Smarter as One: Marketing, the power of community and lessons I have learned along the way

I find marketing fascinating and I love my job – but I’m also a tech nerd. I’ve always found myself gravitating towards roles that connected audiences with innovation solutions. I was on an incredible path in my career. And six years ago, in 2017, my son changed my life by inspiring the creation of a new business. I travelled a lot at the time and playing video games was a fun way for my son and me to bond and stay connected. 

One day my mentor asked me: “Gerald, in five years would you rather tell your son that you climbed the corporate ladder or that you did this crazy thing that was inspired by him?” 

In that instant, I decided to do the crazy thing and build Tankee, the first safe, digital destination for kids ages 6-to-12 years-old to enjoy gaming videos. 

The business is a passion for our family, and my wife is still driving the business to new heights. When I had the chance to join Lenovo as its North America Chief Marketing Officer, it was a golden opportunity allowing me to bring my passion for entrepreneurship and love of technology together. 

Strength in numbers 

Lenovo is dedicated to helping all people grow and thrive – and given my own experience as an entrepreneur of color, that really matters to me. 

Our Evolve Small initiative is a fantastic example of how we are putting that inclusive intention into action. Lenovo’s vision is to provide Smarter Technology For All - and the “for all” part is incredibly important. 

Launched in 2021, Evolve Small’s goal is to empower small businesses across North America, especially women and minority-owned companies, through grant and technology donations, mentorship, and community engagement activities. The decision to launch the initiative was based on the belief that small businesses are the heart of North America. But we also recognize that, while small businesses often have grand ambitions, they face the challenge of limited resources – and this is especially true for minority-owned small businesses. 

I love talking to entrepreneurs in our Evolve Small community, because I know first-hand how much of a difference it makes to be part of a wider movement of people who share both your passions and your problems. 

Running a small business is hugely rewarding but it’s also challenging. Especially where marketing is concerned. Everything changes so fast it's hard to stay on top of things. Look at TikTok. Five years ago, it didn’t exist and now it's the number one downloaded social media app in the country. Small business owners must shift their marketing strategies as trends emerge and evolve to ensure that they are still reaching their customers. 

But together, we are stronger. And Evolve Small is dedicated to bringing people together and arming small businesses with the tools to succeed. 

In that spirit, here are the lessons I have learned on my own entrepreneurial journey. 

1. Understand the problem you’re solving 

Correctly identify your audience, and they will tell you what you need to do. With Tankee, that meant talking to six to 12-year-olds, and they are brutally honest. Real feedback – critical feedback – is just as important as the positive stuff. And keep checking your pain points, because your issues five years ago and your issues today will be two totally separate things. 

2. Get yourself a solid elevator pitch 

Often you don’t have much time to sell your business, so you need to have this down. For Tankee, our elevator pitch is “we help parents protect kids from inappropriate content while giving children access to gaming videos that they love”. And that’s it. The end. The idea is that with your elevator pitch, you want people to ask you more questions. And every word should matter. 

3. Create a content strategy 

The way brands are built is consistency, consistency, consistency, over a long period of time. And showing up with the right content all the time. The benefit of digital platforms today is that you can test and experiment for very little money. You can run a $50 campaign on Facebook or Instagram and get valuable information back.  

4. Establish your home base 

What is your web page like? It seems a very old-school question at this point but it is the one thing everyone can access. Some people are burned out on a lot of platforms, and your website is something that you own, that will never go away, where people can go for your full story. And you can tell any story you want – it’s not a popularity contest. Just remember: always check it on a phone, because that’s the way most people will see it. 

5. Build your network 

We’ve got to pay it forward because nobody got here on their own. Connect with other entrepreneurs in your area. Find mentors and colleagues to help hold you accountable, but also to help expand your business and brainstorm new ideas. I was told once “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.” 

6. Measure smart 

Determine what your goal is and then have your metrics match your goal. We initially struggled with this at Tankee because the metric we looked at – and that investors wanted to see – was how fast our app was growing. So we chased those numbers, spent money on Google ads and in that sense we were crushing it. But the problem was, six months later most of those new users had moved on because we were targeting installs and did not focus enough on retention. What we needed was to build loyalty and repeat users, so the right metric to watch was time – how long were they using the app. Once we figured that out, we were ready to succeed. 

7. Fail forward 

Everybody fails at some point, but as a small business owner there’s no boss to go to – you are the boss. You’re the accountant. Sometimes you’re the janitor. So, you always want to make sure you are learning as part of the process, and that’s where a community is really helpful. Find other people to talk to, especially other business owners, because everyone’s going through the same things. 

Looking to Evolve Small? 

Through Evolve Small – and with the help of partners like Queen Latifah across the United States and Canada – Lenovo has led an effort to provide financial aid, mentorship resources, and community support to minority and woman-owned small businesses. Sign up now for Lenovo Evolve Small to create custom marketing ads with Queen Latifah for your small business. 

What are some lessons that you've learned along your entrepreneurial journey? How you do evaluate and adjust your marketing strategy to stay relevant with the current market trends?

Feel free to share your thoughts below!


  • As an entrepreneur, I have learned a few critical lessons along my journey. One of the most important is understanding your niche and identifying opportunities that would benefit your business. For my niche, I focus on providing mentorship and guidance to underserved students in my local neighborhood as well as international students. This niche has enabled me to build relationships with key stakeholders and gain valuable insight into the needs of these students.

    With data-driven insights, I can target niche markets, create content that resonates with my audience, and optimize campaigns for better ROI. To stay up-to-date with market trends, I have developed a marketing strategy that includes an active presence on social media and web platforms internationally and domestically. I regularly monitor the analytics from these platforms using Google and Tube Buddy to track performance and adjust my strategy accordingly. Additionally, I have been attending trade shows and networking events to ensure my business stays ahead of the game.

    I use Lenovo computers because they deliver incredible graphics and portable, durable machines. These machines are the backbone of my company. I can attend events, teach classes and travel easily without worrying about poor connectivity. I can stay ahead of the competition.

    Overall, I have learned that being proactive, agile, and depending on great machines are the keys to staying relevant and successful in a niche.