Sometimes major changes can open unexpected doors.
That’s certainly the case for Elizabethton native Benita Bellamy, who is making a name for herself as a Nashville-based marketing entrepreneur.
It’s not the path that she originally envisioned for herself.
Although she grew up in Carter County, her eyes always remained on the horizon as she pursued her dreams.
Initially, she envisioned herself as a dancer seeking fame and fortune in the entertainment industry, but Bellamy, a 1987 graduate of Elizabethton High School, never expected to work in the entertainment industry in the capacity of marketing and promotions.
“Honestly, I thought I’d be a dancer or pianist,” she said.
Bellamy moved to Nashville in 1992 and quickly grew to love the city.
At the time, she was still involved in dance.
“I opened a dance studio of my own in Murfreesboro,” she said. “But I wanted more, and as they say, life happens.”
About five years ago, Bellamy founded the Nashville marketing and publicity agency The Bellamy Group, LLC, for which she is the chief executive officer.
In town on a recent weekend to help her daughter, Aliyah Allen, 18, settle in as a rising freshman at East Tennessee State University, Bellamy also stopped by the Elizabethton STAR to discuss her successful marketing career.
She and her mother, Pat, are both ETSU alumni. Bellamy said she is proud to have her daughter attending the college as a third-generation representative of the family. She noted that Aliyah’s father is Dino Allen, who played basketball for Milligan College.
Bellamy majored in mass communications at ETSU and minored in piano. In fact, she was a recipient of a Floyd Kramer Scholarship in piano.
She was also crowned Miss Buccaneer in 1990. The pageant wasn’t held again after 1990.
“I tell people I am still Miss Buccaneer,” she joked.
By her senior year at ETSU, however, she realized she also liked to write.
“I had a creative knack for it,” she said.
Bellamy decided to pursue work that would let her explore her creative side.
“I got an internship with the Johnson City Area Arts Council,” she said. “It was a great experience that I will never forget.”
She said working with the JCAAC was a way to tie together her interests in music, arts and marketing.
Her foundation in music has worked well for her.
“It helps to be able to identify good, quality music,” she said.
Before Bellamy found the right niche for her talents, however, she moved back to Elizabethton for a few years. However, she determined fairly quickly that as much as she loved her home town, her goals required living in a bigger city.
“It just didn’t fit,” she said.
Bellamy recalled going to Barnes and Noble one day and picking up newspapers from Nashville, Atlanta and other large cities.
“I saw an ad for a music assistant at EMI Music,” Bellamy recalled.
She called to inquire about the job and was quickly hired.
“I started out as a secretary, but I got a promotion every year,” Bellamy said.
Often, she had to learn a new job to do the work the promotion entailed.
In her time with EMI, she went from secretary to radio promotions to marketing director.
She then bounced around to a lot of different labels.
“The work also involved a lot of traveling,” she said.
Bellamy did all this while raising her daughter as a single, divorced parent.
It wasn’t easy, and she left the music industry and worked for a while at a performing arts center.
Bellamy said some aspects of the music industry ran contrary to her upbringing and her faith.
“I just decided that integrity was key,” she said. “It was work with integrity or work for more money.”
She opted for integrity.
Unfortunately, new jobs didn’t come her way immediately.
Then, the music industry began to experience a major shift away from the giant labels.
That change in the industry benefitted Bellamy. Many labels began to shed some of their artists, who found themselves in need of the representation and marketing once provided by a label.
Many of those now independent artists remembered Bellamy and had her phone number.
“My phone started ringing,” she said.
She secured enough work to help her found the Bellamy Group about five years ago. Her full-service boutique entertainment marketing agency works with artists, musicians, record labels, performing arts, faith-based and non-profit organizations and public personalities on the development and execution of marketing, publicity and branding campaigns.
In November of 2012, she was even featured as the cover story for Girl Talk Magazine. The publication is a nationally distributed lifestyle magazine that features celebrities and everyday people with inspiring and captivating life stories.
Bellamy’s client base spans across the United States and internationally in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. Her agency has managed and contributed marketing and publicity campaigns for Grammy, Dove and Stellar award-winning artists, for companies and organizations such as the Verizon Wireless How Sweet The Sound Competition, the American Heart Association Most Powerful Voices Competition, and the God Belongs in My City National Prayer Walk.
Bellamy is also a contributing writer for CCM Magazine and is on the Innovation Nashville Leadership team. She was voted the 2011 Rhythm of Gospel Award – Marketing and Radio Promotions of the Year.
She has worked with a host of notable personalities, including Bishop T.D. Jakes in Dallas.
“I have also worked with Cece Winans, as well as other gospel and contemporary Christian artists,” Bellamy said.
She has also represented non-musical clients.
“I worked with celebrity chef Delilah Winder who makes the best macaroni and cheese in America according to Oprah Winfrey,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy worked with Winder for a campaign for the American Heart Association called Go Red for Heart Health.
“I have also worked with the Gospel Music Channel, which is now called Up,” she said.
Bellamy also created a campaign with Verizon for the “How Sweet the Sound” national competition for church choirs.
She even has an actress among her clients.
“I’m working with actress Bre’ly Evants, who was in the movie, Sparkle,” Bellamy said. “She wanted someone to represent her who understood you can still be in Hollywood and want to have faith-based publicity.”
She has come a long way from her days as a young dancer in Elizabethton.
Her parents, Paul and Pat Bellamy, are both retired. Paul retired from Eastman, and Pat from ETSU.
Her parents are members of Lynn Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethton.
All her aunts, uncles and brothers still live in Northeast Tennessee.
Her brother Benji lives in Elizabethton, and brother Barry resides in Gray.
“I try to get back as often as possible,” Bellamy said.
She also has other ways to stay in touch.
“I still love to write letters,” Bellamy said. “Everyone else is on their iPad, but I love to write in a journal. I keep quotes, remembrances and notes.”
Bellamy credits her involvement in music, arts and dance helped make her a multi-faceted individual.
She encourages people to travel and experience other cities and lifestyles.
“It gives you a better view of the world,” she said. “It teaches you tolerance.”
Bellamy said her study of classical music also instilled a discipline that has been very useful in her business.
“I work very hard. It is amazing to me, and very humbling,” she remarked on her success. “My parents taught me to appreciate life and to be respectful and humble, no matter what accolades and accomplishments come my way.”
They also taught her and her brothers to strive for excellence in all that they do. Today, her parents remain active in their church, where her father is a deacon.
When her schedule permits, she has also been known to lend her talents to area ventures.
“I try to bring it back home when I can,” she said.
She has served as a judge for a local version of “American Idol” held during Kingsport’s FunFest a few years ago.
She said she would also love to some day do workshops for students at ETSU.