Since launching seven years ago, Memphis broadcast company Kudzukian has grown its business dramatically.
The company is currently producing more than 20 shows — largely, though not exclusively — focused on Black arts, social, political and community issues. The shows have found homes on satellite and terrestrial radio, as well as various podcast platforms. Now the company’s headquarters are catching up. On Thursday, Kudzukian cut the ribbon on a gleaming new office space at the Agricenter.
Kudzukian, which had been operating from offices on Monroe Avenue in Midtown, needed an all-encompassing space, said the company’s founder, Larry T. Robinson. “It was a combination of things,” said Robinson. “Basically we outgrew where we were, as our staff has grown quite extensively and we started to feel very cramped.”
Kudzukian currently has 15 employees.
The new Kudzukian home is expansive, with three recording studios, livestreaming facilities, and expanded office and storage space. “Ultimately it allows us to serve our customers even better,” said Robinson. “In addition to that John Butler, the (president) of Agricenter, has been very supportive of what Kudzukian does and really helped us to see a bigger vision by being a part of the complex they have.”
When former marketing executive Robinson started Kudzukian in early 2014, his vision was that of a “turn-key” production company that could create on-demand virtual, in-studio and livestream content across all media platforms.
“We wanted to be right there as a company that could work with everyone — from an ad agency to a corporation to a nonprofit — creating content that served their needs and highlighted their organizations, as well as just creating great entertainment,” said Robinson. “Our idea was taking the shows, creating and formatting them, so they were ready for radio, or satellite radio, or as podcasts.”
Starting with “R&R on Sports” — which has since been picked up by SiriusXM and syndicated nationally — Robinson has developed a stable of shows that address a clear need in the audio/podcasting market, focused on Black issues and stories. Kudzukian’s programming includes shows like “Three Black Chicks,” “Black Nerd Power,” “Rise Up Single Mom” and “Grindset,” among others.
Robinson said that as big as the current podcast boom has become, there is still room for more programming that addresses the many varied needs and interests of Black audiences, particularly those in the Mid-South.
To that end, the company has continued to develop programming along those lines with shows like “Humans Being,” hosted by Grammy-winning jazz musician and executive leader Kirk Whalum. Robinson also hosts a show called “The Journey,” which features stories on and interviews with “some of the most successful African American businessmen in the city of Memphis. Not just white collar, but blue collar,” Robinson said.
“We believe it’s important to show young Black males that the road to success is not necessarily linear. You’re gonna fall down, but you have to keep getting up and meeting the bell, and eventually success will happen. It’s about staying the course. That’s a message we feel will resonate with young Black males. We want to do our part to highlight that.”
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Kudzukian is also focused on working with civic leaders, building shows and livestreaming events for the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission.
“It’s about serving the community and reaching them,” Robinson said. “Case in point: take Councilwoman Patrice Robinson. If she does a town hall meeting at a church or a nonprofit or a community organization, and hosts people and talks about what’s going on at the city’s legislative level, there might be 75 to 100 people in attendance.
“Her last event with us, did nearly 3,000 from our livestream alone. These live town halls and podcasts and videocasts that we create allow our leaders to reach the citizens much, much more effectively.”
Robinson noted that as part of the company’s community commitment, they will be forming a separate nonprofit called the Kudzukian Media Group, which will focus on supporting and developing programming for nonprofits. “We want to help nonprofits develop content supporting their message,” he said. “Basically, we will be working as a nonprofit assisting other nonprofit entities to get their message out.”
With its growing slate of shows, new nonprofit division and expanded headquarters, Kudzukian has clearly moved into a new era, but Robinson said there is more to be done.
“I think the variety of audio content that’s out there can grow even more,” he said. “We’re nowhere near the zenith of this. And for Kudzukian, I think our best days are ahead of us.”
Read More:Memphis broadcast company Kudzukian moves to Agricenter, podcasting