‘Start Yesterday’: 7 female founders share their tips for success in the creative industry

Creative Boom marked International Women’s Day by featuring seven female founders from creative agencies in the US and UK. These founders shared their experiences and tips for building an agency from scratch.

While each founder’s story is unique, all seven women share a common thread: they had a passion for creativity that they couldn’t ignore and wanted control over their creative and professional lives. Their journeys as founders were driven by a desire to make a difference, leaving behind not only a creative legacy but also living fulfilling lives as leaders and individuals.

Their valuable advice is not limited to those aspiring to be founders, but also for any creative seeking a more meaningful career. A really nice reminder for anyone who has a creative itch, or is already running their own agency.

The full article is here, but I’ve pulled a few of my favourite sections below:

  1. Design the life you want to lead

Katie Klencheski founded the NYC-based creative agency SMAKK in 2011 to give herself more creative freedom.

“I’ve always felt grateful as a founder that I can control my destiny,” Klencheski said. “But it’s only in the past five or so years that I’ve realised the real power in having my own agency is that it allows me to design a life I love. Increasingly, that has meant a greater focus on making wellbeing a bigger part of everything we do – from the value we bring to clients to how we support our team.

Everyone here is super talented. We can choose to work anywhere. If we aren’t actively creating a workplace we love, it’s not worth it.” 

Katie Klencheski

2. Start yesterday

Cat How has been founding and running her own businesses since her student days – from selling hand-made jewellery at Brick Lane markets to a design and illustration shop to co-working spaces catering to creatives.

“There’s never a good time to set up an agency. So the best thing to do is to start yesterday.”

– Cat How

Still, starting now doesn’t mean doing everything at once. Reflecting on her own experience building a business so far, How shared that she’d like to encourage her past self to take more time in some aspects of her founder journey to build up slowly.

“I tend to want to move very fast and break things, and sometimes playing the long game – growing a team slowly, waiting for our reputation to grow, not wanting everything to happen at once – is probably a better business strategy at the beginning.”

– Cat How

3. Don’t lose sight of your goals

Pum Lefebure grew up in Thailand and identified as an artist early on. She followed a university scholarship to the USA, then stuck around for a full-time job in Washington, DC, but her creative, entrepreneurial spirit never faded. It was that passion for creativity and self-expression that drove her to turn her dreams into reality, starting Design Army at her kitchen table and growing it to a top-tier creative firm.

Her biggest advice to creatives like her who want to strike out as founders is to balance a future-facing curiosity with a clear, solid vision. 

“Trends come and go, design aesthetics change, media platforms change, clients change. As a leader, you must stay ahead of the curve. By necessity, I’ve learned the art of trend forecasting to prepare myself and my team for what’s to come. It’s essential to never lose sight of the goal and always set aside some time to experiment – even if it means taking risks! To truly progress, you must continuously rethink everything, challenge conventions and explore the unknown – always question tomorrow and embrace change.

– Pum Lefebure

For young women on their own founder journey, Lefebure has further advice:

 “Do not try to imitate ‘male’ leadership, as you have far greater potential to make use of your emotional intelligence – caring is the core of great leadership. Take advice from female leaders who have succeeded before you and use that insight to lead confidently and powerfully. Stay smart, be bold, and challenge yourself – Game On!”

– Pum Lefebure

4. Don’t take anything too seriously

Sara Taiyo, the co-founder of Brighton-based agency Driftime Media told Creative Boom:

“One thing we’ve been historically denied as women is autonomy, agency, and choice – co-founding a business has helped to accelerate my freedom to make decisions that impact the industry, both within and beyond the remit of my expertise in digital design. Do not take anything too seriously – exploration, experimentation, and iteration are at the bedrock of any good business, and something we can champion as a woman-led community.”

Sara Taiyo

5. Keep asking questions

Sara Jones had been working in the design industry for over 15 years when she decided to make a change in 2011, and co-found Free The Birds.

“One thing I would tell my younger self would be to take time to understand what motivates those around you – it might not be what you thought! Also, don’t try to second guess what anyone thinks; you’ll never truly know. Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up; your view is just as valid as others.

You don’t always have to know everything – keep asking the questions, seek out experts that you can learn from, keep the conversation going.”

Sara Jones

6. Follow your passion

Morrama founder Jo Barnard first entertained the idea of starting her own agency as a student, “most likely fueled by a mix of ego, naivety, and self-belief that I would be good at it,”  After facing imposter syndrome, Jo’s advice to other female founders is:

“You need a combination of passion, expertise and market fit to succeed. If the passion is there, it will bring the energy needed to keep you in the game long enough to build expertise. That leaves market fit; understanding what your clients really need and working out what makes you the best person to deliver it is key.”

– Jo Barnard

7. Trust yourself

Amy Globus, a co-founder of the Brooklyn-based agency Team, started as a visual artist and has always considered her willingness to experiment a strength when it comes to her art and her business.

“When starting your business, it’s easy to feel like an imposter. As a woman, it’s even harder to be taken seriously. In the early days…I often felt like I had to overcompensate for our size to get the work I wanted.

“I would say to be confident in my own skills that got me to this point and to trust myself. Oftentimes, as women, we’re taught to spread recognition to others, not to claim it for ourselves. So, in my younger years, I would’ve embraced where I was and been reassured of my achievements and capabilities. Work hard and do great work – that’s all you need.”

Amy Globus


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