Today we’d like to introduce you to India Alston.
India, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My journey started in Washington, DC. Raised by my mother, Lisa and my stepfather Kevin, I was blessed to have two parents in the home; Each of whom taught me much of what I know that has brought me to where I am today. I am also one of four girls, with my twin and I falling in the middle. I love my sisters dearly and they have always believed in me through the ups and downs of building my dream.
My mother always stressed the importance of education and its role in providing me with more opportunities. She also made sure we were involved in multiple enrichment programs, giving us opportunities she never had. Understanding the privilege in that fueled my level of compassion and empathy for others who needed a hand up whether it be personally or professionally. If I could help solve a problem, I was first in line to do so. This is reflected in my chosen career as a marketer and strategy consultant.
My stepfather, who did not learn to properly read until he was in his late 20’s, conquered that major hurdle and began to read as many books as he could find. He developed a particular passion for self-help and business-related books. Although he had never owned a business at the time, he taught us the value of entrepreneurship and that we can do anything we put our minds to, keeping God first, and never giving up. Today, I feel blessed to have been taught that entrepreneurship was possible for me and even when things have been extremely challenging, I remind myself to never give up.
My family calls me the “GREAT NETWORKER,” frequently referring to my ability to speak to anyone and make others comfortable enough to share with me. This has played a major role in my ability to build and maintain relationships that have taken me far professionally, unknowingly increasing my net worth from building my network. And in business this is extremely important. My parents taught me to never burn bridges and always treat people with respect because even though they may forget what you said, they will remember how you made them feel. These things have all led me to the career I now have in marketing, which in my experience requires compassion, empathy, creativity, understanding people, a network and a willingness to listen.
I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer. I love film, sports and music and was always debating various topics. It wasn’t until my junior year at Stanford that I was exposed to marketing and event planning. I was chosen as one of two brand ambassadors for a new platform called CurrentTV (started by Al Gore) and worked to market and lure students to our events, providing incentives and sharing the benefits of signing up. I got to interact with many people and felt a sense of accomplishment from meeting our goals. It was super exciting. It was then I discovered that it’s how you talk to people and what you understand about their interests that dictates what you say to convince them to take a chance on what you are selling. That has remained a constant in how I approach solutions for my clients’ problems. While in college, I eventually served as the Director of Communications for the National Board of my sorority Sigma Theta Psi, which gave me experience with managing the image of an entity, further enhancing my messaging capabilities and sense of responsibility for more than just my needs.
My first marketing job was with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company where I served as a Consumer Marketing Territory Manager in Washington, DC. I had to build relationships with the customers who happened to be gas stations, grocery stores and any other place where cigarettes were sold. Though an extremely controversial product, I was able to successfully boost market share for my territory, which further confirmed that my developed rhetoric and system worked. After a while I was bored and wanted to work in a more exciting industry, which for me was entertainment. After working in tobacco, I felt I could do anything. So I’m 2011 I ambitiously started my company, which at the time was called Beam Marketing and Management. I sat with my twin sister and created the name BEAM, which stands for Beyond Entertainment Art and Media, as I knew then that whatever I did, I wanted to have a social impact. I wanted to help shine light on other’s gifts and ideas, and it was then that BEAM was birthed!
I developed a plan to focus on building brands in the arts industries and wanted to also represent emerging talent. Once I saw that artists desperately needed access to equipment and creative spaces, I began to dream bigger and wanted my own facility where I could nurture creativity and provide a space for that. I also aimed to build a community, facilitating collaboration. I realized then that this was bigger than me. My plan consisted of a multimedia production studio and ultimately a one-stop-shop to provide all services for my clients in-house. But I was still a one woman show and I discovered that I was not ready to take on such an endeavor. There was so much more to learn so I re-entered the job market.
After working for a few companies, I constantly found myself being fired! Some reasons I was given were: “You just don’t fit the company culture,” and “you lack the enthusiasm required to effectively do the job.” And they were right. I had my own ideas on what the culture should be and knew that I had to create that for myself. It was official, I was “unemployable” as my mother would say. I was destined to work for myself and so I re-established what was then just a consultancy called BEAM Global Strategies. I wanted to get back to solving problems and this platform afforded me the opportunity to learn a little about a lot of different industries including entertainment, tech, consumer goods, and more. I was paid to do many things, including: build relationships and network on behalf of startups or individuals; create go-to-market strategies for domestic and international brands; and provide creative direction for websites and various forms on content. I also began managing the brand of a sports figure, a hip-hop artist and a few individual tech entrepreneurs. I was on top of the world, traveling domestically and making more money than ever before.
There were many ups and downs, both professional and personal. One of my main struggles was living with Bipolar Disorder. Although I had been diagnosed in college, I was not properly managing, eventually finding myself in a downward spiral to no money, living from place to place and lacking the motivation to carry forth with what was a burning desire in my heart—BEAM. I eventually started therapy and medication management, bringing me back to a place where I felt stable enough to continue on the journey. I moved home from California to DC with nothing, sleeping on a good friend’s futon, to a room with a family member, to even a strangers garage for a week. I didn’t recognize myself but knew this was not the life I was meant to live. I started to pursue some of my ideas for apps and continued building BEAM.
Fortunately, I received a call from a good friend from Stanford to move to Denmark and run the marketing department of his digital media company, New Arab Media. They create video games, apps and comic books depicting positive images of empowerment for the Middle Eastern market, particularly women. I had never been out of the country at 30 years old and this experience absolutely changed my life. After visiting a few times, I eventually moved to their office in Amman, Jordan where I lived for a year, experiencing the beautiful culture and what I felt was a majestic country. I learned a great deal about segmented and niche marketing, which prepared me for my next role. I began experiencing some challenges with my disorder as I was not managing properly, ultimately effecting my work, and leading to me once again being fired! I moved home to DC to help take care of my grandmother, who was my number one fan and believed in my dream, dare I say, more than I did at the time. She passed away four days after I returned and I must say that her belief in me has inspired many of my choices that have led to various successes. Her dream to see me succeed meant the world to me and is still an inspiration. And thanks to my role with New Arab Media, I’d visited many countries, which I could then share with my grandmother who loved to travel. The overall experience inspired my passion to take an international approach to my work.
I took a job at Carol H. Williams Advertising, serving as an Account Director for two major clients, again being responsible for client relationship management and strategy. The company focused on building campaigns for the African American market, putting me in another position where I was focused on a niche audience. I, unfortunately, was laid off due to budget constraints, which led me to revisit my dream. Here I was again, starting over. I had to think long and hard about what I really wanted and what would be fulfilling. I’d engaged enough industries, gained enough experience and met enough people to begin to build the business of my dreams. I rebranded for the last time, calling the company what it is today—Beam Creative Agency. I felt that name encompassed all that I’d dreamed of and the work I wanted to execute on behalf of clients. I’ve developed creative strategies and content; while also providing space to nurture art and creativity. Things were going pretty well, but I knew I needed to build my profile a bit more to gain what I thought was important, which was more credibility, a stronger network, and tools to help with business management and execution.
I entered grad school at Georgetown University, finishing with a Masters in Leadership. This program taught me many things about business, which I now utilize in operating BEAM. I’d spread myself across industries, which unfortunately was not helping me to be known for anything in particular. I then moved to Los Angeles in July of 2019 to focus on building clients in the entertainment industry, with the goal to open a studio and become a creative agency partner to production studios, record labels and more. I also wanted to build the talent division of my company to manage artists of all sorts. I have proudly signed four fantastic hip-hop artists: Nardo Tre-P, Jaydee Anthony, Sun.Draey, and The Beatbox Elephant; all of whom are extremely talented. What I am most proud of is opening a multimedia production studio here in LA within the first two months of living here. With the studio, I am living my dream, having a one-stop-shop to create on behalf of our clients. We have many capabilities including music production, film production, voiceovers, podcasts, website development, talent management, events, marketing and branding.
Covid-19 has played a major role in the new direction of BEAM, considering we had to pivot in the face of the pandemic. Today we focus less on marketing specifically and more on content creation, production, intellectual property development, and talent management. Beyond business, I want to make a difference. I am extremely passionate about doing what I can to help bridge the gap for access to information and opportunities for under-served and underprivileged communities. I know this is apart of my purpose and we have IP in development that will support this endeavor. As always, I keep God first and this has and will carry me into my future according to his will for me and the work I do to see it through!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road has definitely not been smooth! However, I am thankful for all of the things that have not gone in my favor; from getting fired to not winning a contract to getting no’s in response to requests for funding of IP. They have all shaped my desire to fight harder for my dream and have shifted how I navigate business. In fact, they have made me dream bigger as I know each no is preparing me for the manifested YES!
Please tell us about Beam Creative Agency.
We are a one-stop-shop creative agency! We provide marketing and branding; multimedia production; and talent management services. We specialize in go-to-market strategies and brand management.
We are most proud of opening the studio for creative projects and collaboration, as well as launching our Membership program, providing affordable access to our resources. We house another small business, KSV Artistry, which provides makeup and skincare services, also performed in the studio. Lastly, we are currently producing our own content including a podcast, web-series, and artist showcase; all rolling out very soon!
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I would have sought my niche sooner. Entertainment is a lot of fun and I believe having fun in your career plays a role in your success. I also would have delegated more effectively!
- Underground Member – Music Production & Audio Recording: $100/month
- Mainstream Member – Studio facility rental for photoshoots and video shoots: $200/month
- Global Member – Facility, equipment and software for your creative needs: $300/month
- Website: www.beamcreativeagency.com
- Phone: 213-372-5156
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @beamcreativeagency
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/beamcreativeagency