For sisters, Tamara (Tammy) Armour and Crystal D. McDonald, entrepreneurship is a family affair. Their mother was a teacher who ran a home-based business on the side, while their father was an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. Now, the pair is taking a page from their parents’ book and hoping to take it to a whole new level. Their New Orleans-based staffing agency, Talent Activated, connects job seekers with opportunities for work at festivals, conventions and other events.
The Root spoke with Tammy Armour and Crystal McDonald about their business and the impact they hope it will have on closing the wealth gap in New Orleans.
Armour, a 15-year marketing executive from the spirits industry, and McDonald, an entrepreneur with a background in hospitality, describe themselves as solutions-oriented. And they say they were motivated to start their company as a vehicle to create employment opportunities that were desperately needed in their community.
“New Orleans is a place with a very thin middle class. It’s clear who does and does not have things. And it was tough to see people living like that every day and not want to do something about it,” Armour said. “When we think about how we show up in the world, we think about how our ideas can solve a need for other people. We’ve both been very blessed, and we’ve always had a need to give back.”
But getting their idea off the ground wasn’t easy, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our business model is based on experiential activations and the gig economy. And when COVID happened, everything shut down - all of the live events and spaces where we thought we had tons of opportunities when we started. I’m really proud of us for weathering that storm as a new business.”
But since its launch, Talent Activated has staffed a wide range of events and experiences, including Houston poll locations during the 2020 Presidential election and the wildly popular Essence Festival in New Orleans. And they’ve placed everyone from teachers to scientists looking for opportunities to channel their interests and experience into ways to earn extra money.
The Gig Economy Is Growing
The sisters say that while the pandemic helped kick-start the Great Resignation, the gig economy is showing no signs of slowing down. McDonald and Armour are excited about employees taking their happiness into their own hands. And they’re confident that more people will start to prioritize work-life balance.
“Our parents worked at companies for 30 years and retired with a cake and a watch. That was the pinnacle of success at the time. But I think we’re at a place now where people look at life like a pie and think about work as just a piece of it,” Armour said. “People recognize that they can do multiple things with the skills they have. And they want permission to be able to explore them more freely.”
And according to McDonald, employers need to get on board and allow their staff more flexibility in how they work—unless they want to be left behind.
“We’re not going back to where we were three years ago,” she said. “People left their jobs to find their purpose. And now they’re coming back to work under their terms.”
Driven By a Mission
Although they admit that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, the sisters say they are driven by their mission to help others and inspire other Black women to follow in their footsteps.
“We both work full-time jobs for other people, but we feel led to do this. That’s why we get up at 5:30 in the morning and are on email. We know that what we are doing directly impacts how we have to change so we can close the wealth gap for Black Americans,” McDonald said.
“We want Black women to see that [entrepreneurship] is possible – with kids, with a husband, and in so many ways. We’re trying to break those barriers down so that others see it as an opportunity,” Armour added. “That’s what entrepreneurship represents for me - something bigger than me that we can give back to the world. A seed we can leave for someone else to take forward, in whatever way that looks like.”