Keeana Barber is the CEO and founder of WDB Marketing, a brand management and marketing agency that has worked with nearly 2,000 businesses throughout the Chicago region. A Northwestern University graduate, Barber’s family was struck by tragedy when her older brother was murdered during a visit back home. Living in California, he started a marketing company, What’s Da Bizness, which began to do well. After his death, Barber decided to carry his legacy by establishing WDB, which is the acronym of his former company.
Last year, WDB Marketing celebrated its 10-year anniversary by honoring business men and women who have made a difference in the community and the field of their profession.
Celebrating the milestone of her business was just the icing on the cake. The real impact was bringing together past and current clients—recognizing people for their achievements.
“After 10 years, we thought we should celebrate because we worked with over 2,000 phenomenal businesses from all walks of life. We’ve worked with some established businesses like the Chicago Urban League. We’ve had this humble little space and we’ve worked with Blue 1647, but our clients don’t know each other,” she said.
Barber said as the idea progressed, she felt the need to celebrate others. It was more than her business. She said, “It’s about God… how He allowed us to walk and work with so many great businesses over the years.”
So, it was time for her clients to connect.
“From there we thought about our network. Who are some of the people we should celebrate? Emile from Blue 1647 received the leadership awards for all of the things he has done to grow. We honored Diane Laniker from Kids Off the Block.”
What has been some of the benefits of collaborating with WDB?
Founder and Executive Director of Blue 1647, Emile Cambry is an event partner for this year’s L.E.G.A.C.Y Awards Gala. Last year Cambry received the Leadership award. This year, Blue 1647 will play host for the ceremony at Blue Lacuna Lofts on February 24.
He says it’s a special meaning when businesses are brought together. “The best part of the program is to show how to bring Black businesses together. We can work together and actually do something bigger together than separately. Previously, we’ve [Blue 1647] done our annual fundraiser. But we’ve combined it together, which gives us a chance to connect with a broader reach of folks,” Cambry says. “There’s a lot of her demographic and base that I don’t reach—businesses in the South Suburbs who never heard of us and vice versa.”
As a start-up company, he believes the partnership with companies like WDB will extend past the awards gala.
“It shows the diverse backgrounds of people we touch. We’re known for the tech piece but it’s about the businesses. It’s about economic justice and 21st Century opportunities.”
At this year’s L.E.G.A.C.Y. awards gala, there will be a restaurant showcase which will feature Black-owned restaurants and catering companies including Litehouse Grill, JR Jerk, Unbeatable Eatables, Eggrolls, Ectera and more.
Barber says the honorees recognized for their wonderful work may not be household names, but they impact a number of people in the community and beyond.
Award recipients honored will be Sheldon Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Dovetail; Demoiselle 2 Femme’s CEO Sherida Morrison; healthcare consultant, author and CEO of Sterling Initiatives Dr. Jeffrey Sterling along with Miss Jessie’s co-founder Miko Branch, who will receive the Groundbreaker award.
As Barber continues to carry on her brother’s legacy through WDB Marketing—she has developed her own. Establishing the L.E.G.A.C.Y. awards is a great platform for both new business innovators and established firms to cross paths.
She says, “This is for people who are creating that pathway to legacy. We’re giving the bigger awards to people who’ve been making a profound impact over time.”