I have to be honest, I wear a lot of hats and often forget that I have to communicate what all the hats and functions are. When you do something, you do it – like Nike, without taking a moment to articulate to the masses what it is.
In some parts, even though I speak for a living and telling stories, I from Missouri, and as they say, Show me. So I naturally approach the day-to-day focused on running all of our businesses, and leading our teams to strategize and execute with excellence.
If you’ve been following me for time, it might be due to one of two “viral” videos on a St. Louis news station, Fox2, or nationally with Bishop T.D. Jakes. I can’t find the original videos where they initially aired; however, these both should be enough to make the connection.
That earlier success was often simplified as becoming a “Tech Millionaire at 15” through the company I founded as a teen, Bledsoe Technologies, LLC. In reality, the company was functionally and operationally more than just merely “tech” as we were offering IT Consulting Services. Functionally our service lines were the “obvious” things such as web + app design & development, then our most significant revenue drivers such as Managed Service Provider for GSuite (Google) and Office365 (Microsoft), Hardware Resellers for Lenovo & Dell, and Managed IT Support Services for SMB Computers & Servers.
At the beginning of that company, I was the sole individual designing and developing websites, and they…were alright. However, I quickly identified that I could more effectively hire an expert and manage a margin.
Following our viral story, which generated millions of views across thousands of videos driving unbelievable traffic to our site, leading brands and talent offered Bledsoe Technologies and I the opportunity to work with them. Through one of those engagements, I was told, “you’re that genius tech kid who’s good with the internet, come make me a billionaire with that social media stuff, you know.”
Not turning down an opportunity to make more money and work with this HUGE celebrity (and no, not that one), we discussed goals, objectives, roles, and the size of the check. Then without hesitation, I jumped in, engaged a few creative experts, and that project was a notable success. This campaign was simply social media management, pay-per-click advertising, and retargeting to drive sales on a product. Years later, and this individual and company is not only still a client for several service offerings across our company but is a great friend.
I won’t go too deep into our contracts and engagements, but I shared that highlight as insight on why I then led a pivot and evolution of the brand.
At this point in 2015, I traveled to speak to tens of thousands of students a year, ideated & invested in new ventures, and picked up more social-focused clients.
Seeing more revenue beyond “IT,” I decided to break-up Bledsoe Technologies, LLC, into three separate functions and organizations. One focused on the continued investment and development of new businesses: The Jaylen D. Bledsoe Global Group shortened to the Bledsoe Global Group or the Global Group. The other being Flare Digital Agency, absorbing those existing IT service lines and expanding with our digital marketing offerings. Lastly, I created Jaylen D. Bledsoe Productions, which honestly was just committed to managing my brand’s day-to-day as this “break-out” tour life as a speaker.
Through the expanded service lines in digital marketing & advertising, Flare Digital Agency picked up Fortune 500 clients such as Ford Motor Company. We partnered with Ford in the expansion of its campaign, Men of Courage, an initiative launched in 2015 as a grassroots program designed to build communities by advancing the narrative of black men through storytelling, intergenerational forums, and community programs. During our engagement and relationship with Ford, we were responsible for the web design, development, and management, the social strategy day-to-day, live event activation social strategy, and the digital advertising budget driving national participation in its’ events.
We saw digital marketing & advertising services become equally profitable offerings for our clients as IT had been doubling our annual revenue.
Flare Digital Agency was my focus, the actual company with day-to-day functions, operating as a subsidiary of the Jaylen D. Bledsoe Global Group. The Global Group at this time was primarily brand positioning of a broader vision, with a few investments being made in start-ups and a later, truly quiet acquisition of a real estate company. It’s so quiet that I’m not going to expand on it more than mentioning it there. 😋
Flare picked up more clients in the talent industry, pushing our advisory and support in building their brands or the businesses being driven by their brand. We were and are committed to seeing these clients win in every way that we could. We (through the Global Group) invested in their companies such as apparel or Weave (extensions) and acquiring their digital IP such as IP from 3rd parties to better position them for growth. From a purely legal perspective, we created a new subsidiary called Digital Disrupt Studios who would own the IP of the small media properties we acquired. Despite having no function beyond paperwork then, I bring it up as it has a little bit to do with things I’m doing today!
I have always believed, and it’s taught often that a company should continually expand to meet its clients’ needs if it can do it successfully. When working with our small business and talent (mega small business) clients, we were often met with the issue of their scale and capabilities to meet new sales demands. That in itself is both the BEST and WORST problem to have because who doesn’t love revenue unless you can’t keep up with the people coming through the front door.
It sounds horrible to say it or write in a way that I can be quoted on later, I feel that my most exceptional gift has been Process, Workflow, Systems, and Scale. Oh, and a little storytelling as a weirdly programmed creative. When I look back at it, it truly is crazy as in the early days of Bledsoe Technologies, we scaled from myself to 150 sub-contractors in 2 years with a high functioning team structure. If we spread that count of that time, that’s a little bit under 1 and a half “hires” per week. So taking that, I would jump into advising and coaching our clients through how they should structure their teams, diversify their suppliers, or better communicate to meet the demand. That was the absolute beginning of Flare Digital Agency getting a third service line, management & operations consulting.
In 2019, I began to assess the key revenue drivers and the brand’s alignment in regular order, as I often did since the very beginning. This pivot led to more so branding evolutions across the board and moving functionality from one entity to another operationally. I noticed the amount of investment activity out of the Global Group, and the support we’d offer them from Flare. Secondly, I noticed that Flare’s service line revenues for management & operation consulting had grown drastically to a point where “digital” just made no sense on an invoice. Third, Flare’s “FlarexTalent” services were growing consistently, but the revenue growth our clients experienced was magnificent, and I wanted in on that.
Our companies were a lot more intertwined than I noticed, and there were “mini” companies operating within each other as a “division.” So our first pivot was defining the goal and operating purpose of the parent company, evolving from Jaylen D. Bledsoe Global Group to the Bledsoe Collective, an innovative media & communications parent company.
As Chairman of the Bledsoe Collective, Inc., I oversee our portfolio and their performance, finances, and aligning our executives.
Flare Digital Agency evolved to Flare Partners, after realizing “digital” wasn’t our core focus anymore. The official line for this company is a strategy-led+execution focused leading consulting & advisory firm for the executives, entertainers, and public-private corporations. The firm focuses on transformation and scaling client businesses through key disciplines in marketing & communications, management & operations, and information technology.
Functionally, we offer the same IT services as before, we lead strategy and execute more substantial marketing+communications efforts, and have formal management & operations consulting services. Sometimes on the latter, the team or I will go into a company for a few months or a year as a fractional executive to fix systems and processes. I also must add that we do a lot of great work in the diversity and inclusion space, supporting companies simply just do it better through that service line. I had the opportunity in 2019/2020 to be a fractional executive at AT&T within it’s Hello Lab organization focused on efforts like Dream in Black, Revolt Summit, Turn Up The Love, and Millennial & Gen-Z marketing. While on the topic of AT&T, I served as a founding member of it’s Black Executive Advisory Board pushing and strategizing for AT&T’s increased commitment of $3B in spend with Black Suppliers.
Do you remember that entity I created merely for legally owning IP for small media properties that we acquired? I moved the Flare Talent consulting offerings to this company as Disrupt Group, a talent management & production company. That’s the easy description, but really, I’m putting all the muscle behind the entire Bledsoe Collective, all of its service line capabilities, and capital to turn talent’s exposure into businesses with sustainable revenues. This is definitely a start-up with 2 employees beyond myself, and we have the pleasure of being the label behind Jordin Spark’s 2020 music, Sounds Like Me (EP). It’s her first solo music in over 6 years!
Lastly, I created BledsoeSquared to unify our investment efforts and just simply “make it make sense” by setting standards for how we invest capital and how we support the capabilities of the Bledsoe Collective. Our first investment through the new umbrella beyond what was rolled over was, Elite Fit Athletica, a limited-run luxury athleisure brand. We’ve made a lot more since then, and I love to invest and our into the development of ideators becoming successful founders in this season! Especially those young black founders!
I hope over these 1600+ words, I’ve been able to give some insights into the core functionality of what we do as a company. You can always learn more by visiting the company sites via www.bledsoecollective.com.
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Jaylen D. Bledsoe is the Chairman of The Bledsoe Collective, Managing Director of Flare Partners, a brand architect & speaker.