In his third year in college, BJ Strawter decided to quit school and return to his father’s home so as to join the working world. Before quitting his studies, he had already opened a business, a dance club called Pandora’s Box.
“Like all good college dropouts, I came home and lived with my parents,” he told Midland Daily News. “I realized that entrepreneurship was for me,” he said.
Strawter got hired as a sales agent at a company in Midland called Techspec. “That was how I ended up in Detroit. I sold to Tier One Automotive Suppliers,” he recalled.
Strawter describes himself as a serial entrepreneur owing to the number of businesses he has founded, although some have collapsed. And when the 2008 global recession occurred, he decided to focus on his specialty, which is digital media.
“I’ve started a number of businesses over the years. Some of them didn’t do well,” he said. “(The recession in) 2009 was not kind to quite a few people. That’s really when I started focusing on my background in digital (media).”
Strawter founded a marketing and advertising agency called MILO. He also became a minority owner of Black Life, Arts & Culture (BLAC) and subsequently purchased the magazine in April 2020 when the opportunity presented itself.
When he took over the management of BLAC, he was only less than two months into the job when the police murdered George Floyd, culminating in a series of protests across America.
Strawter recalled sending a late-night mail to his staff to report to the office at 9 a.m after Floyd’s murder on May 25. This followed a decision to scrap the entire June 2020 issue and focus on the protests and the mood of the nation.
“It’s important that we give people a place and a voice, and we tell it from different perspectives,” Strawter told Detroit Free Press. “What I know is that my story, and my struggle, is unique to me. It’s important that people across all spectrums and socioeconomic statuses have a voice, and they feel like they’re being heard and their stories are being told.”
Interestingly, BLAC was the client of Strawter’s first marketing agency. He has since expanded BLAC, which was founded in 1999, to include an online-only magazine in Memphis, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.
Aside from owning BLAC and MILO, he is the co-owner of Busted Bra Shop, a bra boutique that has locations in Detroit, Rochester Hills, Ann Arbor, and Chicago.