We had the good fortune of connecting with Kerry Smalls and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kerry, what role has risk played in your life or career?
RISK is so necessary, and is the only real means to growth. The beauty of risk is that it is scary. With that fear, comes challenge. By completing that challenge and taking that risk, one becomes more confident, proud of where they have come from and become eager to keep moving forward. Risk has always been a scary thing in my life for comfort’s sake. I have gotten in many comfortable situations that were not necessarily in alignment with where I see myself 15 years from now, but I arrived, my bills were paid and I could fly by under the radar by doing the bare minimum. When that feeling sets in, I recognize it immediately. It makes me unhappy. It makes me feel stagnant. I know risk… or… change… as we can identify it, needs to take place. I have jumped out the window for new jobs, new relationships both romantic and personal, as well as new endeavors – all by way of risk and not being sure of the exact outcome. I even up and moved to Atlanta on a whim, uprooting myself from where I was born and raised in New Jersey, because I knew a risk needed to be taken in order to reach another level in my life. I will say, if you TRUST risk, and you accept challenge, in time and not always immediately, you will at some point see reward. If the idea that a larger future is just after that gray are of “risk” I always say, go for it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey and began my career working various internships: The Chamber Group, Susan Blond Inc, Mission PR, Britt Banter PR. Thereafter I founded Smalls Relations, PR where I spearheaded a diverse lists of clients that ranged from Dom Perignon, Taste of the Best Wine Extravaganza and PUMA; to DJ Quiana Parks, ReLxuise and DJ For A Cure (a collective of Celebrity DJ’s who partner with the Leukemia Lymphoma society to end blood cancers).
Through a lot of hustle and ambition, I then transitioned over to a fulfilling stint at Compound/Motown Records, where he worked hands on in the marketing department; directly assisting the likes of multi-platinum Grammy Award winning artist NE-YO, Adrienne Bailon, Candice, Sonna Rele and more.
Kerry’s most previous career endeavor was acting as Senior Director of Public Relations at The Chamber Group, a position where I ascended to from the bottom to the top. The Chamber Group is a multifaceted public relations firm that represents clients such as Mariah Carey, Lionsgate, Netflix, STARZ, Future, Jill Scott, Belvedere, Essence Music Festival, ASCAP, Kelly Rowland and many more. My personal roster at The Chamber Group included acts such as The National Black Theater, The Rattlestick Theater, Lee Daniels, Slick Rick, Future, Chaka Khan, NE-YO, Essence Festival, VALENTINO and more.
Along with consulting and management, Kerry now acts as Account Director at global media, marketing and PR company, BCW Global, where he I work alongside a vast team of thought leaders and change makers in the brand practice space; continuing to strategize around creative story telling that brings culture to your fingertips.
I am most proud of the countless magazine covers I have placed over the years, including Rolling Stone, VIBE, Flaunt, L’Officiel, Footwear News, Time Out, GQ and so many more. I am proud of the relationships that I have built with both clients, the media and culture creators. I believe what sets me a part is my personality, relatability and amicability. I am transparent, honest, stern in my approach, but clear in my articulation and intention when approaching my work. Clients recognize this and it helps me build long-standing, trusting relationships. My road here was not easy. A lot of sleepless nights, tears and tiresome efforts that go unrewarded. What kept me moving and growing was thinking about my future. I keep tunnel vision and consider challenges just obstacles that I have to overcome and are all just pivots that are leading me to the future version of myself.
The world should know, I am here. That’s it for me. I am not who I work for and I am not what I do. Being Kerry, no matter the institution I am attached to, has always set me apart from my peers and being myself is something that no one can ever copy. That is a piece of information that I will always pass back to younger professionals coming up under me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have so many recommendations that I would recommend to my friends coming into the city, although I recently moved here in May, I am learning a lot.
As far as restaurants go, I of course am loving supporting either everything black owned, and/or operated
Continent Restaurant in Chamblee (Caribbean/Asian fusion)
Breakfast at Barney’s
Blue Seafood House
Virgils Gullah Kitchen & Bar
Harold’s Chicken and Ice Bar
The Garden Room & Bar
Yebo Beach Haus
Two Urban Licks
No. 246, amazing Italian in Decatur, and also, the area is very nice to walk around, get coffee or ice cream, check out the little shops and get away from the inner city a bit.
The list can go on and on, haha!
I would love to take my friends to the High Art Museum and check out whatever exhibits are happening that week. They also do pop-up art installations at Underground ATL Downtown. I’d suggest normal things too, like bowling or catching a move in Atlantic Station area, also walking around that mall complex there are always some cool shopping carts to grab things from.
Walking around and getting coffee in Little Five Points is relaxing for me.
I’d take them hiking up Stone Mountain, possibly play tennis in Piedmont Park or just rent scooters/bikes and ride around midtown. There are so many fun bars, restaurants and things to see in Atlanta.
The late night scene in Atlanta, which can go until 6am in the morning, we will save that for another interview, haha!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Absolutely. There are 3 pillars in my life and career, that I am grateful for! Firstly, I got my start by joining The Grammy 365 Organization for students back in 2011. A crash course in music business with events, studio sessions and more – which put me on track toward meeting the woman who would hire me for my first internship.
Second, my parents. My mother, father and step-father! Without them, I would not have made it through. Their undeniable support, love and understanding the vision that I had for my future with patience, always encouraged me to stay in pursuit of the type of career I want. They saw me through college and have supported me every step of the way.
Lastly, my most previous boss/friend, Chris Chambers, CEO of the Chamber Group. Chris took a chance on me as his assistant, and took the time to develop me into the creative professional I have become for that past 6 years. Chris nurtured my career with a stern, yet friendly approach, expanded my perception of the world as it relates to art, fashion, culture and so much more. Aside from a boss, Chris is a friend that encouraged me to blossom in my life both personally and professionally!
Courtesy, Kerry Smalls