How Mike Utaegbulam Is Influencing Nonprofits with Black Digital
“Nonprofits do really good work and a terrible job at marketing themselves,” joked Mike.
Mike is the CEO of Black Digital, a marketing agency specializing in digital solutions for nonprofits, higher education, and government organizations. Mike saw a need for mission-based organizations to craft marketing messages that inspired their audiences to act. He founded Black Digital in 2018.
A veteran of the nonprofit world, Mike understands first-hand how hard it can be to bring awareness to great causes. Mike has an extensive background in nonprofit marketing and held various leadership roles at nonprofits, from the Chamber of Commerce to higher education institutions, before taking his agency full-time.
“I was able to push the limits of each position,” said Mike. “When I left, they replaced me with three different people.”
This revelation gave Mike a boost of confidence. For the first time, he fully understood that he had a valuable skill set and garnered a renewed belief that he could make more of an impact.
In 2020, Mike took his agency Black Digital from a side hustle to his main focus. While many industries suffered significant losses due to the pandemic, the uptick in remote work created a greater need for digital marketing. It worked in Mike’s favor, helping him scale his business portfolio.
Similarly, social unrest and racial injustice with the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery resulted in backlash, with more corporations seeking the services of Black-owned businesses. Mike credits these unprecedented events as a perfect storm that helped his business achieve profit in its first year.
However, even though the business was profitable, the road was challenging. When asked about some of the early challenges of entrepreneurship, Mike laughed and said one word: taxes.
“You got to pay your taxes…There’s a lot of things people don’t tell you, but you’re accountable to.”
Mike made a few common stumbles, choosing the wrong business structure and overlooking the systems and processes he needed to scale. The demands of a thriving new business also threw his work-life balance off kilter and eventually impacted his health. This led him to step back and hire contractors for support so that he didn’t have to wear every hat and could specialize in what he loved.
“No matter your size, you should never be doing it alone,” said Mike. “It’s hard to sell and service at the same time.”
Through his partnership with Wacif as an Ascend Thrive cohort participant, Mike got critical business advice in areas such as HR, finance, and even pitching to investors.
“It was a very valuable program,” said Mike. “I’m a better business owner because of that program.”
Mike also discovered new relationships in the Wacif Ascend Thrive program that continue to be helpful to him as a business owner. He found comfort in knowing that he wasn’t alone as an entrepreneur. Some of his fellow Thrive cohort members work in the same coworking space, while others he engages with through networking and community events.
As for advice he’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Mike advises them to be patient with themselves and to learn through doing. He has undoubtedly learned and evolved with his business through the virtue of success.
“You can’t know enough about your business or how to run a business,” said Mike.
Mike is also a strong advocate of building relationships and community. He implores every good entrepreneur to have at least four people in their corner:
- A mentor or business coach
- An accountant
- A lawyer
- Someone who can help you optimize operations
You can learn more about Mike and Black Digital at their website: https://blackdigitalgroup.com.