Started From the Bottom, Now We’re Here
Mar 8, 2021
What we're gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time.
Urban Circle has come a long way since its founding.
What started as a scrappy, underdog operation has grown into a savvy and resourceful group of professionals with a diverse professional network—and we know that every experience we’ve had and connection we’ve made has played a role in making our company what it is today.
We’re celebrating fifteen years since our official founding by telling the story of how we came to be here—including some of the challenges we’ve faced along the way.
In the Beginning—Spring 2K5
Music plays a vital role in Urban Circle. J. Brown Henderson has always been inspired by connecting people through music, and it’s still one of the elements that motivates him today.
The music industry is also where Urban Circle got its start. In 2005, Brown was working at Kraft Foods when a DJ he knew approached him about a problem with a representative. Soon, he had his very first client, Dirty 3rd Records, and was representing labels such as Swisha House, Trill Entertainment, and Boss Hogg Outlawz.
That was the start of everything. Six weeks after that meeting, Brown got his first check in the mail. Urban Circle was on its way.
It Gets Greater, Later
This isn’t to say that the early days of Urban Circle were glamorous. Brown’s first office was in an empty bedroom in his house in the heart and soul of 5th Ward Texas.The only resource he had to run the business was a Gateway laptop and a Nextel cell phone. After 5 years and managing five labels, he moved out of his home to his first real office, hired his first employee, and then his second. Things were moving on up!
Getting to the next level required some strategy—and getting certified was a really important strategic move because it qualified Urban Circle for more business opportunities.
As the music business was transitioning the strategy was to get all of the certifications he could. Urban Circle is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise, a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, and a Historically Underutilized Business, and is also a state contract approved vendor.
After that, he spent the next three years learning how the city and the state did business and developing relationships.
Proverbs 29:18 - Where there is no vision, the people perish
Networking was also critical to Urban Circle’s development, and we've been lucky to have a lot of people help us over the years. This is partially because Brown spent the early years of his business driving all over Texas going to conferences and trade shows to meet people.
One of Brown’s first mentors was Tiko Reynolds-Hausman. Tiko invited Brown to participate in the Interagency Mentor-Protege Program, which covered everything from processes and procedures to accounting to how to write an RFP.
Two more critical connections were Audrey Gilbreath, Ginger Anderson, and Kirsten Cutshall. Brown met Audrey at an American Advertising Federation event, and he didn’t see her again until Urban Circle landed the NBA All-Star Game halftime t-shirt giveaway. This chance reconnection led to a big subcontract with the City of Houston and an ongoing partnership between Urban Circle and Gilbreath Communications. Brown and Ginger Anderson met at a trade show, which eventually led to partnering on many CIGNA projects.
This just goes to show that success begins with a vision.
Kirsten Cutshall at Steel Advertising was another critical early connection. Because Steel Advertising is also a small business, their support helps in a major way. After several months our relationship grew to a written agreement to forge a mentor-protege agreement where Health and Human Services and Texas A&M Systems are our sponsoring agency.
Another huge strategic partnership was joining iPROMOTEu, a network of over 1,100 promotional product distribution affiliates. Partnering with iPROMOTEu really helped Urban Circle grow because they offer so many support services. Guy Dupuis was really instrumental in this process. He works with iPromoteu's independent distributor affiliates to increase sales and profitability—and his guidance really helped us leverage what we already had going to get to the next level.
When you love what you do, more than likely everything is gonna just come out decent.
We also know that none of our success so far would have been possible without the help of our friends and partners. It’s in our name, after all: we’re called Urban Circle because UR in US—circles of mutual support are what make success possible.
We’re using our anniversary to say a big THANK YOU to all of our partners.
We can’t wait to keep making magic for you and your customers.
We want to say a big THANK YOU to:
A.O. Phillips & Associates
All Points Sailing School
Alvin Career & Technical Education
AUSTIN COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT
Austin Gilbane Construction
Best of Both Worlds
Carrie Potter Group LLC
Cigna Health Springs
Cigna Insurance-Renaissance Physicians
City of Dallas
City of Houston
CITY OF IRVING
City of Laredo
Clemente M. Elementary
Department of Information Resources
East Early College High School
Employment Retirement System
Greater Southeast Management District
Harris County Fire Marshall
Health and Human Service
Houston Community College
Houston Health Department
Houston Independent School District
Houston Parks and Recreation
Integrated Technology Systems NYC
International Municipal Lawyers Association, Inc.
Lamar Institute of Technology
Lamar State College - Port Arthur
Lamar State College Orange
Lone Star College
Manhattan Construction Company
Manvel High School
Marsh & McLennan Companies
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Metro Transit Authority
Parodi Realty Associates
Patterson Elementary School
Prairie View A&M University
Railroad Commission of Texas
Sam Houston State University
Springhill Suites by Marriott-Medical Center/Reliant Park
Tarleton State University
Taylor Construction Management
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
TEXAS A&M FOREST SERVICE
Texas A&M International University
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
Texas A&M University Galveston
Texas A&M University San Antonio
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Texas Department of Agriculture
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
Texas Department of Public Safety
Texas Department of Transportation
Texas General Land Office
Texas Juvenile Justice Department
Texas Medical Board
Texas Military Department
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Texas Southern University
The Lord Jesus Christ Holiness Church
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas Dallas