Robyn Streisand started early with an interest in business. She has carefully climbed the business ladder to become a highly visible and viable player in the marketing arena, especially when it comes to working with diversity in major companies. Robyn’s clients have included Mercedes-Benz and Pfizer among other key brand names, and she has found a way to promote diversity within each one. As she prepares for World Pride (held in New York City, June 2019), Ms. Robyn Streisand took time from the Out & Equal Workplace Advocate Expo that recently took place in Seattle to sit down and graciously give business insights.
Eric Andrews-Katz: At what age did you recognize your interest in business?
Robyn Streisand: At age eleven. My parents divorced, and it left my mom in a situation without anything. She had to go to work for the first time. I felt like my dad abandoned us, and felt as if I had to do something. I wanted to chip-in and contribute. I got a job at “Food Town”, I wasn’t 15 yet, and I would take people’s bags from the door to the cars. They would pay me. By doing that, I could contribute. It was the beginning of my entrepreneur spirit. I discovered what I could do to help, and now (at 55) I’m still the same way.
Andrews-Katz: How did you make those interests manifest into a career?
Streisand: I’ve always been a seeker, and one to look for things. Also being at the right place in the right time. It was like walking through a door. If a sliding door or opening appeared, I went through not knowing what’s on the other side. It’s always been a good way for me – to just go ahead. You never know. I come from a place where I’m always ready for opportunities. I also believe it’s about how you dress, how you present yourself, and how you articulate. I’ve always been that way.
Andrews-Katz: Your first step into marketing was through banking. How did banking prepare you for the world of marketing?
Streisand: This was also a situation where banking was only in my peripheral stream of thought. It was the furthest thing from my mind, but it was about seizing the opportunity at the right time. I did an internship (Junior and Senior year at college) at Citibank. I went to a job fair and filled out applications at every booth. Citibank brought me in for an internship. I had an opportunity to work within the credit department, installing loans and revolving credit, and working with the branch network. My assignment was studying the Five Burroughs of New York to understand what kind of housing (condos, brownstones) was accessible. I didn’t know much about it, but I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I rather like not knowing about something; trying to figure things out on my own, we learn by our failures. I asked questions and listened to the answers. I wound up working full time through my senior year so that when I graduated, I already had a job.
Andrews-Katz: How did your first marketing company The Mixx get started?
Streisand: I got together with a few of my girlfriends to brainstorm about ideas. I decided to open my own agency, and started out of my apartment. I already cumulated relationships with a lot of people, in my businesses, and that was the foundation of my entrepreneurial start. I opened The Mixx, emphasizing the love of community, making it all about ‘the mix’ of people and what that represents. That was in 1996. It’s been the most dynamic run of any business, to withstand and sustain inside the world of digital, and what an agency. We stay up with the change of the business landscape. I also enjoy being a Certified; LGBT/Woman owned business and staying prepared for what the business world is in the current day and age.
Andrews-Katz: What are the differences between your companies The Mixx and Titanium Worldwide?
Streisand: The Mixx is a strategic marketing and creative agency, and that’s all. It specializes in that because that is what people need to bring good strategies to life. I found that I [The Mixx] was too small to go after the larger scale RFP (Request For Proposals) to work with the bigger companies. You have to respond to the RFP in order to grow and get larger companies. I believe in the goods and services provided, and I like thinking out of the box. Big Business tends to repackage more [oppose to recreate] and that’s how they work, and why they are big agencies. My first two original clients are still with me (23 years later) and we’ve grown up in the business together.
Titanium Worldwide was formed because I was told The Mixx was too small to compete, and it was being dismissed. I re-envisioned a company, and it was born as a growth strategy to aim at the marketing contracts for the bigger businesses. Using Titanium Worldwide as an umbrella, I handpicked the agencies based on the business and diversities within, and together we came out as one entity. As a corporation umbrella we can bring in whatever agencies needed to customize everything any client could want. We are also unique in the fact we are the only company that brings together LGBT and diversity by working with The WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council), The NGLCC (National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce), as well as the NMSDC (National Minority Supplier Development Council). Each of these entities is government regulated and certified companies with 51% being owned and operated within that particular community. I like to think of myself as a champion of this type of diversity networking for over 18 years. Everything I do is around diversity and business strategy. I look at the general market and how it is including the different cultures. Brands and major companies need to market themselves to these communities. We, at The Mixx and Titanium Worldwide, like to think of ourselves as coming from a like-minded approach about how to introduce these companies to diverse marketing.
Andrews-Katz: What are the important features you look for in a company before taking them on as a client?
Streisand: I look at what the CEO cares about from a place of values and mission purpose. I look at the culture and dynamic of the company. I don’t want to work with companies of ‘Status Quo’. My Bull Shit Meter is pretty strong (earned from my age and experience), so I don’t want to work with companies that aren’t willing to expand in the market. We are selling how to connect a brand and a product with an audience.
Andrews-Katz: Are exclusive LGBT networking groups still a necessity in today’s business world?
Streisand: I think for the time being, yes. We are on a mission toward One Voice and One Audience, but there is still work to do. We have to pay homage to where people come from, and where they are at currently. I think there is still a need for people to feel embraced.
Andrews-Katz: You mentioned becoming certified as being LGBT owned and operated. How does a business become certified?
Streisand: Go to http://www.NGLCC.org to apply to become a certified LGBT business. There is a criteria and it can be a rigorous process. They look at passports and registrations by the government. Diversity is a hot topic in The Fortune 500 right now. People look at it as being an opportunity to network with Big Business.
Andrews-Katz: What are the advantages of being a registered business?
Streisand: You get to register your business, as a minority owned and operated business, with as many companies as you like. You can get access to opportunities that normally may not be there. The market has shifted and changed in a positive way, more so than I have ever seen. Diverse suppliers are being registered so that corporations can understand that diversity begins with other ideas because of where we come from and how those ideas were formed. ‘Cookie cutter’ patterns and ‘plain vanilla’ aren’t wanted anymore.
Andrews-Katz: In your opinion, what is the largest mistake Big Businesses do that limits their success?
Streisand: I think they get their own way a lot, so they are afraid of trying new things. I think they are short-staffed, and their priorities are individual, they aren’t coming from a unified place for goals and objectives. Everyone is being asked to do more for less. There are a lot of ‘legacy relationships’ in place, those that are inherited as new leadership comes into the fold. These companies don’t recognize the need to redesign. Change is happening everywhere in America; we are in a transitional stage. Brands need to wake up and see the opportunities to engage in a richer and deeper relationship with their clientele.
Andrews-Katz: How is your business going to impact World Pride 2019?
Streisand: The Mixx has created a framework and a platform, as a turnkey solution for a brand to connect with the LGBT audience. We are proposing that we use 2019 and World Pride as a lever to turn on the switch for how a brand engages with the audience.
Andrews-Katz: What does that mean?
Streisand: Our platform is a 365-day marketing strategy. Most brands do the 30 days of Pride month by hosting an event or dinner, or maybe bringing in a speaker. What we are suggesting (because World Pride is a global event) is that the brand starts to market to audiences in January. They put themselves out there so that when June (the usual month for Gay Pride) gets here, they are already a recognized brand name.
Andrews-Katz: How often does World Pride occur?
Streisand: World Pride happens every 2-3 years. It hasn’t happened in the US for over 20 years. Different (global) cities bid for the contract, much like the Olympics. New York bid for it and won for 2019 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. World Pride is like taking what happens in each state for Pride Month, and bringing it together on a global level. They are expecting over six million people to come into New York during the month of June, specifically for this event.
Andrews-Katz: What is the advice you’d give to any small businesses that want to grow?
Streisand: I think partnering is the key to success. People aren’t interested in buying widgets anymore. Virtual partnering gives you more value for product and service. Doing your homework and knowing what your audience is about is also important. Knowing where to be and where not to be. It’s about consistency and bringing positive energy and passion to every conversation. It’s all about the everlasting impression.
Robyn Streisand lives in New York with her wife and two children. She was named one of Out magazine’s “OUT100” list in 2016. Robyn was named by the American Cancer Society – “Honorary Chair of the Inaugural Relay for Life of the LGBT”. On October 25th, 2019 the Financial Times will honor Robyn Streisand as “OUTstanding LGBT Executive 2018”.