You might know Tulsan Trey Thaxton as the man behind the popular Greenwood Ave. merch line or his multi-disciplinary creative consultancy, Goldmill Co. Now he's the man behind the new quarterly magazine also named Greenwood Ave.
Launching this month, the publication celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of Greenwood, which Thaxton sees as emanating from — and well beyond — Downtown's historic Greenwood District.
We recently spoke with Thaxton about his desire to tell the stories of Black entrepreneurs inspired by the founders of Black Wall Street.
Take us back through your entrepreneurship journey.
My background is really in branding and advertising — that's what I technically went to school for. I graduated from OSU Okmulgee in 2008, worked for a small agency here in town after I graduated for a couple of years, and actually left there to go help a friend of mine start a youth ministry at our church. That's actually where I met my wife, so it was definitely a big part of my life. I became a creative director at our church and served there for almost five years.
I did print there; I did a lot of signage. I learned how to do video, display animations, video announcements, cleaned bathrooms, and preached a couple of times — literally did all the things. Church is a great training ground for all those things, and after a few years really felt called to step down and create something different. Again, I worked in agency before and then ministry, and after working in both, you know, we sell cars and clothes and shoes in the ad world. It's supposed to bring you happiness and give you a good life. But after working in ministry for so long you know that's really kind of fools gold.
So I wanted to do something that actually creates real value. And that's where the name Goldmill comes from: We create things that have value. For the next 20 to 30 years before I retire, I want to make sure that everything we touch actually brings value to people's lives or companies or our city, our world and to just really promote purpose in life-giving things. So that's where that came from.
One of those things happened to be Greenwood Ave. Being a Black entrepreneur in Tulsa, I don't think there's any way to hide from the history of Greenwood and Black Wall Street. It's just so palpable and so tangible, and I wanted to do something to honor that. Growing up here in Tulsa — I went to high school and college here — I never heard about Greenwood until after I graduated from somebody who was just visiting town. I wanted to make sure if I'm going to be here, I want to help highlight that and bring it to fruition. So yeah, that's part of how I got to Greenwood Ave.
Where do you sell your Greenwood Ave. merch?
We're mostly online (at 19and21.com). We have a few shops here, but our goal is to really make Greenwood Ave. a brand synonymous with Black entrepreneurship around the world. Obviously, it started here — Black Wall Street became famous here — but to me, it's really more of a mindset than it is just a location. So the more that we can share that Greenwood Ave. is really everywhere, not just in Tulsa, I think that brings more power to people's dreams and purposes. And again, tying it all back to here in Tulsa — but the goal is to really spread that knowledge and that passion around the world.
What can we expect to see in Greenwood Ave. magazine?
Print is a medium I've always loved since I was in school, and I wanted to make sure we are able to tell beautiful stories in print. Goldmill is really just a storytelling brand. Greenwood Ave. is all storytelling, just a different way. So we started with doing the T-shirts — we took the original shops that were on Greenwood and kind of recreated those into different shirts. That led to a video series where we tell stories, and now the magazine is another way that we can tell stories hopefully in a beautiful way.
We tried to be really intentional with the photography that we did. We wanted to travel a lot, but obviously kind of coming off the pandemic and still just being a startup we were able to find different photographers in different cities and do some really cool photo shoots with these Black entrepreneurs that we're featuring in this first issue. It's really again, going off the mission that Greenwood Ave. is everywhere.
We have five feature stories in Los Angeles; New York; Tulsa, obviously; Baltimore; and London. So we're really kind of spreading internationally, as well. But there'll be five feature stories that are talking about how five different entrepreneurs overcame obstacles in their circles.
Hopefully people just take away that they're not alone in entrepreneurship. I always say entrepreneur is a French word for "figure it out." And there's really no blueprint. That's kind of the crazy part about it. There's no blueprint to success, whatever that means for you. So I'm hoping people can take away just nuggets from these people ... to be inspired to either follow our own passions or come alongside someone else who is doing some amazing things.
What is the frequency for this publication?
The goal is quarterly. Each one's going to be a little bit different. This first one features five entrepreneurs from different backgrounds, but the next one's actually going to feature Black artists. So it will be a really photography-heavy one that's just amazing art from Black artists around the world. We will have a tech-centric one. There'll be one that's, you know, just Black interiors. So there'll be some food-centric ones, Black women-owned, so it kind of runs the gamut of telling stories in different ways and hopefully highlighting more entrepreneurs that we don't often hear about. You know, we all know the Rihannas and the Jay Zs and Issa Raes — obviously they're doing amazing things — but hopefully we're kind of the people's champ. We highlight and unearth some things that people may not have heard about.
Who is the team behind the content?
Our (Goldmill) team did all the design. A lot of local photography was handled by us; we have a team of four in house at Goldmill that work on this together. As far as the features outside of Tulsa, we scoured the internet, and we found some amazing artists and photographers through Instagram or through connections that we have through some of the entrepreneurs that took some photos for us. So we have a small team, but again, I really believe this can be an international publication. So hoping to grow the team as this grows, as well.
How has the concept of a Greenwood Ave. magazine been received?
People have been receptive to the idea. I'm thankful that what we've done in the past has resonated with people, whether it be the merch or the video series. I try to keep a standard of excellence and quality. So hopefully as we introduce new things, people kind of have that trust with us, but from organizations like Downtown Tulsa Partnership, Holberton, Greenwood Rising, the Tulsa Drillers ... There's been a lot of local support.
Hopefully after the first one people will kind of see what this is about because sometimes you say "magazine," and you could think anything from Us Weekly to the rags you see at the front (of grocery stores). Our goal is to really to create this elevated, coffee table-style book that you want to have around and keep in your hands. It's going to be 140 pages, so pretty hefty. We're trying to keep the quality really nice and hopefully something that people want to keep around for a long time.
What's next for Greenwood Ave.?
What's next for Greenwood Ave. is definitely getting the magazine to a healthy place. Our kind of big picture we talked about at the end of last year was to create a magazine in 2022, which we're doing now with the help of some amazing partners like Downtown Tulsa Partnership, and the podcast will be the next thing. We kind of have this four pronged ecosystem for Greenwood Ave.: There's the merch, the video series, the magazine, and the podcast, which will be sometime next year, maybe after. I don't want to rush it. We're just looking at other ways to tell stories and not just do more, because there's there's always plenty to do, but I really do believe that what I've been told and seen is that this is helpful and needed. So if that pack has to be another way to help encourage people to you know, move forward I think it's a great thing.
Honestly for me this all boils back down to purpose. It's not just about you know, let's do a magazine because we want to make money. Even doing the shirts, it was never about money for me. I'm sure you already know, but we give 10% back to our community-building efforts in North Tulsa because we want to make sure we're honoring the area that we're talking about. And again, I'm always trying to make sure it's not just about making money for me, but we are through this able to create jobs, we're able to highlight other businesses, we're able to hopefully give them pieces that they can then share, as well. So it's been an amazing thing even just through Greenwood Ave. I met our digital marketing director through Greenwood Ave. A lot of the clients that we got through Goldmill came as a result of what we do through Greenwood Ave.
As much as work as it is, it's been a really, really life-giving thing as well, and I want to continue that in any way possible. So hopefully, as this grows, I'm able to bring more people in and they can carry it further than I ever could. So that's the goal.
How can people find the magazine?
The first issue is available for pre-order now on our website and will be for sale in person at our 19&21 pop-up at Mother Road Market. I'm talking to some other people as well, but it's not set in stone yet. (Follow Greenwood Ave. on Instagram and Facebook for updates.) So we will have the magazines available individually, and then people can subscribe for $60 a year and you'll get 20% off our merch, as well, throughout the life of that subscription. So that's a great partnership.