By Kathy Chouteau
Cristina Trujillo, a single mother who launched REEM Media as a side hustle in 2018, has guided its expansion during the pandemic to become a full-service digital media agency that uses CoBiz Richmond as its working hub.
Trujillo was inspired to start her business following her time as a nonprofit professional in the financial empowerment sector, where she dreamed of producing quality content that would expand the reach of the program’s resources to the low-income people who needed it most. When the program lost its funding, Trujillo’s dream of creating transformative content for the greater good became a springboard to starting REEM Media.
The launch of her side hustle was a “heavy period” for Trujillo, who had just been attacked in Oakland, was undergoing medical care and suffering from PTSD. Her son, Tim Corbin, who was in high school at the time, was a talented photographer and videographer and suggested they reach out to Trujillo’s nonprofit connections to assist them with these services.
Trujillo—also a childhood abuse and suicide survivor who was unhoused at one point in her life—recalled, “I was so in this heaviness and darkness and that I wondered to myself, what is it that keeps people’s internal light? This creativity, this willingness to stay alive…What is it that keeps us reignited?” She said that’s when it hit her that the answer is art—“It’s creativity. It’s making something happen from nothing.” From this thought process, REEM Media’s name was born, with REEM being an acronym for “reigniting empowered expressiveness and motivation.”
During the pandemic, Trujillo and her son’s side hustle “pivoted” to offer more services as the need for digital content increased exponentially. Today, REEM Media is an LLC that’s a full service digital media agency that offers its clients digital content creation, digital marketing, website design, SEO optimization and more.
As an example of their work, Trujillo said some clients approach REEM Media asking for a website, which sometimes reveals that they first need brand development. “Before you even have your website, you actually need your branding,” she said, adding that clients also need a color scheme and to know their brand’s voice and mission. “And all that needs to be in writing… And from that, then we can start building out the website and social media too,” she said, highlighting how they can assist clients every step of the way, right down to the photos and videography.
In a few short years, REEM Media has quickly built up a client roster that includes CoBiz Richmond, which they have helped with digital marketing support. REEM Media is also a member of CoBiz, a high-tech coworking space and business incubator downtown that is one of the projects of eQuip Richmond, an economic revitalization initiative funded by Chevron Richmond.
CoBiz is a nonprofit and project of eQuip Richmond, an economic revitalization initiative funded by Chevron Richmond. Members of CoBiz can access modern work space, business insights, networking opportunities, a supportive community and more through its multifaceted offerings.
“They have the content, because they’re incredible content creators,” she said of CoBiz, “and we help them with ads on social media and help them design that roadmap.” Trujillo emphasized “that’s the goal with digital marketing—when you have the structure, you’re going to have a return versus going at it and paying for ads without a strategy or a foundation.” Check out this promotional video REEM Media made for CoBiz about the benefits of doing business in downtown Richmond.
Other notable clients include Mutual Housing California, an award winning affordable housing developer based in Sacramento, and Vanita Lee-Tatum, a business development and financial advising consultant who REEM Media is assisting with branding.
Wesley Alexander, CEO of CoBiz, lauded Trujillo and her “team of diverse all-stars” for providing “that intangible value that is hard to find when hiring talent, because she inherently understands the spirit of the work and the essence of the mission.”
“She is a universal professional – able to speak the language of many to help them accomplish whatever they need, regardless of their background,” Alexander said. “We here at CoBiz appreciate her and the work of REEM Media, LLC.”
Trujillo, who said her superpower is being able to see the best in people, believes that her business’ special sauce is “[aligning] our work with our values.” She added, “we have this heart and passion” when it comes to projects and match the right talent to the right job that “they’re really going to understand and feel viscerally.” This might include assigning a photographer who understands where the people he/she is photographing are “coming from” so as to capture a “different human angle,” said Trujillo.
So what advice would the self-taught Trujillo give to someone entering her line of business? “My advice is to focus on collaboration vs. competition,” she said, “because when we’re starting out if we’re focused on competition it demoralizes us.” She joked that sometimes it helps to put the “horse blinders on” and remember that success comes from “the collaborations” and “authentic connections.”
She also said to ignore the naysayers who tell you it’s already been created—highlighting, “What if the founder of Lyft would have listened to, ‘there’s already an Uber?’”
And finally, she added, “It’s fulfilling people’s needs with a passion and with heart that matters.”