Story & Photo By Markie Wolfe
Entrepreneur, influencer, motivational speaker, MC, marketing mastermind, and mogul. These are just a few strong terms that describe MaDonna Atowi and yet they still fall short. A humble Harrisburg bred millennial, she makes an incredible impact on her peers, colleagues, and business partners. Atowi is consistently rising and raising the bar in her career field. She has accomplished so much yet remains modest as she tells her testimony which is an intriguing tale of success guaranteed to inspire all.
Atowi is a jack of all trades in the communications field and a master chef with her hand in various pots constantly cooking up creative marketing approaches. She currently runs a marketing and branding consulting company called Sankofa Concepts, which consists of graphic design, small marketing research, brand awareness, promotions, advertising and more.
According to Atowi, she walked into her destined career field “by accident.” Taking baby steps, she designed wedding, shower, party, and birthday invitations. She interned with Cheri Bailey at Seven1Seven Soul Magazine between 2009 and 2010, which served as her introduction to marketing. The demand escalated from traditional to social media marketing, allowing her to really showcase her talents in marketing and graphic design. Ten years ago, social media platforms were quickly developing and disappearing while some merged and a few thrived. Nevertheless, Atowi was unstoppable and continued to bloom amidst the transition. She took classes and went to seminars to perfect her craft and ensure that she’d excel. In one year, she was promoted from executive assistant to the President of the magazine. Though she gained valuable experience at Seven1Seven Soul Magazine, it was while assisting her dear friend at her trendy boutique, Urban Snob, that she got to hone those marketing skills with witty and forward-thinking promotional tactics. In 2022, Urban Snob will celebrate a decade of being in business, but it will also commemorate ten years of Atowi doing what she does best.
But with all the expertise, insight, and talent that she had, Atowi still shied away from the spotlight for an additional five years. For a time, she would either do work for those she was familiar with or suggest connections with other businesses. Atowi explains her temporary self-sabotaging tendency as an “imposter mindset.” “It was almost as if, if I put myself out here, and I stand in the sun, then I shine a bright light on what I do. I open myself up to criticism. I was operating my business since 2012, and here it was 2015, and I didn’t have a business card or a website. I was out here like, yeah that is something I like to do.”
Atowi continues: “In 2015, I attended Vera Cornish’s 2015 workshop called ‘Dare to Dream’ and in that room were CEO’s, presidents, and vice presidents, and so many important people, and I asked, ‘why am I in this room?’ My anxiety was so high.”
Atowi goes on to explain how Ms. Vera, as she lovingly calls her, had told her that she recognized her work on campaigns and branding concepts and believed in her potential that she had not yet recognized. “I understood that to know is to be responsible for the knowing. If I put myself out here, then I have to be accountable for everything that comes with that knowledge.” Later that year, she also became the communication director and marketing manager for a restaurant formerly known as PM Bistro. Finally, taking her career path to the next level, Atowi made herself business cards as a leap of faith.
“Steve Harvey said, ‘If you want to be successful, you have to jump. When you jump, I can assure you that your parachute will not open right away. But if you do not jump, your parachute will never open. If you’re safe, you’ll never soar!’ So, I jumped, and my parachute opened every single time! I saw my work on billboards from here to California. There was a football team in Georgia that I designed everything for. Every time I get to do something like that, and God blesses me I think, ‘wow, I’m just little old me.’ It has been really cool to be able to use my ideas in a greater way and on a greater scale. My friends always tell me that I am an idea person. I have the gift of ideation where I can take any idea and make it ten times better!”
“It’s like I’m rain man,” Atowi exclaims with laughter and in confidence. “For me, it’s just been a matter of stepping into that confidently and being okay with it. You have to also be okay with knowing that some people will not like your work, and many won’t even like you! And that’s okay. Those are not your people. Your people, like Cheri and Vera, will show up, encourage you, applaud you, they will support you, be loyal to you, and be there for you.” The growth and enlargement of Sankofa Concepts’ work and client base speaks for itself.
In the midst of helping established businesses expand, Atowi also finds time to tend to one of her passions: assisting small businesses to flourish. For the past decade, Sankofa Concepts has been helping small businesses transition from the concept stage to successful implementation. One of fun ways that she helps entrepreneurs transition to implementation is through her vision casting parties.In 2014, Atowi threw her first vision board party at her church, and it has been a success ever since. She finds joy in seeing women and girls manifest greatness. She stresses the importance of writing your vision and making it plain, which comes from a scripture in the Bible. Her entire empowerment movement is based around this scripture. She teaches the significance of setting your intentions and goals and following through with them.
“Develop a habit of asking for something of and for yourself and understanding that you just have to put in some work to get it,” Atowi advises. “You can have, you can do, you can be anything that you want! You are your own limit! Nothing is impossible. Make a plan, work, and manifest it! Also develop a mindset of ‘they will be fine.’ Do not overthink the response that people will or will not have to your business. They will be fine in the end whether you are in their field, if you succeed, or if you cannot support them the way you used to. That is a distraction. It’s okay to want great things for yourself. Go get it! A lot of time is wasted watching what someone else is doing. Focus your time, talent and resources on your own assignment, whatever that assignment is.”
In 2015, she was having a conversation with a friend who encouraged her to buy the domains and start planning for the vision board parties to take off. MaDonna took heed to the advice and committed to five years. She created a space where women felt empowered, safe, and motivated. Women have reportedly left her sessions putting dreams into action by purchasing houses, cars, and building businesses. “Faith is the activator to make it all work,” she believes. In 2016, she opened the parties outside of the church walls. The vision board parties soared! In 2020, due to the mandated quarantine, she did an accountability check-in session via Zoom. Aside from the parties and books, she also does workshops, “lives,” and articles to educate and motivate others. Having to take a year off due to the Corona virus, her effective vision board party will be returning in 2022!
Atowi is also a co-owner of a publishing company that runs in conjunction with a team of poets known as “I Am Words.” Atowi reported that, to date, “I Am Words” plays host to the largest open mic in central Pennsylvania with over 200 people in attendance. In 2009, she published a book of poetry titled, “Life on a Chocolate Canvas.” She also has “love” novels titled “Divine Envy” and “London: Tale of a Mafia Princess”; has co-authored a women’s ministry guide to help woman start and grow their ministry; has four vision journals published (and one in the works) which give people handwritten steps on how to manifest their destiny; and written a girl’s journal, well-titled “Goal Get Her,” which encourages young women. She publishes her books under “I Am Words” publications.
As the world continues to be caught up in a whirlwind known as Covid-19, Atowi has decided to literally turn things around and spread joy across the city. “Hit the Angles 360 Photo Booth” is Harrisburg’s first 360-photo booth business. If you’ve been living under a rock and you are unfamiliar with what a 360-photo booth is, it is a revolving video camera capable of capturing 120 frames per second and is all the rage right now. Patrons step onto the platform and the video camera begins to spin. It does a complete 360 degrees around them to capture a video in slow-motion and reverse. To make the videos more fun, customers can use props and signs provided to add to their experience. Users can see their videos playback on screens and have various options to download the videos based on their phone capabilities. Some even allow users to pick the background music of their liking. “Hit the Angles 360 Photo Booth” is operated by Atowi and her business savvy counterpart (aka her “honey,” as she tenderly calls him). Together, their photo booth has graced many shows as well as malls, Latino balls, comedy events, the wine and jazz festival, Kipona, and even a beauty and hair expo.
“It is super cool to own a business with my boyfriend,” says Atowi. “A lot of couples aren’t able to work well in business, but our strengths and weaknesses are so evenly paired that it just works really well. All of my talents and resources are perfectly matched to do this so that I really do not have to outsource for anything.”
Atowi does not just seek to impact her community through arts, entertainment, and marketing. She does not shy away from taking political action, if need be, to serve her community, and is thus proud to be a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC). The AACC’s goal is to economically enable and strengthen African American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity in our country and via interaction within the black community. With the AACC, Atowi participates in “Junior Entrepreneurs in Training” camp where the youths are mentored to take their ideas from thoughts, to plans, to implementation. Their ideas are branded and marketed, and the children go on to operate profitable businesses. “You cannot teach hustle and ambition, but you can teach them a way to achieve their goals,” Atowi asserts. As a chamber member, she strives to continue to empower her community and seek out resources to assist in the building and growing of careers and charities.
Atowi’s newest aspiration is to empower women and girls with entrepreneurial goals. She would like to not only be able to train them in business etiquette, but also lessen some of the financial burden that comes with starting a business. Her dream is to be able to establish people’s businesses for free, in the same vein as a scholarship. She’d like to be able to jump start businesses with grants, free websites, and graphic design to help single mothers, women, and girls get through the most difficult and costly part of investing in their brands.
Atowi’s last advise is this: “just do what you want to do. Don’t wait for a degree. Don’t wait until you save money. Don’t wait until you’re tired of what you’re doing now. Who’s to say that the opportunity will still be there. People are dying with their dreams inside of them. If nothing else, Covid has taught us that. Go start what you’re going to start and do what you want to do and if it doesn’t work, baby go do something else! My goal is to die empty. I want to take all of things that God has given me and pour it out into the universe!”
MaDonna Atowi’s story is one of hope and hard work and it is currently in it’s happily ever after stage.