Kendrick, Erika J.
Erika J. Kendrick
Entertainment and marketing executive, event planner, producer, author
Erika Kendrick is president of the New York network of the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment (NABFEME), a non-profit group whose mission is to support women of color in the entertainment industry through various alliances and support programs. Realizing how much the group did for her own life and career, Kendrick is dedicated to its principles. She is a remarkable woman with a career that is already worthy of a memoir, as one literary agent told her. Kendrick is a marketing executive and event planner in the entertainment industry and has worked for some of the most successful entertainment and pubic relations firms in the industry. Creating marketing campaigns for some of the biggest celebrities, Kendrick's work is featured in national publications like Ebony magazine. Kendrick also writes and produces for television. In 2007 she will publish her first novel, despite having no prior experience in publishing. A second novel is slated to publish in 2008.
Kendrick had a wonderful upbringing in a loving home on Chicago's south side. Her arrival had been a long-anticipated blessing for her parents, Benjamin and Estaleta Kendrick. The couple had tried for years to start a family, so when their baby girl was born on May 19, 1974, they believed that she was indeed special. With all the attention her parents lavished on her, it's curious that Kendrick would spend most of her youth worried that the world wouldn't notice her. "As I got older, I even became afraid of not being recognized professionally," Kendrick said in an interview with Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). "I needed to know my purpose … my passion." Kendrick spent her early years in an anxious and painful search for whatever that was. It was a dark time in her life that lasted until her late twenties. "At the time, I believed that if I could get a ray of hope, I would grab it and hold on to it," Kendrick told CBB.
After high school, Kendrick went off to Stanford University and completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, a field that had always piqued her interest, in 1996. Later she completed an M.B.A. in marketing and international business at the University of Illinois in 2002. That year Kendrick found an opportunity to do promotional and marketing work for Clive Davis at J Records, one of the hottest labels in the business. Spending several months at the label, Kendrick learned about the music business and developed a "thick skin." The music industry isn't an easy one, especially for a woman, Kendrick noted. "It was an 'ole boy network,'" she told CBB, "and I had gone into it blindly." Her next job, a sales job with Island Def Jam Records, offered her greater opportunities, and so excited her that she didn't even mind the office they gave her: the supply room. At Island Def Jam Records, she danced backup for several groups and performed in a few music and cable access videos. In 2003, Kendrick left Island Def Jam Records.
Kendrick had grown tired of the dog-eat-dog music business and turned her sights elsewhere. It was during this time that Kendrick realized that marketing was what she was "born to do." She has since worked in marketing and production for such companies as the Apollo Theater in Harlem and Way Out World Productions in New York. She enjoys the psychology behind marketing. "I like how it relates to what drives the consumer, and the fact that it allows a degree of creativity." The work often involves aggressive marketing to increase brand awareness and visibility in the "trendsetter's segment of the urban market." Kendrick also produces for television and independent film out of New York City. Even though Kendrick discovered how to employ her talents, she also credited another factor for her success. "I think fear motivates me also," she told CBB. "I've always been driven by it to do well. It has made me push to be good at things that I may not have been good at initially."
Kendrick attributes much of her success to the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment (NABFEME) and its founder, Johnnie Walker. When Kendrick became involved with NABFEME in 2002, she was going through a particularly rough time in her life. She said they saved her life. Walker, who was senior vice president of promotions at Island Def Jam Records at the time, had started the organization to assist women of color who were filling the ranks of the music business in greater numbers. Kendrick met Walker at one of NABFEME's mixers and bared her soul to Walker about what she was feeling about her life and career. Kendrick wanted to make it in the entertainment world but could not get the break she needed. She was extremely and dangerously depressed and she knew it. Walker took her under her wing, invited her to a conference in Toronto, and then to the company's New York offices for several weeks. While there, Kendrick received a job offer from another executive who had also heard what Kendrick was going through. She's been sailing ever since.
Building on this success, Kendrick found good fortune in another arena in 2006: publishing. Random House will publish Kendrick's first novel in 2007 and a second novel in 2008. Her first novel, about a rookie cheerleader, grabbed the attention of an interested agent immediately after she sent it out. The agent loved Kendrick's characters and shopped the book around until she found the Random House deal. Kendrick had never published before. In fact, although she always loved to write, she had never let anyone read any of her writing. But she sensed that this work was good enough to publish. The idea for the novel had come from a series of small pieces Kendrick had written while writing screenplays for television. She had looked over her collection one day and realized that she might have enough material for a novel. Her writing career—launched with Confessions of a Rookie Cheerleader, which she described as a "sweet love story"—was just waiting to be discovered.
At a Glance …
Born on May 19, 1974, in Chicago, IL. Education: 'Stanford University, BA, psychology, 1996; University of Illinois, MBA, marketing and international business, 2002.
Career: Chicago Bulls Luva-bulls/NBA Chicago Bulls, Chicago, IL, cheerleader/dancer, 1998–99; Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, intern, Chicago, IL, 2001; J Records, promotions and marketing, 2002; Island Def Jam, New York, NY, marketing and sales, 2002–03; Apollo Theater, Harlem, NY, marketing and production, 2004; Way Out World Productions, New York, NY, pilot producer, 2004; Random House, New York, NY, author, 2006–.
Memberships: National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment, New York Chapter, president; National Association of Black Journalists; Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.; Stanford Alumni Association; National Black MBA Association.
Awards: Exceptional Women in Business, 2004; Who's Who Among Graduate Students, 2002.
Addresses: Office—Erika Benjamin, Inc., 561 10th Avenue, Suite 42F, New York, NY 10036.
"Erika Kendrick," NABFEME, www.nabfeme.org/html/Kendrick-erika2.htm (July 20, 2006).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Erika J. Kendrick on August 10, 2006.
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