Darius Bradley, Founder, and CEO of Gatekeepers Agency joined us for an interview to discuss his journey from assistantship to entrepreneurship. A former assistant to the likes of Saycon Sengbloh, Gbenga Akinnagbe, and Rotimi Akinosh. Darius now is the leader of Gatekeepers Agency, Home of the Assistant, responsible for matching businesses, professionals, and entrepreneurs across a wide variety of industries with the specialized assistants they need. Darius brings his unique experience as an assistant in the music and entertainment industries and his motto “No Excuses. Create Solutions” to Gatekeepers to help train assistants, facilitate relationships, and create innovative solutions in the assistantship space.
In this interview, Darius sheds light on his former life as an assistant, his transition to entrepreneur and CEO, and the future for Gatekeepers Agency.
Can you take us through [the first part of] your impressive journey from intern to CEO?
I started in the music industry in 2009. I was an intern at [New York] Hot 97 and did that for about 6 months. About a year later, I saw this artist whose name was Rotimi, when he was in Chicago. When I saw him I [thought] “he’s going to be a star”, but at the time I reached out and the manager didn’t really get back to me so I figured my experience was lacking. That’s when I decided to intern at Warner Bros Records and Atlantic Records over the following year. Later on, Rotimi posting online that he was looking for area reps, and I responded.
Next thing you know I was on his team and from that point on I became an assistant.
What is one of the most memorable moments or proudest achievement that you’ve had working in the industry?
My most memorable was back in 2015. We were really working hard, we had just got on to Power. Then we successfully finished the second season and had an amazing premiere party. It was our first big premiere, it was exciting, and it was in New York City. That whole day it was raining, it was pretty bad, and I was doing my job making sure everything was ready for Rotimi to come on the red carpet and do his thing. We got to perform with 50 Cent that night. Then out of nowhere, they were like “Hey Darius! How you would you like to go to London?”, since Rotimi was going to open for 50 Cent in July.
I was like “Wait! What?” My heart just dropped because I [thought] “Wait, I get to go international now?” So that moment going overseas to London, role managing that spot date, going to Wimbledon, at the same time taking a tour, and getting to see my artists on stage with 50 Cent. It was like the artist that you grew up watching and bought all his CDs. You finally get to see that moment in front of 15,000 people and then going backstage and handling the bookings.
Can you tell us a little bit about the transition from being on Rotimi’s team with that assistantship and how that lead to you being in your current state as a CEO?
My transition from off his team came in 2016 pretty abruptly. It was kind of like it was going to happen, but it was kind of unexpected at the same time. Then I just decided to leave NYC after eight years to go to Atlanta. So I gave myself about 4 months after leaving his team before coming to Atlanta and I’ve officially been here now for two years. I started Gatekeepers Agency in 2017, which was pretty exciting. I didn’t know what would come of this. I didn’t know that I was going to start an assistant agency. I just knew that I wanted to help other people become assistants and give other people an opportunity to experience what I had the opportunity to experience because there are many people that see celebrities and they always wonder “Well, how do I or how can I become a celebrity assistant?” It’s one of those types of jobs that you don’t just come across. It happens based off relationships.
Did you always see yourself founding a company, being an entrepreneur or did you have other aspirations going into the business?
When I first started in the music industry my desire was to become an artist manager. One of the reasons why I wanted to be in the music industry was because I saw how Matthew Knowles, Beyonce’s father, left his 6-figure job to help his daughter. Then I just started doing more research and I saw the likes of Kevin Liles, Jojo Brim, Delante Murphy, and all these different music managers. I said [to myself] “Wow, they actually get to create somebodies’ career from scratch; build an artist.” I wanted to start working with artists and start building artists up. So that was something that got me into the industry and then that quickly got diverted when I became an assistant on Rotimi’s team.
How have the skills you developed working as an assistant prepared you for being a CEO in your current role today?
One of the top traits I’ve developed over the years was the “No excuses. Create Solutions”. That’s the Gatekeepers agency motto. I really believe that if you don’t create excuses and you just do the work and create solutions, then everything else will fall into place. That one is really a big credit to working as an assistant. That’s the biggest trait I can give to anybody.
I’ve read that you’re working on a book. Could you give us a sneak peek into the contents?
“No Damn Excuse: The Blueprint to Jumpstart Your Career” is basically me giving people my good stuff. It’s the blueprint. I’m giving you all the different skills that helped me get to a certain place where I’m at right now because I always tell people “Your decisions lead you to where you are currently”. So if you’re not happy, you have to look back and look at the decisions you made in the past. Within my book, I’m going to give you authenticity. I’m going to be real transparent. I’m going to share true stories behind the scenes that I had to deal with as an assistant, and I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I’m not going to stop and cut a story short to please somebody’s interests.
The first time I heard about your presence in Atlanta was in reference to the backstage panel that you hosted at Stankonia Studios. Could you tell us what that event was all about and if you plan on hosting more events like that in the future?
Backstage was something that I came up with because I’m all about career advancement. Everybody’s always on social media. Everybody wants to become famous. They just want to get on. They want to just…have a million followers and all this other stuff, but if you look at social media and you base everything off social media, you’re going to be living a lie because most of those people are struggling. Most of those people are behind on their payments. I want to show the real. So backstage was created for career advancement. We want to show people the different mini careers in all industries of entertainment primarily TV and film. You can become a prop holder, you can become a production assistant, you can become a wardrobe stylist for a movie set, but you just have to put in the work.
You’re a CEO, you’ve got a book on the way, you’re hosting events like the Backstage panel…What’s next for Darius Bradley?
I see getting other people jobs. That is the best job in the world. I don’t know any other job better than what I do. I definitely see 5 years from now successful Gatekeepers locations in Atlanta, DC, and NYC. With artists I have an option on there called the day assistant when somebody hires an assistant, if they can’t bring their assistant with them and [for example] they go to Miami for a club hosting or for business, they can hire an assistant [by] calling Gatekeepers and saying “Hey I’m in Miami. Do you have an assistant? Then I’m also going to be in DC or I’m also going to be in New Orleans. Can we have an assistant there for me?” So then that day assistant option is there to help somebody as they travel to cut the cost down for them and they won’t have to pay for their travel and hotel because that assistant will be there in that city. You just contact Gatekeepers Agency.
Lastly, what words of advice would you give someone aspiring to be an entrepreneur?
I say embrace the struggle, embrace the come up, embrace the times when it’s slow because it’s actually not slow [since] you’re actually [still] working. People just haven’t heard about you yet. That’s where I’m at right now, but you have to prepare yourself while it’s calm, because when that storm comes and you have that preparation, you’re going to be ready because you planned for it, you embraced your struggle, and you had the right people around you. When the storm does come and everybody’s finally realizing who you are as an entrepreneur and what you do, you’ll be ready and you’ll be prepared.
To learn more about Gatekeepers Agency check out their website.