Celebrating National Women’s Small Business Month with Suzan McDowell

SOUTH FLORIDA – October is National Women’s Small Business Month and celebrates women who have the courage to take smart risks in business, enriching and innovating our lives with the results of their efforts.

Entrepreneur Suzan McDowell-CEO & President of Circle of One Marketing is celebrating 15 years in business, as well as the launch of her company’s new division CircleRISING.

Suzan McDowell, Founder, Circle of One Marketing -National Women’s Small Business Month Profile

Suzan McDowell
CEO & President
Circle of One Marketing

The South Florida Caribbean News Team caught up with Suzan McDowell to find out the inspiration behind her drive and how she is able to sustain her business after 15 years.

SFLCN: What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

Suzan McDowell (SM): Actually entrepreneurship leapt at me! I was the Senior Account Executive at HOT 105 Radio in Miami and it began to get uncomfortably comfortable, if you know what I mean.

Although I was making great money, it was no longer challenging, and my quirky creativity had outgrown that corporate sales environment.

In the midst of all that angst a client, Sadie McBean, previous owner of Ginger Bay Café in Hollywood, convinced me that my talents were being wasted in radio and I could handle all the marketing for her Reggae Block Party. I thought she was nuts but I was bored professionally and she was willing to take a chance on me. So I formed Circle of One in 48 hours and began on that project (all the while working at the station).

It was a monumental success with thousands of attendees. And The Circle was born.

SFLCN: What’s a typical day like for you?

SM: I open my eyes grateful for life. Then I put my hands in the air and say “Good morning God! Good morning Daddy!” because I know they’re in cahoots to give me more and better that I could even dream of.

Then I’m up and walking around Miami Shores listening to my Spotify, or The 4 Hour Work Week, or Abraham Hicks or whatever will feed my soul for the day. Lots of lattes then I’m off to grinding which means a combination of pitching media, managing clients, reviewing my team’s deliverables, new business meetings and or strategizing for the opening of our two new divisions, CircleRISING and CircleTHRIVE.

SFLCN: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

SM: I’m naturally ebullient, which is fun for others but can actually be quite tiring for me. I try to stay constantly motivated but its tough between putting out fires, managing big dreams and payroll.

Yet somehow, God comes through with another unbelievable blessing and I’m reminded to stay motivated and patient.

One thing that will always drive me is the proud McDowell name, which is rooted deep in the mountains of Jamaica, a blood line started by my Great Grandfather Lion McDowell who ruled McDowell Mountains. We incredibly dynamic family of strong, accomplished brilliant Jamaicans.

SFLCN: Describe a major business or other challenge you had and how you resolved it.

SM: In 2016 Circle of One was called in to rescue Harry Belafonte’s Many Rivers to Cross Festival in Atlanta just 30 days before the show. Ticket sales were slumping. The lineup included Dave Matthews, Carlos Santana, Common, Aloe Blacc, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Maclamore , Van Jones and tons of other huge name and of course a special performance by Mr. Belafonte.

With a killer lineup that had gone unnoticed, Circle of One stepped into the MRC team and together we were able to go from less than 2000 tickets sold to almost 30,000….. in just 30 days.

With our 12 years of experience branding and marketing the ultra successful Jazz in the Gardens, could immediately put our marketing, media, promotional expertise, ground game and national relationships to work. We completely revamped the creative, shifted the media plan, ramped up social media, dug deep into the college/millennial markets and negotiated media partnerships. The Many Rivers to Cross Festival was a challenging and magical experience all at once.

Circle of One was honored to be associated with the festival and Harry Belafonte.

SFLCN: What was your business’ original mission? How has that mission evolved in the time since?

SM: Funnily enough, other than my agency, I’ve never worked at an ad agency. My original mission was to be a media company since I came from radio sales and I knew I could buy media and build from there. At the time, there was only one other black owned full service ad agency which was a successful traditional firm. I knew there had to be room for a different type of firm that was less traditional, edgy, fresh and modern. I really wanted to alter the landscape of what South Florida’s black community could come to expect from a marketing agency. We found ourselves being pushed into the realm of event management and public relations. We excelled at both. 

Over the past 15 years I’ve come to understand what I’m really great at and what I really love to do. I was born a marketer.

I’ve also realized that I’m immensely proud of the fact that several of my previous team members have been able to utilize their experience at The Circle to found their own agencies. That makes me very happy to know some part of what the agency has imparted has inspired an entire new lane of entrepreneurship for former #CircleGladiators. Its job creation at its best. I intend to keep multiplying by creating other marketing and business opportunities for my colleagues through collaboration.

SFLCN: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

SM: I would save more money and keep my expenses low. I would know when to say NO. I would have better time management, stronger corporate infrastructure and discipline. And i would learn to truly believe in myself a lot earlier than I did.

SFLCN: What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

SM: I’m a good mentor because I demonstrate a work ethic that requires keeping up with me, discovering meaning in the middle of my shenanigans, which always teaches my unintended mentees the genius and the crazy it takes to get to the top of this field. I also love kids and find myself leaning towards prodigies as if they are my mentors.

Leadership requires so much. So much responsibility, compassion, strength and vision. Leadership can also be painful as it requires you to absorb all the challenges, analyze all the challenges, fix all the challenges by including others, mentor those you’re leading by taking action. You just learn to take the good with the bad and keep on leading. As one client said to me “You can bend, but a leader doesn’t break”.

I never thought I was an entrepreneur until I was. It wasn’t planned, it was just an idea and a client that fell out of the sky. Now, I invent companies about once a week (its tiring!), then run to Go Daddy, then put it into action, then I wait for manifestation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but the good ideas never stop.

In 2017 we will launch 2 new divisions, CircleRISING and CircleTHRIVE. I’ve also created If Eye Ever, an e-commerce business with a fun new idea in eyewear and launched personal social media brands #SuzanInc, #BlackGirlMagic4President2020

Visit Circle of One Marketing for more information about the services offered.  

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