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Meet Tasha Cunningham of The Brand Advocates in Wynwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tasha Cunningham.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Tasha. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve always been interested in journalism and media. My dream when I was a child was to be a reporter covering conflict zones around the world, a profession that my parents understandably frowned upon at the time. I always felt that it was important to document the things that happen in our world. The media – journalists, editors and producers – play an important role in that, making sure the public gets accurate information. In this age of disingenuous phrases like “fake news”, it’s more important than ever for the media to continue being vigilant in reporting the facts and bringing that information to the American people.

The curiosity to see the world empowered me to travel to places like Haiti, Canada, Guatemala, Jamaica, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and others. While I don’t think my parents ever wanted their eldest daughter growing up to be a reporter covering wars and other conflicts, they did encourage all their children to explore and become global citizens. They also taught us to have empathy for the plight of those who live in other countries and made sure we were grateful for everything we had.

Visiting different countries gave me perspective on the things that affect our quality of life. No matter where you come from access to healthcare, education, affordable housing, transportation and infrastructure are important to your quality of life. I knew that as a journalist, I could cover these topics and report on them in other countries, but I started what I could do to change things here at home. That led me to become involved in economic development.

I handled communications at the Beacon Council for five years in my 20s. That was an amazing, eye-opening experience for me. I worked on initiatives like One Community One Goal and others that have helped to shape Miami and make it what it is today. I also learned about the critical role small businesses play in economic growth, how important reliable public transportation and healthcare is to the workforce and how cities can work together to effect positive change.

From there, I went to work on several major transportation projects in Miami-Dade and Broward, providing outreach and communications services. It’s great when I go out with my friends and family and can point to a transportation or infrastructure project and say that I had a hand in making it a reality!

In 2006, I met my amazing husband, Courtney Cunningham. We met when an article about a project I was working on appeared in the Miami Herald. He saw my photo in the article and reached out to a mutual friend of ours to see if he could get my number and the rest is history, as they say. We went on our first date the day after Christmas in 2005 and have been together ever since.

Meeting him changed my life. He was already an incredibly successful entrepreneur and attorney when we met so I had the opportunity to learn so much from him. I joined his company, Cunningham Group, Inc. in 2008. He founded the company, a small business, in 1998. In 2014, we sold Cunningham Group to a private equity firm. When we sold the company, we had a diverse book of business, specializing in public sector communications, with annual billings of over $3 million.

That same year, we decided it would be great to repeat the success we had with Cunningham Group and founded The Brand Advocates. In addition to transportation, we expanded our client service offerings to move beyond the public sector by adding a division focused on healthcare branding and communications, where we handle projects for companies like Johnson & Johnson and Stryker.

My parents came to the U.S. in the late 70s from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. My parents always talked to us about how hard immigrants work, their struggles and the strong work ethic they have. He tells anyone who will listen how he instilled that in his children and I think there’s something to my father’s observations. My youngest sister is a lawyer, the other is an operating room nurse and my brother owns a consulting firm. I think that strong work ethic is what has really propelled me throughout my life to keep striving.

In addition to running The Brand Advocates, I contribute article for the Miami Herald about entrepreneurship, marketing and social media. My work has also appeared in the New York Times, AOL and other media outlets. I’ve been a writer and columnist for the Herald since 1999, so it’s been a long time! I’ll also be teaching a course in marketing and branding this fall for StartUP FIU, which I’m very excited about.

 

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I wouldn’t say it has always been a smooth road. I don’t think life is ever a totally smooth road for anyone, no matter your circumstances. But at the same time, I think my struggle really pales in comparison to other women who have overcome adversity, thrived and found success. And I think I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors, talented colleagues and good friends who have supported me along the way.

In general, I think it’s harder to be a woman in business. For a host of reasons that date back to before I was born in the early 70s, women have not been on equal footing with men. It’s astonishing to me that in 2018, women still aren’t paid as much as men for equal work. It’s sad and disappointing that women must still confront this issue.

I think it’s important for women to uplift women, not just in business, but in general. In Miami, we have some exceptional women blazing trails in business. I think women like Suzan McDowell of Circle of One Marketing, Yvonne Lorrie, president of the National Hispanic Public Relations Association, Charmaine Gatlin, Chief Operating Officer of Jackson Health Foundation and North Bay Village Vice Mayor Andreana Jackson are out there doing amazing things and representing Miami in a positive way every day.

The Brand Advocates – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Brand Advocates specializes in branding, advertising, marketing, web design, software development and communications for private and public sector clients in healthcare, affordable housing, and transportation. Our client roster includes state agencies like the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Housing Finance Corporation; municipalities like the cities of Kissimmee, Key West and the Town of Surfside and transportation agencies like the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Kissimmee Gateway Airport.

We are an award-winning, boutique agency with a team of communications professionals specializing in public relations, communications campaigns, branding, experiential marketing and civic engagement/public involvement for private and public sector brands and transportation projects. We have a vision and strong desire to create multicultural campaigns for our clients that generate engagement, build consensus, change community conversations and earn media. Our team includes senior veterans of large advertising agencies who bring national experience and perspectives to our work. The firm is a graduate of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Emerging Leaders Program in 2017.

In June 2018, we won three National Healthcare Advertising Awards for our work on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and Stryker. In transportation, we’re gearing up to provide outreach and communications services on the Hard Rock Stadium pedestrian bridge project and making sure that Miami is ready for the Super Bowl in 2020, which will be played at the stadium, so that’s exciting.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
In business, I define success by an impact. For me it’s not about money or recognition, it’s about the impact. Does the project I’m working on positively impact the community? Does it have a benefit for the residents and business owners who live and work there? If the answer is no, I will pass on it. Personally, I define success by how I’ve helped those around me. Can I pick up the phone and make a call that will help my friend overcome an obstacle? Can I do something for someone I care about that will help them get to the next level? That’s the criteria I think about when I think about defining success on a personal and professional level.

Contact Info:

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