Business development / Philly Tech Week

Why this 25-year-old moved to Philly to run her digital marketing startup [Entrance Exam]

It was Fishtown that reeled her in, but Philly Tech Week sealed the deal.

Nadia James used to work at LinkedIn’s London office, running international social media campaigns for major corporations like Google, American Express, IBM and Chanel.

After nearly two years at the company, the 25-year-old realized that smaller companies couldn’t afford digital marketing advice from a place like LinkedIn. So she moved back home, to Northern New Jersey, and opened up her own shop.

Griot Digital, named for the word for a West African storyteller, serves customers like Rutgers University, SemperCon and Practice Unite.

Once James got her business off the ground, she started scoping out cities to move to. She found Philly last spring, right before Philly Tech Week, which she said sealed the deal for her. (Full, self-serving disclosure: organizes Philly Tech Week.)

Below, she explains how she went from apartment hunting in Fishtown to office hunting (in Fishtown) in just six months and what’s overwhelming about the local tech scene.


When did you decide to start your own business?

I loved my time spent with LinkedIn, but I was conflicted. I could see that digital marketing was becoming increasingly complex and critical for business’ success, particularly for small and midsized companies who weren’t able to afford advice from large organizations like LinkedIn.

So I returned home to New Jersey and launched Griot Digital, a digital marketing consultancy. Our method for success lies in our application of content marketing and brand storytelling principles. We work with our clients on figuring out what their unique brand story is so that they are well positioned to captivate the emotions of consumers across the web. We then amplify their story across the web with content marketing methodology, ultimately driving business growth. Our clients’ websites, social media and blog presences that were once ineffective are transformed into a platform that attracts, engages and converts internet users into business leads.

Did Philly factor into that decision of starting your own business?

Philly did not factor into my decision to start my own business. I launched my business in N.J. to keep costs low, and capitalize on the very tight-knit suburban community. After securing my first few clients I considered moving to major cities like New York and Boston. Funnily enough Philadelphia was not on my radar at all. I couldn’t have fathomed that there could be a strong startup community here.

So what changed?

I visited a friend in Fishtown and immediately fell in love with the neighborhood. It reminded me so much of my neighborhood in London — Shoreditch, which was also home to up-and-coming artists and startups. When I heard Fishtown had First Fridays and coworking spaces it was like deja vu. By the day’s end, I knew that I needed to move to Philly. I started researching more on Philly’s tech scene, and as luck would have it, saw that Philly Tech Week was scheduled for the following week.

The stars were just aligning for me to come to Philly! I met so many young entrepreneurs at PTW whose success stories served as a testament to the strength of Philly’s tech community. I was equally impressed with how supportive more seasoned entrepreneurs were to giving advice and connecting with me.

Before even moving, I already had a strong network to connect me to Philly’s tech scene. To put into perspective how quickly my business has evolved since moving to Philly: within a month of my first visit to Philly as a startup founder I found a place to live, two months later I joined the Pyramid Club, an esteemed business networking club, and four months later secured an office for Griot Digital in Fishtown at 2424 Studios.

What (if anything) did you know/think about the Philadelphia technology community before coming here?

I had no idea that Philadelphia had a technology community! If I had, I probably would’ve moved down here sooner!

What was your first reaction to Philly and its tech scene?

Very inviting and well organized. There is an obvious focus on healthcare and biomedical technology, although it seems more attention is increasingly being given to other tech industries.

What have you seen in your pre-Philly life that you’d like to see here? Put another way, any ideas you would want to take from those places and bring here?

Because tech and startup life is so trendy it can be hard to figure out which communities are designed to help those aspiring to work in a tech environment and those who already are. It’s been hard for me to navigate all of the different groups and associations to figure out which I, as a current entrepreneur, should invest my time or money in. (I’ve noticed this not just in Philly but in NYC and London, too. I think entrepreneurs in big cities have this challenge because there are just so many more people than in a more suburban area like N.J.)

Companies: Griot Digital

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