Tatiana Grant doesn’t remember exactly when and where she met Marlowe Stoudamire but clearly remembers one of the first conversations that they had was about how the late community activist and thought leader wanted to work with her.
He would tell her that he would be brought in to strategize on a project and she would be brought in to do PR and events. He was the dreamer with the big ideas; she was the one who made it come to life.
He approached her about doing a project in particular working with a national organization that works with community development corporations coming to Detroit. They put together a proposal and landed the deal.
Grant recalls that Stoudamire wanted to join forces officially but at that point she already had her own established public relations company, Infused PR and Events, so she suggested they continue to work on projects together. At the end of 2018, he approached her about another prospective client, and again they landed the deal. They started to build up their portfolio of work, working with Chandler Park Academy (that first client), Michigan State Police, Jefferson East Inc., and more. On their own, they had already worked on high-profile projects; Stoudamire had helped the Detroit 67 project (which Grant calls his “greatest work”) and Grant had managed events and fundraising for clients like the Braylon Edwards Foundation and Detroit Economic Club as well as done PR for the North American International Auto Show and the Detroit Pistons and Shock. In addition to her own firm, she also launched Cultivate MI Solutions, and has a long history of entrepreneurship such as her own food-delivery business Flash Delivery that predates now-quarantine staples GrubHub and DoorDash.
“As we started going through the year, he wanted to go public [with our partnership],” Grant says. “He wanted to let it be known that we had formed this company.” He had a vision for the launch, and she kept pushing it back.
At the age of 43, Stoudamire passed away in late March from COVID-19, one of the early prominent deaths in Detroit. The Tuesday before he fell ill, the two of them were discussing the launch of 2050 Partners Inc., an integrated marketing and social impact firm that works with people, organizations, and cities.
“We didn't get to fully do [2050 Partners Inc.] as a team,” Grant says, but “this needs to be done from the perspective of fulfilling his wishes, letting his legacy be even further demonstrated. And you know, also from a long-term perspective to let people know about who we are in the work that we do.”
While there have been some setbacks, such as having to postpone until next year the annual African World Festival, hosted by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which is one of their clients, Grant says she’s taking the time to think about the future and what 2050 Partners Inc. will accomplish.
“We're taking this time to really evaluate and strategize and become smarter about the work that we do,” Grant says.
Here she talks about what’s on the horizon for 2050 Partners Inc., how the pandemic has changed the business of events, and why, even though there’s no better time to get into food delivery, she didn’t want to bring back Flash Delivery.
On the areas of opportunity for 2050 Partners
[The pandemic has revealed] true disparities within the country and more so, even within our state. When we came up with the company name of 2050 Partners, that was because by the year 2050, it is said that that the population in America will become a majority minority. And so [with that in mind], how do you work with organizations, municipalities, corporations, nonprofits, how do you have that lens of being inclusive in the work that you do, and also having a double bottom line? When we put together an integrated marketing strategy, it's not just oh, this feels good because it has some level of corporate social responsibility, and you'll get accolades and you'll get some handclaps and things of that sort. No. It is long term. There's ROI in this. And if you have a true human-centered approach to your marketing strategy, whether you're marketing, B2B, B2C, when you're making these connections with people, and you have the interest of people in mind in the work that you do, it comes back. And so for us that that's the lens that we come from.
On how the pandemic will impact the future of events
I think that we will be forever impacted. Whether it is something as simple as based on every 100 or every 1,000 people, you will now be required to have X amount of sanitation or hand washing, I think there's going to be some level of that moving forward. I definitely see in the short term, there being some sort of body temperature requirements, making sure that people do not have fevers or a high body temperature. I see huge implications from an insurance perspective. [COVID-19 is] going to impact our bottom lines. Events are just going to be that much more expensive. People are going to have to become innovative in how they curate online experiences, how they can have touchpoints. If you're used to hosting one large annual event in person, that's not going to work, you're probably going to have more engagement, smaller touchpoints throughout the year, rather than banking on making your money off of this target audience once a year or twice a year. I think you're just going to have to be that much more intentional.
On not bringing back Flash Delivery
My people in the mayor's office called and they asked: Do you still have Flash? Instead of trying to push everyone to GrubHub, they wanted to push [food delivery] to a Detroit-based small business. I just couldn't bring back Flash, not at this time. The way that you make money off food delivery services is based on margins and markups and in receiving a percentage of revenue from the restaurant, which when it's all said and done, all of these costs get trickled down to the consumer. And a lot of these big companies like GrubHub, Post Mates, etc., you will see that a lot of them are losing money. They're largely surviving off of venture capital investment. And so for us the only way that we were able to stay cashflow positive, and you know, we never sought investors or anything like that was, you know, we made money, but we didn't gouge people when it came to the work that we did. And in these times that we're in, it just would have been way too stressful, way too difficult to bring the company back and make money without charging people high markups and things of that sort. But trust me, there were definitely times I was like, wow, maybe I should consider bringing Flash back.
This interview has been edited and condensed.