Brooklyn-born and bred Morehouse College alumni, Coltrane Curtis is an entrepreneur, marketing mogul, style icon, and family man who has made a career out of being first.
He was the first to launch and run Complex magazine. He was also the first to understand the power that hip-hop has in fashion, forging a partnership with 50 Cent to create G-Unit Apparel. Additionally, he was the first MTV Style VJ, leading coverage of the entire network’s red carpers and fashion news. Most significantly, he’s the first to conceptualize the idea of an ‘influencer’ before the onset of social media.
Inspired by his father, John Curtis, who founded, owned and ran one of the first Black-owned multicultural agencies in America for 25 years (J. Curtis & Co), Coltrane started the first modern influencer agency, TEAM EPIPHANY (TE) in 2004.
Team Epiphany connects brands to culture using avenues of knowledge that can’t be researched, predicted, or purchased – but comes from experience. Since its founding, Coltrane has led the company from a nomadic boutique agency with less than five employees to an award-winning powerhouse with one of the industry’s most diverse staffs of 75+ employees, offices in NYC and LA, and a roster of Fortune 500 clients including Airbnb, American Express, Apple, Audi, Coca-Cola, HBO, Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s Gin, Rémy Martin, JBL and more.
Named an Ad Age Small Agency of the Year and an Experiential Agency of the Year, Team Epiphany is a family-first agency. Coltrane owns and operates Team Epiphany with his wife, Managing Partner Lisa Chu, a first-generation Asian American whose parents immigrated from Taiwan. They have two sons named Count and Ellington and live in Dumbo.
“Be prepared to fight, but also position yourself before someone else does it for you. Don’t let someone misbrand you or give you a false label. While others are resting, you have to be working. What I’ve learned is that getting through the door is sometimes the burden of being a Black man and pioneer in space, but it’s my job to hold the door open.” Coltrane said when asked what advice he would give to young Black entrepreneurs.
We commend Coltrane for his success, shared knowledge and his willingness to open doors for the next generation of Black entrepreneurs. We look forward to seeing what’s next for this mogul as he continues to cultivate innovative ways of being first in whatever he decides to do!