Across Broward County, Florida, minority-owned businesses are getting access to much-needed capital through the new Capital Access Fund (CAF) – a new lending initiative which provides capital and business education for minority entrepreneurs. It became available in November, 2017 through a partnership between Morgan Stanley, National Urban League Urban Empowerment Fund, National Development Council, and the Urban League of Broward County.
David I. Muir, a local photographer and co-owner of a creative marketing agency, is one of the first CAF recipients. He’s relying on the fund to grow his business and seek economic empowerment.
The hallway leading into David I. Muir’s apartment in an artists’ development in Fort Lauderdale is lined with stunning images of his life’s work.
Radiant photos of African-American women posing naturally along city beaches, parks and streets are on one side. Striking photos of jazz musicians giving it all, their hairlines shining with beads of sweat and arms swinging to the beat, are on the other side.
The photos are among the thousands he has taken over the years as he built a successful photography business, specializing in capturing the performances of entertainers, corporate events of downtown executives, and everyday lives of people from around the world.
David, 49, a hardworking and gregarious father of three known to many as “Sexy Man,” has come a long way.
“Taking photos is what I was destined to do,” he says. “As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be relevant and have people be interested in what I was interested in.”
The nephew of an organ tuner, he grew up in Jamaica with a passion for music, art and performing. He moved to New York City, got married, and became a sought-after disc jockey with the skill to make thousands dance at festivals and other big events. He also pursued other interests, especially in education, earning degrees in philosophy and social work.
After the Sept. 11th attacks, David moved to South Florida and went to work as a social worker for Family Central and then Memorial Healthcare System, focusing his time on helping troubled teens find a better path in life.
Through it all, he kept taking photos of events, landscapes and people he knew. He never had any formal training but loved to chronicle images of people and things around him.
While working full-time, David started taking on small photography jobs, shooting cocktail events and headshots. Soon, he realized the day-to-day work of a social worker wasn’t for him.
“I liked the work but I didn’t like the notes,” he says.
So he went out on his own as a full-time photographer, slowly building up his reputation by working hard at social events and corporate gatherings. His first big client: Urban League of Broward County and the annual Red Gala.
“This was a huge platform and a great way to reach the community,” he says. “I was really grateful.”
His business soared from there. In 2012, he published the book “Pieces of Jamaica,” a collection of snapshots of his native country. He got assignments for Jamaica’s tourism board and many other established organizations and traveled the globe taking photos of subjects at exotic and fascinating locations.
As David’s reputation grew, he met Calibe Thompson, a media producer and creative consultant, and they formed a new creative agency called Island Syndicate. Their company focuses on video production, corporate branding and publishing services. They started a new Caribbean-American lifestyle quarterly magazine Island Origins, drawing attention with a rare interview with Wyclef Jean, the Haitian rapper, musician and actor. In 2017, they organized the Taste the Islands Experience food festival in Miramar and plan to do more festivals.
“We work really well together,” Calibe says. “David is an ace at marketing and branding, and I’m really strong in operations.”
And this is where the Capital Access Fund comes into play. Their company is relying on the loan to purchase equipment, pay for staff, and concentrate on marketing.
“This money is critically important for us,” David says. “We are all about doing things at the highest level, and without a loan, there’s just so much you can’t do.”
For David and Calibe, their new venture is just getting started. They plan to expand publications, video productions, and events – all of them wrapped around high-end design and, of course, eye-catching photography.
“All my photos tell stories of people,” David says. “I’m really excited and blessed. I feel like everything that has happened, has happened for a purpose. I’ve already exceeded what I dreamed of and I can’t wait for what happens next.”