think that when being introspective, everybody has to figure out what that is for themselves. That's the biggest challenge. Once you cross that hurdle, everything else kind of just opens up. You have to say "Listen. What is it that I am really looking for? What's going to make me happy?"
I think that is the biggest challenge-figuring that out first. Often what people do is spend a lot of time trying to get to a goal that is not the fulfillment that they thought it was. Whether it was something that was impressed upon them by family or friends and it wasn't their dream that they are pursuing or whether they are in a situation that doesn't allow them to be creative...all these different variables that come into everyday life that don't allow you to open up and see the big picture.
We are all on this ride and you get caught in a grind to pay the note, to pay your bills, to get a fancy car, to get all of these things. They are just things. At the end of the day you can't sleep with most of them and they can't help you to get out of bed and they don't motivate you to be a better person. They are just things that you feel complete you physically -- not spiritually. I think that once you figure that out, I think that's really the key.
I learned very early on in my life that I was a terrible employee; that I thought I knew fuckin' everything. I thought that I was smarter than everybody else - in some cases I was right, but I realized my thing is really about entrepreneurship. I have to have new clay to mold daily, otherwise, I get frustrated and resentful and I go into a bad place. If I am in a job that is just a job that I don't care about, that I don't like the people... I'm just not good at it!
I am not a pretender. I am real in the sense that I have to be me all of time and the chemistry is either right or the chemistry is wrong and I won't allow myself to be in positions for very long if they don't work.
You have to make changes and adjustments and people are sometimes scared to make changes and adjustments because they seem much more drastic when you are in the middle of the woods than they really are. Life is, for the lucky, a pretty long period of time so we can make changes. And we have to make sacrifices that may set us back a few steps to move us forward, and I think that is where the fear factor comes in:
"Can I do it? What am I going to have to give up to do it?"
DR: What have you had to give up to "do it"?
BW: I gave up a lot. When I started this business I gave up a huge corporate job making a lot of money with a corner office and a lot of protection and just... I could have stayed there forever. I had two or three more years left on my contract, seven figure money and I just said "I can't take it any more. This is not where I want to be. It's not who I am. I hate it!" At the same time my wife was pregnant with my first child, I had just bought a new house; there was a lot of risk involved. My arrogance or stupidity said...my passion said, all at the same time -
"You gotta do it!"
"If I don't do it now, when am I gonna do it? If I really get caught in this grind then I'll be miserable for I-don't-know-how-long, and I'll be doing things for all of the wrong reasons and I won't be happy. So, we'll take a shot at it and if it doesn't work then we will figure out that bridge when we get to it."
DR: Tell me, Brett, a hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?
BW: I'm gonna still be here! (Laughs)
I'm gonna throw a hot party for my 140th birthday.