ON THE RISE: DAGOSPELTRUTH PROFILES NICOLE HEYWARD…C.E.O. OF CREATIVE CLASSIC AGENCY
How did you get your start in the music business and what did you do?
I was first exposed to the music business in elementary school. I didn’t know at the time that one of my best friend’s moms, who I simply called ‘Miss Sylvia,’ was THE Sylvia Rhone. Even as I got older, I just thought she was a cool because we got M.C. Hammer cassettes in our party bags and took limo rides with Brandy. (lol)
My career really started through internships; mainly at independent Hip-Hop labels in NYC. Starting in the 10th grade I spent time at Blunt Records/TVT, worked with Columbia Records a little through Blunt’s publicist and by my freshman year in college I moved from Blunt to Rawkus Records and stayed there until my senior year.
I was completely surprised when my first job opportunity came in Gospel and not Hip-Hop. About three months after graduating college, I was introduced to Demmette Guidry at church one Sunday by my dad. It was really just a, “Hey, how ya doin’ introduction.” Two weeks later I saw Demmette again at the church bookstore. He’d just started managing Mary Mary and needed a right hand. I’m pretty sure I replied by just saying, “Ok.” I had NO clue who the Mary girls were then. (sorry E and Tina. lol!) Though their music ministry drastically changed my life soon after.
Do you have to go to college to do what you do?
Do you have to? No. Does it help? Definitely! My company “Creative Classic Agency” is a Marketing and Brand Management firm. My degree is in Corporate Communications focused on Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations which provided a great foundation. For me, college doesn’t automatically equal success (which varies for everyone anyway) and not attending college doesn’t limit you either. A successful career is built in the hands of a happy and fulfilled person. You’ve got to do what you’re passionate about. If you’re not fulfilling the call on your life, God will make you uncomfortable or possibly take the opportunity away. Who wants to wake up at 50 saying, “Why didn’t I chase my dreams?”
What was it like to work for Mathew Knowles’ company?
What an amazing experience! And so much more than an interview could cover everything. Maybe I’ll write a book! (lol) To start, Mathew has such an intense passion for music it’s seriously mind-blowing. We also share a love for helping others live their dreams. While I adopted my passion for Marketing from Demmette, my mindset of viewing artists as a brand comes from Mathew. My dive into Brand Management comes from those two areas naturally meshing together.
At Music World I started as an Executive Assistant then moved into Product Management handling day-to-day management for Mary Mary, Michelle Williams, Ted & Sheri, Darwin Hobbs, Shawn McClemore and Trin-i-tee 5:7. A lot happened in a short period, but during the Music World/Sanctuary Urban days we had extended management family that included Floetry, Nelly and Mario to name a few. And it was all hands on deck when Beyonce’s House of Dereon line launched. I learned lots from Miss Tina and her staff too!
Fast-forward a couple of years and Trin-i-tee 5:7 was at Music World Studios in Houston recording what would become the T57 record. Mathew had come over to check on the girls. He pulled me aside and said, “I want my Gospel label again. Think about what we’ll call it. Pastor Rudy has a record ready and I want the girls on my label one day.” And that’s where Spirit Rising Music (SRM) came from. In the next two years as Label Manager, I oversaw Marketing and Management of “The Pastor Rudy Experience: TOUCH” along with various other projects. Those were irreplaceable years!
How difficult was it to step out on your own and start your own company?
It was only tough to step out because I was being disobedient to God by not moving when He first told me to. Mathew’s favorite thing to say to me was, “Step up!” Afterwhile, every time he said that to me, I heard God saying, “STEP OUT!” But I didn’t want to leave the artists and my “baby” Spirit Rising Music. I never intended to work under someone else forever though, so I knew there would come a time when I’d branch off. I just thought it would be when I was ready. (lol) I quickly saw I had to be a water-walker, step out on faith and trust that God would meet me with each step. Know that, just like in life, everyday won’t be smooth sailing, but it’s the most rewarding thing to invest in your dream. I’m having the best time right now with Wess Morgan, Stan “STANtastic” Jones, Al Mac Will, James Fortune, Soulfruit, Yunek and Trin-i-tee 5:7.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see “Creative Classic Agency” continuing to do groundbreaking business for Faith-based artists. If God has gifted you with talents other than music why wouldn’t you develop those? It’s simple to me: ministry happens wherever you go because if you’re living for Christ you bring Him with you, period. Of course there are the “girlie” things I want that are important to me (husband, kids, I want to make my own family traditions) but I’m patient…. Sort of… *looks over shoulder checking for Morris Chestnut* Haaaaa!
How do you remain a positive example of a Christian woman in the world of entertainment?
You know just a week ago I was telling my best friend I didn’t realize that some younger people were watching and looking up to me. That’s odd to me, I’m just Nic! I’m a better balanced person now, (family/health/friends/career/romance) but no one’s perfect. One thing I do know and will never be afraid to share is that I love my God. And that love won’t let me compromise or settle for anything less than what He promised and called me to be. I don’t get a gold star everyday, but I don’t beat myself up either over an “E” for effort. It’s important to keep things in perspective!