MIAMI — Suzan McDowell brings a certain quirkiness to everything she does.
The incredibly funny, contagiously enthusiastic single mother of a 13-year-old daughter was honored recently. Local radio station WHQT-HOT 105 recognized McDowell for what she brings to entrepreneurship.
McDowell is president and CEO of Circle of One Marketing, a full-service marketing, advertising and public relations agency that she founded eight years ago.
No stranger to the HOT 105 family, McDowell worked as a senior account executive there for 12 years before launching Circle of One.
At the station’s Caribbean American Heritage Month Celebration on June 25, McDowell was one of several Caribbean Americans honored for their contributions to South Florida.
The ceremony took place at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach.
McDowell joined the ranks of previous honorees including aviator Barrington Irving, attorney Marlon Hill and community activist Marleine Bastien.
This year’s honorees include the late Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste of Haiti, Belkys Nerey, the Cuban-American anchor of WSVN Channel 7; and Olympian Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago.
In an interview this week, McDowell, in her unique brand of humor, told the South Florida Times that she forgot to sing the Jamaican national anthem when she accepted her award.
“I was excited and surprised. I thanked the Academy, and Denzel and Steven,” she explained of her temporary memory lapse.
Born in Jamaica, and raised in the United States, McDowell, 44, of Miami Shores, said her dual heritage is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
But, she said, her Jamaican roots are responsible for her success.
“My father’s a Jamaican, my mother’s an American. I always thought it gave me a unique perspective to be able to see both sides of it,’’ she said. “To be fully American and fully Jamaican, that helped me in marketing. I can explain to my clients how each segment of the population thinks.’’
Alluding to the island’s reputation for producing hard workers, she said, “At the root of it, though, I am a Jamaican.”
The disadvantage, she said, comes in a perceived disconnect from both countries. She said when she visits Jamaica, the natives call her a “damn Yankee,” and in America she’s sometimes seen as a foreigner.
McDowell recalled that a friend recently told her that the name of the Jamaican hospital where she was born bears some responsibility for her “craziness.”
“The name of the hospital is Nutall,” McDowell said to explain her zany manner, an apparently endearing factor with clients, including the city of Miami Gardens.
“It’s remarkable. It’s who she is,’’ said Ula Zucker, media and events coordinator for Miami Gardens. “It’s like you go to a museum and you see that one piece of art and it sticks out from all the rest. It’s that different piece. It sticks out. It doesn’t match all of the other furniture, but you know when people walk into your house, they’re going to be like, ‘Wow, that’s different, but I really like it.’’’
Zucker has seen McDowell in action for the past four years as Circle of One handled the marketing for the increasingly popular Jazz in the Gardens annual festival in Miami Gardens.
“There have been nights when I’m here at midnight and Suzan’s on the phone with me in her office. She’s a workaholic,” said Zucker, a fellow workaholic.
Some of Circle’s other clients include the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, The Orange Bowl, Burger King, Nova Southeastern University, The University of Miami, Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration, Urban Development, OneUnited Bank, the city of Miami Beach and Mayor Manny Diaz’s re-election campaign in 2005.
The agency’s work can be viewed at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, where The Children’s Trust Miami Heart Gallery – a traveling photographic exhibit featuring foster children eligible for adoption – will be on display until July 12.
McDowell’s vision for her agency includes going national. First stop, New York.
“It only takes one client. It only takes one opportunity and one really great job for that one opportunity,’’ she said.
“Crispin Porter + Bogusky, who handles Burger King, and who handles Ikea and Volkswagen, they were exactly our size and then they landed the Truth campaign and the rest is history,” she said of the 700-employee agency that last year signed a $300 million contract with Microsoft.
“We try to be the Beyonce ad agency,’’ she said. “I’d love to take the expertise and our work ethic and our creativity and the fun that we have and apply it nationally, to handle clients whose message needs to go in all markets.”
Of her vision, she said, “I want to have a Circle World.”
Photo: Suzan McDowell
THE MORE YOU KNOW
In addition to McDowell, the honorees of this year’s HOT 105 Caribbean American Heritage Month celebration are:
• Patricia Chin – VP Records Co-Founder
•The late Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste (Haiti)
• Belkys Nerey, WSVN/Channel 7 (Cuba)
• Food for the Poor
• Olympian Ato Boldon, Trinidad and Tobago
• Broward Health’s Pauline Grant Jamaica
• Fashion Designer Jason Panton Jamaica
• DJ Griot, Recording, Haiti
• Recording Artist Tarrus Riley Jamaica
• Officer Ian Moffett-Guyanese
• Eddie Edwards, Riddims Marketing (Jamaica)
For more information about Circle of One Marketing, log onto www.circleofonemarketing.com.