Given the unpredictable headwinds of maintaining a business, if a company lasts for more than five years these days, it?s cause for celebration. In Kim L. Hunter?s case, he has more than a few reasons to kick back and bask in his success.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Lagrant Communications, Hunter?s California-based multimillion-dollar integrated marketing communications corporation. Since beginning the company, Hunter has since created The Lagrant Foundation, the charitable arm of Lagrant for which he serves as founder and chairman. A nonprofit organization which provides scholarships; career development workshops; internships; mentorship and educational enrichment programs to minority students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, marketing and public relations, the foundation has awarded $1.83 MM in scholarships to 331 students. To this end, Hunter has raised upwards of $9 MM in 17 years? time.
And he doesn?t tire easily.
In addition to managing Lagrant, the 33-year veteran of corporate and agency experience in advertising, marketing and public relations also manages other businesses, utilizing his extensive background in brand marketing, crisis management, media and community relations. Currently, he is a corporate director for SCAN Health Plan, an HMO with $2 billion in revenue and 975 employees where he serves on the Finance and Quality & Member Experience committees.
Amid all of it, he even finds time to speak at universities and seminars.?
A graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota and the University of Washington in Seattle, Hunter is the recipient of several awards and distinctions including The Holmes Report wherein he received an Individual Achievement SABRE Award and named him as one of In2?s Innovator 25; and PRWeek?s PR Professional of the Year- Agency Honorable Mention.
Here, we caught up with the unstoppable Hunter to talk about Lagrant and its future.??????
TNJ.com: What prompted you to launch LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS 25 years ago?
K.H.: LAGRANT was launched in response to the growing demographic of African Americans. I saw this as an opportunity to help brands expand in this market. My passion also lies in healthcare, which is why the agency has a strong history in developing healthcare and social marketing campaigns. Some of our first clients included American Cancer Society and L.A. County Department of Public Health.
TNJ.com: Tell me a bit about the company?
K.H.: LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS is an integrated marketing communication that develops advertising, marketing and public relations campaigns to specifically target the African American and Hispanic communities. We have developed award-winning campaigns for clients including Verizon, Harley Davidson, Carnival Corporation, Covered California, among others.
TNJ.com: What, if any challenges did you encounter in getting the company up and running?
K.H.: One challenge that I faced when getting LAGRANT up and running was convincing potential clients that there was value in targeting the multicultural markets. In some cases, this is still the case today. Our country is vastly changing where the minority is becoming the majority and brands have to be prepared to connect with these growing segments.
TNJ.com: What was your funding approach? Did you take out loans, savings, etc.?
K.H.: Most of the funding came from my personal savings. I had worked in corporate America for seven years. So I was able to put away enough to invest in my own company. I also borrowed from a friend of which, I was able to pay back within the agreed nine months, plus interest.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest business lesson?
K.H.: It?s important to have a good understanding of the marketplace. The U.S. generally has a recession every 10 years. LAGRANT has been able to withstand three cycles of recessions. Also, an entrepreneur must be astute to industry trends and be flexible when adjusting to them.
TNJ.com: As a business owner, how important is it to open up to new markets in the interest of staying current with emerging trends, keeping up with the competition?
K.H.: Critical. Because of the emerging trends within our industry, I have been able to expand my company to include the Hispanic Practice  and POLISH (Political, Opportunity, Leverage, Influence, Strategy and Honesty) , a public affairs division of LAGRANT COMMUNICATIONS that promotes and supports women seeking elected office at the local, regional, and national level, with a strong emphasis on electing women of color.
TNJ.com: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to form their own companies?
K.H.: As an employee you have the opportunity to check out and check in. However, to be an entrepreneur means truly working 24/7. It?s important to know the difference and understand the different commitments.
TNJ.com: What?s next for LAGRANT, both short-term and long-term?
K.H.: The agency?s short-term goal is to identify the next generation of leaders of the firm and develop them. In the long-term, we plan to expand our services in the international markets with a heavy focus on South America and South Africa.