Founder and Owner • bluhammock music L.L.C. • New York City • Age: 28
Jaylaan Ahmad-Llewellyn has two passions: her three-year-old music company, bluhammock music L.L.C., and her stable of five horses. She admits that the latter is costly to maintain, but she has been riding horses and competing in equestrian shows since she was four and loves horses.
Ahmad-Llewellyn, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Harvard University, says she acquired her entrepreneurial spirit from her parents. Her mother established and ran a multimillion-dollar home health care service in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and her father built a thriving business from a small liquor store in New York City’s Harlem. While working at the William Morris Talent Agency, where part of her job was to review contracts, Ahmad-Llewellyn realized how familiar with business she already was as a result of watching her parents. That familiarity inspired her to launch bluhammock music, focusing on singer-songwriter–driven rock music, an “indie” genre that tends to be more heavy on acoustic guitars and and sometimes more folksy than regular rock. “I wanted to put out music that reminded people of sitting in a hammock on a day with blue skies,” she says.
Her artist lineup includes Cary Brothers, Virginia Coalition, Swedish songwriter-singer Kristoffer Ragnstam and Speech, formerly front man for the hip-hop group Arrested Development. She tries to sign “intelligent” artists who have a nonconformist message or don’t fit in a box. Often, she is the only young African-American woman in a room when negotiating deals. “I tend to do things with my own personal flair,” she says.
Since its launch, bluhammock has averaged an annual gross income of $241,000. Ahmad-Llewellyn estimates that figure will reach $375,000 by year-end. “I really believe in my artists, who trust me when they sign a contract. I’m selling a person, not a widget. It’s my responsibility to do everything under the sun to make sure that everything is done for the artist,” she says.