*October is National Women’s Small Business Month, honoring the accomplishments of female owned businesses and their importance to the economy.
Innovative entrepreneurs Dina Marto and Courtney Rhodes are women of color with notable careers, decades working in music and marketing, who recently joined forces to start C&D The Agency – C for Courtney and D for Dina. They discussed their new business, careers and more with EURweb.com.
“We talked about it (C&D The Agency) for a while and Dina and I have had the pleasure of working together before and we developed a friendship. We would always have offline conversations about maneuvering the waters of a male dominated industry,” says Rhodes.
Marto is General Manager of Grand Hustle Records and every day, well she is hustling, on the grind seriously taking care of business with rapper, actor, songwriter T.I., among others on the label.
“I am currently working with T.I. on his internal management team, helping him run his operation and I’ve been doing that for about three years now. Previously I worked at Island Def Jam with LA Reid for six years on his A&R (artists and repertoire) team,” says Marto who was born in Amman, Jordan and grew up in Marietta, Georgia.
While at Def Jam Marto was A&R coordinator for albums by several rap and R&B stars including Young Jeezy, Nas, Rick Ross, Janet Jackson, and LL Cool J.
Rhodes has “acquired a unique niche for identifying and accommodating brands’ need analysis” with some 20 years of experience in devising marketing and sales strategies that generated millions of dollars for her clients many of whom are powerful Fortune 500 corporations including Ford, Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) and CBS-TV.
While Rhodes doesn’t like to talk about hierarchy but does note, “It is important to have women in your circle kind of above you on the ladder to nurture you and guide you and just have someone to share ideas with,” she says.
Rhodes believes women can help to end stereotypes about themselves in the workplace, particularly an age-old one concerning women undermining each other, “Represent something that does not fit the stereotype that women don’t work well together. We want to display that in the work that we do together inside the agency, out in the community and just really do meaningful work with women, around women, about women to really celebrate that.”
As COVID-19 rages across America responsible for over 200,000 deaths and climbing; the reason thousands of businesses are closing their doors, these innovators were not deterred about launching their business during the pandemic. They are determined to empower and mentor the next generation of women.
Rhodes offers this sound advice to women who may be considering opening a business: be sure to do the necessary research beforehand.
“I think business seems a little more sexy than what it really is. Sometimes as women because of our intuitive and passionate strengths we don’t like to look at the numbers and the financial side as granular as we necessarily need to.” Rhodes advised women to create a business plan with real financials. “Know before you start that business where the clients are going to come from and how many clients you are going to need to sustain.”
When explaining the genesis of their business partnership Marto declared the seeds were sown through their friendship, “We’ve talked about it and played around with the idea for a while because we are friends and we do see things the same way a lot. We’re aligned spiritually,” Marto said.
Rhodes echoed the sentiment of an unknown author who said that friendship was “like a patchwork quilt of caring words, and thoughtful deeds, all stitched together with understanding,” when making an admission about their partnership.
“I have wanted a partner for a very long time. I have had people approach me, but it never felt right.” Rhodes admitted their synergistic friendship made their business partnership make sense. “The one thing that Dina and I have that I’ve never felt before is because of our friendship no matter what we talk about or how the discussions may go I know her intentions are pure. Because I know that it gives me a level of confidence and ease, we can work through anything.”
They encourage registered voters to cast their ballots on Tuesday, November 3, Election Day maintaining how it puts them one step closer to bigger change. Rhodes and Marto have organized a voting initiative entitled #ExerciseYourRights.
“We want to get more information out there for first time voters, for voters that are typically suppressed, for voters that have voted before. They’re making things a lot more difficult these days,” says Marto. This is their agency’s inaugural project aimed at combating voter suppression in Georgia during the 2020 election. “We just want to use our voices to get the information to combat the voter suppression.”
The campaign’s mission is to educate and encourage registered voters to know their legal rights and to support efforts to create a safe and accessible election.
Marto is excited to be working with T.I. on his latest album LI.B.R.A. (The Legend Is Back Running Atlanta) which is filled with some of the top award-winning artists in the music business – John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Jadakiss, and Young Thug, to name a few of the artists.
“He just put out his eleventh album called The L.I.B.R.A. I helped him launch his ‘expediTIously’ podcast, which I helped him produce that’s on PodcastOne and you can hear through Apple Podcasts and Spotify.”
Rhodes connects and empowers women through her online program, Digital CEO School.
“It’s an online course that teaches women how to use their personal brands and their expertise to monetize their talent. It’s an incredible passion project of mine – empowering women,” Rhodes said.
You can find out more about C&D The Agency and their voting rights efforts by visiting canddtheagency.com.
By Tené Croom