Daya by Zendaya Strategic Marketing Director Alechia Reese is a marketing maven and founder of 360 Gateway Brands. She is the author of Eating Elephants and a public speaker and despite her superhero-like feats, Reese is human.
Born into poverty, Reese woke up many nights with rats running around her face in her small Florida home. Reese was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida where she participated on the city council board and attended West Coast School of Human Development. But attending private school came at a cost that few students and their parents had to pay for.
Reese’s mother bartered cleaning services for Alechia and her siblings in order to secure their education. She said, “It taught me that you have to use what you have to get what you need.”
Reese continued her education at Florida International University where she pursued a degree in marketing. After graduating, everything seemed to be moving upward until her next obstacle would arise.
She said, “I used to choose abusive men like children choose candy. I would choose broken men like they were projects. I’m Southern-raised and we’re taught to stand by our men.” Reese became a victim of domestic violence.
In 2012, Reese met and assisted a young woman in getting out of a situation that led Reese to cancel her own suicide attempt and overcome domestic violence. Reese left her partner to move to Brooklyn, New York, but the initial transition was rough. She, her daughter and sister were borderline homeless for months. But relationships and persistence pay off well.
One day, Reese got a call from an associate gauging her opinion on a young millennial. That conversation led to a meeting that named Reese the strategic marketing director of Daya by Zendaya.
Reese emphasizes the importance of “relationships” in any success story. Those relationships gave Reese her first professional partnership with Grey Goose and the Miami Marlins while still in Florida. The bonds she made in Miami are what brought about the life-changing phone call that led to being the marketing director for Zendaya’s fashion line.
Despite experiencing poverty, domestic violence, suicidal thoughts and a series of other failures, Reese now stands above it all. Alongside her other endeavors, she is launching The STEAM UP Initiative, a four-week incubator dedicated to teaching underprivileged youth about STEM education.
You stress building relationships as the key to success. What is the first step an entrepreneur can take to build a business relationship?
It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you. The first step is to understand it’s not just about you, especially when building next level relationships. Do your research so you can know a pain-point or problem your desired business relationship has, then be ready to be that solution or have a connection that can provide it. Your goal is to be an asset in a world full of liabilities.
What attracted you to entrepreneurship?
Hunger and the ability to create whatever I was willing to imagine and work for. I was hungry and needed money, so at 12 I bartered with a girl in my church to teach me how to braid [hair] in exchange for my help with her clients. I still braid hair to this day.
How do you hope to grow your brand in the coming year?
I’m so excited about a number of partnerships, collaborations and projects we have planned for the new year. I’m super intentional and very strategic, so the relationships I’ve cultivated over the years are coming into harvest. Stay tuned. It’ll be a phenomenal year.
To whom or what do you attribute your success?
There’s no one person, as success is ever-evolving and as I continue to grow there will always be a myriad of contributors to that success. However, one attribute would be my ability to dream big as ever, then be persistent in pursuit of whatever that is. I am consistently persistent and that has made all the difference. No matter what happened, I continue to keep pushing, even when battle fatigue tries to deter me.
Her book, which is now available, is a “life hack.” Eating Elephants says if you don’t like where you are, change it. It is designed to help the reader make their passion make them money. In the short read, Reese emphasizes building relationships as a part of that success. It is a relationship, after all, that allowed Reese to have worked with Zendaya, Melanie Fiona, BET, Vogue Italia, and more.