Fayetteville-based marketing agency The Artist Evolution (TAE) is offering up to $250,000 to partner with women and minority entrepreneurs as an investment into diversity, equity and inclusion.
“2020 has been a year of reflection, less broadcasting and more listening, and we want to be part of the solution for more equality and inclusion,” CEO Derek Champagne said. “Our growth model is designed to create a positive impact with our partners and in each new community that we serve.”
“For us, if it’s uncomfortable and we’re growing, then we’re doing the right thing,” he added. “We want to be a forward-thinking agency and company.”
He said the company looks to impact the communities it serves while expanding into the top 20 emerging U.S. markets over the next five to seven years. And the company wants to have diversity and inclusion in the markets in which it establishes a presence “to ensure diverse perspectives are represented throughout their business leadership in emerging markets,” according to a news release.
“We’ve added a new core value, which is about our communities matter, and that’s why we invest in them,” he said. “Based on that, we want to make sure we’re making a local impact as well and then allowing our partners to make an impact in their communities.”
The company had discussed the idea to offer partnership opportunities over the past year, and it remained a focus throughout the year. The company has hired advisers to help it think through its work to invest in diversity, equity and inclusion. It announced the partnership opportunities in late December.
Champagne said the goal is to partner with 10 minority and women entrepreneurs. The partners would establish and oversee the agency’s presence in metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people. These are areas expected to grow over the next five to 10 years, including Austin, Texas; Dallas; Denver; Phoenix; and Raleigh, N.C. The partners would operate as a part of the company and would have ownership in the market they would serve, like a parent-company, subsidiary business model.
Prospective partners who would qualify for a share of the money have the necessary experience, leadership and networks in the community in which they would establish the partnership. Future partners will take an established brand and business model and “make it their own without having to relocate,” the release shows. “Those interested should have existing business relations in the region, business development experience and the ability to meet liquidity requirements. TAE supports its partners throughout the process with turnkey services and back-end support, while respecting their autonomy.”
The agency has received interest from women in business groups, and prospective partners have applied for more information about this opportunity. The agency’s money to women and minority entrepreneurs will cover the cost to buy into the markets in which it looks to establish a presence.
“This is specifically for territory expansion and bringing in the right partners in the markets that we’re growing in,” Champagne said.
As the marketing industry looks to transition to more digital products and services, the company sees a greater need to partner with those who are “more locally relevant to help build those communities,” he said. “We want a physical presence in every emerging market. We want boots-on-the-ground leadership in every emerging market.”
Those markets are also ones with more significant community needs. The company looks to enter profitable markets to expand and address the community’s needs, Champagne said.
Along with the Fayetteville headquarters, The Artist Evolution also has offices in Atlanta and New York City. The agency has 34 employees.
Amid the pandemic, Champagne said the company didn’t have layoffs but gave raises. He said 2020 ended well for the company, and he expects growth to double in 2021. The company soon hopes to open an office in Nashville, Tenn., and it has a goal to establish offices in five new territories in 2021.