Name: Jarrett Carter Sr.
Alma Mater: Morgan State University, Class of 2003
Business Name & Description: Carter Media Enterprises, a new media development and consulting company with focus on coverage of African-American news and lifestyle.
What year did you found your company? 2008
What was the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? One of the most exciting highlights of my career thus far was the chance to give the keynote address to Hampton University’s Greer-Dawson-Wilson Student Leadership program. To take a stage at one of the nation’s most prestigious HBCUs headed by perhaps the greatest black college president in history, and to speak to students who will soon become esteemed leaders in a wide range of fields is something I will never forget. And I will be forever grateful to Hampton University for such a honor.
What made you want to start your own company? Understanding that media was changing in a way that would give more black people a chance to have media leverage and credibility, I thought that I would bring a unique perspective to some underrepresented elements of our culture, and so I started a series of blogs focusing on HBCU news and issues, black images in mass media, and hip-hop culture from an artistic perspective. (StereotypeSquad.com and RapReservoir.com, respectively.)
Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Morgan gave me so many great role models. Among my professors was Frank Dexter Brown, the creator of YSB Magazine, Dr. Ruthe Sheffey, one of the world’s leading experts on William Shakespeare and Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Michael Bayton, a brilliant scholar and professor of American literature, and Dr. Burney Hollis, my Dean Emeritus of the MSU College of Liberal Arts who to this day remains a source of humor, insight and inspiration as a Morgan Man. All of these people taught me, but also inspired me to think as a creator and observer, and not just as a student.
How do you handle complex problems? I talk to my wife constantly. She really is my best friend, my harshest critic, and the love of my life. Between her perspective and mine, we are frequently able to hash out solutions for difficult problems. I’m also blessed to have great mentors and friends, whom I can depend on to talk critical issues in my life, or even to have discourse on cultural problems and issues. Many times, the discourse is a good way to exercise the brain in such a way that complex personal problems often reveal simple answers.
What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? I wish I had established a larger network of media industry contacts and officials at schools. Hampton President William Harvey once told me that the key to running a college is to run it as a business with educational objectives. I set out to tell stories and to improve perceptions about HBCUs, but if I could do it over again, I would have managed my company to operate as a media brand with outreach objectives from Day One.
What do you believe HBCUs and colleges of the African Diaspora can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship with their students and the local community? – I think that if colleges and universities mandated for the major courses to examine ownership and business building, our students would have a different outlook on what it means to be a professional, a community member and philanthropist. They would approach work from what they could own one day, and not what company is most prestigious to work for. In turn, I think our alumni and supporters would buy into this concept enough to support by giving money and expertise.
How do you deal with rejection? When I first got started, not well. I would buy into the stereotype that black people were hesitant to support their own. But three years in, I understand that when you don’t have a lot of resources, and you are a great idea with low-level executions, our people are much more likely to invest in a personality and vision than they are an actual product. Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell once told me that there’s no such thing as ‘no,’ only ‘not yet.’ I have found this to be true at a professional and personal level, if you invest a lot of time analyzing your vision and personality, and working to make those things come to the front of every approach you make in business or in life.
When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I’m a very simple guy, so I love being with my wife and two sons. Watching sports, playing video games, and reading are the ways I get away to think about new ideas, or to just take my mind off of overwhelming topics, requests or development strategies. I’ve learned that you have to incorporate time off to let your mind, body and spirit recover from fully investing in your calling. If you don’t, you can’t appreciate the work that you’re called to do, or the fact that you are called to do it.
What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Strangely enough, graduating from a PWI with my master’s in communication management. The five years it took me to finish that degree – a year and a half to do course requirements and three years to assemble a non-racist, supportive thesis committee, were the toughest times I ever encountered. Finishing the program made me realize several things – one, how much tougher it must have been for our forbearers to seek and endure integration in the throes of civil rights. Two, how spoiled I was by the HBCU experience of having faculty push and support you beyond the classroom. Three, how much harder I need to work for HBCUs to get fair representation in the media, so that they won’t have to endure potential scenarios of isolation, racism or discrimination at a PWI as they work towards college degrees.
In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? – College is a professional development and networking haven. You are there to learn about an industry, and to find your place within it. If you aren’t a business major, take some business courses for electives, and learn all that you can through volunteering and internship about how to do a job and manage a product. Before you leave, make sure that you have incorporated an LLC, and even if you don’t know what product or service you can offer, create a business idea that can evolve into a business plan. In a down economoy, it is the person with the most creativity, the most innovation, and the one who finds a need to fill that will become wealthy, and will be able to give back to our people to build more entrepreneurship in our communities.