by Candace A. Gray —
For hundreds of years, Black people have been business owners – out of necessity in some cases and as the ultimate sign of freedom in others.
Finally, as a result of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others who fought for equality, it seems that in today’s world some entities are focused on making sure there is some intentionality about making sure Black businesses get a seat at the table. We are seeing government and other large businesses suggesting or even requiring a certain percentage of capital project spends be awarded to an MWBE (minority and women-owned business entity).
One might say it’s about time.
For Black History Month 2022, The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) will spotlight a few businesses from various industries led by Black men. In March – during Women’s History Month – the focus will shift to Black women in business.
Our Black Men in Business series kicks off with the creative industry and Kenneth Worles Jr., founder/CEO of Three(i) Communications and a former TSD contributor.
TSD: What type of business do you own? What do you do?
Kenneth Worles Jr.: Three(i) Creative Communications is a social-impact marketing agency that helps do-good brands, campaigns and organizations maximize engagement, build community relationships, and craft winning messages to make change. We are a small-but-mighty team of creatives, strategists, thinkers and doers with our HQ in Memphis, TN but our sidekicks are from all around the world.
TSD: How many employees do you have?
TSD: How long have you been in business for yourself?
KWJ: I’ve worked as a freelance designer for many years, but I launched the agency in 2017 while living in Washington, DC. We’re celebrating five amazing years in September!
TSD: What was your motivation for starting your business?
KWJ: Living in DC, you really get sucked into the progressive politics, so I really wanted to build an agency that prioritized people and purpose over products and profits. Our clients are non-profits, government agencies, education and health institutions, and brands with corporate social responsibility or diversity and inclusion initiatives. I also wanted to disrupt the standard look of the marketing and advertising industry – which is older white male-dominated. I’m looking to build an agency that looks like the real America – diverse in race, sex, culture, and experiences.
TSD: What impact does your business have or do you hope your business will have in the future? On your family, community, etc.
KWJ: (1) Our vision is to create a better tomorrow – for our staff, clients, local communities, and the next generation of creatives and storytellers that feel like they need to leave their hometown to win. (2) One thing I hope people say in the future is, Three(i) transformed the marketing and advertising industry while staying true to being an agency for do-gooders by do-gooders.
TSD: What advice do you have for someone who might be interested in entering your field?
KWJ: I could write a book on this, but I’ll settle on three pieces of advice.
(1) Provide value. Whether it’s to an agency or a client, always look to add value and help them become better. With that, you’ll win.
(2) Relationships matter. I know many people who are talented, but struggle to grow in the industry because they ignore relationship building. Your network will improve your net worth. (3) This supports #2, but I recommend joining the local chapters of PRSA, AAF, and AMA. This will help provide education, friends in the industry, and potential job opportunities.
TSD: What advice do you have for other Black business owner hopefuls?
KWJ: A successful business owner in Memphis once told me “Success comes to those who hold on long enough to see it.” And it’s true. I remember sending a huge proposal that took a year to win. If I had quit or collapsed before then, I wouldn’t have seen it happen.
TSD: If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing?
KWJ: I’d be a music exec supporting artists from the South or heavily focused on commercial real estate in Memphis. Two things, I think I’ll end up moving more towards in the years to come.
What do you think is the most important aspect of the product/service you provide?
KWJ: Engagement. We’re really good at making things look pretty, but that doesn’t create a better tomorrow. We make people take action, and our clients value this.
TSD: As a former Tri-State Defender employee, how did your time here prepare you for your current role?
KWJ: Tri-State Defender, under the leadership of the late Bernal (E) Smith (II) and Dr. (Karanja A.) Ajanaku, I managed the organization’s digital footprint, and it was an amazing experience. It really helped me understand and respect traditional media, and most importantly, I learned some of the ups and downs that can come with being a successful black-owned business. I still brag about the opportunities TSD provided for me – I mean, my first major branding project was designing the current print publication’s logo.
TSD: What professional accomplishment or major milestone are you most proud of?
KWJ: Honestly, my most proud accomplishment changes every year. Lol. We’re always ourselves to do bigger or better things at Three(i). So currently, I’m super proud to provide our staff with amazing health benefits, retirement benefits, and a wellness stipend to support things from fitness to therapy. Some seasoned business owners are reading this and thinking “that’s it”, but it was a big deal for Three(i) to support our team’s wellbeing as soon as we had an opportunity to do so. It’s a hell of a feeling to hear “I’m going to the eye doctor for the first time in years!”
TSD: Anything else you’d like to add?
KWJ: Memphis minority entrepreneurs and small businesses are the life heart of the city, and I truly appreciate Tri-State Defender for highlighting and uplifting our stories.
Also, if you’re looking to increase engagement, build community relationships, and capture your audience with bold storytelling, visit weare3i.com today.