I had the great pleasure of asking a few questions with our latest Amber Grantwinner, Robin Watkins. What a terrific story – one of the most personally inspiring stories we’ve ever heard at WomensNet.net. I hope you’re as touched as I was!
– Christina Lambert
WomensNet.net: Robin, please tell us the story of how your business came into being. How old is the business?
Whatever Media started about two years ago when I moved back to Hampton – the city where I went to college (Hampton University) – from Los Angeles. I really wanted to start my own multimedia business, but the market was just too saturated in Los Angeles for creative services. Moreover, I had more resources and support here from my friends, professors, and alumni from both Hampton University and my grad school Regent University. I had actually planned to get a “real job” and do my business on the side, but unfortunately, all of the opportunities I had lined up here fell through when I decided to move back.
So I had to find something, I needed money, and I decided to redirect my focus. I put all the time I was using to find hard-to-get jobs (during the height of a recession) into finding my first few clients. I started by putting an ad in the Creative Services section on Craigslist, and I did a few websites for small business owners. Not too long afterward, I got the opportunity to do a proposal for a website for the airport in my region – the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport. After that, my business spread like wildfire just from word of mouth, and my business name became well known in the area.
I love what I do. I have always wanted to be my own boss and work in a creative field, and I love helping people. It’s hard work, but it’s a kind of freedom and satisfaction that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
WomensNet.net: How did “Whatever Media” get its name?
I was talking to one of my best friends and I couldn’t figure out a name. While brainstorming, he asked me what types of services I planned to provide and I said, “Whatever… I can edit, take photos, design websites, do some audio production – anything that has to do with multimedia.” So the “Whatever” stuck!
WomensNet.net: What makes your business or business model unique?
My business specifically caters to small businesses and nonprofits. As a small business, I know what first-hand what we need – and more importantly, what we don’t need, and how to save money. I try to pass on any quality information to my customers about useful free, open-source, or affordable services and software for their business…and only the ones I have personally tested myself. I know how hard it was for me to filter through all of the junk and ridiculous advertisements and offers you receive when you first start a business.
I have seen good people with good businesses fail, simply because they either did not take advantage of technology that was available to them. Or even worse, because they were unaware of what was available to them. Just sharing knowledge of how to use new technologies effectively can help a business tremendously. I truly believe that by passing that information on, without trying to directly profit from it, I will receive the positive karma back – and it lets my clients know that they can trust me.
WomensNet.net: Who or what is your biggest inspiration as a woman business owner?
My mother is a great inspiration for me to work hard. She raised me and my siblings as a single parent, and always had an awesome “just do it” attitude that I have learned a lot from. She has also always been the type of woman who would give you the coat off of her back even if she had to be without one. I’d like to say that I have at least half as much generosity and diligence as her, and I try to put that into my business.
WomensNet.net: What do you plan on doing with the Amber Grant money?
I plan to start an educational division of my business that teaches web design to kids, both after school and online for homeschooled students – or anyone that can’t make it to my office. I would also like to start a camp, specifically for at-risk preteen girls, to get them interested in computer technology by providing instruction in web design, programming, multimedia production, and video game design using open-source software and Linux computers. The money will be used to help secure some of the equipment to put together the lab, and to cover printing costs for the advertising materials.
Just for fun, here is Robin’s associate:
Desireé Monique, or “Desi”, is a precious, petite, lab mix that has been employed as Lead Creative Consultant at Whatever Media since she was rescued from the Peninsula SPCA in November 2009. Desi has been recognized not only for her attentiveness to detail, but also for her assistance in generating innovative concepts. While Desi’s history is currently unknown, it is inevitable that she is a strong survivor of abandonment, exploitation, and famine. Today, she is the go-to girl for confirmation of Whatever Media’s prospective ideas. Desi spends her leisure time relaxing on sunny spots on the floor, going on walks at the beach, or getting scratched behind the ears by anyone willing to do so.