We’re closing out Black History Month by continuing to spotlight inspiring impresarios making waves in the business realm, the latest of which is Matthew Harper.
Harper went from graduating from college to becoming Principal Owner of strategic planning company, Esquire Branding Agency. Known for creating dynamic and impactful experiences, Harper centers his Esquire Branding Agency around creating a community of networking for young Black professionals that leads to brand expansions, genuine friendships, and connections.
“I think that has been paramount for me, my brand, and my business,” says Harper whose business also focuses on email marketing, graphic design, event planning, and brand activation. “I’ve always been a dot connector, and I trace it back to being an Atlanta native, and just always having a rich network and always being able to bring people together for a desired result.”
Below Harper tells BOSSIP about how Esquire Branding Agency is not only organically bringing together young professionals in his hometown but how the 360 branding agency is influencing the culture across the country.
Tell us more about Esquire Branding Agency, how soon did you start after you graduated from Morehouse?
I graduated from Morehouse in 2013 and I started my business in 2015. I was already doing happy hour events, and then it grew and became a full-fledged marketing agency in either 2016 or 2017. Esquire Branding Agency is a marketing agency that specializes in event production. So that can be ideation or a curation, meaning I can create an event from scratch or enhance something that is pre-existing but more so on the promotion side by utilizing digital marketing tools and assets, like email marketing, social media strategy or via creative services like photography, videography, cinematography with storytelling. So I tell people that I specialize in promoting people, places, things, and having an extensive network that scales across New York, LA, and obviously, Atlanta being the home base.
Was your business affected by the COVID 19 pandemic? And if so, how did you push through?
My business was definitely was affected by COVID. With me being in the business of people, I believe in the TLC model of “tender love and care” by being able to connect with individuals in person. And so not being able to do that [because of the pandemic], I had to hone in on a lot of my digital marketing skills. I created targeted email campaigns to keep my consumers engaged in regards to the latest and greatest things when it’s virtual. I did a lot of virtual activations utilizing Twitch during the initial first phase of the pandemic and as the confines loosened up, I just tried to be mindful of intimate experiences that people could still come out and enjoy like at Atlanta’s The James with “Slow Jams” on Wednesday. It’s a very intimate speakeasy vibe that I’m proud of. I’m planning a one-year anniversary celebration because that event was birthed during the first wave of the pandemic, and that kept the energy flowing in regards to people still being able to come out, have a good time, and frequent the Atlanta beltline while not feeling packed in like sardines because that event is preferred seating only.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment with Esquire Branding?
I think my biggest accomplishment is consistency. I’ve been doing a lot of top-tier programming in the city and beyond for a number of years and have had consistent success with being known to bring people out that fit my niche of young Black professionals. What I’m creating isn’t necessarily a color-dominated brand, but it’s just showing our demographic that we can have that representation, and we can have nice things, and we can dress up, and look nice, and carry ourselves with a certain level of decorum. The vibes that I create are for everyone, but especially for my people. I think having that visible representation is extremely important, so I would say just being known for a professional brand that people can trust and believe in that’s known for delivering consistent results is amazing. I’ve also gotten recognition from big corporations and big spirit brands like Hennessy with the “Never Stop, Never Settle” campaign. I was extremely proud of that because being selected as a entrepreneur in my vertical in media and entertainment on a national scale was amazing. It was a great opportunity, and just to receive that recognition by a brand like Louis Vuitton, Moët, Hennessy, LVMH was amazing. It’s always good to receive recognition.
You talk a lot about “dot-connecting,” why do you think that is so important, especially during Black History Month?
That’s important because we need to be intentional about working together. On a not-so-positive note, the “crab in a barrel” mentality is still prevalent within our community so I like to dispel and break those generational curses and be intentional about connecting people for the desired result. So if I see that there’s an opportunity to bridge a gap for someone and take their brand to the next level, whether it’s personal or professional, I’m going to do that. I think that’s something that’s been ingrained in me inherently, being a native of Atlanta, Georgia, which is the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s also where black people are known for doing well and being successful by being doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, professionals; that’s what I’m accustomed to. I’ve realized that everybody hasn’t been as fortunate to be exposed to that or around that, because Atlanta is such a transplant town.I believe that showing greatness is something that I truly believe God put in me. I want to share my gift to the world and share my gift to my people and make intentional connections where people can use it and propel themselves forward. And hopefully, it tells a story to give back because as you rise, you need to continue to reach back and help someone. I have this rule where I help who I can when I can because I also like to ration my energy and make sure that I’m not pouring from an empty cup. So I have to recharge at times and I can’t help everyone, but I do help who I can. That’s the premise.
What do you want people to know about Esquire Branding Agency and where can we follow you for more info?
I want people to know that I take pride in what I do. I don’t consider myself a promoter, I consider myself a businessman, I consider myself an owner of a 360 brand agency that does so much more than what that word means and entails. I do a lot of professional programming, including every Wednesday for “Slow Jams” at The James Room, which starts at 7:00 p.m. I do “Esquire Thursdays”, “The Mix” at Rock Steady on Thursdays, “The Dinner Club “on Fridays at Tribeca, and the “Brunch with Friends” on Sundays at Parkside. All of those have amazing professional brand aesthetics known for bringing amazing people together. On top of that, if you need a personal product promoted or if you want more eyes and ears on something that you would like the world to see, I can promote that in a number of capacities, from social media to email marketing to SMS. I’m a full-fledged branding agency that would love to have your support.
You can follow me at @Esquiremane and Esquire Branding. I give my heart and my soul to everything that I do, and I try to speak life into everyone that I come into contact with and I want everybody to do well because there is enough money and success out here for everybody.
Just keep your heart pure and do your thing.
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