City: Houston, TX
Favorite Quote: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” – Maya Angelo
NiCale Cruz is one of the nation’s leading independent entertainment agents and is the founder of CRUZ Projects, a new-age company that consists of talent management, concert gigs, music promotion and film production. With a Bachelor’s in Business Management and over a decade of experience, Cruz has a clear understanding of the current marketplace and obtained well-established partnerships throughout the music and entertainment industry. Cruz has collaborated with some of the most influential celebrities, including Grammy award winning artists, music producers, actors and film directors. As Cruz continues to expand CRUZ Projects with profound expertise, foresight and dedication, she remains to keep with the mission of obtaining individuality and creativity throughout the entire process.
Everyone has a unique story, what would you say is yours?
Honestly, I never planned to work in the entertainment industry, I kind of just fell into it. In my early 20’s, I worked a typical 9-5 corporate position during the day, while attending college at night. One day, a good friend of mine asked me to help him promote the nightclubs he was working at because he needed a “female influence” to help bring in more male attendees. Reluctantly but wanting to help a friend, I slowly began promoting several nightclubs on the weekends and within no time, quickly became a well-known name. As I continued to promote, I started partnering with the club owners by booking entertainment acts, such as Ginuwine, Nina Sky, and Lloyd, to name a few. Since I was trusted with catering to the artists, I started building a rapport with their managers and other connected people. I believe that was my footstep into the entertainment world and from there, it just grew.
Who was the first person that #COSIGNed you and inspired you to pursue your business?
I would have to give credit to a club owner I worked with awhile back. He always told me “You have SO much potential. You have the “it” factor plus the connections you need to make it and the most admirable thing about that is…you don’t even realize it. Make it happen…you can do it!”
That’s amazing to have that support from your peers. Growing up did you always want to be an entrepreneur? If not, what did you want to be and why didn’t you pursue it?
No, actually, I wanted to be an Obstetrician. I thought to myself “What could possibly be more satisfying than bringing life into this world.” Besides…who doesn’t love babies?! Haha But, God provided me a different path for which I am beyond grateful. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I remember being in 2nd grade and wanting a new bike, but my mom did not have enough money so, I decided to figure out a way to raise money to help pay for it. I didn’t have much, so I simply started painting sticks from tree branches. My mom laughed at me and said “how are you going to sell sticks to people!?” Determined, I went door to door selling each stick for 25 cents and insisted to my neighbors that these sticks were original, custom-made pieces of art they needed…I came back to the house with $5.25. I was so proud of myself and I learned that day that I could make anything happen, as long as I believed and put in the effort. I carry that belief with me and live it every day.
That’s the hustler’s mentality, not everyone has that. What was the defining moment or spark that inspired you to step into entrepreneurship and create your business?
I would say a defining moment for me is when I got passed for a business opportunity for a man who had less experience, connections and drive than I had. Trying not assume, I asked why that man got the deal and I didn’t. The person looked me directly in my face and replied, “Because women don’t get far in this industry. And if they do, it’s only because they slept their way to the top.” That was the moment that ignited the “spark”. It gave me clarity, focus and the drive to create my own business. It just truly made me realize how much prejudice there is against females in this industry and to me that is unjust.
Sorry to hear that. After coming to this realization, what immediate steps did you take to start bringing your vision to life?
First and foremost – a LOT of research! Knowledge is power, so I gathered every detail I felt would be imperative and that I could learn from or incorporate into this vision. I gathered all my intel from experience, connected and collaborated with some of the most talented individuals that I knew and began to brainstorm on how to collectively bring it all together. Even being an entrepreneur requires teamwork.
What was the specific void or opportunity you saw that inspired the idea behind your company?
The music industry consists of so many different layers – artists, music producers and film directors. In all the years I have worked, there always seemed to be a separation between each part even though they are connected equaling. My desire was to create a business and a brand that represented and intertwined all of the entities in one. On a more personal level, the most specific void and opportunity I saw was definitely having a woman play a role of a lead agent and business owner, which is often filled by men. Not only just to have a woman be successful, but to also obtain such goals an Afro-Latina woman. Having the insight from a multi-cultural perspective brings diversity and expands opportunity.
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
Freedom to be creative and do what you love without boundaries! But, it also represents hard work, long days/nights and unbreakable determination. Being an entrepreneur is not for the weak-minded or faint at heart. You have to have a STRONG mentality and have faith in yourself to succeed.
Can you discuss the most difficult part of your journey thus far?
I think the most difficult part so far has been the sacrifices I have made as a single mother. Being a mom is ABSOLUTELY the most important thing to me, so it difficult to push your dream and set goals when it requires you to be away from your child. I grew up in a close-knit family and we remain close to this day, so being very family orientated tends to conflict with the flexible necessities it takes to be a successful boss and entrepreneur.
What is one memory that you have that you reflect back to when entrepreneurship tests you?
Entrepreneurship tests me (and I’m sure most) everyday! It’s like being on a roller-coaster: there will be ups and downs but the finish line ALWAYS stays the same. You may not be able to predict how many ups or downs there will be, but as long as you understand they will happen, you can plan and prepare to address them as they come. Always stay focused on the end goal, but remember to enjoy the ride along the way.
If you could ask one question to your business idol what would you ask and who would you ask?
I don’t have one particular business idol – I think ALL entrepreneurs are idols so I would ask them each, “What are the top 3 things you did (or wish you did) to succeed in your niche?”
Last but not least, name 5 people you #COSIGN along with their Instagram handle.
Artist, Johan Marquis: @johanmarquis_
Producer, My Guy Mars: @myguymars
Lawyer, Navarro Gray: @navarroesq
Director, Crime City Films: @crimecityfilms
Reporter, Nick Gallo: @gtgyk