Alumni Spotlight: Island Syndicate

Lauren Sparling

Entrepreneur & photo artist David Muir used the Jim Moran Institute’s no-cost Small Business Executive Program to grow his business – exponentially.

As a self-employed photographer with DAVIDiPhoto, Inc., providing special event and portrait photography, David participated in the Jim Moran Institute’s Small Business Executive Program (SBEP) in South Florida in 2015. It was during this program that he learned the importance of collaboration in creating a sustainable business model.

“The Small Business Executive Program was extremely beneficial to my personal growth in business, David explains. “The establishment of a new business partnership which created and operates Island Syndicate is in part a product of my participation in the program.”

The aforementioned partnership was formalized as Island Syndicate (Holdings LLC) in 2017 when David merged efforts with creative director and co-owner Calibe Thompson. The two artists combined their talents to create a media and branding agency specializing in photography, publishing, and video production for a variety of clients in South Florida and the Caribbean.

Island Syndicate has done work with big names such as Miqueal-Symone Williams, Miss Universe Jamaica 2020; Julian Marley, son of legendary Reggae artist & activist, Bob Marley; and Karen Andre, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Agency Personnel in the Biden administration. Additionally, Island Syndicate produced the coffee table book Pieces of Jamaica, a collection of photos from David highlighting Jamaica and the Jamaican way of life.

Expanding on the valuable lessons he took from the Small Business Executive Program, David encouraged Calibe to attend the SBEP to gain her own insight for running the company, saying “The benefits I received, including knowledge for growth and expansion as well as systems which facilitate planning for expansion, are why I encouraged my business partner, Calibe Thompson, to participate in the Small Business Executive Program.”

Calibe commends the real-world instruction given by experts at SBEP, some of whom had gone through the program themselves. She also appreciated the ability to receive consultation from the speakers after their presentations, adding, “I have consulted on a new manufacturing project and filed two patents with experts I met through the program.”

The most beneficial parts of the program to them were the final Business Model Canvas and the Action Plan assignments. Since they have participated in the SBEP, Calibe and David have been able to set clear goals and timelines for their company to achieve. “We've been able to hire a new team member and check a few other things off our plan, including updating our website to help sell our services, standardizing systems, working toward automating as many of our processes as possible, and structuring team expansion,” Calibe says.

Calibe and David encourage others to go through the Jim Moran Institute’s Small Business Executive Program and emphasize talking with past participants and visualizing applying what you’ve learned to your own company.

David adds, “Any business opportunities that you think you’ll miss out on while in class are nothing compared to the new opportunities you’ll gain after completing the program. I was able to grow my business exponentially from the new connections I made, and by applying the new skills and insights gained to my business and myself,” specifically citing the partnership with Calibe and other relationships formed during the program.

I would advise business owners who are interested in such programs to make the time needed so they can analyze their business as it currently exists and create the Strategic Action Plan for what they want their business to accomplish in the short-term and long-term.”