THE ANNIVERSARY STRATEGIST
to all economic indicators, Downtown New York is still in a process
of recovery. Nowhere is that more evident than in the small business
community. With so much reconstruction aid still frozen in the LMDC,
Downtown appears, as much as before, to be a community in which
individual business people must "bootstrap" themselves
back to stability.
a series on "stories of grit and survival" among small
commercial businesses Downtown, we now turn our focus to careerists--the
tastemakers, business leaders and civic activists who instruct us
by their example.
|Strategic consultant Patrice Samara feels
like the Tribeca Grill is her comissary.
Patrice Samara ushers us into the breezy, plant-festooned atrium
of the Tribeca Film Center where, on any given day, you may find
young producers with laptops--polishing treatments, film budgets
or a screenplays, waiting for meetings--presumably in preparation
for career-making projects. The building is a Mecca for the hopeful
and anticipation weighs heavily over it. Perhaps that is why the
place is engineered for tranquillity, with welcoming sunlight diffusing
throughout the comfortable, tasteful furnishings. Located on the
corner of Franklin and Greenwich Streets, the Tribeca Film Center
has the feeling of a Hollywood studio while also having absorbed
the "resonance" of the Downtown entertainment community
which it was designed to serve. To the outsider, it seems to have
a combination of energy, risk and creativity. Patrice Samara, nee
an Emmy-winning film/TV producer and now an international and U.S.
strategist, says this is an atmosphere she can’t do without.
Samara's company, Triumph Entertainment, is based there. You could
assume that Samara wanted to be close to the resources of the Downtown
film business after more than 20 years in it, but that’s only part
of the story. Ms. Samara has made the career leap from Emmy-winning
filmmaker to strategist, all the while keeping her Downtown location,
Downtown sensibility and Downtown edge. As a producer at The Glyn
Group until the late 1980s, she specialized in "deliverables"--films,
interactive media, video news releases and home videos, such as
Muppet Babies Video Storybooks (with the late Jim Henson). Not as
a strategist, she observes, but as a producer. The Glyn Group was
located on West Fourth Street between Charles and Perry Streets.
It morphed into GlynNet, which specialized in location-based entertainment
and corporate communications and subsequently came under WNET's
umbrella, operating on West 57th Street. But Samara was moving more
and more into strategic planning, drawn by the faith of her past
clients, who had previously hired her for fulfillment of their business
strategies, when her advice was value added. Now it's an integral
part of her services for hire.
Currently, Samara has a practice in strategy, communications, global
events and the orchestration of significant business milestones
and anniversaries. Past and present clients include American Express,
Cheseboro Ponds, CBS, IBM, Advanced Network and Services, Community
Service Society, Children's Aid Society, Council on International
& Public Affairs (CIPA) and the Program on Corporations, Law
& Democracy (POCLAD) and DIsney. She co-produced (with Maurice
Hines) the memorial celebration for the late Gregory Hines at The
Apollo Theater. Right now, she is consulting with the Museum of
Arts & Design (40 W. 53rd Street) on their major fundraising
event, producing their "Visionaries! 2004" event honoring Ken Himmel
(President and CEO of Related Urban Development), the developers
of Time Warner Center, designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli, and
famed glass artist Lino Tagliapietra.
|Samara and Edward Faber at Aaron Faber Gallery
Samara has a specialty in businesses with anniversaries. When a
business or nonprofit turn one, ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred,
they usually embark on some particular undertakings that are a combination
of self-assessment and marketing. It was she who produced American
Express's 100th Anniversary film, with a campaign that included
production worldwide. On October 13th, 2004, under her guidance,
Midtown's Aaron Faber Gallery (666 Fifth Avenue) will celebrate
its 30th anniversary, kicking off with a "Dream Collection" of watches
followed by an unforgettable installation by 30 world-renowned studio
artists, 30 pieces of estate jewelry and 30 outstanding rings from
their bridal collection along with a special catalog and photography
exhibition. Cheseboro-Ponds' 100th Anniversary was marked
by an anniversary film and a study of the American Family by artist
Robert Dash which toured around the United States.
Sometimes anniversaries are combined. Last spring, for the 50th
Anniversary of Council on International & Public Affairs (CIPA)
and the 10th Anniversary of Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy
(POCLAD), she organized a "50/10 Anniversary Benefit Concert" featuring
Work o’ the Weavers with a rare special guest performance by Pete
Seeger and an exhibition of political cartoons by Matt Wuerker.
So how do the creative people morph into strategy makers? As Patrice
Samara worked on larger and different kinds of PR projects, her
clients requested that she become more involved in the strategic
portion of what they were doing. It was an evolution born of her
natural talent for strategic thinking. Now, she advises on global
strategizing and positioning, which generally comes before PR efforts—public
information and marketing—begin. At some point, she realized that
a large part of her clients were nonprofits, so she attended the
Nonprofit Marketing Program at NYU so she could better serve her
With clients like hers, why has she worked, since 1995, out of
the Tribeca Film Center? It's not just for the film aspect, she
says, although she points out that it doesn't hurt that Miramax
and other entertainment companies are there. She's there because
it has a creative environment which presents itself as a home base.
The physical setup and flexible layout are excellent for conducting
business. Also, she says, there's the ease of transportation and
access to good restaurants. She feels like the Tribeca Grill is
her commissary and she does a lot of her business there. "The nature
of my work is one that is very personal and consultative," she explains.
"A lot happens over lunch or at the end of the day." Her avocation
is food and wine and she is known to have a special" restaurant
radar." Staying in Tribeca gives her greater access to what is new
and happening, including on the Lower East Side, where she patronizes
many of the eateries in the former pushcart area. A midtown banker
or visitor from abroad is likely to be taken to Gigino Trattoria
or Gigino at Wagner Park. As a longtime Village resident, her regular
business meal haunts also include L'Enfant Terrible on Canal Street,
La Metarie on the corner of West Fourth Street and West Tenth and
Otto on 5th Avenue and 8th Street.
Has her business changed since September 11, 2001? Definitely.
"After 9/11 there was a pause in business. You couldn't go downtown
and many businesses just changed the way they were working. There
were funding cuts and business people were not flying anywhere.
So I began to use teleconferencing as a substitute for personal
meetings. 9/11 changed the fabric of the area for a while. It's
rebuilding now; New Yorkers are resilient, so we've come back with
newly generated and robust enthusiasm." Samara watched the airliners
crash firsthand. This was her first experience in feeling personally
attacked, although previously she had worked in a war zone as a
After the attacks, Samara chose not to apply for assistance but
is today part of a Downtown health study. From her perspective,
Downtown business just stopped after the attacks. In the years since,
her business has been steadily escalating happily and she sees the
evidence of rebuilding everywhere. Since the Downtown district is
her mojo, she feels inextricably tied to its recovery. She views
the Community Block Grants, currently held up in the LMCC, as "terribly
important" since they will add to the health of the neighborhoods
and provide "an additional draw for people to come there." The stronger
the neighborhood is, she says, the stronger she is.
ECONOMICALLY IMPORTANT, BUT UNDER-APPRECIATED
There are probably a multitude of professionals like Patrice Samara
driving the Downtown economy, but nobody knows how many. She belongs
to a not-too-well-understood business community: the Downtown entrepreneurs
who are working at the nexus of the creative professions and the
corporate community. The self-employed professional class is not
surveyed by the Labor Department, so it is practically invisible,
as is the "creative class," including artists and artistes--
people who create for a living and are most often self-employed.
In the ordinary organization, the strategy is made by the suits
and then handed to the creative people for execution. When creative
people move up the business ladder, they are even less traceable,
since many let go of their professional "trailings"--such
things as performing union affiliations, memberships in arts support
organizations, or applications for creative project grants. Nevertheless,
you can't really know Downtown without knowing these people. They
are perhaps the greatest hole in our understanding of the deep structure
of New York business. Some professions are fairly interchangeable,
with skill sets are shared by a large number of people. Not so these
specialists, who fill niche needs in the business structure.
Samara recently formed an association as the New York representative
of the Washington, DC-based Unison, a design, marketing, and communications
firm. With Unison, she is organizing a trade event for the economic
representative a major foreign government. Communications have allowed
her to expand beyond all borders. This ties her to the "export economy"
of New York City, a sector which was significantly investigated
in the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics' report, "9/11 and the
New York Economy: A borough-by-borough analysis" (June, 2004). (See
editor's note below.) The "export" sector refers to that part
of New York business which is focused on the national and international
economies, and it has taken on new importance in the eyes of City
planners since the report came out. However, Samara, like other
executives of her type, would never have been counted in that study,
since the Bureau does not research private practitioners, even though
they are, technically, self-employed "workers."
"This shows a big hole in our thinking when it comes to planning
the Downtown business district of tomorrow," declared Jonathan Slaff,
co-author of DowntownNYC's three surveys on the economic impact
of 9/11. "Independent practitioners like Patrice Samara are an economic
force Downtown. As a group, they are vital intellectual capital
and a unique product of our City. We can't overlook their business
needs, and think of only large companies, as we plan Downtown's
economic future. This aspect of the 'Export Economy' deserves much
SO, YOU'RE PLANNING A CORPORATE ANNIVERSARY?
Regardless of the trajectory of the local economy, corporate anniversaries
roll along, and so does Samara's business. Known as the Anniversary
Queen, she is planning to consult pro bono as a board member with
Youth Advocacy Program International, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit,
on how they can capitalize on its tenth anniversary for fundraising.
For CEOs who are planning a significant anniversary or milestone,
she has a six-point strategy for success, but that's a subject for
a whole 'nother article.
Patrice Samara can be contacted at (212) 941-3990 or email@example.com
EDITOR'S NOTE ON BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS,
"9/11 AND THE NEW YORK ECONOMY"
was a strong statement on the economic impact of the attacks. Using
employment and wage data, the bureau found that the greatest effect
of the 9/11 attacks was upon the "export," as opposed
to the "local" sectors of the New York economy. Between
2000 and 2002, 82.7 percent of job loss and 111.0 percent of lost
wages were associated with the "export" economy, according
to the Bureau. The source was the BLS' Quarterly Census of Employment
and Wages program.