Company Culture
AI / Editors' Picks / Making Love podcast / Marketing / Social media

Philly founder Will Toms on building REC and empowering creatives to fight ‘digital redlining’

The marketing strategist and chief creative officer joined the first episode of Making Love & Designing the Future.

Will Toms stands in front of the Philadelphia skyline in spring 2024 (Tezarah Wilkins/Love Now Media)
This story is a companion piece to an episode of Making Love & Designing the Future, and appears here as part of a media partnership between and Love Now Media.
Buying a sewing machine was a memorable moment for Philadelphia entrepreneur Will Toms, cofounder and chief creative officer at REC.

The membership platform and digital marketing agency he launched in 2015 with Dave Silver was purposely built through collaboration. So when a member suggested a sewing machine would be useful, they bought one and added it to the collection of tools at their Center City coworking space.

“We were like, ‘Well, if you feel that way, I bet there’s 15 other members who want it as well’ — and now there’s a sewing machine in the design studio,” Toms told Jos Duncan-Asé, host of the podcast Making Love & Designing the Future

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2021 honoree was Duncan-Asé’s first guest on her new podcast, which aims to cultivate an environment that supports love, kindness and compassion, and to help people connect and form meaningful relationships.

That mission aligns squarely with REC — the name stands for “Resources for Every Creator” — which has grown from a 600-sq.-ft. warehouse space in North Philly to multiroom, 10,000-sq.-ft. complex in the heart of Philadelphia’s downtown mall. The Fashion District hub includes production studios, performance venues and retail. And it was all created via participatory design.

“There’s two ways for folks to build businesses,” Toms said. “One way is to have a genius idea, build it, and then find the market. We did the opposite. We got clear on who we wanted to serve and how we wanted them to feel. Then we tested our ideas with them and built iteratively based on their feedback.” 

Apple Podcasts logo

Spotify Logo

The collaborative path has proved fruitful. Nine years after launch, REC has more than 1,000 members and is expanding to Miami

Toms got his start as a creative poet and visual storyteller. His experiences working with major names in entertainment, like Eminem and Ice Cube, honed his skills in marketing and digital strategy, which he now applies to empower creatives through REC. 

The goal, he said, is to help artists transition from “zero to $60k,” and figure out how to make a sustainable income doing what they love.

Not everyone faces the same landscape when it comes to being a successful digital creative, Toms told Duncan-Asé. He described “digital redlining,” a reference to the 20th century real estate practice that systematically depressed Black homeownership and wealth-building ability. 

“These algorithms … have the power to do what the banks did, which is to say who gets reach and who doesn’t, who gets access and who doesn’t,” Toms said. 

To address the challenges faced by marginalized communities in gaining equitable access to digital platforms, it’s important to create inclusive spaces that foster creativity and representation, he said. “I’m just so intentional with making sure that there’s a real ownership perspective, and making sure we’re not giving too much power to these platforms — and letting them use us, instead of us using them.”

Listen to Episode 1 of Making Love & Designing the Future to learn more about Toms’ journey, how difficult conversations can help a business grow, and why he believes empathy and quality leadership are keys to driving social change.

Companies: REC Philly

Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


Here’s how the global tech outage impacted many of the vital systems across the mid-Atlantic region

Why Benefits Data Trust fell apart despite millions from philanthropy and government contracts

Ready to start marketing your startup? 3 crucial questions all founders should ask

From Big Tech to a big bank, this leader puts innovation at the forefront of her entire career

Technically Media