Festival CEO takes his business to new heights with the help of Verizon Small Business Digital Ready

By: Kweli I. Wright

Anwar Dougsiyeh says Verizon’s free learning portal has been a game-changer

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Anwar Dougsiyeh, co-founder of Lotus Rosery Music Festival, inside of his office in midtown Atlanta. Credit: Cliff Robinson

For the past three years, Anwar Dougsiyeh and team have been working hard to turn his events company into one of the biggest, internationally touring music festivals in the world - “bigger than Coachella,” says the young co-founder of the Lotus Rosery Music Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve done a lot of “free work” building other brands and hosting concerts, but now, having learned new business skills through Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, Dougsiyeh finally feels ready to take off.

“I feel more business-savvy after doing these courses,” says the young CEO about Verizon’s online portal designed to help small businesses thrive in the digital economy. Through the portal, Dougsiyeh and team are learning key business skills like finance management and marketing, and diving into opportunities to build their brand.

Co-founders Tiryk Borrego, Anwar Dougsiyeh, and Oni Culbreath make plans for the future. Credit: ​​Cliff Robinson

New skills wanted

Dougsiyeh and Oni Culbreath, co-founder and creative director, started Lotus Rosery in 2017 while they were teens in high school. Tiryk Borrego, the graphics and marketing lead joined, and soon, their mission to spotlight and unite young, Atlanta creatives grew to include bringing artists together globally.

But the team needed key skills to move forward. “It was hard to figure out accounting and bookkeeping, email marketing, and improving our SEO,” Dougsiyeh says. “It was a whole world that we had to learn.”

Dougsiyeh logs into the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready portal from the comfort of his home. Credit: ​​Cliff Robinson

To fill in the gaps, the CEO sought out business training at a prestigious university but said it was too expensive. On the verge of hiring a business manager, Dougsiyeh was introduced to the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready portal by a friend, who found it while searching for grant opportunities. That the portal was free appealed to Dougiyeh immediately. Once logged in, Dougsiyeh found a surprising array of resources. “It’s so in-depth,” he says. “There are courses for everything.”

Dougsiyeh has shared the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready portal with his entire team. Credit: ​​Cliff Robinson

“Another great feature is that you can go at your own pace,” Dougsiyeh says. “You’re able to take your time and really learn the content. Right now, I’m making sure we have financial literacy, and going forward I’m also thinking about the legal structure of the business.”

Giving small business owners like Dougsiyeh the tools to succeed in the digital economy is the mission of Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, a key initiative of the company’s Citizen Verizon plan to move the world forward for all. The portal not only provides personalized courses, but there’s access to expert coaching, networking opportunities with diverse businesses, and an exclusive pool of grants available only to program participants. To get started with the portal, it’s simple to sign-up using your email address. From there, small business owners answer a series of questions that generate a curriculum customized to their business needs.

Dougsiyeh is surrounded by family, Lotus Rosery staff, and friends at his midtown office. Credit: ​​Cliff Robinson

An overnight transformation

Two weeks after completing the “Track Your Finances'' course, Dougsiyeh landed a marketing contract with a major beverage company. The course encouraged him to finally get his business bank account and paperwork in order. Without it, he says, he could not have secured the deal. “I was like ‘Oh,’’' he says. “I hear this all the time but it wasn’t clicking until I took the course.”

After taking a digital marketing course through the portal, Dougsiyeh started an email campaign that brought in 1,000 ticket sales to his “You Are Here” music festival overnight. “We finally started to put our contacts into Mailchimp,” he says. “We had all this data, but we never used it. We sent the email out to 7,000 people. We sold 1,000 tickets. That was insane. We were shook.”

Dougsiyeh’s parents Muktar and Rayleen Dougsiyeh support their son’s dreams Credit: ​​Cliff Robinson

Dougsiyeh now has more confidence to approach new ways of doing business. And this confidence has inspired his colleagues and family. “I know he’s going to be very successful. He’s on the right path,” says Dougsiyeh’s father, Muktar Dougsiyeh.

'You Are Here’

It’s the night of the ‘You Are Here’ music festival and Dougsiyeh buzzes around, checking lights and sound, as a line swells outside.

With rapper S.U.R.F on stage, Dougsiyeh gets ready to dive into the crowd. Credit: Marilyne Mwangi

Two hours later, Dougsiyeh joins performer S.U.R.F. on stage - ready to dive into the crowd for the first time ever. The music pumps louder and into the crowd Dougsiyeh leaps as dozens of eager hands float him in an unforgettable act of faith and confidence.

“As a lotus flower is born in mud underwater, it grows in water and rises out of the water to stand above it, unsoiled,” Dougsiyeh reflects after the show. “For three years, I felt like we were submerged in mud. This recent sold-out show felt like us blossoming out of the water.”

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready provides on-demand courses, live coaching events, networking, planning aids, and grant opportunities for eligible learners. To sign-up for this free program, visit verizon.com/smallbusinessdigitalready

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