Sammi Bivens is a brand. On top of that? She knows how to make and build them too. It’s what she does every day as the founder and CEO of Digital Marketing Maven & Associates, a full-service digital marketing and business development agency. She leads a team of creatives who work in support of creatives and brings together her business background, digital savvy and story-telling prowess to help brands build, grow and scale.
Team Betterness sat down with Sammi to learn about her how and why…and after hitting a groove and establishing herself as the boss she is…NOW WHAT?
Team Betterness: Can you share with us how you transitioned from traditional corporate employment to owning DMM?
Sammi: That’s a simple one -- I was laid off, girl. *chuckles* On a serious note, I started the business in 2016 pretty organically. I had already been running a side business selling jewelry and there came a point where people started asking for my help with their small business. The people who were coming to me were people like me - women who had passions outside of their corporate jobs - and it started to slowly build. I started with one project in 2019 and I started to take the business idea really seriously. I launched it publicly in January 2020 and then as you know, the pandemic shut down the world, so things just started changing. As people started pursuing their creative ideas, losing their jobs and trying new things, my business really took off. I began mimicking everything I saw in my EdTech marketing job and establishing an infrastructure for DMM. And now…here we are.
Team Betterness: So, prior to being laid off, did you always have it in your mind that you would be a BOSS one day? OR would you have been content climbing the corporate ladder?
Sammi: Oh nah, I always knew I wanted to do my own thing. I hadn’t pinpointed what it would be exactly, but I knew I wanted to work for myself and create something really meaningful. During the pandemic and post the murder of George Floyd, I started seeing so much performative behavior from these companies and I was just over it. It didn’t feel authentic to me -- there was a fake care expressed for Black people, Black women especially, and I kinda checked out. So, by the time layoffs came in early 2022 and I was let go, I never looked back. I haven’t applied for a job since.
Team Betterness: It’s so interesting to see how careers and work-lives form these days. We’re in such a creative and ambitious space culturally, and I wonder how it will impact the traditional work model that many of us were raised on. Do you think for aspiring professionals who are climbing and achieving in their roles, that entrepreneurship should be the ultimate goal?
Sammi: DEFINITELY not for everybody. Having your own business is HARD. There’s no way around that. While I do highly encourage having multiple streams of income, owning and making something work from the ground up is not always glamorous. Rewarding? YES. Easy? NOT AT ALL. Having my business is what sustained me during layoffs so I’ll always be an advocate for diversifying your income. But it comes at a cost, and I’m always honest about that.
Team Betterness: So can you tell us what are some of the things that make business ownership hard?
Sammi: There are so many things that new business owners just don’t know, and navigating those gaps are tough. Even when your business is growing, having the funding to scale and cover the increasing costs that enable you to make the money -- it’s a challenging space sometimes, especially when access to capital isn’t readily available. The responsibility of it all - taking care of the business, finding and cultivating the right people - it’s all uncharted territory when you didn’t grow up with a model of how to do it. I’m first-generation everything, so figuring all this out has been trial by fire. And, even when funding does come -- knowing how to make the right choices takes skill and savvy and alot of young businesses and owners don’t get it right out of the gate.
Team Betterness: How have you been able to do your actual business while learning to run the business?
Sammi: Well, I’m an avid learner, so I immerse myself in the spaces where I want to learn. I’ve done accelerator programs, I opt into educational programming, and I surround myself with mentors and advisors who have the wisdom that I’m seeking. My business really benefits from the network that I’ve created for myself.
Team Betterness: At what point will you feel like you’ve made it?
Sammi: I don’t know that I’ll ever feel that way….and I probably need to work through that in therapy, LOL. But when you’re a goal oriented person, the goal post keeps changing. There is always SO much to do, so I am always thinking about what can be fixed, what can be better, and how I can make the business even more of what I envision.
Team Betterness: And that’s what we’re trying to get at here, particularly in the thriving season. How do you acknowledge where you can grow and what needs to get better while still celebrating the fact that you’re doing the thing.
Sammi: I can’t deny that I am definitely blessed. The fact that I can live comfortably, I haven’t had to apply for a traditional job and I get the flexibility that I do -- I know it’s a blessing. So, I don’t take any of this for granted, but I guess it is hard to see when you’re so focused on getting where you want to be.
Team Betterness: If you had the opportunity to go back to a ‘dream job’ - in the traditional way - would you do it?
Sammi: UM NO. I mean, unless it was a multiple six-figure situation with the flexibility that I need to still run my business, I can’t see how it would be a smart move for me. I am a HUGE advocate for having your own, so I stand ten toes down in that. While I could make a bunch of money on a job, why limit myself to their six figures when I can make a million?
Team Betterness: Final question. You are the CEO and founder of Digital Marketing Maven and Associates…so now what?
Sammi: I would say what’s next for me is stepping into my TRUE CEO era. I love the work that we do and will always be a part of it, but I am looking forward to running the business and building it from the visionary seat. I really want to operate as a CEO.
As a woman, I will always work toward being the woman that I needed. I tell my story honestly because the very fact that I’m here is a miracle. You shouldn’t even be talking to me today. So I hope my journey encourages people to believe they can. Because truly, they can.
We’re so proud of Sammi and inspired by her honesty, resilience and the way she continues to lift as she’s climbing. With a team of 12 and growing, Sammi is a BOSS who understands that what she’s created is a beautiful manifestation of purpose and preparation. We STAN her thriving season and are BETTER because she’s a part of ours.