Lean into awkward conversations — When your bandwidth or perspective shifts it can cause misalignment in expectations and output which when it isn’t resolved can cause issues, fracture relationships, and waste resources. Conversations like these can make you feel vulnerable and awkward. However its necessary to keep yourself optimized for success.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Butler.
Butler is a creative consultant working in arts, education, and culture. He helps design experiences, brands, and tools that connect 21st Century opportunities to traditional structures.
By developing these non-traditional connections Dave endeavors to affect change in local communities; uplifting people who look like him and people who have similar cultural interests.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Thanks for having me — My name is David Butler, I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I come from a long line of educators and despite losing my father at a very young age I had a relatively “normal” childhood. I played a lot of basketball growing up and added soccer to the mix in high school — I also got my first exposure to entrepreneurship at this time.. I attended Winston Salem State University where I studied management and really started to lean into my creativity and figuring out how I could turn my interests and lifestyle into a career. .
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Campus Connections played a big role in my personal and professional development. It’s a Charlotte based, faith centered non-profit that facilitates tours of Historically Black Colleges and Universities for highschool students. About 150–200 students a year are supported through the program each year. Going to a small private school; CC was a great way to socialize and meet new students from different schools throughout North and South Carolina. Also getting a chance to view every HBCU on the eastern seaboard was great exposure. It gave me something to look forward to as I didn’t do much to apply myself in the classroom in high school. Through this program I saw college as an opportunity to reinvent myself and learn more about my history.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making a difference to me involves giving people information to make better decisions about the direction of their life. Being extremely intentional about meeting people where they are and helping them see a way to navigate their individual path. Making a difference comes from true one to one work and building community with people.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
My partners and I started Hue House in 2019 after a year of discussing gaps we saw in our city’s arts and culture sector. We set out on a mission to help connect cultural institutions and adjacent organizations to parts of the community they had missed for decades via marketing and events. As we began to service our early client base and founded our non-profit arm we noticed that there was a bigger opportunity by providing this same value to larger brands and companies through consulting, creative assets, and community building. So we set our sights on decolonizing the marketing and advertising industry and creating space for more black talent to enter the space. This takes the intention of both growing our agency and for profit business while providing resources to black creatives through our non-profit, The Block Foundation Inc.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Reflecting on the experiences of being an artist and creative professional. We’re often socialized that our skills aren’t transferable and we need so many other people and things to create space for ourselves and be successful. In reality artists and creatives help several industries thrive. Someone has to help them connect the dots — You don’t have to be a “starving artist” and you don’t have to work odd jobs if you don’t want to.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Once I met my partners and realized we had a similar outlook I knew something had to be done. We experienced a lot of the same things and had all built too many connections in our individual careers to not try and make a bigger impact together.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Research but don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis — So much more comes from taking action and doing. A lot of times things never work out how we plan them anyway so do enough planning and research that you have a framework for the idea but executing is most important — You can always make adjustments as you learn.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
It’s always super interesting to watch the lightbulb come on in people’s minds when they start to understand the relationship between the for profit business and the non profit organization.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
Blessed to have a short term memory as it relates to mistakes so I don’t remember many of them funny or otherwise. Whether the ball goes in or not I kind of take the approach of being prepared to shoot the next shot. I guess that’s a big lesson I’ve learned from previous mistakes, failures, and bumps along my journey.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Our community has really cheered us on and embraced us from inception and through our recent growth. The blsck creatives that make up The Block audience understand the mission and are continuing to show their appreciation for the work and opportunities we’re able to provide. That’s been super rewarding.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We’ve gotten a lot of support from our connections that work in different philanthropic and municipal spaces related to arts, culture, and creative industry. We’re giving them an alternative to point to and a fresh perspective on a lot of things like community engagement, talent recruitment, education, etc and they do a great job of keeping our name alive in those spaces.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Empower people from communities you seek to help
- Give them access to your resources
- Get out of the way
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Lean into awkward conversations — When your bandwidth or perspective shifts it can cause misalignment in expectations and output which when it isn’t resolved can cause issues, fracture relationships, and waste resources. Conversations like these can make you feel vulnerable and awkward. However its necessary to keep yourself optimized for success.
- Don’t be afraid to say no — As you build your thing people will want to find ways to attach themselves to it or leverage it for their own gain. This isnt always an inherently bad thing but if it goes unchecked you can start to see the perspective of your thing shift in the eyes of others. Its important to map out who your ideal customers and partners are and why. It will help with discernment and develop processes to weed out the things that don’t align really quickly.
- Do personality tests when you’re building a team — My partners and I did tests at the top of our business engagement which helped us understand each other at a deeper level. We know where we are aligned naturally and where we can help support each other as well. We’ve made this apart of onboarding so we have a deeper grasp on the types of people we work with most consistently/
- Don’t take things personally — Sometimes people don’t mean to hurt you or didn’t know their decision would affect you in a specific way. Always ask questions and don’t make assumptions.
- Control the controllables and don’t stress the rest — Building something has enough stress already — Use the energy and resources you have to solve problems instead of focusing on problems.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Ultimately, to be fulfilled you’ll need a mission or a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. Making money is cool and being recognized is dope but if there’s nothing after that then you will still feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tristan Walker, CEO — Walker & Company Brands
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m on LinkedIn: David J. Butler and the rest of my social handles are @dave_haswingz
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you so much — Really appreciate your time and the platform.
Young Change Makers: Why and How Dave Butler Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.