Founder of Mostly Woman-Staffed Creative Agency Wears Crown While Conquering Strategies With Nike, Amazon

See how this founder proves that you can't wear a crown with your head down.

Founder of Mostly Woman-Staffed Creative Agency Wears Crown While Conquering Strategies With Nike, Amazon

Running a business in this current environment—particularly in the creative field—should incorporate the many cultures, nationalities, and forces that make the world as we know it today.

Representation is paramount. April McDaniel recognizes this and is showing others the world through the eyes of women and people of color.

As the owner and creator of Crown + Conquer, McDaniel is the driving force behind the mostly woman-staffed agency. Already making strides by working with brands such as Nike, adidas, Sprite, Coca-Cola, TikTok, Amazon, and HBO, the company is gearing up to exceed the success it has achieved thus far.

Crown + Conquer is preparing the white male-dominated world to see the dynamics of how diverse the world is.

BLACK ENTERPRISE talked with McDaniel about the firm’s inner workings, what it is working on, and the reason she chose a mostly woman staff.

What inspired you to start Crown + Conquer? What is the entity’s primary goal?

It’s always come down to two things for me: working with people and brands that I like, respect, and admire, and working on projects I’m passionate about. Starting Crown + Conquer gave me the opportunity to do just that. The goal is to seek opportunities to build something that has never been done before. That may look different for everyone, but essentially it’s about challenging the norm, and I encourage my teams to bring that mentality to every project we take on.

Your agency is mostly woman-staffed. Was that by design and what difficulties, if any, do you encounter in an overwhelmingly white male-dominated industry?

I’m honored to work with diverse women who put in so much effort every day. When I founded Crown + Conquer, I wanted to break down barriers for other women in the workplace. Corporate America forces women to conform and tone down who they really are. I didn’t want that for Crown + Conquer. As the company continued to grow, women were the most supportive and understanding of who I was. It’s a special blend being a woman and a working mother—we bring something unique to the table, something that’s different. To go home from work and know that your job isn’t over because you have kids at home requires a lot of tenacity. With the team’s determination, diverse perspectives, and individual authenticity, we’re able to develop creative solutions to bring brands to life in new ways.

My team and I never took “no” for an answer; if someone doesn’t want to do something, there’s someone else who will. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s not for me. I don’t force myself to fit into certain places, and I don’t try to change who I am. We’re not afraid to say no.

You’ve launched an editorial internship program in partnership with Getty Images. Can you tell us more about this initiative? Where can brands learn more?

Our partnership with Getty Images set out to change the narrative for creators from marginalized communities. Many of them lack access to brand and high-profile editorial opportunities. The internship is a first-of-its-kind editorial program designed for big, budding creators that gives them the opportunity to grow their portfolios, sharpen their skill-sets, and expand their business networks.

With one of our latest interns, Getty Images and our agency partnered with the Oscars to give him the opportunity to be live on the red carpet. This was an incredible opportunity for him to use his photography skills at one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious events. Giving these interns hands-on experience and access is what we set out to achieve.

We have one intern for four months in L.A. and the hope is to grow the program to several interns in L.A. and N.Y.

On the Hoffman Podcast you spoke about being real with yourself and others, as well as being more vulnerable. How do you bring this same sentiment to Crown + Conquer? What type of impact would you like to have on your community as you go forward?

Being a founder isn’t for everyone. As a founder, you’re told to be a certain type of person. It comes with many unrealistic requirements as if you need to be on a pedestal 24/7. For many, the title is glittery. It isn’t for me. It has an extremely high level of responsibility.

You’re going to need people to jump in and help and that requires showing vulnerability. Having a tribe around you that’s supportive is so essential, people that you can rely on and that allow you to be yourself. That’s really important when building a team. We’ve been brought up to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, especially if you’re in a leadership role. There isn’t a lot of compassion for leaders to feel comfortable being their true authentic selves and that needs to change.

What would you tell someone who wants to start their own creative business?

People need to understand that it starts and ends with you. You’re typically the last one to eat and the first one to get a complaint. They need to understand the level of responsibility that comes with the title of entrepreneur.

I’d suggest understanding what’s best for you. Ask yourself questions like, “What type of leader do I want to be?” “How do I want to scale?” “What’s my bandwidth?” It’s really a process.

Tell us, what’s next for Crown + Conquer? What can we expect to see in a year or two?

Right now, I’m really looking for stability. Coming out of COVID has been really intense for our team and finding that stability is important. I’m looking to focus on continuously doing great work for great brands.

In the last six months, we’ve had a new leadership team onboard and we’re expected to grow by 64% this year—not an easy feat in a challenging economic climate. I believe that speaks to our level of dedication, commitment, and integrity toward our work and the brands we work with.