Written by William Bryant Rozier
2017 was the first year that RasAmen (“Ras”) Maat Oladuwa put any kind of serious work into the marketing of her own company. Last year was the first year RASS Web Consulting had a website, a business card, or even a logo.
Oladuwa is now serious with RASS. She just came back from Atlanta, Georgia, visiting family. She’s going back soon, for business. (She works full-time at Diskey Signs.)
“Marketing has definitely been a science for me,” Oladuwa said. Marketing as science is a concept that Oladuwa always wants to explore. What colors elicit the most pronounced responses? How does a potential client engage with online content? “I don’t think people look at it when they ask me to build them a website or market them online.”
RASS is more than just websites; Oladuwa does online marketing and web consulting. She’s the conscious you didn’t know you needed. “I give you a layout on what is online, and what you need to further your business. Not everybody needs Twitter. Not everybody needs Facebook.” She tailors her consulting to fit her clients’ business needs.
Oladuwa does logo design, branding, image and content analysis, search engine optimization, and analyzes customer traffic to websites. Her work resides on the next floor up from just web design. But she does that too.
Marketing is definitely a science for her.
Oladuwa graduated from South Side in 2010 (“Go Archers!”), after struggling just a bit with a course load replete with AP courses. She had always really loved math, so she double majored in economics and history at small, liberal arts Connecticut College.
“I liked economics when you bring in the social economics part of math. I can study people and see how things work on a mathematical level, but also on a social level,” Oladuwa said.
When Oladuwa started to fail her economics courses, it was discovered she had dyscalculia, which is dyslexia but with numbers. This epiphany dropped like bricks her sophomore year.
Connecticut College’s liberal arts identification allowed its students to design their own field of study; Oladuwa focused her studies on how the country’s monetary system shaped the culture and mindset of African Americans.
“My hypothesis was that money was a huge contributor to shaping our culture here. I went off the basis that culture was a very hard thing to gain since Africa Americans started from slavery.”
Oladuwa’s hypothesis matured along with her worldview. “I realized that wealth and money were very different; African Americans have a very hard time gaining any type of wealth.”
The dual nature of having wealth and money for African Americans resonated with her. She studied the works of W.E.B. Dubois on the subject of the Negro double consciousness, “how African Americans try to fit into a society where they’re trying to be ‘white’ embracing their blackness,” Oladuwa said, who felt the pull herself from the mostly-white institution.
She accepted a yearlong internship at Emory University in Atlanta before her junior year at Connecticut, writing newspaper content for the Multicultural Center’s president and designing posters. One flyer caught the eye of an undergraduate who inquired about its author.
“That’s when I started looking at marketing as not just about reaching the audience,” Oladuwa said, “because you can reach the audience but not connect with them.”
Peaked with interest and back at Connecticut, Oladuwa attended a seminar about how different races respond to different colors, fonts, and pictures. “I backed that up with my economics class about how in-depth poverty and wealth are intertwined.”
She recalled watching a video about how prisons are built, about how social engineers would go to a playground, count the number of black kids, and surmise how many of those in attendance would end up in prison, in order to estimate the number of jail cells to build.
“And I was mind-blown,” Oladuwa said. “Did somebody come to my playground and do that?”
Oladuwa has two siblings; their parents always had nontraditional jobs. Clydia Early, Oladuwa’s mother, taught herself grant writing from a for-dummies book; she co-owns the Green Hair Revolution. Ketu Oladuwa, her father, worked and Frost Illustrated Newspaper and started the Three Rivers Jenbe Ensemble. (Oladuwa was a drummer with hardly enough rhythm.)
“I don’t know how my parents were taking us to the doctor. (Laughs.) And getting bills paid,” Oladuwa said. “I would say we sat comfortably in the middle class, so I’m trying to figure out [how they did it].”