Multicultural Agency Founders on How They Got Started and the Future of the Space

Adweek's independent agency panel series included Egami Group and Team Epiphany

Tuesday's panel featured Egami Group founder and CEO Teneshia Jackson-Warner, and Team Epiphany founder and managing partner Coltrane Curtis.
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On Tuesday, Adweek turned its independent agency focus on “Multicultural Independence” with a panel moderated by Agencies editor Doug Zanger, featuring Team Epiphany founder, managing partner Coltrane Curtis and Egami Group founder, CEO Teneshia Jackson-Warner. The panel was part of Adweek’s Breaking The Mold: Creating Long-Term Success for Independent Agencies Live Virtual Summit in its Summer Series.

The discussion was divided into three acts of each agency’s evolution: origins, talent recruitment and retention, and the future.

Curtis explained that Team Epiphany emerged from insights dating back to when he was an MTV VJ and he realized that it was the teams behind the celebrities he was interviewing that he really wanted to have discussions with.

“That’s what created the agency, what created influencer marketing,” he said. “I got tired of talking to people that thought they were experts but we knew their celebrity had been engineered.”

Jackson-Warner explained that she quit her job at IBM without having anything lined up while “on a mission to find my purpose and activate my purpose in the world,” which ultimately led her to found Egami Group with a focus on “enriching purpose.”

The next part of the discussion focused around talent recruitment and retention.

Jackson-Warner explained that Egami Group attracts both talent and clients aligned with its purpose-driven approach.

“We usually attract talent that wants to make a purposeful impact. Our work gives them the vehicle to activate that,” she said. “That’s usually also the case with our clients. It’s grounded in that relationship of activating purpose.”

She also said that the agency’s retention rates have fluctuated over the years, but its focus on building strong relationships has lasted beyond employees’ tenure with the agency.

“Thinking about retention, for the long term you have to have strategies there,” she said. “I’ve learned over the last decade not to be afraid of letting go. A lot of times talent has left and then became our client.”

Curtis said he valued the importance of employees bringing their whole selves to work, something that hasn’t always been encouraged at agencies in the past. He sits in on every single interview at Team Epiphany and said the agency generally retains talent for about five and a half years. Because people feel valued and enjoy working for the agency, they help bring in additional talent.

“The recruitment piece is almost by nature self-recruiting. If someone loves where they work … they want to invite people into their world,” he said. “My squad brings their squad. It’s how it works, it’s how it’s always worked. I’m looking for the talent and sometimes the talent recruits the talent. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.”

The panel then took a look ahead, discussing the evolution of both their own agencies and the broader multicultural space.

Jackson-Warner explained that Egami Group remained focused on its authenticity and remaining true to its original purpose, while bringing its purpose-driven approach to a “bigger level.”

Curtis said that agencies needed to constantly prove themselves, while also discussing the broadening importance of multicultural agencies.

“I think that multicultural will evolve and dissipate,” and “wear its proper crown as an influencer of general and mass culture,” he said, sitting in a place where it “will inform everything brands are doing.”

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.