1993 she incorporated as Ibis Communications and hired her first
employee in 1994, using her savings.
In 1995 the second full-time employee was hired and Howland
proudly admits she offered competitive salaries and never had to
take out a bank loan to move her company forward after
Communications currently employs eight professionals and has been
honored as one of the top fastest growing companies in Nashville
for five consecutive years. In
1997, Howland earned the prestigious honor of an invitation on
Capitol Hill for a White House tribute to the nation’s women
business leaders. And
in 2000, Ibis was entered into the Music City Future 50 Hall of
Fame, the first African- American company to ever reach that goal.
company’s portfolio now consists of global clients throughout
the world, such as Pitney Bowes, Coca Cola and SESAC .
Howland says that once you get your company’s name out
there, the business opportunities become easier.
Therefore, based on this premise, it’s understandable how
95% of Ibis’ business is through referrals.
Howland also enjoys the perk of serving as a travel writer
for Hawaii travel guides where she visits island hotels, resorts,
restaurants, shops and attractions each year to update the travel
books. She has also
done travel writing in Jamaica, Bermuda, Turks & Caicos and
has consistently given back to the community by serving on
numerous boards such as Nashville Public Television, Tennessee
Performing Arts Centers, Village Cultural Arts Centers, the High
Hopes Center for children with special needs, Nashville Ballet,
African-American Business Initiative Task Force and the Nashville
Area Chamber of Commerce.
asked what challenges she had to overcome in order to achieve
success, Howland says, “I know racial barriers exist; but
that’s their problem, not mine.
If they say no, I’m looking for the next yes.
We just have to move on.
For the majority companies, getting contracts is a whole
lot easier. They fall into them. But we probably have to work harder to grow our businesses
since we don’t have those connections.
There is a discrimination factor, so that tells me that
I’ve got to knock on more doors. For me that’s fine.
It fits my personality anyway.”
Ibis Communications is one of five African-American female-owned
advertising agencies in the country, according to data obtained
from Black Enterprise, Howland says Ibis is commonly mislabeled as
a PR firm. “Probably
because there are more female-owned PR firms; whereas advertising
agencies are a male-dominated industry.”
Being one of five makes Ibis Communications a unique entity
in a non-traditional field of business for minorities.
you start a non-traditional business or not, Howland’s advice is
to enter a field where you have a passion for the work.
Where you will not throw in the towel during the rough
times. Where you have
a sharp focus on what you want to achieve and clearly understand
that you can’t do it alone.
You must surround yourself with “good” people who will
help your business grow. She says if you do what you love and
stick with it, things will come together for you. Although the company started by accident, Ibis Communications
is a successful example of this philosophy in action.