Fashion tycoon and business icon Diane von Fürstenberg once said, “The success of every single woman is an inspiration for another.” After our recent sit down with Narrative CEO and Russell Simmons’ business partner Tricia Clarke-Stone, one couldn’t help but recall and muse on DVF’s wise words. The passion in which Clarke-Stone speaks of her work is beyond inspiring, and her feats nudge us to answer to our own calling. She has it all: limitless vision, bold audacity to pursue it, unapologetic confidence in her intellect and presence, and a bonus style sense that will ignite your inner fashionista. Tricia shared her experience partnering with one of entertainment’s biggest moguls, her process transitioning from employee to CEO, how women can capitalize off of our God-given emotion in the workplace and so much more. Read on and get inspired.
BlackEnterprise.com: You partnered with Russell Simmons for your latest venture, Narrative. Tell us exactly what it is.
Tricia Clarke-Stone: We consider ourselves more a collaborative than an agency, so we really focus on putting storytelling, technology and culture at the center of everything we do. We leverage those three pillars to challenge brands to tell stories the world can’t live without, because the way you connect with things is through stories and people; not brands. In terms of what our output is, we work on creative entertainment technology to really create brand experiences, products and campaigns across different platforms.
How did this whole concept of Narrative come about?
I’ve had a lot of experience working with agencies because I’ve been on the media and marketing side, and then I’ve worked with a ton of brands. So, what I started seeing was you have these really big agencies that kind of operate from an archaic sensibility. They have a formula, it’s working for them, and they’re continuing to do it. And then you have these more niche-focused agencies that are more relegated to events or digital and social, but there’s a big disconnect if a brand is using one of these big agencies and then going to a small agency for digital and social. The brand messaging gets muddled. I wanted to bring some continuity to that so that we would be an agency that can really do things through the line: We can do strategy, creative, and it doesn’t end there. We don’t ship it to another agency to actually execute; we do the execution as well. We’ll produce the commercial if it’s a commercial. We have a development team that’s internal, so if it requires product development or technology build we can build it. And then we can market it, iterate it, and stay close to it. Instead of shipping something out and then taking a step back, we’re constantly involved.
Prior to Narrative, you worked at Russell’s digital platform Global Grind. What was your role there?
I was brought in as Vice President of Sales and Operations… Within four months I quickly realized I couldn’t really package or sell things to these brands because the product and the content wasn’t there. That’s when I went to Russell and said I think we need to revamp this and figure out what the content strategy is, who our audience is, how are we reaching them, what can we be doing differently and how can we be a different kind of a publisher. We didn’t have that reach because we were small. I mapped all of that out and then we re-launched Global Grind to be more of a pop culture site instead of an urban skewed gossip site. It wasn’t really relegated to being a “black site.” It was about us bringing these two worlds together because now this millennial audience is focused on passion points and points of interest… Once that started panning out Russell promoted me to co-president, so that was in about four months.
Russell Simmons is such an icon and business mogul in the entertainment industry. What’s one of the most valuable things you’ve learned while working alongside him?
I think before I started working for him I was a big risk taker. It was calculated risks; you weigh the good and the bad. With him, there was always still a lot of apprehension and I think he kind of gave me that extra level of confidence to even take it a step further. The other thing, too, is really focusing on passion and purpose. You always do your best work when you have the passion for it and when it’s purposeful. That was always part of my ethos, but I think he showed me how you could really build a career and a track based on that.
Check out how Clarke-Stone became a CEO on the next page.