An entertainment promoter and documentary filmmaker, Ty is dedicated to cultural diversity and positive race relations in Charlottesville and beyond. He has also been an advocate for social, economic, and educational development in the community. Since 1993, Ty has promoted over a thousand events, managed national and independent musicians, and comedians and has even written his own stage plays.
In an effort to address the lack of inclusive arts programming, Ty developed Lifeview Marketing (as a junior at Norfolk State University!). Not only did this fill a void in the world of college events and entertainment, it also set out to equip artists of all backgrounds with the means to express themselves.
Referring to himself a “socio-preneur” rather than an entrepreneur, Ty devotes his career and artistic pursuits to opening up avenues for multi-culturalism, while closing the achievement gap. His current projects include a self-directed documentary about education accessibility for diverse communities and families, as well as a manuscript about successful marketing and events promotion tactics. Ty is also a founding member of the Black Professional Network of Charlottesville and serves as a Paramount Theater board of director. He has been active in creating a cohesive and unified community .
Lifeview Marketing is an entertainment marketing company which has morphed into a social improvement movement. It embodies the mission of promoting diversity through arts and culture. The company also provides marketing and branding services for city municipalities, nonprofits and private entities. We have produced television commercials, marketing strategies, and much more for political candidates and organizations. Providing a societal message in our clients’ campaigns is always our goal for connectivity purposes.
In the quest of Charlottesville becoming a World Class City, the city has been plagued by controversial cultural cues of the past. The lack of diversity in the area’s event programming and arts doesn’t allow the city of Charlottesville to represent the members of our communities. Lifeview’s mission has a grand relevancy in the effort of Charlottesville attaining its goal of becoming a World Class City. All community members must see themselves represented on the stages, walls, and airwaves, as a mirror image of what Charlottesville “is”.
Much of my inspiration comes from within as well as from the kindness of others. Currently, I am producing a nonprofit film project on the inaccessibility of an early education and have been made possible by the generosity of others. Initially, my plan was to simply pay for it myself because I wasn’t sure if the community would necessarily step up to support a film project. Some people look at a film as entertainment and not as a change agent. I understand the importance of awareness and how a film can be used as a conduit for change by providing a sense of empowerment to people.
As I began talking to local Charlottesville community members about my idea, they displayed their faith in my passion to address this national issue. I began receiving donations.
This generosity has changed parts of my life in the sense of attitude and perception. Although, I have not reached my goal, I have never been more inspired by external factors than my current state. Supporters include people whom I attended junior high school with and have not seen or shared a phone conversation in over thirty years. The generosity of my supporters has inspired me to dive even deeper.
I founded my company in 1993 as an undergraduate student at Norfolk State University. Prior to launching the business, I interned multiple summers with one of Phillip Morris’ subsidiaries. Even earlier than college, I interned with Goldman Sachs. With a taste of corporate culture, the entrepreneurial route was attractive. Initially, the motivational factor was to achieve self-sufficiency, revenue and to be the captain of my own ship. It wasn’t romantic at all.
As a college student, I saw a niche and a void to be filled. Every student appreciated an outlet, so I created events such as College Weekend on the Slopes; worked with Coca Cola to present Freaknic’ in Atlanta, which attracted over 250,000 people to the city of Atlanta; organized Black College Reunion in Daytona Beach and College Weekend at Kings Dominion, as well as parties, concerts, celebrity sporting events, stage plays, etc. The company expanded rapidly throughout the eastern seaboard.
The initial steps to starting Lifeview Marketing simply started by developing the vision of an entertainment company which would cater to college students throughout the country. A couple of pages in a music business book was the most relevant information I was able to find so the “how to” manual wasn’t available. I looked at current major events that I would either push other promoters out of business and do what they were doing or form a collaborative effort.
The choice ended up being the testosterone and competition-driven option. College Day at Kings Dominion was very popular with the Black college market throughout the D.C. metropolitan region, Virginia and parts of North Carolina, and attracted tens of thousands of students and non-students. I turned the event into a multi-day extravaganza which provided hotel, parties, and park tickets.
After my company’s takeover, the event attracted the television network Black Entertainment Television (B.E.T.), which was the entity which brought live national artists to the event and broadcasted annually on television. This is when Lifeview was founded.
I don’t know what the biggest positive impact of my career has been but I do have proud moments. I take much pride in providing opportunities for people, such as artists, with the opportunity of expression. Through these artists, I have the chance to inspire audience members and the net is casted widely.
I received an award in 1998 for the Entertainment Company of the Year in Hampton Roads. At that award show, mega producer Timbaland received Producer of the Year, and I believe mega producer Teddy Riley also received an award. An independent artist whom I granted the opportunity to open for a concert I promoted at the Hampton Convocation Center with major hip-hop artists, approached me that day. He told me the only reason he pursued a music career was because of the chance I had given him to perform in front of thousands of people and to share the stage with his music idols.
When you have a hand, or even part of a finger to influence your brother human to pursue his dreams, there is really no greater impact you can have on this society.
Definition of Success
Success is very relative and even arbitrary at times. I look at success as something I acquire every time my vision becomes a reality. When I sit in my living room without lights on late at night and hear my thoughts and the random vehicles here and there, passing by my window, ideas pop into my brain about ways I can make our society a better place.
In 2012, I was informed that a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I returned home to Charlottesville after vacationing, I sat on my sofa and a tear streamed down my cheek. It was completely dark and an idea popped up to create a series of events during the month of March and title it, Paint the City Pink Campaign. This month long series would include a 5K run/walk, comedy show, fashion show, hockey matches, hike, and more to honor my friend who was diagnosed, as well as my aunt who experienced invasive surgery, and every other woman and man who went to battle against the disease. Everything that I had envisioned sitting on my sofa in the dark with my coat still on became a reality in March 2012. This was a defining moment of success. The events were well-attended but the defining moment was the vision to reality. That is how I measure success.
Since 1993, I have promoted over 1,000 events throughout the country and each event starts off as a vision. I have had events with 6,000 people in attendance at an arena and have been involved in an event with over 250,000 in attendance over the course of the weekend. Some may state that one of my events is more successful than the other, but I disagree. Yes, there may be possibilities that the more in attendance can bring in more revenue but that is not how I define success for me.
Traits of an Entrepreneur
I believe whatever formula works for an individual in considering themselves successful is the formula they should choose. My grit, persistence and courage came from watching my father work relentlessly to provide for his family. Born and raised in Harlem, NY, everything I wanted came from persistence and a will to come up against others to get it. Although our community was tough, it was the norm and provided me with the tenacity to know without much doubt that anything I wanted was attainable.
I am confident in stating that the following should be considered:
1) Be purpose-driven: Do everything with a purpose. A purpose-driven business person is a person with a plan. There is a reason for everything. Lifeview Marketing puts people first and our mission has always been about the people we serve. The name of the company arrived because the concept of one’s VIEW of LIFE is why we make the decisions we make and why we react to things that happen to us.
2) Set goals: Goals equip you with the tools needed to stay on a path and provide a focus.
3) Be the entrepreneur who is action-oriented and challenges the societal norms. Andrew Carnegie stated, “As I get older, I no longer listen to what men say, I watch what they do.” Be the entrepreneur to lead by example and not by talking. Be a leader and do not fear taking chances.
In 2009, I had arrived at the point in my career where I considered myself as a “socio-preneur.” When serving the community throughout nearly every thread of your business, then you have the responsibility to place those people first. Your legacy on this earth is only determined by what you have done and not by what you said you were going to do.
The definition of founding is having the foresight to see what something can be and the willingness to sacrifice to attain its functionality.
Thoughts on Failure
If a person believes in success, then they must believe in failure. I view failure as walking away from a goal before reaching it. If I am unable to convert a vision into an initiative or reality, then I failed.
Failure does not occur when there are other individuals outside of yourself determining the result. The will to fail is within, the same as the will to succeed.
Not succeeding is never something I think about. Once the vision is established, I do everything needed to convert it into a reality. I do think of the process of arriving to that reality point and the things that can impact reaching the goal.
When I am bringing one of my events to the Paramount, such as the United Nations of Comedy Tour, my mind is on hiring an eclectic mix of national comics and assuring the goal of representing the community on that stage is accomplished. As a business owner, my events and projects must be profitable if I plan to sustain a successful career, but the revenue is not in the top three list of priorities.
For the first five years in business, every event I promoted was profitable. I had written a stage play in 1997 which brought in 1,050 ticket buyers on its debut evening. With the great profits of its debut, a few months later in 1998 I decided bring the play back to the same market of Norfolk, Virginia and lost approximately $10K. Returning to the market so soon was a misstep and was a result of greed. I did not view it as failure.
I always have projects in front of me, but the newest project I am working on is producing and directing the documentary film, “America’s Darkest Future: The Wage of an Inaccessible Early Childhood Education.” The project entered production in March 2016. The film is an effort to create awareness for what I consider as a systemic issue in our society of not providing a high quality pre-kindergarten education to all American children. We provide comparisons to what is provided in the U.S. education system and to the universal system provided in Nordic countries such as Sweden. This effort is a national project as we travel the country documenting programs that are breaking the status quo with the idea of closing the achievement gap.
“How do we as a society guarantee that high-quality educational opportunities are available for all and not just those who can afford it? Is universal pre-K the answer? What does quality pre-K look like? How would it be paid for?” These are only some of the questions answered by the film.
Current events include the 6th Annual United Nations of Comedy Tour on November 12th at The Paramount Theater and the 10th Annual Best of Both Worlds Dance and Step Competition. These projects are initiatives to promote diversity through the arts. They are two different events and different times, both with the goal of bringing people who may not connect to place them under the same roof, laughing and enjoying the same events at the same time. For a moment, our similarities far exceed our differences. If you and I laugh at a joke at the same time, then answer the question, how different are we? The goal is to take a moment to realize this. Once we do, peace can be achieved.
Another project which will be released in 2017 is my manuscript about promoting in the entertainment industry. I’ll be providing the reader with the “how to’s” of event promotion.
In 1998, I stumbled upon Charlottesville as I exited Highway 64 to get fuel, en route to Massanutten Ski Resort. During this fuel stop, I shared a conversation with a young lady who informed me of the entertainment promotion opportunities there. Later, I promoted a sold out concert at PVCC which was small for me at the time, but the after-party also sold out which gained my interest.
Nearly every year after that event, I brought other events to Charlottesville, such as the New Legends of Streetball Tour, comedy shows and concerts. During these promotions, I was only visiting the city twice a year, once to set up the marketing and later to present the event. It was not until 2008 after opening an eco-friendly dry cleaners in Charlottesville, when I began to appreciate the offerings of the city.
As a single father, my daughter was a junior in high school and preparing to enter her senior year, so where she was going to attend school was the most important happening in our home. Afraid of being in an empty nest, I figured if she attended UVA then I would be able to bother her every time I wanted. So, opening the business on Main Street would be a strategic move. Well, to make a long story short, she received early admission to the Engineering School at Virginia Tech so my plan backfired. I looked at Blacksburg for a space to relocate my business, but decided Charlottesville would be a better business decision, so I remained. Something told me that my daughter wanted her space.
In 2009, I moved to Charlottesville as my daughter went off to school. As a result of the dry cleaners I own, I met some very interesting people in Charlottesville. It was normal for people to come into the cleaners to drop off items and end up staying in the store for thirty minutes because of the range of conversation shared. We would speak about politics, culture, worldviews, family and so much more.
The component which makes the city great are the people. Those clients were the sole reason for me remaining in Charlottesville. I still own a dry cleaning service and many are clients whom I serviced in that physical storefront. Since I have been in Charlottesville, I have devoted time on a variety of organizations’ boards, mentored the youth and invested in our community.
It is very difficult to evaluate how the city of Charlottesville is nurturing to entrepreneurs, because entrepreneurs do not necessarily have identical needs based on the industry they are within. Generally, I have heard good things about the support received by a catering company from the Office of Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce is extremely active in providing great networking opportunities.
For my business, I have receive great support from the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau and contracts through different departments within the city and support from Charlottesville Dialogue on Race. For me and most entrepreneurs, financial support and opportunity is a major need for us to nurture sustainability. I have benefited from the opportunities, but I can always use more substantial outreach from the city.
I would like to see Charlottesville become a cultural melting pot. It does not have to become a mini New York, because Charlottesville should be Charlottesville and nothing else.
But, I would like to walk down Main Street and see Asian sculptures, African-American art, Spanish music blaring from a Latino restaurant and other visual and audio interpretation of other cultures representing our community members backgrounds.
I want to wake up on nearly any given morning and say to my fiancee, there is a Black play I want to take you to, instead of receiving that opportunity once a year for a few weeks or so.
I want a wide selection of music genres performing live providing us with a choice. A friend of mine sarcastically says this to me regularly, “As if we need another guy with a guitar coming to Charlottesville.” I laugh because I understand his point and it is so true, sarcastically, of course.
If we can embrace a multicultural movement, then we really can become a World Class City.