February 14, 2023Comments are off for this post.

Building Bombilla® Podcast: How to Build a Creative Agency for Social Change

This podcast project is dedicated to folks who are #litonpurpose and taking bold audacious steps to start their own businesses for social change. Tune in to hear from other entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders committed to using business to create a more just, sustainable world. Host Ivellisse Morales is committed to a values-driven life, and her creative design agency, bombilla®, is on a mission to make the world a more just, equitable place through the power of design.

Episode 1: #LitOnPurpose with Lauren Rascoe of Lauren Rascoe Creative

Taking the leap to live the dream. bombilla® founder, Ivellisse Morales and Lauren Rascoe of Lauren Rascoe Creative started their own businesses to create the purpose-driven careers they always wanted. In this episode, they compare notes on their experiences as creative entrepreneurs, their feelings about the title CEO, and the realities of building a business that’s #litonpurpose. Lauren is also the podcast producer for Building Bombilla®. Thank you, Lauren!

Resource Links:

Episode 2: Lift As We Climb with Maureen Miller of Black to Yoga

In this episode, bombilla® founder, Ivellisse Morales and Certified Public Accountant and Black to Yoga co-founder Maureen Miller share how they’ve both lifted each other up while climbing as entrepreneurs of color in the Bay Area. And as bombilla's trusted CPA accountant, Maureen offers wisdom about embracing the value of your work and why it’s important to stay on top of your numbers, and bring on an accountant, from the very beginning of your business journey.

Resource Links:

Episode 3: In Equity We Trust with Ellie Tumbuan of The Justice Collective

Ellie Tumbuan is co-founder, co-owner, and Head of Strategy and Culture at The Justice Collective, a 100% women of color founded, owned, managed and led full-service consulting firm based in Oakland, CA. In her conversation with bombilla® founder, Ivellisse Morales, Ellie talks about making business choices that serve the greatest good rather than the greatest profit, and how the strength and wisdom of her ancestors gets her through the difficulties of building a business rooted in social change.


Episode 4: Our Collective Genius with Team Bombilla®

In this lively group discussion, Kimberly Cho, Lillian Kim, Samantha Vaughan, and Tiffany Threets, aka Team Bombilla®, share the different paths that brought them to this non-traditional creative agency, the ups and downs of working at a start-up for social change, and how each one of them has grown at bombilla by stretching themselves and developing new skills. We discuss business innovation, being resourceful, one year as employed team, building systems, processes, and innovating as a 100% woman-of-color-led team.

Resource Links:

Episode 5: Radical Optimism with Naima McQueen of The Alliance for Community Development

Naima McQueen is a business and racial equity consultant and the Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Development in Oakland, CA. Alliance is dedicated to increasing access to capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs. In this episode, we explore how we intentionally create internal cultures of sustainability and respect, the importance of investing in your own business, and the big difference a little capital can make for a business owner committed to social change. 

Resource Links:

September 28, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Rooted In Conversation with Ivellisse Morales

In this Instagram Live conversation with First Year Project from April 2021, Ivellisse Morales talks about taking the big leap in starting her own business, how she continues to maintain her agency, what cafe con leché means to her, and what she's doing to tap into some joy this season.

September 27, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Shining at San Francisco Design Week 2022

In this workshop from June 2022 for San Francisco Design Week, the bombilla team walks us through a creative exercise to evaluate 3 ways we can immediately be #litonpurpose, bringing joy and light into our personal and professional lives.

Slide from #LitOnPurpose: How to Be Creative for a Change workshop at SF Design Week. © bombilla creative, inc. 2022

Anxious and angry about the state of humanity and the planet?

Transform that energy into purpose-driven creativity and career choices. It’s no secret that we operate in a system designed to distract and divide. Refocus by tapping into your personal power, using your gifts and reclaiming your story. Together, we will explore both the opportunity (and duty) we have as creative humans who are ready to take authentic action on issues that matter most to us. We’re all bombillas (lightbulbs) waiting to be lit on purpose. The world needs us — no matter what industry, creative discipline, age or level. We need players in all positions.

Participants will leave feeling inspired, connected and with clarity on three ways they can immediately be #litonpurpose, bringing joy and light to their personal and professional lives.

Slide from #LitOnPurpose: How to Be Creative for a Change workshop at SF Design Week. © bombilla creative, inc. 2022

September 27, 2022Comments are off for this post.

The Art of Customer Service: Brand and Social Media Marketing for Success

Many traditional business models treat customer service and marketing as separate systems. More recent customer experience frameworks, however, understand that your BRAND lies at the intersection of these two areas.

In this practical workshop at the conference for Bay Area Capital Connections XIII: Imagining Our New Selves, Ivellisse Morales guides audience members to evaluate their organization's practices and beliefs around customer service.

About the Conference

From the event organizers: This year's conference theme is Imagining Our New Selves. Sessions will cover practical topics related to bolstering our organizations as we enter a new phase of economic development that is adapted to a world with constantly changing rules. 

As our entrepreneurial community begins its tumultuous climb out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are at the forefront of reimagining how we cultivate a supportive ecosystem for all community members. We know the nature of the problems that persist in the Bay Area – in most cases, we know many viable solutions, too. Seizing on the opportunity for massive change presented to us, how can we build better systems as we look toward the Bay Area’s future? What roles must we play, and what tools do we need? Who else must be in the room?

Through BACC XIII, we hope to hold space for innovative conversations that reimagine and actively think through comprehensive entrepreneurial wellbeing, equitable designs for workplaces, and relationships with culturally-aware capital lenders. By holding the conference virtually for the second year in a row, we hope to keep this content accessible to the entire community regardless of the changing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conference hosted by The Alliance for Community Development. bombilla was one of the sponsors at this year's event.

June 10, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Shift from Pain-Profiting to Power-Sharing

In this talk from June 2021 for Possibility Project, Ivellisse Morales, Founder & CEO at bombilla, joins Tania Anaissie, Founder and CEO at Beytna Design, to discuss our collective responsibility as creators to pass the mic and co-create the stories we are telling in ways that are equitable, authentic, and not replicating harm.

In the sector, we use stories and images to capture the interest (and care) of community members and potential donors.

  • How often are those stories and images used in extractive ways, that reproduce the dynamics of giver/receiver, service provider/recipient?
  • How do the stories we tell and the images we choose, replicate harm and perpetuate false narratives?
  • Who is collecting, shaping, and telling stories, and for whose benefit?
  • How can story be rooted in powerful and authentic co-creation, and be shaped by the voices and leadership of those at the center of the work?

We are thrilled to highlight the perspectives of:

Ivellisse Morales, Founder & CEO of bombilla

Tania Anaissie, Founder and CEO at Beytna Design

May 11, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Introducing bombilla’s™ Little Bright Branding Book

bombilla's™ little bright branding book is a playful poetry book for small businesses who care about heart-centered branding. The book launched in February 2022, in celebration of bombilla's 4th birthday.

You can get a copy of bombilla's™ little bright branding book here!

About the Book

  • Gorgeous matte hardcover, full-color book at 6×9 inches and 36 pages. Born December 29, 2021. 
  • Poems are personally written by me (Ivellisse!), designed by Kimberly Cho, edited by Jesi Hanley Vega. Includes poems like The Branding ABC’s, Chief Everything Officer and Stories: as well as exercise pages for you to reflect and play.
  • 5% of net sales will be earmarked for bombilla’s small business fund, a scholarship for Black, Brown & Queer emerging entrepreneurs (>2 years old) who seek our branding & design services.

My hope is that you'll walk away feeling #litonpurpose. And that you feel inspired and empowered to build your own heart-centered brand.

Ivellisse Morales

Get your own copy of bombilla's™ little bright branding book here!

May 11, 2022Comments are off for this post.

From Side Hustle to CEO: Taking Back Control of Your Career

In this talk from March 2021 for Boston University's College of Communication, alum Ivellisse Morales speaks alongside a panel of communication entrepreneurs to discuss their professional journeys and the added obstacles faced by women and communities of color.

About the Panelists

Ivellisse Morales (COM’12), Founder and CEO of bombilla
Ivellisse Morales (COM'12) brings a decade of experience in using marketing as a force for good—for brands of all sizes from inside major creative agencies like Ogilvy, Cone Communications and IDEO and nonprofits like Year Up. Since 2018, Ivellisse has served as the visionary behind bombilla, a branding & design agency for social change. Bombilla (lightbulb in Spanish) is fueled by a national network of diverse creatives who conspire with systems-changing organizations to make the world brighter. Learn more at www.bombilla.com.

Manpreet Kaur Kalra (COM’11), Founder of Art of Citizenry
Manpreet Kaur Kalra (she/her) (COM’11) is a social impact advisor, anti-racism educator, speaker, and activist working to decolonize storytelling. She navigates the intersection of impact communication and sustainable global development. Having worked in venture capital and startups, Manpreet founded Art of Citizenry to support impact-driven brands prioritizing people and the planet. She collaborates with businesses to address inclusion in all aspects, from business development to marketing strategy. Furthering her vision to address equity across the fashion and lifestyle ecosystem, she co-created and launched Reclaim Collaborative, a community of brands and content creators dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression. Her activism focuses on the interconnectivity of economic, social, and climate justice. She educates using a variety of mediums, including the Art of Citizenry Podcast, where she shares her nuanced and unfiltered insights on building a more just and equitable future. Her work unpacks history and addresses systemic power structures. She serves on the board of the NYC Fair Trade Coalition and co-established the Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Fair Trade Federation.

Anya Cherrice Gonzales (COM’15), Founder of Navigating Culture and podcast host of The Homesickness Cure
Anya Cherrice Gonzales (she/her) (COM’15) is the founder of Navigating Culture and host of the podcast, The Homesickness Cure. Born and raised in Trinidad, she started her American journey by attending Boston University. While taking journalism and advertising classes, her love for storytelling deepened. Reflecting on her own experiences, Anya decided to create a community for immigrants and first-generation immigrants who struggle to navigate the intersectionalities of living in between two cultures. Essentially, her company’s mission is to encourage these folks to learn how to self-validate, remove self-doubt and redefine archaic ideas of success. Shortly after her 2015 graduation from COM, Anya moved to San Francisco to work in Silicon Valley. She creates marketing programs for Miro, one of the world's fastest-growing start-ups.

May 3, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Shifting from Hustle to Self-Care Mindset

In this talk from March 2022 for Boston University's College of Communication, alum Ivellisse Morales moderates a panel on the importance of self care in both personal and professional spaces, and disrupting the "hustle" mindset.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

Audre Lorde

How many have heard the phrase “hustle hard”? Society told us that the hustle makes people more successful and get ahead. Yet, studies have shown that hustle culture takes a toll on people’s emotional, mental, and physical health. For people in marginalized communities, the damage to their overall health is worse.

During the pandemic and racial reckoning, various campaigns filled our social media timelines with resources for consumers to address their mental health and wellness. Self-care became popular. As communication professionals promoting these campaigns, what are we doing to change our mindset to practice self-care and wellness in our lives? How can organizations implement best practices to ensure that we have that work-life balance to keep our overall health in check?

Join our panelists as they provide:

  • Insights and data on hustle life
  • Signs to look out for to avoid extreme burnout
  • Tips to add self-care practices in your personal and professional life
  • Ways to welcome and encourage companies and colleagues to practice wellness at work

About Our Panelists

Yi-Hsian Godfrey (COM’97), CEO & co-founder of Apiari
Yi-Hsian (pronounced "E-Schwan") Godfrey is CEO & co-founder of Apiari a curated childcare platform helping families find, book and manage vetted and experienced night nannies, babysitters and enrichment leaders in minutes.  A former corporate executive turned entrepreneur, Yi-Hsian is also a mom to school-aged children, daughter to elderly parents, wife, sister and friend, she understands the challenges parents face in pursuing the proverbial "work-life balance."

Alice Hu (COM’10), Founder of Woo Woo Company
Alice Hu is the founder of Woo Woo Company, a guide for all things woo, spiritual, and holistic wellness. Going through your Saturn Return or have questions about your career? Alice will use all the tools and modalities that helped her discover her calling and purpose to guide you in your journey. 
Alice also just released season two of her podcast Into the Woo and an ambient music album titled Dreaming Abundance. She is currently working on creating a career-focused astrology app. You can sign up via www.yoursaturn.com.

Charmain F. Jackman, PhD, Psychologist, Speaker, Writer, Consultant, & Founder/CEO, InnoPsych, Inc.
Dr. Jackman is a Harvard-trained licensed Psychologist with 23+ years in the mental health field. She is the founder and CEO of InnoPsych, Inc., an organization on a mission to disrupt racial inequities in mental health. She also consults with organizations on topics including mental health, and racial trauma, employee wellbeing. She has won several awards for her impactful work including the 2021 American Psychological Association’s (APA) Citizen Psychologist Award and City of Boston’s 2021 Innovator of The Year award. Dr. Jackman has been featured on national media outlets such as the New York TimesNPRPBS, and the Boston Globe

MODERATOR: Ivellisse Morales (COM’12), Founder of bombilla
Ivellisse Morales brings a decade of experience in using marketing as a force for good—for brands of all sizes from inside major creative agencies like Ogilvy, Cone Communications and IDEO and nonprofits like Year Up. Since 2018, Ivellisse has served as the visionary behind bombilla, a branding & design agency for social change. Bombilla (lightbulb in Spanish) is fueled by a national network of diverse creatives who conspire with systems-changing organizations to make the world brighter

May 2, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Interview: BU Alum’s Branding Agency Promoting Creativity & Community

In this article, originally published in April 2022 by The Daily Free Press (Boston University), journalist Stella Tannenbaum interviews BU alum Ivellisse Morales on bombilla's branding agency origin story and members of team on the what it's like to work at bombilla:

Bombilla, which means “lightbulb” in Puerto Rican Spanish, also happens to be the name of a design and branding agency created by a 2012 Boston University College of Communication graduate. The name is a “nod” to CEO and founder Ivellisse Morales’ Puerto Rican heritage.

“It’s hard to say without a smile on your face,” Morales said. “It’s unique, it’s memorable, it’s easy to pronounce and it signals from the very beginning that we are different.”

Morales sought to create a mission-driven agency seeking social change. The company, which is run by a team of six women, focuses on graphic design, brand strategy and visual identity.

“Our clients are women, Black and brown, queer-owned small businesses, nonprofits, social enterprises, visionary individuals who are using their skills to make change,” Morales said. “And we’re supporting them with our own skills.”

Kimberly Cho, creative project manager and designer at Bombilla, said using her design skills for social good is an experience she does not take for granted.

It brings me a lot of purpose and light just because knowing that I’m able to apply my skill sets to work that really matters and benefits the world I live in is definitely something that I’m definitely grateful for.

Kimberly Cho

Prior to launching Bombilla, Morales worked at a corporate agency that she described as “a culture of nonstop grinding.” She said while working at a corporate agency can jumpstart your career, the work environment is demanding.

In 2018, she set an exit plan for her corporate job and began her journey to create Bombilla.

“February 1 was my first official day working for myself,” she said.

From a business model that incorporates “creative human hours” — a concept based around working four to six hours a day — implementing “No-Meeting Mondays,” “Fitness Fridays” and two “Wellness Weeks” a year, Morales is creating a conducive work environment optimal for her crew of designers and brand gurus.

Before joining the Bombilla team, Design Director Tiffany Threets experienced intense burnout in her previous job.

“It turned out to be one of the most damaging experiences for me as a human,” Threets said. “Especially a woman of color.”

Threets began searching for a company like Bombilla because she was “sick of being the only Black or brown person in the room” and wanted to use her design expertise to benefit the greater good.

She described Bombilla as a “secret pot of gold” providing all she could have hoped for in a company.

“It seems like the ungettable get, but it existed,” Threets said. “Bombilla is everything they say they are and more.”

Threets said it’s important for young women of color in the design industry not to “water down who you are.”

Don’t dim your light and don’t lose who you are. Everything will come full circle.

Tiffany Threets

Cho said as a freelance designer she was often criticized for her design decisions, but that all changed when she joined Bombilla.

“I never got that from Ivi,” Cho said. “She was really understanding and very trusting of the design process that I had already established and laid out.”

Morales creates a culture of “camaraderie and connection” that makes the members feel comfortable bringing up their questions and concerns, Cho said.

“We don’t have to feel like we need to hide who we are at work,” Cho said. “We don’t have to code switch to be a certain way. We are able to work as a team, but I also feel like there’s definitely a huge level of trust and friendship that’s there that you might not always see at a corporate company.”

Morales is excited by the amount of BIPOC and queer creative agencies “filling in that gap” in the advertising industry.

We’re in a position where we’re able to be the storytellers and keep it authentic. We do bring a justice, equity and inclusion lens. So if we’re working with a predominantly white client, we’re staying honest about their language, their tone, their representation and imagery.

Ivellisse Morales

Check out the original article by Stella Tannenbaum on The Daily Free Press (Boston University).

April 27, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Interview: Founding A New Kind of Creative Agency

In this interview from September 2020, Ivellisse discusses her path as an agency founder navigating through creative challenges, a pandemic, and reimagining the agency model. This interview, conducted by Michael Freedman at Float, was originally published as part of the interview series "Agency Founders," which features founders of independent creative studios who are breaking the status quo.

In one sentence, can you tell us about your agency?

We are bombilla, a creative agency on a mission to move hearts and minds through branding and design.

What's the story behind your name?

Bombilla (bom-bee-yah) means lightbulb in Puerto Rican Spanish. It's symbolic of the power we all have to make the world brighter. It's also hard to say without a smile on your face.

Our theory of change is that the more creatives conspire towards the greater good, the sooner we can accelerate the changes we need as humans. That's why we focus on systems-changing organizations—from serving women and Black & Brown-owned businesses to social enterprises and nonprofits who are addressing issues like federal paid leave policy, racial & gender equity, and access to educational and economic opportunity.

Can you tell us more about that?

We're the creative directors of our shared future on this beautiful blue planet we call home. How are we going to step up to solve the great social, political, and environmental crises of our time? I'm doing what I can from where I am by mobilizing creatives for justice and serving entrepreneurs and leaders who are leading the charge.

We need everybody to be #litonpurpose; to embody the change the world needs by focusing on how our individual gifts can collectively make the world brighter. Change starts with you (us).

In the words of Dr. Howard Thurman, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

How large is your team now? As a fully remote team since day one, has your work routine changed much during COVID-19?

Right now, we're rocking and rolling as a team of nine, including me. At one point, we had colleagues actively working from Tacoma, Washington; Natchez, Mississippi; Boston, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; San Francisco and Oakland, California. We have visual designers, strategists, web developers/designers, project managers, and communicators who range from moonlighters and freelancers to fellow creative studios and (soon-to-be) employees. I'm proud to share that our network is primarily filled with folks who identify as women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ+.

Honestly, the biggest challenge in our daily routine is reminding ourselves that we're human. This requires trust and vulnerability to share struggles, prioritize care for oneself and one's team, and stay realistic with timelines and commitments.

Thankfully, we have the culture and trust to be honest about how we're feeling and to discuss what's working and what's not. We recognize that sometimes we just need to take a break from it all. That's one positive aspect of this all—we're a little bit more real with each other about our human experience.

The pandemic had had a profound impact on businesses both big and small. What's it been like for your business?

When I signed myself up to be an entrepreneur, I wasn't expecting to deal with all of this! Between apocalyptic fears, low cash flow, mental health issues, social distancing, and the political climate, it's all a bit much. I'm grateful we've been able to sustain the business through small budget projects, the support of government loans, and a recent surge in demand.

My vision is to build the Pixar for progress. I'm inspired by the magic that happens in a collective of creatives with different perspectives, identities, and lived experiences. I believe in the power of storytelling for human transformation. I want to build a creative workforce that's truly representative of the United States of America. Our workplaces need to reflect us as people. This means teams that are multi-racial, multicultural, and multi-generational. We're making space for different identities, with perspectives all anchored in the same values, which is what makes "team" work and the dream work.

How about the impact on the industry as a whole?

With community, communication, and collaboration (and adjusting), I think the creative industry will bounce back stronger than ever. The playing field is leveled now that we're all at home. We're going to see the rise of thriving creative collectives, especially as unemployment continues to rise.

I believe that the agencies that survive will be the creatively nimble ones, with the team dynamics and humility to learn and learn from each other.

You've said you want to build an agency that's anti-oppressive and anti-racist, and one that goes beyond the billable hour. How do you achieve that?

First things first, there is no blueprint, and I don't have all of the answers. I'm learning and navigating as I go.

What I do know is that the traditional agency model is broken. I'm trying to avoid the toxic culture, the stressful lifestyle, and the expectations and structures that uphold white supremacy (perfectionism, urgency, hierarchy, etc.). This is why we all end up getting burnt out at one point or another in our careers.

We obviously need the billable hour as a unit of our inventory to measure work hours for payment, and as a standard hourly rate to present to clients. Where it gets dangerous is when humans are treated as billable hours on paper, without regard for their full lives and full selves. In my early days, I remember being told I would be "overbooked" with no regard for my personal life or my well-being. Like, what?

With the support of my accountant, tax preparer, and business mentors, we're building a financial model that'll allow us to lean towards values-based pricing. If anyone has figured this out/is exploring this as well, please let me know! I'd love to connect.

What can other agencies do to improve the work-life balance?

One thing agencies can immediately start doing is asking their team how they're doing and what they need from them to be their best human selves. We're all working from home with reduced productivity, dealing with the uncertainty of a global pandemic, and how it intersects with systemic racism and the climate crisis.

The pandemic is inviting us to revisit these business norms that were never human to begin with. We are humans, not robots!

We all need to level set and recognize what's realistic. We have the power to push back, reset expectations and prove that high-quality, well-informed work takes time.

What does a typical project look like at bombilla?

We begin all projects with a discovery phase where we immerse ourselves in our client's brand. This includes an in-depth brand audit, getting smart on their industry, evaluating and comparing alternatives in the marketplace, customer interviews, and (my favorite part) strategic brandstorms where it all comes together.

From there, we head into design & development, where we make magic happen using the organization's strategic goals and our informed work to cook up something good—whether it's a communications strategy or a new visual identity system. This is the phase that can get a little bit chaotic with feedback sessions and ongoing refinement. Then we arrive at the delivery phase, where we finalize and package everything up.

Our process is nothing new. What makes us different is the perspectives, lived experiences, and talent we bring to the process and the team. We enjoy building real human relationships with our clients and with each other. Creativity, community, and collaboration are our key ingredients in making this dream work!

Have you ever turned down a project because it didn't fit with what you do well or it went against what you believe in?

That's the beauty of being your own boss! You can select the clients and projects you want to work on. In the beginning, I said yes to everything and had to make ends meet. I had to learn the hard way that saying yes to more projects does not always lead to more profit.

As the CEO, it's my job to protect my team and myself. I'll only be hurting us if I accept projects we know we can't fulfill to the best of our ability. This means pushing back when necessary, standing in our value and worth, sticking to our process, and gracefully and confidently saying no.

It's very scary to say no to money, but we're also saying yes to peace and leaving space for the right opportunity that speaks to our sweet spot as a creative collective. It's super important to align team members on creative projects and social issues they care about. This is where we shine!

While the percentage of female creative directors has increased substantially over the past decade, women still account for less than one-third of all the CDs in the U.S. Why aren't there more female-led agencies?

There are systemic reasons why there are few female-led agencies. The industry started off as a boy's club. If anything, I'm inspired by the number of female-led startup agencies and studios in the last few years.

We're leaving to start our own companies, creating our own rules, leading with our own values, and designing the workplaces of the future.

What were some unexpected challenges you faced when you were first getting started?

I left my corporate job on January 31, 2018. By that summer, I was abundantly drowning in inbound demand. I started as a full-time freelancer and quickly built up the agency in months. I wasn't expecting to grow so soon and so fast. I was super optimistic with my time, saying yes to everything, fueled by a scarcity mindset, real financial responsibilities, and, of course, the eagerness to serve.

Thankfully, my days as an older sister, student group leader, and agency account manager have set me up to be a delegating queen!

Running a business is personal and professional development all in one. You will get tested. Your insecurities and areas of growth will be exposed for all to see. You will need people to talk to.

I started bringing in confidantes, friends, and independent contractors behind the scenes to support me. This is where the collective was born. Shout-out to Stephanie DerrickEmily SeamanAndrea Cameron, and Betsaida Dimas who supported me behind-the-scenes in the early days and for all of the family, friends, and mentors who've provided referrals, projects, encouragement and emotional support (and still do) since day one.

Can you tell us about a project you've worked on recently that you're particularly proud of?

We're very proud of birthing a new brand for a woman of color-owned small business in Oakland, California, called Birthland. Co-founders Anjali Sardeshmukh and Kiki Jordan are community midwives who are addressing a critical need to provide affordable and accessible birth services to families who are historically marginalized from quality care.

I met Anjali and Kiki as fellow students studying microfinancing in Uptima Business Bootcamp, a member-owned business accelerator that supports diverse entrepreneurs in creating thriving businesses. What an honor to work with and support the work of my community!

In our work together, we embodied: home and family, the feminine divine, strength and resilience, and the joys of new life. Our collaborative process started with hands-on branding exercises, research and reflections, and ended with a powerful look and feel that we're all equally proud of. It brought tears to my eyes to see our work come to life on their newly-minted storefront.

How do you measure progress as an agency?

We're not trying to be the "best" agency or the "most successful" design team. We're here to scale soulfully, sustainability, and slowly. What's most important to me is that we're making a living, making a difference, and having fun. The day this isn't fun anymore is when the quality of work, quality of life, and quality of engagement and commitment suffer. I measure this by how happy and fulfilled my team and clients feel.

And if we can also build creative spaces that celebrate diversity and justice, that would be progress not only for bombilla, but also for the design industry.

While brands typically like to play it safe, advertising can sometimes play an important role in shaping culture and promoting social change. How can agencies and brands work together to meet the current racial justice movement?

We're finally talking about anti-Blackness and racism directly, across industries and sectors. It's taken us centuries, generations, and multiple movements to get here, and we've still got a long way to go. We're in the biggest fight of our lifetimes! Dismantling white supremacy and decolonizing isn't easy. Transformative change isn't easy.

Change is messy, beautiful, painful, regenerative, violent, inspiring, powerful. What a time to be alive!

Before we talk about the content of advertising, we need to talk about the people at the agencies and brands producing the work. Both agencies and brands need to address their internal culture and the diversity of their teams. This is why we need to focus on diversifying who is behind the scenes. Who are the creative directors? The copywriters? The strategists and communicators? The media buyers? It boggles me when brands make insensitive gaffes that could've been prevented if they had the right members on their team at every stage of the production process.

A number of initiatives, programs, and communities exist to support underrepresented professionals and students in the creative & media industries. Some of these include, but are not limited to: ADCOLORThe 3 Percent MovementColorCommSix Hundred & RisingHold the PRess and Where Are the Black Designers? There is no excuse anymore on "where to find talent."

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own agency?

Know your numbers.

You're in business to make a profit! Teach yourself basic accounting and bookkeeping, hire a CPA-certified accountant and/or bookkeeper, and invest in the right accounting software to set you up for success. I adopted some of these later in the game, which became more expensive than if I had invested in them sooner.

My accountant is currently helping me develop a custom cash flow and revenue spreadsheet to help inform project scopes and new hires. For once, I'm feeling geeky and excited about math!

Excel in your zone of genius.

As an agency, it's easy to say yes to projects outside of your wheelhouse or to be "full-service" and pretend to do it all. I've been burned by what happens when you fake it until you make it. Without the right team, systems, and capital, this can become very painful, very quickly.

You don't have to be everything for everybody. It's perfectly okay (and even ideal in the long-term) to niche and lean into your zone of genius. This is what you're uniquely talented in as an agency—that special "thing" that nobody else can emulate, no matter how hard they try!

Check out the original blog post published as part of Float's interview series "Agency Founders," which features founders of independent creative studios who are breaking the status quo.

We are a proudly AfroBoricua-led small business, shining bright from sunny Oakland, CA. We are based in xučyun (Huchiun), on unceded territory of the Lisjan Ohlone people. 

We are a proudly AfroBoricua-led small business, shining bright from sunny Oakland, CA. We are based in xučyun (Huchiun), on unceded territory of the Lisjan Ohlone people. 

We are a proudly AfroBoricua-led small business, shining bright from sunny Oakland, CA. We are based in xučyun (Huchiun), on unceded territory of the Lisjan Ohlone people.

We are a proudly AfroBoricua-led small business, shining bright from sunny Oakland, CA. We are based in xučyun (Huchiun), on unceded territory of the Lisjan Ohlone people. 


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