Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ebony Vaz and I’m the Founder and CEO of Above Promotions, a marketing technology and public relations company. We focus on using storytelling, data analysis and technology to help customers grow as well as help navigate a crisis.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I graduated in 2001 with an engineering degree and had begun my graduate studies at UCF before relocating back to Tampa. I was going to continue my graduate studies at a local school when 9/11 hit. I decided then to focus not just on engineering, but the technology companies can use to reach customers. I was blessed to have published research with others on password information security as well as participate in government research on virtual reality while in college. I also had a chance to work with a large convenience store company to help set up new stores. These experiences were all of interest to me and it led to me being able to find a way to put together my technical background with marketing and public relations principals. Since then, I’ve been able to assist over 100 companies with their strategy and/or executing campaigns for growth or to help recover from a crisis.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I started my business while working for another company in the ed tech space. While I helped that company to grow from a few hundred to several hundred employees, I was working on my own dream. I tell people it is ok to self-fund your business. It’s how I started. Not everyone is ready for entrepreneurship, nor does everyone have access to capital. When the company I was at made some business moves that cut into their growth, I was a part of those laid off. However, it was inconsequential to me since my business had customers and I literally landed another long term client within a week. I had already gone through the process of setting a business up and had engaged in the business development process numerous times. I was able to focus full time on my company and have been able to remain full time since then.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I am a constant networker. I believe your network is your net worth. Growing a strong network has helped us to obtain referrals. It’s also allowed people to get a chance to see our work up close.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’ve been growing year-over-year and it’s been quite the experience in navigating this highly competitive space. The future looks like us developing SaaS software for the marketing tech industry. I imagine an acquisition as well of other companies to help ours to continue to grow.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Always be selling. I realized that while not every moment around your peers should be selling, people need to know what you have to offer. As they say, “closed mouths don’t get fed.” You can be humble, but also ready to share your solution to someone’s problem when it’s relevant.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Microsoft products, Calendly, Zoom, Slack, TimeDoctor, Zoho Sales IQ, Social Pilot and many others.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
For business, throughout the week I read Forbes, Tampa Bay Inno, Solo PR Pro newsletters and I spend time in various Discord, Telegram and Clubhouse rooms focused on tech and entrepreneur topics. I also like the quick sound bites from Black Executive CMO Alliance (BECA), vlogs from Small Agency Growth Alliance, and in-depth reads from the IAB Tech Lab.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Get involved with your peers, the industry you work in and want to service. You need to always surround yourself with people who know more and that you can learn from and even partner with for your success.