Business

Chalik Campbell — Flying a kite on outdoor advertising

BY DENNISE WILLIAMS
Contributor

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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A young man goes into a job interview for a graphic designer position and shares his vision of promoting SMEs and events using branded kites. The prospective employer asks why he would want a job when he has such an expansive vision. Chalik Campbell says he needs rent money and is willing to accept a 9 to 5 job.

The prospective employer says, “Rather than a job, I will give you a grant to do a feasibility study of using kites as an advertising media format.” Campbell accepts. Within a year, he is introduced to Jampro and gains an even bigger grant for prototype development.

So in 2005 Campbell was just looking for a job to pay his rent, but he ended up with $2 million in grant money to execute his vision of unique ways to promote events.

And by 2018, Campbell is part of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship scale-up cohort as he builds his business based on the demands of companies to touch their clients in new and unique ways.

In this modern age, you simply cannot escape advertisements – from your cellphone to billboards to the traditional messages in the media. They are everywhere, and have to compete with so much pulling the attention of clients.

Campbell's company, Raps Mobile Outdoor Media, is now pushing what he calls “experiential marketing” which offers companies a way to basically be where their clients are. From ad walkers – that is, branded street team members who travel with backpack billboards – to ad trucks, Campbell calls this “a disruptive level of communication”.

Campbell shared his vision for expanding his company with us at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

1. How did you come into this business?

Back in November 2005, the desire for a more sustainable income for my young family was my impetus to explore graphic arts as a full-time job, and in so doing, provided me with an opportunity to work on a two-week consultancy project at JBDC through my good friend Mike Robinson, who was leaving his post at the time and recommended me for the position – Respec Mike!

I got the grant in January 2006 and successfully carried out my feasibility study and as a result, was recommended by JBDC in late 2006 to Jampro for this EU grant which was available for small business to leverage with the intention of launching or growing. I was one of the victors and received $1.5 million in funding in March 2007 to turn my multi-faceted vision into a business.

2. You speak about pivoting as your business grew….tell us about that.

Initially when we first registered in 2005 to facilitate the JBDC grant offering, there was no business model….just an eclectic collection of ideas, products and services under one business name…decorative painting treatments, ceramic sculpture studio, and advertising kites. By late 2007, I had taken on three part-time painters and one full-time apprentice whom I was training in all areas of my creative business direction. Then with the slowing economic meltdown in 2008, I took the decision to cease all ceramic business and spend more time learning the business of inflatables, branded kites and alternative outdoor advertising products as my primary focus.

But the next four years presented a serious struggle for me... losing almost everything as my business and creative energy was being sucked by economic and emotional depression as the struggle to build got real.

In 2012, the decision was made to shift from a product model to a service model and offer inflatable advertising products for rent, including inflatable billboards, inflatable outdoor movie screens and inflatable water game attractions.

True clarity came for me after completing the training course with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship–Caribbean in late 2013, after which I was accepted on my second application.

Then in 2014, I participated in a series of monthly business development workshops hosted by the Branson Centre, First Angels and JBDC, and I did extensive research on marketing, global outdoor advertising trends and understanding our local demographic. These were key tools to catapult me from being the artist to truly becoming the entrepreneur. It took many sleepless nights (as it continues to do now) for the refined business model to really solidify, but we finally figured how to define our own space within a growing competitive industry.

3. How did you grow from a one-man show and become a businessman?

Did I tell you I'm a perfectionist when it comes to my work? I had to learn to delegate responsibilities and let go of my “no one can do it like me” syndrome when my decorative painting business was growing. So it was easier for me the second time around as my mind had already been in training mode, preparing for the growth of my disruptive mobile OOH (out-of-home) advertising business.

We are on target for growth this year and will be looking to add permanent staff to our existing part-time team who currently are called to task when we have a marketing activation to execute.

4. You now have a business partner and staff. How does that work for you as a strong creative person?

When Kai decided she was ready to join the business as a partner, the energy came at the right time. An artist with ADHD can be hell when I have all kinda dreams to bring to life, so her sound balance and structure was needed to keep me grounded and focused on our initial goals and targets.

Being able to plan and execute projects is even more efficient, as our branded street team handles all outdoor activations – this frees up my time to effectively plan, strategise and manage campaigns, as well as conduct daily business operations.

6. Where will Raps be in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years Raps will have cemented our footprint in the marketplace. There is no 'I' in team, and as an entrepreneur one of my main drivers is wealth creation and distribution, and paramount to this being a reality is seeing our projected business targets of hiring 40 people within the next five years realised. Not being afraid to again pivot, we will pay keen attention to global trends and learn to effectively surf the channels of success as we glide our clients' campaigns to shore.

7. Tell us about your social cause, which is kites, as a serious sport in Jamaica and also as alternative education.

So my passion for kites was forged during time spent with my maternal grandfather in my formative years. He was a land surveyor, but loved spending his spare time doing large puzzles and making kites. I've done a few kite-making workshops for prep and high schools in Kingston and St. Elizabeth, and now I'm looking at how to fuse kite-making with education through subjects like physics, mathematics, technical drawing, geography – areas which boys especially have found challenging to learn with the current one-size-fits-all system of education.

Also, I would love to see kite-flying recognised as a sport in Jamaica one day, because we live on an island which has breeze blowing almost daily, despite mainly only having our “kite season” around Easter time each year.

Kite-flying provides an outline on so many levels – from recreation, to sport, to business, and I intend to see this eventually take flight through continued workshops, kite tournaments and kite festivals and encourage people to form kite-flying clubs….I have a true kite festival working on which is nothing like the festivals currently offered…look out for more info soon.

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