I first met lobbyist and hospitality entrepreneur, Vinoda Basnayake, in 2009. I had just moved back to my hometown of Washington, D.C. after cutting my teeth in NYC at a high profile boutique lifestyle PR agency. I had some great experience as a publicist in NYC, but at just 25 years old, I had just taken an entrepreneurial leap to start my own PR agency, MoKi Media. DC was a new market for me, and I needed clients.
I remember walking into Vinoda’s downtown rooftop lounge, Eden, and feeling like I was back in NYC. I had experience with nightlife accounts. I knew what to do, and how to do it. I needed to meet the owner of this place and introduce myself. The connection was instant. He went to Gonzaga High School. I went to Georgetown Day School & The Field School. He went to Georgetown. I went to George Washington University. He was a political lobbyist by day – with a JD/MBA from Wharton Business School – and nightlife entrepreneur by night. I was definitely going to be his publicist.
A week later, I put together a phenomenal proposal and we met with his business partners. His team was impressed, and I was charging big bucks. Vinoda believed in me and my work, and within just one month, Eden and its celebrity patrons were gracing the pages of USA Today, Page Six, Us Weekly, The Washington Post and more. The venue was on local & national TV news stations, outshining DC nightlife competitors.
Five years later, my agency represents accounts in the hospitality, lifestyle, beauty, fashion, political and charity industries. From clients like Flywheel Dupont to Shinola and Union Market to Moet Hennessy USA, we specialize in creating buzz and increasing brand awareness for companies looking for media placements and word-of-mouth exposure in Washington, D.C. My city. The city I grew up in. What could feel better?
Vinoda has been a champion for my agency. He’s more than a client – he’s a business brother. We share a passion to boost DC’s cool factor. We share the need to put DC on the map, not only for politics, but as a lifestyle. Just last year, he nominated me to join him on the board of DC Vote, an organization dedicated to sourcing full voting representation in Congress for District residents. We now serve on the organization’s Executive Board.
From sharing an office space to organizing diplomatic press trips for his clients, we’ve bridged the gap between media, politics, hospitality, business and entrepreneurship. I’ve watched his career blossom from a lobbyist at Patton Boggs, to running the Washington DC practice of Nelson Mullins as the Chairman of their DC Government Relations. All the while, we support each other. He’s advised me on matters both big and small and is a founding member of the MoKi Media family.
I’m thankful for my business brother this Thursday, and every day.
MoKi Media Partner Maha Hakki, Vinoda Basnayake, and MoKi Media Co-Founder Dannia Hakki. Photo credit: Joy Asico.