Thursday, March 23, 2023

Ours for the Taking: The Future of Entrepreneurship Is Female

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(Left to right: Taunya Renson-Martin, Jean Freeman, Viveca Chan and Jane Asscher)

LBB> What industry issues were you looking to solve when you set up your own independent agency?

Taunya Renson-Martin> Fifteen years ago, with English being the lingua franca of multinational businesses, many companies with European HQs in Belgium were in desperate need of a local agency – in proximity – with an international profile that included native English communicators. Likewise many native English-speaking expats in the MarComms space were struggling to find work in “local” Belgian agencies that required them to speak Dutch and French as well. Mach Media brought the two together.

Jean Freeman> There are so few women-owned agencies in the advertising industry, so I saw a larger opportunity as a woman in business. I really wanted to be an active example of this being a viable career path for women.

Viveca Chan> An agency that is owned and managed by Chinese with global multinational experience to effectively help global brands localise and local brand globalise.

Jane Asscher> As a purpose-driven creative agency, our ambition is to develop brands and campaigns that change behaviour for the better and have a positive impact on people’s lives We wanted to create an inspiring environment to recruit and retain entrepreneurial people who want to make a difference

LBB> What are you most proud of achieving since you founded your company?

Taunya Renson-Martin> My team is highly DEI-minded so we talk about and work on inclusive communications all the time. Beyond that, when people apply for a job at my company, I ask them “Why Mach Media?” and 9 times out of 10 they say it’s because they can tell that we value diversity of experience, background and thought. I LOVE that!

Jean Freeman> Being recognised by She Runs It as ‘Working Mother of the Year’. Both of my kids attended the ceremony with me in New York. They were 11 and 9 at the time and it was a very special moment for us to share.

Viveca Chan> I am proud of leading the industry in new digital initiatives and training numerous industry leaders.

Jane Asscher> Making an impact. Our work for clients saves and improves lives. Our staff are passionate about change and each day reminds us that we can do more to create a fairer, more sustainable society.

LBB> As a female leader, do you think the advertising industry encourages women-led businesses?

Taunya Renson-Martin> Honestly, I don’t really think in terms of whether or not I, as a woman, or even as a Black woman, am encouraged to do anything. I don’t need an invitation, I just show up, and honestly I encourage any and everyone to feel and act similarly. What we want to achieve in life is ours for the taking; we just need to have the tenacity to overcome whatever obstacles may lie in our way to achieve it. We just keep showing up.

Jean Freeman> I’m not sure it has historically—the advertising industry has many networks, but none that are tailored for women agency owners, and less than 1% of agencies in advertising are owned by women. However, I think this is improving and we are actively trying to change this through the OWN IT podcast, which was created by Cornett’s Owner, Christy Hiler, and I. Our goal is to identify women in the industry who currently own agencies and establish a community where we can support each other throughout the various stages of startup and growth. Of course, we also want to reach women who would like to own their own agency someday.

Jane Asscher> The industry is not doing enough and lack of diversity at a senior level is a real issue.There are relatively few role models and the gender pay gap still exists. The industry can do more to support the uptake of family friendly policies and tackle the macho culture that still prevails in many agencies

LBB> How can others in the industry support and encourage women who are pursuing business leader roles? 

Taunya Renson-Martin> We all have to keep challenging ourselves on what a leader looks, acts and sounds like. Thanks to unconscious bias, an extroverted or dominant man or woman is easily considered the perfect example of entrepreneurship. In reality, based on the hundreds of business owners I’ve met in my lifetime, that’s not always the case. Let’s keep showcasing different types of female entrepreneurs with different communication and leadership styles, different educational backgrounds and different ambitions, so that the representation of what business ownership “looks like” is much broader therefore inspiring many more people.

Jean Freeman> Our goal with OWN IT is to create community and resource sharing. In 2023, we will be kicking off events and workshops to build awareness and inspire action. By focusing on women as business owners, and creating inspiration, resources and models for others to emulate, we can have a greater impact on increasing these percentages to create lasting change.

Viveca Chan> More of an appreciation of the need to balance family and business with flexible schedules. 

Jane Asscher> The industry can change the future for female founders by acknowledging, understanding and helping to tackle the female confidence crisis that holds women back. The WACL Talent Mentoring programme is a brilliant example of an initiative helping lift women up.

LBB> How has being a member of WPI helped you achieve your goals?

Taunya Renson-Martin> WPI helps us take the model one step further. We can now offer a truly international scope of resources to our multinational clients. Being “Glocal” enables us to work closely with companies headquartered near us, as a lead agency, and then collaborate with our network agencies around the world to streamline the rollout of global strategies and deliver them with local characteristics, using local channels to attract the right audiences.

Jean Freeman> WPI is a wonderful group of independent business owners. There is a camaraderie that can only be found with a group of entrepreneurs.

Viveca Chan> It is an immediate global network which can be used to source the latest international local market insights and global footprint, as and when needed.

Jane Asscher> WPI membership has undoubtedly helped us achieve our goals. The network of agencies share an independent spirit and entrepreneurial drive and they are committed to helping each other. Our clients have benefited from the ability to uncover local insight and marketing intelligence, and I have valued being able to connect with senior female leaders of successful independent agencies, sharing operational insights and ideas.

LBB> What are your hopes for the next generation of female leaders?

Taunya Renson-Martin> That we aren’t talking about female leaders – we just call them leaders.

Jean Freeman> That they continue to shake up the status quo.

Viveca Chan> I hope they have the confidence to be bold and curious. My advice is: pursue your dreams but put your family first and learn how to balance. 

Jane Asscher> I hope that the next generation of female leaders can accelerate gender equality in the industry to gain the equal footing for future generations.

In the next instalment of Ours for the Taking, LBB speaks to more inspiring businesswomen from the WPI network, tackling the subject of Why Female Leadership Matters

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