Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange Q&A: Anis Taylor
When screenwriter and multimedia producer Anis Taylor realized that other Philadelphia-based content creators were struggling to find career growth and networking opportunities without leaving the city, he took the initiative to start his own creative community.
Taylor is the founder of Higher Than 7, a subscription media platform that develops and distributes exclusive productions from Philadelphia content creators spanning film, television, music, and radio. Higher Than 7 fills a niche in Philadelphia as a Black-owned profitable production network that specifically serves BIPOC communities.
His goals are to produce original content and make Higher Than 7 a household name, which is why he joined the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange, a program led by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund to mentor media entrepreneurs on ways to generate revenue and create sustainable business models. PMFE entrepreneurs received grant funding along with revenue, marketing, and operations training from the Zebras Unite Co-Op and Black and Brown Founders.
We spoke with Taylor as part of a series of conversations with PMFE entrepreneurs checking in on the progress they’ve made within their organizations using the skills and connections they gained during the program.
This conversation has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Kiara Santos contributed reporting.
Tell us a bit about the project(s) you worked on as part of PMFE.
During PMFE, the projects we worked on were revamping Higher Than 7 with a new logo, creating a style guide, creating memorable events such as Full Court 21 Philly, producing the movie Oldhead, as well the Oldhead music score, producing a new podcast, and designing new and fun marketing materials.
In addition, we focused on three key concepts: how to market ourselves in an effective way to stand out as a brand, how to create a business that can effectively generate revenue through profit, and, most importantly, how to be a sustainable business that will continue to last multiple decades with the help of grants and partnerships.
Higher Than 7 has been around for over a decade, and through hard work and dedication we have become sustainable. The overall goal of our projects was to bring more content to our website and increase marketability.
What problem were you trying to solve initially, and why was solving the problem strategically important for your organization?
The problem we initially were solving was creating a platform for independent content creators to showcase their talent through music, movies, shows, sports, live events, podcasts and more.
Solving this issue is important for our organization because we know the value that promotion can give content creators when there is a platform for independent creators. Caring for artists allows them a chance to showcase their work on the Higher Than 7 streaming platform and the Higher Than 7 radio show.
On the business side of things, the main problem we were trying to solve as an organization is how to be profitable in a media business when it is so hard to find ways to raise money. We have been an effective company that has been true to its mission of providing a platform for local Philadelphian talents to showcase their abilities through music, movies, shows, sports, and live events. But it has been really difficult to build a profitable business. That’s why it was so important for us to strategically solve this problem.
What were your biggest takeaways from the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange? What did you gain from the formal programming and coaching? What did you learn from your fellow founders?
Our biggest takeaway from the PMFE is the importance of community and a support system when you are trying to be successful in the media business. Everyone in the program is a big part of the media ecosystem. We all work together to bring media to Philadelphia through different strengths and platforms to be the voice of journalism.
The coaching was particularly helpful because it provided us with a guide as we navigate our business to be effective. The programming also let us know that every brand has a story and the “why” that motivates them to keep going.
In addition, we learned so much from our fellow founders because we realized that we are all in the same boat. We all have extreme passion for what we do, and it is so important to have a support system when trying to do the inevitable. Fundraising and networking are musts to keep your company growing and evolving to achieve bigger goals.
How has this work impacted the community you serve?
The work we do has always been rooted in the community. Higher Than 7 was born out of a need in the Philadelphia community for a platform to help local artists shine. We believe that Philadelphia has some of the most talented artists in the world, but they’re leaving Philly to work in LA, New York, and Atlanta. So it was important to us to build something in Philly that could support talent to stay and grow here.
Higher Than 7 has been a gateway to bigger opportunities in many artists’ careers. From being the first time they have ever heard their song on the radio through the Higher Than 7 radio show, to being the first time they have acted and been on TV or in a movie, Higher Than 7 has been and will continue to be there for them.
Were there any unexpected plans or challenges that you had to overcome during the program? What did you learn from it?
There were always plenty of challenges we had to overcome during the program, but what we had to do was trust the process.
We learned to take a step back and remember the “why:” when you lose momentum or motivation; remember why the world needs Higher Than 7. We also learned how to pivot from original plans to revamp and improve them through fresher eyes.
PMFE provided us with all the space we needed to grow from these challenges.
How did the program contribute to your sense of power and/or self-efficacy in creating change in Philadelphia’s media ecosystem?
Being a part of the PMFE program helped build our sense of power by helping us dive deeper into what Higher Than 7 represents, and how to really strive to make it a global brand.
It also allowed us to think about how to expand our company to a higher level. The courses provided to us by the Black and Brown Founders, as well as the guest speakers, were a priceless experience because it was rooted in knowledge. We now have the confidence to take our streaming platform to the next level and give our content creators the marketing strategy to promote their content.
What’s next? How are you planning to continue this work?
What’s next for Higher Than 7 is to continue to build our streaming platform and help content creators host their work on our platform. We want to continue to be a trusted brand amongst the artistic community and eventually be big enough to compete against companies like Netflix and Hulu.
In addition, we will continue to be the bridge that connects independent creators with other musicians, artists, actors, and more. We will continue to cultivate our community through music, film, podcasts, events, and sports. Higher Than 7 is here to stay and will only get bigger with time and the support of organizations like the PMFE and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.