Startups Brand Purpose The Ad Club of New York

Group Black CEO & Ad Club honoree Travis Montaque on purposeful entrepreneurship


By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

May 31, 2023 | 9 min read

Travis Montaque, co-founder and CEO of Black-owned media collective and accelerator Group Black, has been named Startup of the Year by the Advertising Club of New York. The Drum catches up with Montaque on what drives him and what’s next.

travis montaque

Travis Montaque is committed to supporting Black founders and creators / Credit: Group Black

Travis Montaque is a serial entrepreneur. He has founded a number of companies, including media collective and accelerator Group Black, animation studio and creative agency Holler Studios and creator network Crater.

Briefly tell us about your journey starting different companies. What do you think put you on the road to winning Ad Club’s Startup of the Year award?

There’s a common theme with every business I create. I build them within the context of my values … My closing quote when I was graduating [college] was ‘I want to do something that made a measurable difference and was of lasting importance.’ The businesses I started sought to do just that. I started Group Black to solve the inequity issues for Black-owned media when marketers started pledging to diversify their investments from 0.5% to 8% over the next few years. We were concerned that without investment in the community and the infrastructure to start those businesses, the change wouldn’t happen.

Group Black had a very simple mission to dramatically transform the face of media ownership and investment because we fundamentally believe that lack of diversity and ownership is not good for society overall. We’ve been on that journey at Group Black for the last two years. I’ve been very excited about the progress that we’ve made within the business and what it will mean for Black-owned media moving forward.

While building my other business, Crater, I realized that creators have the same inequity challenge that Black-owned media has. We wanted to change that because we believe that creators are the new startup. So, Crater puts creators first and our plan is to unlock value for creators by helping them get their projects funded and enable them from going from creators to entrepreneurs and build their businesses. It’s been really inspiring, the work we’ve done. We’ve built an amazing team that’s inspired by the work we do – and we’re just getting started.

What lessons did you learn along the way, about being an entrepreneur and the advertising world in general?

One of the core things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is, when building businesses, you have to start with the ‘why’ and the passion because building companies is hard. Bringing a business from zero to one takes an enormous amount of energy … When making businesses, I’ve spent the most amount of time figuring out why the business needs to exist in the world, and what happens if it doesn’t? So, with Group Black, the inspiration and passion behind it was, what does lack of diversity in media mean for media overall – and not just for the industry – but for society and the community?

When it comes to Crater, it’s very simple. Creators are important, and if we don’t invest in them, what happens? We found that 91% of creators were experiencing burnout; 71% wanted to quit. That’s because half of them make under $50,000 per year. That number is even worse for Black creators who make 35% less, and we wanted to change that. At the highest level, the purpose is fundamental to any business venture that I have started. My purpose maps this broader-level idea that inclusion is not just the right thing to do; it’s the biggest business opportunity today. And we’re tackling that on many different fronts.

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What advice do you have for other people of color in the marketing industry?

One of the things that people fall into is not being true and authentic to themselves within environments that have historically had a lack of diversity. What people are starting to find (or what they should be finding) is that having a diverse organization, with authentic representation, is critical to driving business growth in the context of the world today.

What some people used to look at as a disadvantage, they should lean into and use it as a strength. Most of the companies I talk to – especially with the largest marketers in the world – are looking to reach diverse audiences as one of their biggest growth opportunities today. The only way you can do that is by having an organization that understands the nuances of being a person of color and be able to bring that cultural context. Group Black is incredibly diverse; 49% of our team is Black and women make up 60% of our organization.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m most inspired by my mother. She came from a very simple life in Jamaica and then came to the United States to become an entrepreneur herself, starting multiple hair salons. I’ve watched my mom work hard, raise us and build her own businesses. I became incredibly inspired and I think that’s what gave me the entrepreneurial bug.

My mom also taught me to always do right. When I think about what makes me inspired and fired up, is the businesses we created seek to do right. When you have that type of compass, it makes it easy to be fired up every single day. That’s at the core of what inspires me – it’s kind of how I was raised, the ethos our businesses are built on and the impact we’re making in the world at large.

What does winning Ad Club’s Startup of the Year award mean to you and your team at Group Black?

We know how prestigious this award is, and for us as a business that’s just approaching its two-year anniversary, this exemplifies that we are on the right path. We know this is a marathon, not a sprint. The journey to equity is a long one. When we get recognition like this, we not only appreciate it but we get even more energized.

We will achieve our mission when we’re no longer necessary. Group Black is about sustaining and building wealth in the Black community. Our goal is to impact the culture in a way that elevates Black voices and Black-owned media. We want to be the #1 driver of making that a reality while celebrating diversity, culture and ultimately creating a pipeline for the next generation.

For more about the Advertising People of the Year award, click here.

Startups Brand Purpose The Ad Club of New York

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