Dallas Startup Week: Panel Discusses Corporate Sponsorships



For creative types seeking to land corporate sponsorships for their work, everything boils down to working well with others.

That was the message that that a panel of experts delivered at a discussion Thursday at Dallas Startup Week to an audience of roughly 25 people.

“So many people who come to corporations are emotionally involved in what they’re selling, but don’t think about their own emotional intelligence,” said Dana Williams, strategic adviser, integrated marketing at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.

Many sponsor seekers fail to think through basic elements of their economic propositions, such as their purpose, strategy or mission, Williams said.

“If you can match your purpose with theirs, you can have some exciting fireworks.”
-Dana Williams

“It’s putting on your business hat,” she said. “Then you’ve got to find a company that matches your mission. Once you locate a person inside the company with whom you can make a connection, then the magic starts happening. If you can match your purpose with theirs, you can have some exciting fireworks.”

Ultimately, businesses make sponsorship decisions based on what return they perceive they will get on their investments, according to Brenda Ashenden, co-owner of Herrada Printing in Dallas.

“No one will sponsor you if they don’t think there is something in it for them, such as exposure or the opportunity to expand their market,” she said. “They’re looking for a strong partner who can expand their horizons at the same time.”


Dr. Letitia Wright, who hosts a California cable television show about entrepreneurship, said inexpensive tech services make it easier for her to keep in touch. Online tools make it easy to keep notes on given people she’s met, so she knows when to follow up with them, while “virtual assistants” handle tasks like sending out emails or text messages on her behalf.

“Anytime you’re spread too thin, that’s a sign you need to delegate,” she said.

At the same time, face-to-face contact is vital, which means being sensitive to how people prefer to communicate, Wright noted.

Some would-be business partners overwhelm others with volumes of information about themselves when bite-sized nuggets work much better, Wright said.

“Don’t say, ‘It’s too much to explain here,” Wright said.

“Don’t say, ‘It’s too much to explain here.”
-Letitia Wright 

Similarly, it’s important to use the appropriate communications technology to suit what other people respond to, according to Cris Davis of Firefly Trends, a supplier of affordable-yet-fashionable women’s apparel.

“Social media has been amazing for us,” she said.

The bedrock principle of doing well in an artistic-related field is to remember that human interactions drive everything, according to the panel’s moderator, Sway Buckley, a North Texas coach who helps creative people make money off their work.

“People do business with people,” she said. “The relationship piece is so important.”

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