Entrepreneur Amani Olu on Going From Faculty Dropout to the Artwork World’s Go-To PR Guru

Entrepreneur Amani Olu on Going From College Dropout to the Art World's Go-To PR Guru

No two paths to a profitable profession within the artwork world look the identical. In our collection “Profession Tales,” we’re checking in with a number of the high-powered individuals within the artwork trade to listen to about the whole lot from their first brushes with artwork to the recommendation they’d give their youthful selves.

Entrepreneur Amani Olu has revolutionized art-world advertising and marketing. By assembly his shoppers on the intersection of artwork, activism, and social justice, Amani and his group at Olu & Firm, the advertising and marketing consultancy he based, assist people and organizations flip ardour into motion. Earlier than discovering his option to art-world entrepreneurship, Amani labored within the narrower, extra staid subject of public relations.

“That’s when issues received actual,” Olu says of his first PR gig again in 2010. “That’s once I thought to myself, ‘Oh, there’s ranges to this.’” Along with helming Olu & Firm, Olu co-founded and leads a non-profit devoted to supporting rising photographers and just lately entered the tech sphere with IMG SRVR, a brand new platform that goals to alter the way in which the world shares photographs.

The serial entrepreneur took day trip of his packed schedule to inform us how he received to the place he’s now—and the way he will get all of it carried out. Learn on to seek out out what he makes use of to remain organized, why the founding of IMG SRVR has been a decade within the making, and the way he cultivates motivation as an influence multitasker.

How did you get right here? What’s your background, and what drew you to work in arts and tradition?

I used to be a scholar at Temple College majoring in English, however I felt it was too prescriptive. I wished to be on the planet already doing one thing. I used to be at school as a result of I felt I used to be speculated to be. So in 2002, I dropped out. I first pursued skilled breakdancing, however I additionally had a enterprise sensibility so I used to be educating dance on the aspect too. I began a web site referred to as b.knowledgeable (a play on b-boying) about dance and humanities in Philly, and finally turned it right into a print journal. 

In 2005, I ceased publishing and moved to New York Metropolis. My first job in New York was as a photograph editor at Shutterstock. Whereas there, I met Jon Feinstein, and collectively we created Humble Arts Basis. Trying again, I took on these alternatives as a result of I used to be curious and simply had concepts about how issues needs to be carried out.

Olu & Firm developed and executed a complete media marketing campaign for Incarceration Nations Community, elevating their profile and selling The Writing on the Wall, an set up they developed in collaboration with artist Hank Willis Thomas. Picture by Chemistry Inventive.

Olu & Firm is described as “a advertising and marketing and enterprise consultancy for people and organizations on the intersections of artwork, design, activism and social justice.” What set you on the trail to founding an organization that might meet shoppers at these intersections? 

It was not intentional. After I left Nadine Johnson & Associates [the public relations firm he joined in 2010], I believed I might open a gallery. That didn’t work out. Then I believed I’d be {a magazine} editor. That didn’t work out. My pal [writer] Ann Binlot instructed me sooner or later again then—she most likely doesn’t keep in mind this—that I used to be publicist and that I ought to get again into it. After some thought, I made a decision to start out my very own company. 

Again then, I just about took any job I may get. I launched a number of galleries which might be revered at present and solely charged round $500 per thirty days. The cash was horrible, however I stayed with it. Over time, I used to be in a position to safe extra shoppers and enhance my retainers, after which, out of the blue, the artwork world turned fixated on Black artwork. After I began Olu & Firm, we weren’t pondering of social justice initially—it wasn’t a “factor” within the artwork world. However in hindsight, the whole lot was in place for social justice to be a factor. 

When Black artists regarded round, Olu & Firm was the one of many solely Black-led and operated PR corporations working within the artwork world. They feared that white establishments wouldn’t perceive their work and attempt to silence it, in order that they employed us to deal with messaging, communications, and media outreach. From there, organizations and companies adopted swimsuit and earlier than I knew it, we discovered ourselves at these intersections. It took a little bit of perseverance and the world altering. Not all of our shoppers are at this intersection, however lots of them are. We felt positioning ourselves on this method may sign to potential shoppers that we’re socially aware and critical about artwork. We’re versatile between these worlds and now they more and more overlap. I’m additionally Black, so it was inevitable.

What’s one thing you suppose individuals misunderstand concerning the enterprise of artwork? 

Many individuals don’t understand how excessive the playing cards are stacked in opposition to them by way of succeeding on this enterprise long-term. The sport is actually designed for most individuals to fail. It may very well be 15 years earlier than you discover a constant stride on this enterprise. Does everybody have the endurance and capability to carry on for that lengthy? That’s a query one ought to ask earlier than deciding they need to be on this enterprise.

Artist Dario Calmese, a consumer of Olu & Firm, who turned the primary Black photographer to shoot a Self-importance Truthful cowl when he took a portrait of Viola Davis for the September 2020 cowl. Calmese labored with Amani and his group to assist promote the second from his perspective, they usually developed a complete media plan for him. Picture by Rikki Wright.

Nowadays, you’re leaping into the technical aspect of issues with the launch of IMG SRVR, an all-in-one media platform designed to make picture sharing simple. How did you break into the tech world coming from a background in arts and tradition? 

It’s all linked. To be in tech doesn’t imply to be unconnected to the whole lot else. After I labored at Nadine Johnson & Associates, the publicists stored an inventory—extra like a e-book, actually—of top-tier individuals and recorded once they had been photographed at our occasions, particularly with shoppers. We compiled this e-book the old school method, by printing pages and sharing it with the consumer. It was very time-consuming. I developed a software program that reduce the time down from 4 hours to 15 minutes. Again then, IMG SRVR was already percolating. 

At Whitewall [magazine], I noticed there was no simple option to add, retailer, and share photographs amongst journalists and editors. We’d be able to publish a narrative however have solely low-resolution photographs, photographs with lacking captions, or no photographs in any respect. So I designed a few totally different variations of a web site to make it simpler. To at the present time, whenever you share photographs with somebody, you usually are sharing a Dropbox hyperlink after which a second doc with captions, if in any respect, or possibly the captions are within the title of the picture file. Both method, it’s messy, and I’m too kind A to stay in a world like that, so I developed IMG SRVR as an all-in-one media middle. We solely use IMG SRVR at my firm to share photographs with the press, and it needs to be available on the market this fall for all to make use of.

As somebody who was as soon as dubbed “the king of multitasking,” how do you keep organized? 

[Laughs] I take advantage of Calendly, Monday, Quickbooks, Invoice.com, Slack, Gmail, Google Calendar, and just about any app that may help in productiveness.

And in the identical vein—because the king of multitasking—how do you keep motivated? 

My curiosity retains me motivated. I’m additionally motivated by the prospect of serving to individuals clear up issues. I used to be at a bar as soon as, and a man was lamenting how low his credit score rating was, and inside minutes I had given him about 5 totally different methods on methods to enhance his rating inside 90 days—lame, I do know. And he was simply so appreciative. I used to be in a position to assist him clear up an issue that he thought was not possible to unravel. I assume it’s simply who I’m.

What’s one piece of recommendation you’ll give to your youthful self firstly of your profession?

The reply is within you.

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