We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelaé Cummings and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chelaé, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking

I’m an open explorer and adventurous person, so the word risk doesn’t mean danger to me. It means the opportunity to do something I’ve not yet done and learn a new lesson. My friends will tell you I’m what we’ve coined as a “Jumper and Leaper,” they are two different types of energy and movement; I do both well. As a jumper, I don’t question my ability. I don’t consult with people for approval to do what is best for me, nor do I concern myself with who will go with me to make a bold move. I’m comfortable jumping into something alone and inspiring people to join me. My decisions to jump are rooted in my faith and knowing my purpose for being on this Earth. However, my leaps are reminders to take the wins, losses, and stagnating moments in stride and to keep one leg in the air until it’s time to jump again with both feet. With this attitude towards risk, God knows I’ve gotten myself into some unsure things that worked out, but I fully believe I can only land where I’m destined; this is why I’m comfortable taking risks. But if I never jump or leap, I’ll never move forward. I live to evolve into the best version of myself and help others do the same.

Taking risks is why I have my company, The BluPen, now in Los Angeles. In 2008, the recession hit, and like most, I got laid off. I was an assistant public relations director in the pharmaceutical industry in North Carolina. I needed something to do with my time, so I went to school to major in Interactive Media and Web Development. I had a natural talent for design, problem-solving, and writing which matured as I worked in the media ministry of my father’s church. I started receiving corporate projects with big brand companies and working in the creative departments. I was the only African-American in the room for years, which didn’t bother me initially. Still, I noticed that black stories and connections towards other persons of color were not as popular in advertising or media as they are now. Agencies were not interested in presenting BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or Plus size persons to represent businesses, advertising, or marketing.

I wanted to be impactful and make a change, so I started my company. It was a hard decision because I am an excellent writer and designer, and I could have gone to the top of a company with my talents, but every day I went to work, I began to shrink in confidence. I was at the table, but my voice wasn’t valued. My ideas were appreciated but never implemented. My work contributions were privately praised but never publicly acknowledged or credited towards my leadership. My company exists because of those eye-opening and necessary experiences, coupled with a heart to help people who looked like me or even dreamed like me grow a business worthy of being in the marketplace. When I jumped and moved to Los Angeles, I thought I was coming here to write for film and television (…still loading), but my business began to grow after a speaking opportunity. All these beautiful black business people started approaching me and telling me they’ve been looking for someone like me. I was shocked that they wanted to work with me and excited because I had decided to build something special just for my people, but the real opportunity hadn’t come yet. I never want to exclude anyone else because I know how that feels, and also, money is green in business, but I knew I wanted to focus on women-led and black-owned business development. Many people have told me that black and brown people don’t have money or don’t do business right, and I shouldn’t focus or put value into us. That pushed me to risk serving all companies with more money for a season to focus, strategize and serve only BIPOC communities. My leap of faith in us is paying off. My theory on risks is true that my most significant opportunities and rewards came from giving confidence and hope to businesses that don’t have capital or access to someone like me, and I LOVE IT! Now big companies are consulting me on how to write, speak, engage, and connect their campaigns with black audiences, women, and other persons of color.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?

What sets my company and me apart from others is simple, EXECUTION! Often, people have great ideas and attempts towards making them a reality but run out of energy to finish. People look at the costs of doing business and sometimes walk away but don’t consider what it costs to be in the same place a year later with that same business dream unfulfilled. Information and time work together in growing you and your business. Lack of execution could be for many reasons. Still, I attribute most of it to skipping the most crucial business step – writing a clear vision or plan to accomplish your goal and following through on the steps. I am a person’s worst nightmare and favorite dream regarding holding them accountable for their success. I will not do more for you than you do because time is of irreplaceable value. If you hire my company to help you do anything, you are hiring “Olivia Pope;” I specialize in fixing wrong-routed businesses and mindsets to establish brands. The first thing we will get clear on is a plan; our only option is to finish. We can make proper adjustments along the way to ensure we foster a safe environment to develop a strong business, but I said earlier I’m a jumper and a leaper. My company culture is to believe in visionaries who will not regret the jump or leap on themselves. We don’t look at mountains; we climb them. When business owners come to us scared, unknowledgeable, or having failed in the past, we reassure them of our commitment to their vision. It’s not my job to tell you what you can’t do; it’s my job to help you figure out how to make your dreams and ideas thrive in the real world. We can guarantee you will Execute beyond your fears or challenges with myself and the team behind you.

Nothing about my life has been easy, especially being a black woman building a business in a competitive industry. I lead an award-winning digital creative and strategic communications agency. I have 20 years of professional experience and degrees in Creative Writing and English, Communications, Graphic/Web Design, and Marketing. Yet, raising capital for me has been my biggest challenge to date, but hiring staff is the most significant investment in my business. I overcome my challenges by growing as a leader and having the creative freedom to successfully create a company like mine in Los Angeles over the last four years by not giving up. I’m going after the business because I know the solutions I provide are valuable, quality, and needed. It can be stressful finding capital, but it stretches me. I still have a staff which means payroll is still cha-chinging…lol!

I’ve learned many lessons along this journey into full-time entrepreneurship, the biggest being to forgive yourself for what you do not know and learn it quickly. Have grace and patience with clients and build with them. Create a relationship of value to serve humans, not buyers. Do whatever is necessary to invest in yourself so you can positively impact others. What I’d want the world to know about our brand story is that we don’t plan to stop writing. We will often edit and evolve with time. You may be just learning of us or heard of us in the past; whatever chapter you entered, we are confident with every new opportunity, the ink gets bluer, and the pen writes better. We will continue to improve; now is a good time for readers to follow us on social media and bring their business to us on this journey.

The BluPen, is a full-service, award-winning digital creative and strategic communications agency specializing in BIPOC Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-Consumer (B2C), and Consumer-to-Business (C2B) development. We serve a wide range of clientele in real estate, fashion, beauty, entertainment, nonprofit, faith-based, and authors. Our writing, design, marketing, publishing, and printing services are available to any business or industry looking to execute its goals precisely. We can help you build a strong business fueled by passionate creatives who find value in everyone who dares to start a business, rebrand their business, or connect with other companies.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

First, I would be super excited that my friend is visiting, and we’d probably hug, catch up and laugh on day one. On day two, we’d take a trip to the spa to relax and rejuvenate before we head to Manhattan Beach for oceanview dinner at The Strand and dancing. The next day I have to take them to Stevie’s Creole Cafe to eat some mac-n-cheese and gumbo. We will likely still have some work because all my friends are entrepreneurs and my clients. So, we will head to my favorite black-owned creative working atmosphere space in Inglewood, Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, for a banging breakfast sandwich and good coffee. I would hire a private transportation company to drive us around Hollywood and all the beaches so they see all the stuff they watch on TV and take photos. At this point, I might have to call in some help because I’m only 3.5 years into LA, and nearly 2 yrs. of it were a pandemic…so I only know what I know. I’m an Ohio-bred and North Carolina-fed transplant living out a life I never imagined in California (Whew!). I am blessed to build a good life, make great relationships, and genuinely value connections with the community and people here.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

My shoutout goes to many people who have impacted my life to help me see life from many angles and perspectives. These people have taught me the importance of being okay with letting everyone honestly be themselves around me and how to offer safety without judgment. To name them all would be challenging, but I can say that no matter what I felt about my life growing up (and it was hard), my parents were the most significant shapers of influence in my life. Their lives impacted mine in a way that entrepreneurship, education, and accountability are why my journey towards success has been stable. Today, I am well aware that my tribe and community of people rooting for my success is more significant than any exposure I could ever receive, and to me, that means the world.

Nevertheless, I want to thank one person for making this article happen; she is my sister-friend, client, and business partner in our Summer Girl Weekend Retreat event. She is the founder of one of my beloved charities, “Exposher,” Chavonne Stewart; thank you for welcoming me to LA. It’s been an amazing Voyage!

Website:  www.theblupen.com

Instagram: @theblupenla | @iamchelae | @inkcreatelove

Linkedin: @thebupenla | @iamchelae

Twitter: @theblupenla | @iamchelae

Facebook: @theblupenla | @iamchelae

Other: TikTok @theblupenla

Image Credits
Harvey Jackson @_harvey_jackson | Rick Crank @rickcrank

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.