Entertainment agency helps the creative mind to achieve success

Stephannie Kirby, owner of the Creative Mind Agency, aims to educate and promote the entertainers of the future.
Reminder Publications photo by Mike Briotta.
July 19, 2010

By Mike Briotta

PRIME Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- In an unassuming old brick factory building, downstairs from "Untouchables Boxing" is one of the newest entertainment businesses in Springfield: The Creative Mind Agency (CMA), owned and operated by Stephannie Kirby.

It may not look like much from the outside, but walking into the CMA offices in the "House of Entertainment" at 340 Main St., is like entering a different world.

Kirby has lined the walls of her fledgling business with dramatic images of entertainment icons like Beyonce, Luther Vandross, The Fugees and Erykah Badu.

Two books are propped on her desk: the story of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the autobiography of legendary music producer Quincy Jones. Their words and iconography have buoyed the spirits of the 28-year-old entrepreneur.

"It's inspiring to put these kinds of images around us," Kirby said of the entertainment industry photos adorning the CMA's walls. Her company aims to assist aspiring and independent talent in building a strong artistic foundation.

Kirby has first-hand experience in the music business. She worked at Def Jam records and Bad Boy Entertainment in New York before opening her local agency.

"That's just called hustling," she recalled of her days as a personal assistant in New York. "They were mundane tasks, like running and getting someone food. I had to pay my dues; to get connected to different people in the music industry."

One event she attended as a volunteer was Bono's silent auction at the Grammy Awards, which opened the door for Kirby to meet a music-industry leader.

"Jay-Z walked in and I asked for an autograph," she recalled. "We weren't supposed to talk to him, but I asked, 'How do I get an internship at Def Jam?'"

Soon enough, Kirby found herself in the middle of the entertainment industry. Also an alto singer who specializes in R&B music, she felt comfortable in both roles: as a performer and as a businesswoman.

Kirby is also a graduate of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School. Her day job is in Chicopee, where Kirby works as a Recreation Advisor for Westover Job Corps.

One cornerstone of CMA is to provide entertainment workshops that are instructed by industry experts. A recent workshop was led by Professor Jeff Sultanof of Dix Hills College of New York. Kirby is a 2005 graduate of the school, earning a music business degree.

Sultanof discussed the future of music and dealing with the nuts and bolts of music laws. Prices of similar classes at CMA typically range from $10 to $30 per person, depending on the length and depth of information provided.

"He talked about ASCAP and BMI information," Kirby said of Sultanof's visit. "We learned that where you make your money is songwriting and publishing. He talked about contracts; getting paid as an artist. The importance of being an independent artist."

Sultanof is known for helping compose Michael Jackson's "Thriller," according to Kirby. He also talked about emerging trends and musical genres during the six-hour presentation.

In early May, CMA hosted a workshop about promoting oneself in music. For the past few years many artists have become their own noise-makers, relying on social networking skills to replace traditional marketing.

New York University Professor Shirley Washington discussed which marketing tools can determine the success or failure of an artist, and how to effectively build a fan base.

Of course, CMA doesn't just limit itself to musical endeavors. An upcoming boutique July 31 is an interactive event for aspiring models and actors. For the price of $15, or $10 for those under age 12, the CMA will be providing different types of promotional photos in order to jump-start people's portfolios.

"I'm still moving ahead with what I'm doing," Kirby said. "It's hard to describe the concept because I start with events, but it encompasses much more than just events."

An upcoming event to be officially announced in September is titled, "The Power of Creative Youth Conference" and is set to work with a panel of creative young people ages 17 to 21 including a "teen summit."

Another upcoming event is a planned gathering for graffiti-based artists who would like to use their talents for graphic design. Kirby envisions the event to encompass a small trade show that includes "b-boys and b-girls" who will display breakdancing and pop-locking.

The musical style of New York entertainer D.J. Fame will be pumping through the loudspeakers.

"I like bringing in New York artists to work with creative people here," Kirby said. "So they can build broadly. Most artists don't understand the business side."

Kirby anticipates myriad events all with the goal of educating and promoting local creative artists.

All the while, she's jump-starting her own career as well. She's frugal enough to utilize hand-me-down furniture and instead of expensive window treatments, the CMA office has drop cloths over the windows.

She's quick to point out that she hasn't transformed the edifice into a nascent creative group overnight. "I'm very blessed with the people I have around me," Kirby said. She listed manager of events Myoshy Dickson as her right-hand woman. Kirby also thanked Sheena Colgram, a chef at Pazzo's Restaurant, for her help in getting CMA events off the ground.

"If it wasn't for my family and friends believing in me, I wouldn't be where I am today," the entrepreneur said. She also owes a debt of gratitude to Western New England College's "incubator" program for small businesses.

"The world is based on relationships," Kirby concluded. "At the end of the day, we all need to know how to communicate. For me, networking is the key. We are the liaison between the performing artists and the labels."

The agency also has internships available. For more information about these opportunities, please contact: 4thecreativemindagency@gmail.com.

Are you a young entrepreneur? Learn how to share your story by sending an e-mail to Assistant Editor Katelyn Gendron at katelyn@thereminder.com.


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