Hot! Rodeena Stephens, Art of Perception

Art of Perception is an Elmont, N.Y.-based program that provides one-on-one training, as well as group training to teens between the ages of 13-17 who are interested in pursuing a career in media.

‘Ah ha’ moment that led you to launching this business:
I’ve been in the media industry for the past 15 years. When quality programming for youth started to decline, I thought it would be a great idea to have young people share their story with the world and help dispel some of the negative stereotypes that currently exist about them. So many media professionals had to work very diligently to break into this field. Resources aren’t always readily available, so I thought: why not seek out media professionals and ask them to help bridge the gap and pass the torch to youth who might also want to pursue a career in media?

Ideal target market: Young people and media professionals.

First customer or client: I landed my first customer (youth and mentor) by sharing information with media professionals and parents. I developed a website which includes details and structure for my program. I also use social networks to continue to bring awareness and share my business needs.

Measuring success:
At this early stage of my business, I measure success by each accomplishment I make – no matter how big or small. I’ve successfully connected with the founder and owner of a landmark business in my community. As a result of this connection, the owner has agreed to incorporate my program into his very successful youth workshop series. This partnership has allowed me the opportunity to bring further awareness to my program and access to untapped youth in my community.

Biggest struggle:
My biggest struggle has been identifying mentors/volunteers willing to donate their expertise and sacrifice their time to educate youth interested in pursuing a career in media.

Surprise!: I’m surprised that I’ve been unable to secure logistic support. I’m constantly searching for space to facilitate workshops.

What you wish you would’ve known: I wish I had a solid marketing plan in place prior to launch.

What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)? Thinking about finally seeing the dream for Art of Perception come to fruition. The ultimate goal is to help youth in the program write, produce, shoot, direct and edit their first short film.

Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job? Why/why not? Although it is often tempting to throw in the towel, I will not do that. Too many people – adults in particular have thrown in the towel on our youth. Art of Perception has the potential to be great and positively impact the lives of youth worldwide. I don’t want to take away that opportunity because I experience setbacks.

Biggest business goal over the next year: To secure a venue to host regular workshops for youth in the community and to partner with a media company that can buy into the vision and offer resources and/or funding to help the program achieve its goals.

The absolute best part of owning my business is: the flexibility to be creative and customize my business to suit the needs of my audience.

If I had to start over again, I would have: invested more time networking and bringing awareness to my company prior to launching it.

I never imagined: finding in-kind resources such as equipment for the youth to work with would be so difficult.

If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout,
“Set time aside everyday to work on your business. Don’t give up and be creative with how you find support. Many successful business owners failed the first time around – but don’t let that discourage you.”

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