As the principal partners of The Allen Lewis Agency (TALA), Jocelyn Allen and Chandra Lewis are defying the odds of what success looks like on the other side of 40. Collectively bringing vast amounts of experience and expertise to their clients seeking marketing solutions to fortify their brands, the two former Fortune 500 execs are committed to helping clients increase brand value.
Jocelyn and Chandra are way ahead of the present career curve that’s left many of their peers struggling to reinvent themselves. With their sound reputations and positive word of mouth, they’ve become role models for a new segment of former corporate executives. EBONY.com recently met with them to find out how they’ve managed to beat the odds.
EBONY: Why did the two of you decide to strike out on your own after spending much of your professional life at such big corporations?
Jocelyn Allen: We are two mothers, two daughters, two communication executives, two go-getters, two best friends. We believe our friendship was predestined. We’ve shared so many like experiences, both personal and professional.
Chandra Lewis: We don’t believe in coincidences. We believe God has positioned us at this very juncture in our lives, to use the experience, expertise, contacts, creativity and relentless drive we’ve honed over 40-plus years. We’ve worked hard to maintain stellar individual reputations, and together we can be trusted partners among a broad swath of clients.
JA: Three adjectives to describe Chandra: driven, loyal, perfectionist. Chandra refuses to let any situation, any obstacle get the best of her. The word “can’t” doesn’t exist in her vocabulary. I’m excited to work with Chandra, because I just believe we’re a great team. We’ve spent almost two decades as best friends and support systems for one another, and our chemistry professionally is just as profound. We genuinely trust one another, and we feed off of each other’s energy. She really is the ying to my yang. When you put us both on a project, you get intellect, perfection, and creativity to the nth degree.
CL: Jocelyn is passionate, idea-obsessed, big-hearted. She brings to TALA lots of humor, a glass-half-full mindset and enthusiasm that’s infectious. Jocelyn is truly a wiz at making connections. Her network is unrivaled, and her reputation is equally stellar. It’s a privilege to partner with someone of such high caliber and esteem, and to also be able to call that someone your best friend. While we bring different strengths to TALA, in many ways she’s my clone…a better one! There’s no other person with whom I would want to take this journey.
Ebony: The two of you have enormous capabilities and experiences. What do you plan to specialize in?
JA: I am a marketing and communications expert with more than 20 years of experience working in a variety of roles, helping companies gain entrée in affinity and multicultural markets, launch new technologies in new markets, shift communications mindset to storytelling among media outlets beyond traditional media, using the proven ability of making connections and mobilizing relationships. Few PR people know diversity from as many different angles as I do.
CL: I am a brand and reputation pro, with 20 years of experience positioning multinational companies, and the proven ability to couple communication strategy with revenue/profit generation, implement effective integrated campaigns, build efficient plans and processes to drive practical solutions and rally relationships and resources to deliver superior performance. Few PR people have the experience with multinational companies and exposure to as many B2B/B2C industries as I do.
Jocelyn understands the ins-and-outs of a global automaker, while Chandra understands the position of a global automotive supplier. Few agencies can offer such perspective. The breadth and depth of our combined 40+ years of experience is unmatched. TALA can stretch functionally and across industries, positioning multi-scope clients, in multiple cities and countries.
From advertising to crisis/change management, multicultural marketing to fully integrated campaigns, speeches to social media engagement, we bring brands to life and create meaningful experiences that connect our clients, causes and communities in a genuine way.
EBONY: How are you adjusting to your new work flow?
JA: We are really embracing the enormous creativity that is simply flowing in our daily lives now. The brainstorms, the spontaneous conversations, the unencumbered, unrestricted ideas that are being generated and discussed is so encouraging. We feel as though new life has been breathed into our careers.
CL: While we’ve been friends for nearly two decades, we rarely collaborated on a professional level before now. To see our personal chemistry blossom professionally is really something.
EBONY: How are the two of you adjusting to the flow of being entrepreneurs?
JA: We are energized by all the encouragement, support, and credible inquiries that are coming our way. We’re in startup grind phase right now, taking on new roles from IT to accounting to HR and the like. Yes, it requires a lot of energy, but it is so invigorating. With the support of our collective village, not only have best friends become business partners, but TALA is destined to build something great for our clients, and for ourselves.
EBONY: What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages to being your own boss?
CL: We can utilize our time, energy and combined 40-years experience to make decisions on own terms. We can create concepts, nurture ideas and showcase clients, brands and projects using our savvy, beliefs and passions in a manner we desire. We have the privilege to shape our company from the ground up.
We don’t see disadvantages. We’re invigorated by the sheer steeping out on faith of the endeavor, and the confidence that we have in our individual selves and our combined competence and creativity will help us build brands and create legacies.
EBONY: What are you most excited about with the Allen Lewis Agency?
JA: We act on shared values, vision, mission, purpose and goals. We are excited about the opportunity to helping clients tell their stories, build their brands, commemorate experiences and expand their business through strategic brand development, communication planning, media and public relations, experiential events, marketing and reputation management. We’re excited about the opportunity for two mothers, two daughters, two communication executives, two go-getters and two best friends to create something that’s exceptional.
CL: Clients won’t find an agency that will work harder for their success.
Gil Robertson IV is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author and president of the African-American Film Critics Association.