Byron Morgan has been a mover and shaker in numerous significant creative circles since he landed in Norfolk just four fast years ago. He’s made his mark in the realm of music with Vinylmint, a recording studio and “online marketplace that connects audio creators globally.” He’s been a regular in Zack Miller’s start-up world. If you’ve gotten an after-work beer on a Friday downtown the last few years you’ve probably had a drink with Bryon, as he was the instigator of the Drinks Downtown series. He’s a busy guy whose absence won’t go unnoticed.
This is his exit interview.
AltDaily: Alright, so Boston! Congrats, but we’ll miss you here in the Norfolk creative community. You’ve been a great source of energy, passion, and innovation. Why the move? What’s waiting for you in New England?
Byron Morgan: The move was inspired by a desire to increase my knowledge and mastery of my profession. I received an opportunity to serve as Creative Director in a growing organization in Boston in the IT industry working with CMOs and Top Creatives across the world. This opportunity will allow me to enhance my focus on my vocation and ability to make an impact with my talents, while also allowing me to increase the value of my network. Boston is a vibrant city full of intellectuals, entrepreneurs, artists and entertainers. It fits my character, current ambitions, and will allow me to develop inroads into a Top 5 media market.
What has Norfolk taught you?
Norfolk has taught me how to hustle. It has also allowed me to build a deeper relationship with my purpose and the virtues I desire from life. This is a growing, changing environment rich with opportunities for people with a curious mind. This has been one of the cool things about this area, and has contributed to why I am who I am today.
What are three changes or new developments you’ve seen in Norfolk since you’ve been here that have most inspired you?
The creation of the arts district, the increased support of local business, and the rallying of the community behind community created establishments, studios, parks, performance venues, and restaurants. These are signs of vitality.
Talk for a minute about how you’ve seen your business and creative career grow. Where was Vinylmint when you moved to Norfolk 4 years ago, and where is it now?
How did the local environment help grow your business, and how did it hinder the growth of your business?
When I moved back to Norfolk from New York, I had nothing more than the concept for Vinylmint and the ambition to do it. When I returned, I was fascinated by the birth of the entrepreneurial scene that had developed. I dived in. I met the community advocates and the ring leaders of the circus. They became sherpas to the serious players in the market. With the drive to succeed, I was able to get meetings and win my first customers… However, I’ve plateau here, as most young professionals do.
Much of the talent leaves the area for professional growth, more lively or artistic environments, or investment capital. That is no secret. This area does not nurture starting or growing things well. The major players in the market are betting on traditional ideas and the things that they know well. I understand. Just like any relationship, you build bonds with people that continue to fulfill you or assist you in creating value. Those assets are far and few in between. The things and individuals that are available, are overtaxed, ultimately, inspiring them to look outward.
Let’s say you got 3 wishes to bestow upon Norfolk/Hampton Roads as you’re leaving. What changes would you leave as a gift?
1. I would love to see a culinary explosion in this area. Food, beer and music are key to bringing people together. Because these things scarcely exist, you get the continued segregation of a very diverse region…
2. I would like to see a closer connection between public educational institutions and the arts programs of the area. The arts and educational programs are one of the things that have given opportunities to inner city youth and allowed privileged youth to actually interact and learn more about each other and the options available to each of them.
3. I wish that anti-regionalism would end, and people would rethink how we look at the resources and opportunities for partnerships across the 7 cities and Williamsburg. Old rules and egos are effecting progress and stagnating growth. It is only a matter of time that we will feel the effects of government budget cuts and the increased exodus of talent leaving the area.
One meal from one restaurant you’ll miss the most.
I will miss the Volcano and Christmas rolls from DOMO Sushi. This is by far one of my favorite spots. It’s intimate, fairly priced, and friggin’ delicious.
Who do you see as the future leaders of this region?
There are a few people that I see as leaders of the future in this area: Zack Miller, Carlos Clanton, David Hausmann, Drew Ungvarsky, Rich Luong, Charlie Rasputin, Careyann Weinberg, Charles Merritt, Ace Callwood, Young Money Yawn, Gabe Niles, Sunny Gicz, Jeff Maisey, OkMayday!, and Tommy Nichols… I know that I am leaving names off the list but these are who come to mind currently.
Your three favorite local businesses you’ll miss the most.
I will miss the 757 Creative Space where my community studio is located and where Clint and Sarah Dalton are like family to me. The Hatch society helped me get my start and taught me how to hustle, and Tidewater Community College has been an outlet to create opportunities for students I taught and the place where I started my college education and began building my own network.
Norfolk is trying to be a start-up leader nationally and potentially internationally
. Is that a realistic goal?
This is a realistic goal, but several forces have to be in play in my opinion. (a.) There must be access to seed and early-stage capital with investors that have an abnormal risk tolerance or their own investment philosophy (not adopted from a Silicon Valley or NYC). (b.) There must be a pipeline to win early sales from the existing behemoths of the area. (c.) There must be a better job of local news outlets and community groups use of resources to celebrate and support start-up related activities or business.
and (d.) There must be a concerted effort of the local organizations working together on a calendar to create a system in which they all work together and fulfill market voids (because there are a lot of them, but people seem to gravitate to what other people are already doing and replicating it by dressing it in the guise of being improved or different).
I KNOW YOU’RE NOT DYING, but how would you like to be remembered around here?
Haha. I’d like to be remembered as a person who cares about the issues holding this area back, and is looking to continue to create opportunities for this area through the things l have been involved in creating like Drinks Downtown, Creative Place Studios, Vinylmint, and the entrepreneurshi
p programs at the College of William & Mary and Tidewater Community College. My move is just a way to broaden my network and access to resources to continue to support the things that I believe in.