How Philip Chard is exploring his passion for African Hip Hop Music, and how he used that to start his digital marketing company

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Growing up in Mutare, Zimbabwe Philip Chard had a curious temperament. He was always keen to learn new things, and he sometimes spent many days doing research to understand how things worked and why they worked the way they did. In 2010, he enrolled at a local college to study mechanical engineering and was hired by a sales and marketing company to sell imported electronics from the United States. As in most things he put his mind into doing, he excelled at his job, and made sure he created time to explore his passion for African Hip Hop Music through a blog that had been started in 2008. Initially, the blog was called 25toLyf. This later evolved into The African Hip Hop Blog.

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Over time, Philip noticed that his blog was getting subscriptions from followers who appreciated having a platform that celebrates African Hip Hop music. So he decided to invest more time, and money in blogging and promotion of his ‘side hustle.’

“I always knew I would start my own company one day” says Philip. “So when the blog started gaining more and more followers, my business partner and I started bootstrapping it to keep up with the blog’s growth. We had to pay writers, meet travel costs, and even buy new equipment. We were doing all this on our own dime. At the time, my day job in sales & marketing was funding my passion project (The African Hip Hop Blog).”  

Like most startups, Philip found himself wearing many different hats. One of these, was marketing the website. He spent many hours working on the blog to distribute and promote creative hip-hop related projects, events, artists and brands within Africa.  

He and his partners had focused their side hustle on African hip hop artists, but soon, their growing number of followers expressed an interest in wanting to read blog posts on different genres of African music. Their hard work had starting paying off, and they saw a new income generating opportunity – digital marketing.

Having built a strong network of industry partnerships within Southern Africa, Philip took a leap of faith in 2014 and registered a new company called Point Black.

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Point Black is a Digital Marketing Company that helps organizations find innovative ways to speak to young Africans across the world, and to promote African art and culture.

Using the company slogan - Inspired. Innovative. African - Point Black connects people to digital platforms. For example, if a client needs to develop and implement a campaign, targeted advertisements, web design, social media management, copywriting, content creation or even corporate communications, Point Black will work to deliver these services.

Through The African Hip Hop Blog, Point Black has access to 1 million plus followers. Corporate companies see immense value in the company’s target audience, and the reach it has, so Point Black capitalizes on that, and is making good revenue.

One of the biggest AHA moments for Philip was when he realized that in digital marketing, the most valuable audience is the youth. He says they are the most engaged on social media and make most purchases online. Taking the existing narrative and finding the best way to utilize that to help a business grow is the smart way to go.

To keep up with the current trends in digital marketing, and to find the most innovative ways to reach his customers, Point Black does lots of brainstorming exercises including mind mapping, and simply communicating with existing and potential clients to better understand what they want. Philip attributes this way of thinking to his experience in the Business and Entrepreneurship Track at the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Dartmouth College in 2017. As a young leader, he engaged with peers and experts who shared the importance of building strong and diverse teams. His fellowship experience also taught him something he knew but had never taken seriously – each individual has a unique strengths, everyone learns and understands things differently and at their own pace. Keeping this in mind when starting and growing a team is imperative.

As a way of diversifying its portfolio, Point Black holds workshops with artists to educate them on innovative ways they can brand themselves. The company is also working on cross country border collaborations to strengthen and build visibility and credibility for African Hip Hop artists.

Philip has learned so much throughout his experience running The African Hip Hop Blog and Point Black. He shares some key learning lessons here:

1.      Before you start a business, develop a work plan for what you want to do. Ask yourself how different your product or service offering will be compared to what currently exists.

2.      When looking for an investor, do your research to identify different kinds of investors and find out how they operate. Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time interacting with him/her/them and so finding an investor whose personality gels well with yours is important.

3.      Once you start your business and engage with your first client, take time to discuss and agree on how you will work together. When I first started my business, clients would send me extra work without a brief. Sometimes we would not discuss the timeline of our engagements. This almost crippled Point Black earlier on.

4.      Set up a daily routine that will allow you to prioritize your work load. Make sure you also allocate time for your professional growth. Read books like  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss or even 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Colby to help you grow as a business owner and leader. Remember, you can be the best economist or have the best marketing ideas but your surroundings or environment may prevent you from exploring that talent or ability. Always strive to be the best version of yourself and consider every opportunity to better yourself that comes your way.

5.       Use the experiences from your regular day job to inform your new business.

The African Hip Hop Blog has won several awards including the 2016 Best Music Blog by African Blogger Awards; 2015 Best Blog about Africa by African Blogger Awards; and 2013 Best Online Media Award by Zim Hip Hop Awards.

To keep up with Philip and all things African Hip Hop music, arts and culture, visit his website here

You can also follow Philip on Facebook at Phil Chard, on Twitter at @PhilChard or @AfricanHHB and Phil Chard on LinkedIn.  Keep shining Philip. Team Thelela is on the sidelines cheering you on.