Victoria is no stranger to entrepreneurship, as her previous endeavors include Millennial Effect, a boutique marketing agency based in NYC in which she co-founded in 2010. In addition to working for herself, she has been employed at top agencies such as Universal McCann, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC, Walton Isaacson and MediaVest, garnering experience from industry giants.Few have the attention to detail, the eye for opportunity and the business savvy that Victoria has had the opportunity to hone in on over the years. There’s never been a moment in her existence where the arts and entertainment have not been in the forefront of her life. Victoria has taken her talents to Los Angeles, CA. The Victor Group, her brand and creative consulting agency was written. Victor Group is her. (via VictorGroupLA.com)
I had a chance to dial up Victoria for a very in-depth chat about her life as an entrepreneur. The conversation was very enlightening and refreshing, I get REALLY excited when I find out Empirelistas I interview are from my home state (Michigan Stand UP!). I hope you enjoy our dialogue as much as I did.
Asia Horne: Before I get into the nitty gritty, please explain to us who a brand manager is and what does she do?
Victoria Reese: First, let me explain the difference between a brand manager and publicist, because a lot of people get it confused. Branding is different from PR. PR is communications, a publicist will handle all of your communications. For anything public, for instance, if you have an interview, they will help you with questions or help you get booked for interviews… things like that. I don’t do that. I call myself a brand architect. What I do is help brands and people. When people need help with their brands, it entails PR but it’s not just PR. I help manage the direction where the brand goes. What I find is that usually, people are in different stages of branding. If you’re in the beginning stage, where you have an idea and you need help making it make sense to everybody else… that’s where I’ll step in. If you’re in the stage where your brand makes sense but you don’t know how to monetize it and make it into a product or service, or make it into a functioning business model, you would bring me in there. Also, if you are already established and want to take it up a notch, partner with other brands, reach people of different platforms in different ways… you would bring me in to help. If you are more advanced and been in the game for a while but you want to re-brand yourself, change your image and what type of work you’re doing, you would come to me as well.
AH: That definitely clears up a lot for us. Tell us about your journey before you made the decision to become a brand architect.
VR: I kind of fell into it because at first, I didn’t really know what branding was. I didn’t know that it was a lane because it was a rather new type of industry at the time but I realized that I had always been doing it. People trusted my opinion with certain things. In college, people would call me asking “can you do my press kit for me?” and at first, I was unsure of what it needed to even say or what selling points I should use. If they had an album, they would ask, “can you listen to my album and tell me what you think?”. I would say “I don’t really know hip hop but sure! Okay!”. Just things like that, it was something that I was always doing but I didn’t know the name of it. Once I figured out what it was, I hit the ground running.
AH: As an entrepreneur as well, how do you use your prior knowledge to leverage your brand?
VR: I’m a sponge, I’m always reading books on branding. I’m reading books on consumers, their minds and their emotions, the buying process and all those things. One of my golden rules is to always treat my business, The Victor Group, as one of my clients. Because, one, when running a business and having clients… there’s client work and there’s business development work. A lot of people who have businesses are focused on the client work but they forget the business development and they’re two different things. I use Victor Group on my client roster; I look at it as a client when I look at my to do list. I had to build Victor Group up and since I am a brand manager, I have to do that for Victor Group as well. Look at it this way, it’s like the hairstylist that doesn’t have her own hair done. Why would I have you do my hair when yours is not healthy? It doesn’t make sense! That means that I have to have a strong brand, I have to have a strong brand identity and use myself as a guinea pig to show people what I can do because I’m already doing it for myself. Everything I use for my clients, I use for myself. A lot of things I’ve learned from working with myself is what I implement with my clients; it’s trial and error.
AH: You’ve been quite a few places (Detroit, DC, NYC and now LA), explain how have you been able to adapt to those extreme changes in environment.
VR: I’m originally from Detroit and was blessed enough to go to Howard; it really changed my life. Sometimes, depending on what type of city you’re in, you can become closed-minded and not in an intentional way. It doesn’t mean you’re less than someone else but I think when you’re well-traveled and step outside of your comfort zone… you look at life differently. Michigan and Detroit alone has so much pride.
Detroit pride is so strong. Detroiters stay Detroiters, all day, everyday.
So it’s like you aren’t even looking at what other people are doing. Some of the music we listen to in Detroit has been playing on the radio there since I was in fifth grade. But since Detroit has so much pride, Detroiters don’t mind. It’s nostalgic to them… but that is annoying to me. That’s not what I want. Don’t get me wrong, I like it too but when I went to DC, I was around go-go music. That’s what all the DC natives listened to all the time, that was nostalgic to them. Some people were tired of it but most people love it. There, I was exposed to a new environment and was able to see people in their environment, how they operate and see some of their city things that are culturally important to them.
When you’re well-traveled, it’s important because you learn more about yourself. It’s a test for yourself because you see how strong you are and find out you’re stronger than you think.
You get a good comeback game and become resilient. When you first move, you don’t know anything. You don’t know where anything is, you don’t know the streets. Once you’re there for a while, you master that and you can now say “this is home too”. Now I know two states, now I know all these different people and places. It wasn’t easy to navigate DC, New York and especially not LA, but I think once you move, you can move anywhere. You’re like “I can do this”, because you know the process. It’s really fun to explore and I’m glad that I did.
AH: What do you advise budding entrepreneurs to consider as they begin to create their brands?
VR: I think the most important thing is to do something that excites you and that you feel like you’re adding value to the world with. I feel that everybody, in a way, not even to be spiritual but on some universal stuff, is here to be of service to others. It’s like I’m here on earth and I have to pay my rent on earth some way and I think by giving back it means volunteering, it means offering your gifts and talents to the world however you can.
Let’s say if you’re a graphic designer, that may be just a job to you. But the fact that you brought life to someone else’s brand, that’s not just a job to them. You made an impact. Whoever did the logo for Coca Cola, they didn’t just create a logo real quick, they created a whole culture. It’s real. That’s a huge deal and I think if you take it that seriously then the world will too. I want people to have jobs like that. You don’t have to have a job just to pay your bills. I mean you can, but is we try to use our passions and purposes as our careers, the world would be better. People would be much happier and people would do a better job.
A passion project versus a “let me get this check” project, people can tell the difference in the quality between the two.
People should follow their passions so that nothing is lackluster and they feel like they’re contributing to a bigger purpose.
AH: You’ve work with a lot of clients! Please tell us about a campaign you spearheaded that had a positive impact.
VR: I would say Victor Group’s very first client, my best friend Lauren. She created a lifestyle brand called Can’t Stay Put and the premise of it is that she’s been traveling alone since she was about five years old and she didn’t know that she liked traveling at first because it was forced upon her initially. Her parents were in different states so she had to fly alone at a very early age and even travel internationally. As an adult, she wasn’t happy. She had a job that paid well but was just okay. She was literally getting up, going to work, going back home, drinking some wine, watching Scandal and doing it again the next day. It wasn’t enough and she knew it had to be more to life.
She left her job and she came to my place, stayed on my couch, and asked me to help her figure out how to make this work; she wanted to know how she could make a job out of traveling. I asked if she wanted to be a travel agent, she said no. I continued to ask her questions to narrow it down because we had to figure out how was she going to do this. She had to offer a service or something. As I helped her make sense of it, we began to create her lifestyle brand. She’s now partnering with brands and making it happen. This client means a lot to me because I literally helped her from the ground up. I’m most proud of this one because it hits close to home. One, because she is my friend, two, because I was able to see it go from the idea stage to being a full-blown business. The service that she wanted to give is to inspire people to live a purposeful life and to go out there and chase your dreams, she’s doing that.
AH: Before you leave us, what’s one piece of advice you have for young women on their journey to build their own empire?
VR: I think we’re at a time where a lot of women are doing what you and I are doing. It’s possible now. We’re lucky and fortunate to be doing this at this time because other times and in other eras, it wasn’t appreciated like this. It didn’t seem doable.
There’s a lot of things that come being a woman in business, some women may think they’re not being taken seriously. But on a day-to-day, I don’t really feel like that.
I’m so happy that I can say that because 2015 was the year of the feminist. We have people that are really rooting for us so I would say take yourself seriously.
Sometimes, as women, we speak up issues that aren’t actually there and from that, you create a problem that is not actually happening.We’re so worried about not being taken seriously in the workplace, we’re so worried about not being taken seriously in a business deal… but you have yet to be not taken seriously. It hasn’t happened yet.
You have to just go in there acting like “it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman.” I work with a lot of athletes, I don’t walk in a room full of men and say to myself “I’m the only girl in here, they’re not going to listen to me.” No. I walk in like “I’m the only WOMAN in the room and I’m the smartest in the room because I’m a woman, hear me roar!” (laughs). I feel like that. I work like that.
Go fearlessly into it.
Yes. Alllll of that. Such a pleasure talking to this woman of purpose. I applaud Victoria for doing what she does as a woman in business, you can’t deny that type of drive.