Jamie Michael Hemmings had the pleasure of interviewing Marvin Green. Marvin is CEO and Co-Founder of Media Heist, a multi-faceted production company. He also Co-Founded, My Beverages, a lifestyle enhancement brand, and 732, a non-profit organization created as a resource for mid- Michigan communities by empowering families to reach their highest potential.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My backstory brings me full circle to where I am today. I’m an athlete and I’m originally from Michigan. After high school, I enrolled at Central Michigan University, where I studied international business. At the same time, EBay was on the rise so I used that platform to sell cell phones online; that’s where my love of tech started.
Selling cell phones through EBay was the inspiration for my next business. I created an online marketplace that I used to sell memberships to fellow students. Through these memberships, students were able to buy and sell things that they needed or wanted to other college students, however many of these things were items that the school had provided to us. The school eventually found out about it and they weren’t happy with the repurposing of their products so they shut it down.
Not really understanding how college was benefiting me at that point, I decided to take a break from it. It was during that time that I honed my business skills. I started a Quixtar business, formerly Amway, a multi-level marketing company. Quixtar taught me about systems and private labeling and it motivated me to utilize the same business model for myself. I also began reading five books every month, which instilled discipline in me that I would need as an entrepreneur.
During this time, I had the opportunity to visit Thailand for two weeks. While there, I discovered a three-wheeled vehicle that they were using everywhere called — Tuk Tuks, also known as Rickshaws. I was intrigued and I wanted to bring them to the States, to Atlanta.
My plan was to utilize the vehicles as free tourist rides. I would sell advertising space to the city and local businesses and allow them to showcase their product(s) or service(s) at a discounted rate to tourists. I would then display those advertisements on interactive touchscreens, which would be mounted to the Tuk Tuks. The idea was epic, however the city wanted nothing to do with me. So, I started the process on my own. Unfortunately, the market soon crashed and well, the rest is history.
Since then, I’ve gone on to found Media Heist, a multi-faceted production company in which I am the CEO. I am the co-founder of My Beverages, a lifestyle enhancement brand, and 732, a non-profit organization created as a resource for mid- Michigan communities by empowering families to reach their highest potential.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
My best friend, Ethan and I had become involved with a group of filmmakers and we were working together to market their documentary. The film was about how Ecuadorians use soccer as their escape. But in order to do our part, we needed to have a company. Thus, Media Heist was born.
As we began marketing it, we realized that we would need a few stunts to bring attention to it. We discovered that a major soccer event was happening in Queens New York at Citi Field. The first soccer match that would take place in the stadium would be Ecuador vs. Greece. More Ecuadorians live in Queens than anywhere else in the United States. This would be the largest gathering of Greeks and Ecuadorians and we could gather the most support. We needed to get into that event!
So, we disguised ourselves as press in order to gain access, and it worked! The event had limited press coverage and many outlets were only allowed access to the press box and post-game interviews. We had full access!
It’s funny when I think about it now. Although we had zero reason to be at that game, our efforts caused us to raise more than 40k in 30 days for the film on Kickstarter.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My wife and I operate Media Heist together. I think what makes my company stand out is that our stories are told from both a husband and wife perspective.
Young, Broke and Married, a scripted series, which was loosely based on our experiences, was our first project together. We hadn’t seen any shows on TV or on YouTube that collectively addressed the issues that we had experienced as a young, married couple in an entertaining way. So, we decided to tell the story.
A group of people can have the exact same experience and at the exact same time, yet everyone in that group is likely to have experienced it in a different way. Most of our stories are crafted from personal experiences and since no two perspectives are entirely the same, this is not only what makes our company stand out, it is what makes our stories relatable.
During the production of Young, Broke and Married, we had agreed to partner with an alcoholic beverage company to help market our show. The company, which shall remain nameless, actually started a full billboard campaign in cities where all the characters in the show were from but completely neglected to mention the Young, Broke and Married series.
We did product placement in the series as well as online promotion for their brand but ultimately got nothing in return. We learned the lesson that if brands are involved they have to be 100% involved. We believe that the partnership can be much more beneficial for the both of us if we can find a way to work together rather than simply giving us product for placement or a check.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
My Beverages is my latest venture. When Media Heist made the decision to partner with an alcoholic beverage company, I felt guilty when I realized that their products were catered to college students because I was aware of the health implications it could lead to. So, my partners and I did our part and created two flagship products to promote a healthy lifestyle, My Water and My Sport Water.
My Water, enhanced with hemp oil, is our premiere beverage. We are on the front line of the growing US hemp market. There are so many products out there so instead of catering to one market, the cannabis market, we want to help everyone see the benefits of hemp, specifically hemp beverages. My Sport Water is electrolyte water that was created due to my athletic background and my love for healthy products.
It’s cool to help people. And it’s also exciting because through Media Heist, we are able to create and distribute marketing through social channels in real time.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Provide more goals and allow them room to accomplish them. More responsibility gives more growth. They will make mistakes, as we all do, but provide room for them to learn and grow. We all need a team. We all need to be able to trust that team to help us to get to the next level. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My Grandfather. Through his success, he allowed me to see that becoming a successful Black man was possible. He was a Pastor who built his church with his bare hands, literally. He was a self-taught investor in real estate as well as the stock market. Seeing this man manage a self-sustaining business and an ever-growing church, all the while successfully heading a family of 11 children, inspired me to become a business owner. There are so many chips stacked against the African American male at birth. And a lot of environments don’t even allow the Black child to see past the barriers against him. So, I’m grateful that I had him to show me that alternatives exist.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The mission of 732, our non-profit organization, is to empower families to reach their full potential. Our goal is to bring families together and give them a moment of fun and time together. Families should be able to enjoy one other. One of the ways in which we help them do that is through our culinary competition. In November, two mid-Michigan families are chosen to come together, cook and compete for prizes. It’s fun and it brings the community together.
The number, 732, has deep familial meaning for me and I wanted to share my passion for it with the world. Growing up, our family would all gather at my grandparent’s house, the “big house”. That street number was 732. Early on, my mother and I actually lived there, so for me, it was home. Our huge family would come together at this huge house, 732. It meant something to us.
732 was co-created with four of my cousins as a tribute to the strong legacy that our grandparents left us. It will ensure that their legacy lives on. Families are the foundation of our communities. If we don’t experience quality time and love at home, it will make it harder to have quality time and love outside of the home. My success is only as big as how many families we are able to touch.
Can you share the top five lessons that you have learned from your experience as a “Black Man In Tech”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. There is no right way — We started our first production trying to copy the old fashioned way of producing a project. We live in a new era and the old way just just wasn’t working. So, we decided to go all-digital — we created our own website, our own channel and our own marketing. The right way was just getting it done.
2. Nothing is perfect — If we wait to have everything we need we would never accomplish anything. During the production of Young, Broke, and Married, we didn’t have a babysitter for our one year old. So, oftentimes, I would have her strapped to my chest while I was filming. Nothing is perfect but we can make it work!
3. Failure is a possibility — We had wrapped our shoot and during the transfer of all of the files, something happened to my computer and it reset. Somehow, it formatted the hard drive and we lost two entire episodes of footage that we could not film again because the location wasn’t available to us anymore. So, used extra footage that we’d shot to replace those missing episodes. In a sense, we failed but it was a lesson that all was not lost.
4. Tell your story — No matter what anyone tells you, tell your story your way. No one can tell your story your way. It’s just not possible. No one has the passions you have about it and no one will see your vision. Commit to it and tell it on your own terms. I never really thought much about Marijuana. But after filming a few events around that industry, I developed a totally different outlook on it. I became inspired to create the interview-based reality series, “Welcome 2 Doobieland”. The show is about how Marijuana is changing lives. It’s in the same vein of Anthony Bourdain’s food shows. That was the inspiration behind it. I’m not a smoker, but because I was curious after those events, I figured other people would be curious too.
5. Be Bold — Everyone is always telling you what you should do or what no to do. The truth is that most people are just placing their fears on you. I believe that they really want you to create the next series, project, phone, beverage, program or whatever else you can think of. They’re just afraid to take the leap themselves. But you don’t have to be.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Live life. Don’t watch it.” Marvin Green, Jr.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Sean “Jay Z” Carter — He took what was in front of him and turned it into the life he has now. Twenty years ago, he was just a so-called hustler; he has since transformed into a successful businessman. The journey of a Black man is unique and Jay Z has navigated it pretty well — from his music to beverages, to film, non-profits and investing. I see myself in him and my entrepreneurship journey.
Originally published at medium.com