Turning Tragedy into Triumph: Branding Expert Talks Importance of Owning Your Story
Natasha T Brown, founder of Think Brown Ink, overcame challenges to find success
Each time a woman shares her life’s journey–the challenges and triumphs, insecurities and setbacks–it heals and empowers another woman. For Natasha Brown, founder of Think Brown Ink, a creative think tank and social responsibility branding agency, a major shift on her entrepreneurial journey occurred, she says, when she was wrongfully accused of trying to kill someone she loved.
At the height of her career, Brown handled public relations for the DMV Music Awards, launched Gets Kids Movin in collaboration with 10-year-old Recording Artist Chi Chi Monet, served as publicist for NBA Guard Dolante West, created SmileNATIONWIDE–a 12 Months of Service Cause campaign, and was nominated for the “40 Under 40” honoree in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
So, how does a young branding expert and community activist go from helping people and organizations turn messages into nationwide movements, to fighting to prove her innocencebefore the world?
Black Enterprise caught up with Natasha Brown to learn how she found the courage to turn tragedy into triumph and land on Amazon’s bestsellers list within the first few days of her book launch.
BlackEnterprise.com: What has your career journey been like leading to this point?
Natasha Brown: My journey has been spectacular and varied. As a student at Morgan State I worked at The AFRO Newspaper, Comcast SportsNET, the campus radio station, WEAA 88.9FM and a market research firm. I grew a love for the various communications professions. Once I graduated, I worked as a Freelancer on the sets of television shows, commercials and movies and also as a journalist. Finally, I landed my first full-time position as a general assignment reporter for the county newspaper, won several investigative reporting and feature writing awards, then after two years, went into marketing-community outreach and public relations (at one job) and then development communications.
After many years of helping clients share their personal stories through philanthropic initiatives and media campaigns, you recently published 10 Blessings of Betrayal. What inspired you to write the book? How does it relate to your entrepreneurial journey?
Natasha Brown: 10 Blessings of Betrayal shares the story of my journey in 2014. I was wrongfully accused and framed of trying to kill someone who I loved dearly, and also injuring two other grown men. Afterward, I experienced various other personal tribulations that brought me to a very low point and out of my character. Only through faith and family (not all blood related), was I restored to a better state. After the situation was resolved, I was still very resentful and harbored a lot of anger, and I sat down to release my feelings through writing. But what happened was divine intervention. God revealed my journey in the form of blessings that had been given to me, not what had been taken away.
I operate a very public business so it was hard for me to deal with these private matters while trying to keep it together for media, clients, and constituents. Any entrepreneur who experiences real life struggles (that have the potential to boil over in their public space) can probably relate to that. I’ve done a lot of work to help people build their businesses, but this book is designed to nurture the spirit.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to an entrepreneur or seasoned professional who has faced a personal setback and may be afraid of being criticized or judged?
I like to say that storytelling creates sustainability—meaning, you save lives, businesses, relationships and communities when you share your testimony. Think of all the teachers you’ve had. They were able to teach you, only because they had real life examples in which you could relate.
It’s no different for any of us. If you’ve overcome a setback or figured out a way to do something better, there is no greater service that you can do than connect with those who need to hear your message. This is what keeps me going, when someone or something tries to discourage me.
What factors have been essential to building your brand and growing your company?
- Continuous Learning – reading and being adamant about professional development have been essential.
- Mentorship – my first writing mentor, journalism professor and now the editor of my book, Frank Dexter Brown, helped me strengthen my true voice;
- Client relationships – my TBI clients have been a key part of my growth. I’ve worked with over 200 brands and people in the past six years, and they inspire me with new challenges. I’ve strategically remained very “indie” focused, because there is reward in helping a start-up company or brands create movements from nothing, but an idea and their passion.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Undoubtedly, my first biggest risk was leaving my full-time, well-paid position in 2010 to operate my business — without ever receiving a check larger than $200 (prior to that point).
Secondly, my current journey as an author is a risk. My book, 10 Blessings of Betrayal, is very personal and transparent, yet, God told me to share my story. This was a huge career gamble, because I knew that current and potential clients and business partners would either love that I’m able to share my story to help others, or would not want to be affiliated with me at all.
Your business is grounded in public relations, communications and marketing but being of service is baked in your business model. Why is helping organizations build their communities so important to you?
It’s important because it’s the single-most integral way that each person can improve the world. If we’re all constantly trying to help and serve others by using our gifts and building our communities, we’re destined to make a tremendous impact. I learned this very valuable lesson after hitting rock bottom. I had nothing and wanted to give up, and God planted the words “12 Months of Service” on my heart. Since then, it’s been my life mission to serve: Mobilize, Empower and Build communities.