43North77West Creative Studio | NATIONAL BLACK BUSINESS MONTH INTERVIEW SERIES | SERIES BONUS

August is National Black Business Month. To celebrate TheBlack.Blog will be releasing a month-long interview series featuring black businesses across the country. New interviews will premiere every Monday at 5pm CST. Plus, series bonus interviews premiere on Fridays.

For Interview 2 of the Series Bonus edition of the National Black Business Month: Interview Series presented by TheBlack.Blog, we spoke with Alexis Armstrong to discuss her business and her entrepreneurship journey. Alexis is a musician, photographer, and artist with years of experience in the multimedia industry. She currently serves as a features editor for Inside Monthly, a magazine in Greensboro, NC. Alexis is the founder of 43North77West Creative Studio, an innovative multimedia design studio that offers design, photography and videography services.


TheBlack.Blog:

Hello everyone and welcome to the National Black Business Month: Interview Series. We are here with Alexis Armstrong, the founder of 43North77West Creative Studio. Tell us about yourself for those who don’t know you.  

43North77West:

So I’m actually brand new to Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m from Rochester, New York and I’ve been in Greensboro the last year or so. I own a photography/media company called 43North77West Creative Studio. If you’re wondering, those are the actual map coordinates of where I’m from. People when they’re coming up, especially in art, are always trying to put their city on the map, but we’re like literally on the map. Currently, I’m a Features Editor for a magazine called Insight Monthly. I shoot for a lot of different places and people, but overall I’m just really excited to be in Greensboro.

TheBlack.Blog:

So let’s start at the very beginning. What was there one moment that jumpstarted you to starting your business?

43North77West:

Yes, COVID-19. That seems to be so many of our stories. I was working in higher education at a college where I’m from. I definitely had been doing a lot of freelance graphic design and social media marketing work, but I had it in my head that I’m going to work this nine to five. It’s going to help me get my degree. It has an amazing insurance plan. I’m going to stay here. Then COVID-19 happened. I stayed at my job for about a year into COVID-19 then quickly realized that I was not indispensable like I thought. They pretty much made me resign. During that time, I still had graphic design projects. I was still working on big things in my city, but I did not put two and two together yet. I didn’t realize that I could be my own business owner until I was really forced into it. Like many people I took advantage of the stimulus checks. I bought my equipment and said, “Hey, come hell or high water. This is what I’m going to do.” I already had a background in graphic design. Photography for me was just really, really easy. I’m a musician, so I’ve been in front of the camera. I’ve also spent a lot of time editing and working behind the camera so I didn’t think that it was going to be hard. So I just jumped right in.

TheBlack.Blog:

So what is 43North77West, for people who aren’t familiar?

43North77West:

Basically 43North77West is an all encompassed media company. You bring your ideas to us and we help bring them to life, whether it be film, video, or photo. So basically all of the things that I’ve been doing myself like coming up with concepts for products and gimmicky things for different organizations to push an event or to push some product that they have. 

TheBlack.Blog:

Let’s go back a bit. Early on, you spoke on the inspo behind the name. Tell us more. 

43North77West:

So 43North77West is the actual map coordinates of where I’m from in upstate Rochester, New York. Our city is jam packed with talent, just like any other city, but I mean, we have jazz greats. From Missy Elliot to Timberland and Ginuwine, all of these people recorded in my hometown. Music and art are really big there. So for me personally, with the love that I have for my city, I didn’t want to have another logo that jacks the city logo. I really wanted to stand out and be different. So a friend of mine gave me that name actually, and it just kind of stuck. I didn’t like it at first because I was like, “how are people going to say this?” My company has three logos, but the logo that I wear is the one with ‘43 degrees’. When I wear that one around people actually stop me like “Hey, what are these coordinates to?” I’m always so shocked when that happens, but it works. Because the name is a number, people are usually automatically interested so it’s pretty cool.

TheBlack.Blog:

Now let’s discuss projects. What’s your favorite project that 43North77West has done so far?

43North77West:

I think to date, my favorite project that I’ve been working on is being the Features Editor in Insight Monthly. At home, I had been trying to do so many things whether with my music or my art but it was at such a low scale. It was almost like no one cared and no one knew my name. Not like tooting my  own horn or trying to be pompous, but I was involved in a lot and people refused to just say, ‘Hey, she did that.’ You know, just saying my name, could bring some business over to me. You don’t have to pay me, but just acknowledge that I did this work. So back then it was pretty hard. All that changed when I moved here to Greensboro and got involved in the magazine. I’ve been meeting so many encouraging people who just want to see me win. They don’t know me. I’m not from here. I didn’t go to high school here. I’m not an Aggie which I feel so bad about because here everybody is an Aggie. Yet everybody’s still so welcoming. It keeps happening and I experience it as I’m in the community more. That’s a big part of it too. I don’t just take pictures and go in the house to edit. Although I do spend a lot of time doing that, I’m actually out in the community a lot.

For Juneteenth, I ended up at a park where I saw an event going on. I found the program coordinator, who told me she didn’t have a photographer for the day. I said “Well I’m your photographer today.” I did that because I saw the need like ‘Hey, this could be this person’s first event.’ Even though, it ended up being one of her last events as a program coordinator, I was just honored to catch those images. That event also introduced me to more people who are doing some of the same things and trying to get their messages out to the community. 

TheBlack.Blog:

Going back to some of the struggles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and business owner. Is there anything you dislike about being a business owner? 

43North77West:

I saw this meme that said “I quit my nine to five and now I work 24/7.” Yeah, I would say that part is probably one of the biggest silent battles. Because as a mom and as an entrepreneur, you wear so many hats but you can’t let one overpower the other one. So you’re constantly fighting for balance. Because of that balance for me is probably one of the hardest things. I’m a hard worker, so I will work for 18 hours a day, but I have a soon to be 14-year old and a 12-year old who require eyes and ears on them a lot. Sometimes people may think that because your kids are older that means you get more freedom like yes, and no. The type of parent that I always envisioned myself being sometimes clashes with the type of, I guess, mogul I want to be. I haven’t really seen a black woman do both of these things like this in this capacity. So I think it’s one of those things that kind of pokes at my side. That’s probably one of the biggest silent battles for me just finding that work-life balance because I’m the boss and I’m also the mom.

TheBlack.Blog:

Speaking further on balance. With you being a mom, sister, musician, business owner and so much more how do you balance it all?

43North77West:

Honestly I journal a lot. I had somebody call me a witch because every full moon and new moon, I got my journal out. Journaling though is what keeps me grounded. I have a chance to talk to myself. I know the backstory. I know all of the characters. I know all of the minor and major details, so I cannot lie to myself.  Journaling gives me the chance to really be accountable with myself. The other thing that really keeps me balanced and grounded is music. For me journaling is something you do and after you’re still left with some feelings. They don’t just go away just because you write them on a paper. So for me, music is the release. When I sing my songs, that brings me to a place where I feel like I’m releasing. I also make sure to keep my kids involved in a lot of the things I do so they don’t feel on the outside.  

TheBlack.Blog:

Love it. So you’ve mentioned your music a lot, where can we listen to it?

43North77West:

So if you want to hear my music, you can always go on Apple Music. I’m on iTunes as Aryes, A-R-Y-E-S just like the sign. I have a new single out called  “I Can’t Let You Go” and hopefully soon we’ll be shooting a video. 

TheBlack.Blog:

So we’ve talked about all that you’ve done independently and with 43North77West. Let’s think about the future. If you could look ahead, five years down the road, where do you see 43North77West?

43North77West:

I see us in a warehouse. In five years I don’t want to be doing the amount of editing or shoots that I’m doing. I really want to be able to delegate some of these things to other creatives. When I first started taking on small projects with 43North77West, I quickly realized that a team is needed. I am an amazing person, but it’s hard for your director to be your photographer, editor, the person making the music, the producing engineer and everything else. All of those people are me. I usually don’t even like telling people I do all of this because it doesn’t really feel good. It doesn’t feel good to know that I did it all by myself. It would feel better to know that there was a team of people. So overall in five years I really hope to be in a warehouse with a team. I also really hope to have some of my community initiative programs taken off.

TheBlack.Blog:

Let’s talk about upcoming projects. If you can, tell us what you have coming up.

43North77West:

So in October I will be the production manager for the Makeup Battle in Greensboro, NC. They are in their second year and how I even came to do this is one of those connections I made at the Juneteenth event. Coming on this year as the production manager, I’ve been able to build my team and tell people what it is that I’m looking for in the show. So I’m super excited about the Makeup Battle. They battle it out. Giving much face and hair on the walkway.

TheBlack.Blog:

Sounds like a good time. Where can we find more information about the event? 

43North77West:

Visit makeupbattle.com to register.

TheBlack.Blog:

Well 43North77West, thank you so much for speaking with us and participating in the National Black Business Month: Interview Series presented by TheBlack.Blog.

43North77West:

Thank you.

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Celebrate National Black Business Month with us!

New interviews premiere every Monday at 5pm CST. Series bonus interviews premiere on Fridays.

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