William Brown’s path from aspiring New York City musician to co-founder of a successful staffing firm was anything but conventional or predictable, but his journey led him to the Lehigh Valley and he has never looked back.
“If you want to be somewhere that has all the big corporate fanfare and benefits of a big city, but a very family atmosphere and environment where you can actually grow and be seen, this is the place,” he said. “It’s the best of Wall Street and Main Street. That’s what I love about it.”
Brown, CEO & Co-Founder of FIA NYC, began his career as a musician who segued into the management side of the entertainment industry. He discovered the Lehigh Valley almost by accident, after purchasing a few properties in the region to fix up and later re-sell.
But as he explored his various entrepreneurial ventures, he quickly realized the Lehigh Valley was exactly where he wanted to be.
“The first thing the Lehigh Valley has over New York by a landslide is a support system,” Brown said. “It’s like that show Cheers: everybody knows your name. The Lehigh Valley is very supportive of its people, like a family. It’s a great environment if you want to grow.”
When Brown became a manager for musical artists in New York, he discovered he loved the business side of music, and also believed strongly in treating the artist fairly. This passion put him onto an entrepreneurial path, and when William first came to the Lehigh Valley in 2009, he started an encryption and storage solution company called SeKur Technology, Inc.
Brown’s 20 years of experience working in information technology, on Wall Street, and for global firms, coupled with his experience in the music industry, led to SeKur Technology being developed to prevent digital piracy.
This in turn led him to join the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s business incubation program. Brown quickly found in the Lehigh Valley a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem with plenty of resources and mentors to help startup companies grow and thrive.
“It’s a place where I can pick up the phone and call the CEO of a company and not have to go through a bunch of red tape,” he said. “That to me is something that makes the Lehigh Valley great. If you get a good reputation, everybody supports you, and that’s not something I was used to coming from New York City.”
As his business grew, Brown called Lindsay Watson, a singer he mentored and worked on two albums with as a manager. Like Brown, she also transitioned into the business side, and was working at a staffing agency in New York City, but Brown wanted her at his side in the Lehigh Valley.
He was so confident she would fall in love with the region, he offered to pay for six months of living expenses if she left the Big Apple and moved to the Lehigh Valley to work with him. She made the jump, and it’s a decision she didn’t regret.
While growing the tech company, Brown and Watson started a small staffing company as a “side thing” to help support it, but they quickly realized the staffing company was becoming the more profitable venture. They shifted their focus there, and 10 years later, FIA NYC is an award-winning, 100% minority-owned business providing staffing services to clients across the nation.
“With some staffing firms, it’s like a cattle call: they send you as many people as they can so hopefully you pick one, and that’s quantity over quality,” said Brown, who also founded 11Thirty Entertainment LLC as well as FIA NYC and SeKur Technology. “I decided I wouldn’t do that. I’d send quality. If I sent you people, you’d know they were the right people for you.”
Brown still works on the production and management side of the entertainment industry, and also recently joined the Board of Directors for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, is a published book author, and is an expert speaker on the subject of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).
Brown said the Lehigh Valley has made great strides in the area of DEI, and while he feels there is still room for improvement, he believes the region could be a great leader in that area in the next 5 to 10 years if it stays on its current path.
“For this area to be growing the way it is and so progressive corporately, and still have that real family business, Main Street type of touch is huge,” Brown said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”