BASED IN: NEW YORK
What do you do?
I own and run a boutique creative and marketing agency based in Greenpoint Brooklyn called Second Language Design. I am Principal and Creative Director, and we specialize in branding, print and web design, and marketing and communications. We have a lean business model where we’re comprised of a team of freelancers who are each experts in their field, most with 7/+ years of agency experience, and we happily collaborate remotely. We also have an underlying focus on equal representation of men and women on our team and in the workplace, in general. As such, we’re proud members of the Let’s Make The Industry 50/50 Initiative, founded by Art Director’s Club.
What is the best part about being an entrepreneur? What is the worst/hardest part?
The best part is being able to provide work opportunities to people. And, in doing so, I am able to choose who I work with and aim for a workforce that’s equal men to women. I also just enjoy being creative on a daily basis in a wide variety of ways, whether it’s painting a watercolor pattern for our Instagram or designing a complex website for a client. The payoff of taking such ownership of something (like a business) feels huge. The hardest part is that, as the leader, I’m juggling many roles, from business development associate to creative director to accountant. Even though it may seem like a hardship to step into roles that are out of your comfort zone, it does feel rewarding to rise to the challenge.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Do you come from a family of entrepreneurs? Did it help or did that set you back?
Interestingly enough, I come from an entrepreneurial mother who owned her own interior design firm and a very corporate father who worked for GE for most of his career. I think witnessing both of these perspectives led me to my current role, because I began my career (for the first 10 years) working for other agencies, learning the ropes, then taking that experience to create the business I envisioned. I don’t think I’d be as successful an entrepreneur if I didn’t witness and learn from both of my parents’ paths.
Do you believe that anyone can become an entrepreneur? Do you think that everyone should try?
No, I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everyone. If you have drive in your area of expertise and can identify a niche in which you’re not only interested and driven but can also make money, it’s worth a shot going out on your own. Clearly, working for a big company provides a lot of protection and eliminates many of the headaches a person experiences owning their own company, so I would never blame anyone for choosing that path. For me personally, however, the freedom and reward that come from owning my own business outweigh the benefits of working for someone else’s.
Why do you think now is the time to be a female entrepreneur? Do you believe that times are changing for the better? Is it harder being a female entrepreneur or do you think it doesn’t really matter?
I think now is a wonderful time to be a female entrepreneur. We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of gender equality in the workplace over the last couple of decades, but I think we still need to see more female business owners to promote the idea that leadership is for both sexes. Female entrepreneurs still need exposure because we’re still seeing a majority of males in leadership roles, so, while I think we’ve made a lot of progress, there’s plenty of work to be done. In my professional life, I try to pay careful attention to acting the same as I have seen men act in a work setting i.e. not being “cutesy” in emails or less assertive in meetings. I’m a big proponent of the Sheryl Sandberg school of thought — lean in! Carve out your path of leadership. Make it equal. The world seems ready for it if you are!
What is one (or more) piece of advice you can offer our readers and other entrepreneurs that are reading your interview? What is the most important to keep in mind?
Plan out your path carefully before you take the leap of entrepreneurship. I didn’t “wing it” and I don’t recommend that, either. It’s not just your passion that will drive your success; it’s also identifying your strategy, goals and voice, networking, and preparing before launching your business or idea. Before I launched Second Language Design, I researched the type of firms that existed in the creative space, developed our voice, brand messaging and corporate identity, and reached out to my entire network to let them know about what I was launching. Then, when I formally launched, people were ready to hire us. It still seems like a miracle to this day, but I know our success is at least partially due to diligence and preparation.