How Akil Alvin walked away from college scholarship to start flourishing ad agency working with Ford, Bank of America

Abu Mubarik January 16, 2023
Akil Alvin, founder of of Digital Detroit Media ad Agency . Photo credit: Akil Alvin via LinkedIn

Meet Akil Alvin. He is the founder of Digital Detroit Media, a multimedia content creation company. He launched the company after he graduated from the Detroit School of Arts. He walked away from a college scholarship to start pursuing his dream career — to create and be paid.

Since launching the company in 2013, his business has worked for clients like McDonald’s, Bank of America, Ford Motor Company, and Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers. According to Forbes, the company made more than $2 million in revenue in 2021.

Alvin started his entrepreneurial journey at a very young age. At the age of seven, he was already out there looking for opportunities and making things happen. He recalled abandoning his American football sessions and pitching camp in a local library. 

“[In the library] I saw the awesome things that were happening in the institution,” the Detroit entrepreneur told the Peer Podcast Project.  I mean, not the just the books but the technology and the event that was going on. But I realized that I was the only one at the age of seven, of my peers, you know, I was the youngest one there. So I asked my local library ‘can I help produce events,  can I produce my own type of marketing and they said ‘yes.’”

According to him, his marketing strategy helped take the library to number one in the region. From there, he worked for the National Service as a producer and marketer before launching his ad agency, which got him featured on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.

Alvin grew up in Detroit, where his parents lived on government support to take care of him and his siblings. His mother had him when she was only 15. Although growing up was challenging, the entrepreneur noted that it wasn’t new to him. According to him, most African-American families have been living within an ‘epidemic and within a pandemic.’ ” This is not new to us. From wealth disparities to racial gaps, and health disparities, we have been living in that. So they [his parents] embodied that hustling that you can never give up.”

In spite of the challenges, he described his childhood as fun and loving. “I had a fun childhood. You know, the media portrays it in a different light. I tell people and our clients all over the world that no matter where you are in the world, Detroit has impacted you in some way, shape, or form,” he told the Peer Project.

“Whether it is the music of Motown that moves, Know Micheal Jackson and Steve Wonder or the automobile industry, Ford, GM and the different things that drove you from destination to destination. Or it is just the impact that we never quit. It is that grit, that grind, it that hustle and I think I was raised with all three. You know, to move you to action, grind of never quitting,” he said.

Alvin is also giving back to his community. He recently launched an internship program for students, giving them real-world industry experience working with his team on their ad campaigns.

Available statistics show that Black CEOs only make up just 1 percent of the fortune 500.  His decision to give back is a way of increasing black representation in the advertising world.

“It’s one thing to tell me what I can do. But it’s another thing to show me someone who looks like me that is doing it,” he said.

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