Entrepreneurship Stories, Special Edition: Black-Owned Business Month, featuring Gerald Griffith
Entrepreneurship is a community sport.
Entrepreneurs from every race, creed, industry, and background need the help and support of our entire community. Our team at the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) works day and night to support businesses from kids to CEOs and industries to startups.
August is “Black-Owned Business Month” in America. In light of COVID-19 and the issues facing our nation and, as a way of showing our support, we will be featuring four black entrepreneurs who are closely connected to our local Cherokee entrepreneurship community — Fresh Start Cherokee, the entrepreneurship initiative of COED. These entrepreneurs have unique stories to tell, are working hard to pivot and thrive, and are staying positive despite the challenging environment.
These inspiring stories will shed a well-deserved light on their incredible leadership, business, and resilience. Follow all the stories on the cherokeega.org news page each Monday and via social media to like, follow, and share these stories.
Story 3: Gerald Griffith, VoiceOver City Media
Gerald is a military veteran of The United States Army. Originally from Florida, he relocated to Woodstock, GA, in 2009. He is active in the community and enjoys meeting new people. He lives with his wife and two teenage children in Woodstock.
Tell us about your background, career journey, and how you became an entrepreneur? What is VoiceoverCity Media?
My background is a pretty mixed bag. I am originally from Florida where I grew up as the last of 11 kids. I was always around extended family and as the nephew of a pastor, I often found myself around very social and engaging people. That continued as I became a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Combat Veteran of the United States Army. It is in my DNA to want to contribute to the growth and development of others.
VoiceoverCity Media Services has become so much more than a business that started off as a voiceover training and event resources provider. I personally work with people and organizations to find creative ways for them to leverage various types of media to increase awareness of their events, products, or services. I am a “Partner in Education” at Etowah High School and E.T. Booth Middle School where I spend time sharing with kids who have an interest in media. I have a kid that attends each of these schools, and they are also involved in the media programs. One of the highlights for me is being able to assist with the live streaming of their sports programs.
Have you personally experienced any unique challenges or obstacles? If so, how have you overcome those?
As someone who relocated to Cherokee County in 2009, I had ZERO connections within the community. That was a huge challenge when you are in a smaller community where referrals and word-of-mouth are often the way businesses grow and evolve. I started a voiceover conference from nothing that grew into the largest event of its kind, attracting people from around the world. Yet, here in Cherokee, I am largely unknown.
In this county, it takes time to build relationships and earn the trust of those making decisions. If you are working with schools, churches, or community organizations, it is important to understand things are often decided by committees, which can slow the process. If you do not have any connections that can speak up for you, it is going to be a harder road to travel. It is still possible to get through these layers, but it takes time and patience.
Has COVID-19 caused you or your business, VoiceoverCity Media, to adapt?
PIVOT….PIVOT…. PIVOT….PIVOT. It is very important that both people and businesses understand that pivoting is crucial to success and survival. There will be times and situations that arise which are completely unforeseen and if we cannot adjust our plans, goals, ideals, we are likely to fail. There is simply no better example than our current COVID-19 climate. You must make a choice whether you are going to pivot and find a new way forward or become stuck looking in the rearview mirror thinking about the past.
You have been part of Fresh Start Cherokee’s program, 1 Million Cups, and a member of The Circuit – Cherokee’s first coworking space – since the end of 2019. How has staying engaged within the community and a team helped you in ways that being alone could not?
Being a part of 1 Million Cups and The Circuit coworking space has been great for me. Every couple of weeks, I have a chance to watch other businesses share their plans and ideas. Even though I mostly focus on the live stream I provide, I also take time to ask questions or engage the speakers concerning their pitch. This is a small community and information can often be missed but being a part of The Circuit helps me stay connected and informed about what is happening in the area.
How did you come to have such a positive perspective amid challenges? Why is that important?
Our reaction to the moment makes a big difference in how our situation unfolds. It does not mean I see everything through rose-colored glasses, but it does mean I strive to make a conscious choice to have rose-colored thinking. After all, being mad, angry, or quitting is highly unlikely to move you any closer to a solution. One thing that keeps me positive is taking time to visit nature. My favorite place is the beach, but there are other places in nature that will work too. When you take time to get away from everything, you have time to remember that life is more than the things we surround ourselves with or the titles we wear. Nothing reminds me of this more than watching the sunrise over the ocean as I listen to the sounds of the surf.
How are you working to stay visible and keep a competitive advantage?
I am staying in touch with my contacts at schools, local businesses, and The Circuit.
What lessons have you learned recently about yourself or your business?
Between the loss of my oldest brother on New Year’s Eve, COVID-19 which wiped my calendar clean, and a recent health emergency involving a family member, I’ve learned that what I do is about more than business in terms of dollars and cents. It is about finding ways to positively contribute to those I meet. I have learned that in a minute everything you thought you knew could change and what you are left with is something you could have never prepared for.
How can we as a community best support you now and in the future?
Since my business efforts are supportive in nature, it is important that the question is asked in reverse; ‘how can my business support the community?’ We can do that by providing quality media related services and consulting to help local businesses and organizations better connect with their clients, supporters, and the overall community. For example: working with local ministries to improve their live stream/media outreach; working with local schools and sports leagues to broadcast their events to a larger audience; and working with local cities to provide ways for them to extend their reach and visibility within surrounding areas.
One area myself and other small business owners could benefit from is being able to take part in larger community-based projects.
Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much to point a camera at something and “go live,” but it takes a truly committed company to work with clients to understand their goals, develop strategies to reach those goals, and provide ongoing support.
My goal is to build a partnership versus being a vendor who is out to make a quick buck. I want to know that my services make a difference.
Tell us how we can learn more about you and your business.
To learn more about me, you could always follow my page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ggriff2k. If you want to learn more about my company, feel free to visit https://voiceovercity.com and check out some of the various options and services there.
Lastly, I am working on a side-project I started when the COVID-19 era began, and I found myself sitting at home with a blank calendar and the need to find something to pour my energy into. The result of that was a regional directory designed to cater to area businesses and organizations. It’s called the “Guide to 575” (https://guideto575.com), and it offers free basic listings for businesses and organizations in the area. There are already over two-thousand listings, and we are looking forward to having it grow even more.
Stay tuned for the final Monday in August, as we continue to shed a light on black entrepreneurs in Cherokee — from Waleska to Woodstock and in between to Ball Ground, Holly Springs, and Canton. We hope you are inspired by these stories and motivated to patronize and support these local entrepreneurs.
Have ideas, questions, or stories? Reach out to us at cherokeega.org or emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.