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Debra Turner, Opening Doors

Source: Brand Channel

heynowThe world of licensing can be filled with opportunity, profit, and complications. A good licensing strategist can help devise an inventive strategy for brand extension.

In 2002, Debra Turner co-founded TurnerPatterson with Chelsea Patterson. Billed as a multicultural licensing and marketing firm, TurnerPatterson has secured licensing opportunities for urban properties and entertainment organizations, reaching out to corporate brands that aim to serve a greater need. Like most people who eventually arrive at their dream job, Turner draws from an amalgamation of former lives.

"I've been in related industries—retail, merchandising, advertising and banking, throughout my career," says Turner. "The licensing industry is a culmination of all those experiences. In watching films and their merchandising, I realized there was a void in the market in reaching the multicultural audience, especially the African-American community. I felt there was an opportunity to make an impact in this emerging field and, at the same time, fulfill my interests and passion."

As the licensing agent for such notable multicultural entertainment brands as supermodel Beverly Johnson, the Showtime series (on US cable) "Soul Food," the UPN series "Girlfriends," and, most recently, for Johnson Publishing Company's (JPC) flagship magazine Ebony, it is Turner's job to seek out the perfect extension opportunities for a company looking to expand its brand. Turner has seen her share of high-profile, celebrity promotional launches. With some brands the bond is instantaneous; with others there is no bond at all.

"Launching the Ebony brand in its 60th year is the perfect moment for TurnerPatterson and a turning point in our history," says Turner, adding that her latest venture is a once-in-a-lifetime honor. "This is so exciting to me. To work with people like Linda and a historical company like Ebony is just an amazing opportunity," she says, referring to Linda Johnson Rice, JPC President and CEO.

"Another key turning point was realizing as a young entrepreneurial company that many of the projects we were bombarded with everyday were not in line with our strategic focus. A lot of entertainment talent managers were reaching out to us to represent individuals. Managers were also looking for promotional licensing opportunities which just weren't a part of our vision. When you're a young company, it's easy to get sidetracked. You have to decipher from what your vision is versus getting a dollar. Once we learned to stay focused on our core business plan and not get sidetracked, we were able to seize the right opportunities and achieve success in the industry."

Turner says she wishes more young people knew about the exciting career of being a licensing agent. "I would love to see young people become aware of entertainment licensing as a career choice. It is an exciting, emerging industry experiencing rapid growth—especially in the technology sector. The licensing industry provides a professional alternative that has yet to be explored on most of our college campuses. However, it is a fascinating industry that merges business savvy, creativity, marketing and popular culture."



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