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The Hip Hop culture is spreading across all cultures worldwide. It is not only the Black music that is attracting new fans daily. The Hip Hop lifestyle including fashion and way of expression attracts young people in every country. The demand for unique Hip Hop products creates an ever growing Hip Hop market. An industrious African-American lady decided to tap into the market and help to popularize Hip Hop even more while achieving her business goals. Afritopic had a discussion with the business woman Lauren Coleman.

Lauren Coleman

Afritopic: How did you know about the Black Media Congress?

Lauren: I learned about the Black Media Congress through one of the organizers, Mr. Satti. A mutual friend of mine introduced him to me several months before the event. We discussed about my company and my business activities in Paris , France . He was impressed about what we were doing and invited me to participate in the congress. I accepted the invitation.

Afritopic: Do you live in Paris?

Lauren: I live in Paris and in Los Angeles , California . I have offices in both cities so I shuttle between them. My company is 10 years old this year, 2004. I started out doing publicity and promotions for the Black Music and Film in the United States . About 2 years ago I decided to start a creative visional division devoted to production and distribution of Black Music DVDs, specifically Hip Hop music. Apart from music DVDs, the company is also involved in merchandising other Hip Hop related products in Europe and Japan . Hip Hop related in this case means activities or products that could result from or be associated with Black/Hip Hop lifestyle. The product could be documentary, events, fashion or even sport like basketball.

Afritopic: Would you say that your business is a Black business?

Lauren: Definitely. All members of my staff are Black. It is a Black business. The consumers are however both Black and White, with the majority being the later. Black entertainment is very exciting. It is really hot and I feel privileged to be part of it, helping to spread it around the world through my company Punch Media. Punch Media is a multimedia company specializing in Hip Hop. The mission of the company is to inform and entertain audiences and artists around the world interested in Hip Hop. Hip Hop is more than the music alone. Hip-hop includes the language, fashion and the lifestyle that combine to create a new culture across different generations both young and old. 

It is incredibly fascinating that wherever you go in the world you’ll find the influence of Hip Hop culture. Wherever people are marginalized, the Hip Hop culture would emerge in the marginalized segment. With my company, I aim to promote Hip Hop beyond all boundaries. I am the only American I know in this type of business in Europe . I am a pioneer. It is difficult but I enjoy doing what I am doing. On the international level, it is very challenging. I have to deal with different people in different countries with different business cultures. 

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Business deals are not easy. At the end of the day, I might have to ask myself some questions for example; what went wrong with the business deal with the Italian? How do I expand the good business with the French? Why am I having difficulty in securing business with the German? I have to handle different situations and try to find answers to the questions. Attending the Black Media Congress and hearing others talk about their project/business experiences is therefore quite inspiring. The mixture of people from different countries creates international energy and I wish that more of such events were organized.  

Afritopic: Did you develop the business all by yourself?

Lauren: Yes. All the pressure was on me right from the beginning. I spent most of the first year doing research. I learned about business start-up, collected information on promotion business in the music industry within the USA and later inquired about the requirements for operating business in France/Europe. In France , I had to look for firms in promotion business that I can work together with. An important issue in the business is finding the right partner. This is not always easy and requires negotiation skills. But I love doing everything involved in the business. 

During the discussions at the congress, the problems of creating Black business in Germany due to racial reasons came up. Yes, prejudice and racism might be a handicap but I believe that with self-motivation, good business idea coupled with solid business strategy, one could achieve a set business goal. Our generation has the opportunity to realize its business aspirations and compete on international level. My mother’s generation had it far more difficult. We should stop mourning about difficulties and handicaps. Instead, we should learn the business game and how to form partnerships in the global market. We should equip ourselves with all the necessary business tools/skills that will enable us to be ready for the business challenges of the new century. This is not easy and is somewhat scary. But we should be prepared to move on and continue to learn on the way to success.

Comparing the Black community in the USA to the Black community in Germany , I think that the community in the USA has moved a bit ahead. Most of the issues being discussed at the congress were tackled in the early sixties by the African-Americans in the USA . Today, we have quite a number of highly successful African-American businesses. I believe that the experience and success stories of these business tycoons could be a source of advice and help in discussions relating to Black business in Germany/Europe. However, African-American entrepreneurs are still focused on the American and UK markets. I would encourage them to look beyond the UK and explore opportunities available in other European countries such as France , Italy and Germany .

Afritopic: Would you say that your college background has been especially helpful in your determination to develop your business?

Lauren: I would have loved to say yes. But my answer is yes and no. I was fortunate in my family. I attended a private school and graduated from one of the best colleges in the USA with very good grades. When I was younger, I thought that all you need is good grade from a top college. You just have to send your resume to firms and all doors are open for you. I later realized little by little that this is not true. I think that my educational background gave me the ability to create, dream and imagine what is possible as well as the faith and courage to go for it. I went to school in New York . I could not have gone anywhere else. In terms of business acumen, I do not believe that any course could give you all you need to be successful. It’s all about understanding how to take advantage of opportunities, how to meet people, network and play politics. Nobody is going to teach you all that. You have to get into the business and learn practically on the job.

Afritopic: As an American, did you experience a culture shock the first time you came to France/Europe?

Lauren: Many years ago, I decided to attend an international course offered by an American College with a campus in France . It was my first time in France . I noticed that the shops closed earlier than in the USA , the post office closed at lunchtime and taxi was not readily available. This was horrible for me and the European way of doing things was sort of strange to me at that time. But France somehow made an impact on me and ten years later, I decided to have a business in Paris . I came back to France when the time was right for me and it has been wonderful. No, I have not experienced much of culture shock. It is a different culture to the American culture. The differences do not matter to me anymore. There are things that annoy me both in the French as well as in my own culture. I feel this is quite normal. I am unlike one of those American women that have to live in France/Europe because their husbands are transferred by the firm they work for.  I chose to come to France and I can choose to leave anytime I want to. I decided to come to France out of love and adventure and I like it. France gives me what America cannot and America gives me what France do not have.

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Afritopic: Your business is located in Paris but you have also had business contacts in Germany . What is your impression about the Germans?

Lauren: I had to deal with Germans a couple years ago. I was in Munich on an invitation by Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG). This was in the process of finding partners and forming partnerships for my business. I really could not wait to leave Munich at that time. From my experience, the people were hard to deal with. They were incredibly closed-minded. They were not open to something new or risk-taking that we are used to in the USA . It seems that the Germans prefer to follow rules and do things or engage in businesses that have been done before, tested and approved.  This is difficult for me to comprehend and accept. Germany is definitely not a place for me to live. But I have learnt to appreciate other people and cultures for what they are. One could always find a positive side of a nation. For example, I love Berlin as a city booming with creativity, fashion, latest trends and entertainment. The city reminds me a bit of Yew York. As an American, particularly as a Black American, I hope to contribute through my company, Punch Media, to the popularity of Hip Hop and the black culture in Europe .

Afritopic: The Black Media Congress 2004 is the third event in Berlin and you are here for the first time. What is your opinion about the congress? What would you say is good about the concept and what do you think could be improved?

Lauren: I could see what is good about the congress and what appears to be the challenge. The congress is a very ambitious event. This is good because it tends to cover a lot of topics with the aim of exposing the participants to diverse issues. The downside of the attempt to present and discuss so many issues is the problem of information overflow. The participants have to attend too many presentations at very short intervals, which results in stressful situation. Moreover, one can only concentrate and fully participate in a limited number of discussions within a given period of time. The participants end up missing information and the day becomes very long. Overall, the congress is really commendable and the event’s facility is wonderful.

Afritopic: The number of congress participants is very low. In your opinion, what could have deterred many Blacks from attending the congress?

Lauren: In the opening press conference, referring to the May Ayim Award, a lady asked the question: “Why is the Award international and not limited to Germany ?” Taking the question into consideration, I have a feeling that the Blacks in Germany want to tackle the problems facing them in Germany before going on international level. There are still identity as well as community definition problems in Germany . It is therefore very likely that many Blacks in Germany are not ready to discuss international issues when local problems are still unresolved. Another reason might be the academic nature of the congress. The topics of presentation and discussion might be too academic for most people. It would definitely be difficult for somebody without a college education to follow the dialogues and discussions that took place at the congress.

Afritopic: As an entrepreneur, what is your vision and where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?

Lauren: As the president and founder of Punch Media, I plan to create a joint venture with one of the major entertainment companies in the USA within the next five years. The joint venture would make my company financially stronger and enable it to create more products and provide young Black Hip Hop artists with necessary support. My target goal is to develop Punch Media into the first Black female enterprise in the Hip Hop sector generating several millions of US Dollars per annum.

Punch Media Group Website:

www.punchmediagroup.net

Tags: France , Paris, German, Hip Hop, multimedia, Black Music, Black Media, New York, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG)
                                       

End.   Afritopic 

 

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