Video - Sabrina Chevannes on Why There is Such a Lack of Diversity in the Creative Sector

leadership people and culture podcast Jul 01, 2022

VIDEO: 54:18 mins
AUTHOR: Robert Craven and Sabrina Chevannes

In this GYDA Talks, Robert talks to Sabrina Chevannes. Sabrina is the Managing Director of Complex Creative. She started her first business in 2008 so has a wealth of experience in running companies. Having made many mistakes along the way, Sabrina is keen to help prevent others from making the same mistakes.

With clients as high profile as UNICEF, Pirelli and the Ministry of Defence, she is in a position to give some tips as to how to land major names.

Sabrina specialises in everything creative, holding qualifications in design, development, and marketing.

Sabrina is also a professional chess player and often applies her expert logic and strategy skills to her business. She has written two chess books for children which have been published in over 20 languages and are selling rapidly all over the world!

Robert and Sabrina discuss why there is such a lack of diversity in the creative sector.

  • The No BS Agency - what does that mean, and what is the BS that you avoid?
  • Why is diversity an issue?
  • How does it come about and what are the consequences?
  • What is wrong when provincial white males create an agency employing their white male mates?
  • How does diversity help the agency ad its clients
  • Running an agency when you are not a white male




Robert Craven  00:10

Today I am absolutely delighted to have with me, Sabrina from Complex Creative. Hello, Sabrina. It's absolutely great to be with you.


Sabrina Chevannes  00:19

Hi, Robert. It's likewise great to be here.


Robert Craven  00:22

It's good. So we are going to tackle head on the subject, which is I'm going to get the right word. So we don't I don't mess it up. Why is there such a lack of diversity in the creative sector? I love it. Because we're gonna go, we're going to crack on into one of those. I guess it's kind of an elephant in the room in a way, because everyone claims to talk about it. And then people don't talk about it. And then the thing continues. But before we do that, could you just give us a bit of background, who you are and who or what complex creative is and what sort of work you do? And so on, so forth.


Sabrina Chevannes  00:56

Yeah, say I'm the founder of Complex Creative, we are known as the no bullshit agency. So that's a that's why I'm very opinionated. And quite frank about it. And but it's really, we will call that because we were so annoyed with the amount of clients coming to us saying that they've been ripped off by their previous agency, and they've been told X Y, Z, and something sounds super complicated. And it actually is only 10 minutes to do, but they were quoting, like 10 grand to do it. And, you know, the usual stories, I'm sure you've had lots of them before it got to us. And we would just tell them exactly what it was. And we suddenly became known as the unable to agency for that reason. But we are full service in that we do design, development and marketing all in house, but we specialise in bespoke design and build of WordPress websites. So we're based in central London, we're just on the end of Brick Lane, in fact, so we are spoilt for choice of food around here, which is amazing. Yes, very cool. Very, very, very, very trendy as we are but there is a it's a, it's a cool place to be in terms of office space. And we're genuinely settled in hacks, which are kind of rare. I think, post COVID. I think all of us are still working in the office, we want to be here. We love the vibe, we don't this hype of stuff. It's not really been working. So generally everyone just comes in the office and just get on with it. So it's been great. And so yeah, I've been doing this now called by God, it's 14th year content marketing and stuff. And it feels super old. It's been a while. And yeah, I think that I definitely have seen the lack of diversity across every kind of spectrum of it. And I've been doing it a while now. And I've said about the elephant in the room. I'm I'm known to bring up topics that people don't like talking about or feel uncomfortable talking about, I'm like, brilliant. I will have that conversation. So here I am talking about that.


Robert Craven  02:54

Perfect. Okay, so before we go on to the diversity thing, just the the no bullshit tagline, which I love. It that was it, hey, we're gonna run an agency, and we're gonna be no bullshit agency, or was it? We're running an agency, and everyone keeps telling us what? We're not full of bullshit. Which way? Which way round? Did it actually come? Because a great tagline.


Sabrina Chevannes  03:17

Is the second so we actually we actually, the agency that I first started was in 2013. And we were called the most generic name ever. We were called London creative designs. I was like, I went through the whole SEO back to that was like, we do exactly what it says on the 10. Right. And so it was like the most was the most generic thing. And we got like, web SEO, we got loads of people coming to the website and everything like that. But the problem is, they weren't really they weren't, you know, they were from all different sort of sectors and industries. And they just, they, it was difficult to be able to filter out who were the right clients for us. And like I said, the more we started deal with people, they they all just like we just love your no bullshit approach. Like you just don't say how it is. And you know, you won't try to sugarcoat things. And you know, so it just came to us all the time. And then we just got so annoyed with stuff that when we decided to rebrand, but two and a half years ago now, we decided that was our tagline because we heard it so much. And actually, again, this becomes a big thing that I started my own podcast and that's called no bullshit talks. So it's everything is is kind of surrounding that we heard it so much that we just kind of fell into it. I think that's what happens. You know, you start out business you kind of try and be everything to everyone, which never ever works. And it took me a long time to realise that and so gradually we found our kind of our angle.


Robert Craven  04:42

So the no bullshit thing. Can you just give me a couple of quick examples of no bullshit versus bullshit?


Sabrina Chevannes  04:53

I guess I think I think in terms of a general picture as well, you know how a client would come to an agency with a Brief, and they're like, this is the brief, this is what I want to do. And this is when I need it by and as to how much I've, we've got to do it. And most agencies, and I think I'd like to say most agencies will do this. Most agencies will take that brief and be like, okay, yeah, we can do this, this is how much it's gonna cost. And this is how long it's gonna take. And they'll just assume that the company knows what they're doing. Whereas most times, that isn't right, most of the time, that company doesn't know what they're doing. And they think they do, or they're copying the competitor. And so we'll actually end up taking that brief and be like: Okay, so we can do this. But we think this is another crap, like, what you actually need is this. And, you know, we will actually go that step further. So will will, in some ways will create a proposal based on their brief, but we'll break it down and say: Look, actually, we don't think you need this, we think this will be a mistake, what you actually need is this, and will actually then rewrite their brief to what it should be based on who they are their goals. So that's like a, I think one of the biggest things straight away off the bat. The main thing is the whole lack of intimidated into intimidating jargon that most people do. So I feel like especially when it comes to dev, it's a load of stuff that people don't understand. Oh, yeah. So to do that, you need all these, these crazy things that apparently are necessary and will cost like an extra several 1000 pounds to do because it's so complicated. And we're just like: No, that's not what it is. This is what it is. And we'll explain why. So we'll actually educate our clients along the way, it's, we'll explain to them why we've done that, how it's done, and just kind of give them a laypersons guide to actually our job. And a lot of agencies would think that that's a bad thing in a business sense. They think that we're giving away too much. And we're, you know, we're letting them be able to understand what we do and the secrets behind our trade. And, and that, you know, they've got to go away and do it themselves. But I'm like, What, no, that's not exactly what happens at all. But what that does is build that trust to show that what we're doing, we're transparent. And, yes, they'll understand it more, well, that's even better, because then when I tried to explain it to them, or come up with a new strategy, they actually get what we're talking about. So actually, you just get better results from them. And most of the time, these companies don't have the time to do it themselves. Even if they do understand how to do it, that they're still going to come back to us because we do it better and quicker. And it's just like, so and they trust us for it. So for me from a business perspective, it's been brilliant. And I think that, you know, that's why we have so many clients just come back to us over and over again. And that's the reason why we were able to survive the pandemic. We rebranded just before, which was the worst timing we obviously didn't know. So it was, we ran a just before it, and it was it was difficult. But the reason we're able to survive is because we had all our old clients just come back to us, without even thinking about it, they just, they will just come back to us and not even look, look anywhere else, because they trust us. I think that's really important. So that's I think the main areas of the no bullshit is that we will just be really open and transparent with them about what exactly work we're doing, how long it is, and our timesheets usually come back quicker than what we've quoted for. So say for jobs. So I'll say all it takes five to six hours, I'll send a timesheet three and a half. And that's why they won't expect that will come in under budget. And that's very rare, I think in the agency world. And that's, that's where the no bullshit comes from.


Robert Craven  08:15

Yeah, and I think I think part of the problem is everyone says they're open, honest and transparent, and what they're not transparent, you know, and it's like, and I just find it, if you're gonna say it, then then do it, because then it's on the tin, and then people know what to trust. And I think you're absolutely right, that people are just I think the agency world doesn't understand how fed up plants are with agencies kind of just giving, giving it that and thinking either I can wear a blue Versace, black Versace jumper, and people will believe what I'm saying are a lower level. So I can make I can make the sound incredibly complicated. And that'll impress the client. And in fact, it doesn't, it just just turns off the client, because you're one demonstrates one inability to talk to human beings while you're going down code speak. It's already simple. I want I want a site that can do this. I think it should cost this Can you do it? You can I mean, you don't? Anyhow, good on the same.


Sabrina Chevannes  09:21

Yeah. And I think marketing agencies do the same thing. Because they have that like, you know, a three minimum three month or six month clause, right? And they're like: Okay, great. So I just need to talk enough crap to get them to sign the contract. And I milk six months of money out of them. It doesn't matter if I do a good job. So I'll move on. But I've got six months of contracts. And that's, that's what I've noticed a lot of it because we take care of a lot of marketing contracts and people and they're just like: Oh, so these are the results that we got from spending 50 grand over the last six months with this agency, and I'm like, what, and it's just kind of crazy and they don't they didn't even try. They were just like: Oh, but your your traffic's going up a little bit. And it was gonna go up a little bit anyway. Being online, but you know, they they that would be their justification. should be actually doing a job. And it's kind of crazy. But again, that, to me, that says a lot about their ethics and morals, like, they are happy to do that. And they don't, they don't take pride in what they do, like, because most people would like to think that you know, you get hired to do a job, and you work really hard to produce good results. And that's what you want to do. But they, they're happy to kind of be supportive and take the money and be like, okay, and move on to the next person. And that's what I've seen too many times.


Robert Craven  10:27

I'm gonna have to interrupt me, do you think that's also the case? Like small independent agencies? Because surely, I mean, the majority of agency folk that one comes across a network and whatever it is, they will be, they'll be really upset. If, if, if they're being tarred with that brush, so to speak.


Sabrina Chevannes  10:45

I mean, I'm happy to talk lots of people with that. I mean, obviously, I mean, I mean, loads of networks, unless I'm fantastic agencies. And I'm not saying they're all bad, obviously. But I've met a few who are horrendous. And, you know, it's, it's really sad to see like, we've, again, we've taken over a client recently from another agency, and I'm well aware who that agency are. And first of all, they lied about this agency, they said, they had a big team of people, where it was just two of them. And they tried to outsource everything abroad. And you know, fine. And, you know, a lot of people would just be like, if you say, it's just the two of us in the office, and we outsource things, people are actually okay with that, as long as you're doing a good job, just be open and honest about it. And then I've looked at all the tickets have actually done and it'll be like, they'd have some ridiculous thing. But roughly, we've gone through and done some of the things that they've quoted for. And it's been an average about 42 times quicker, we've done it, and they've quoted more. And it's just, that's astronomical. That's just, that's they've obviously just lied about stuff all the time. And it's just, it's horrible. And they were, they were calling new clients for ages and the client that just can't wait to get the contract. And it's, and I've seen this, and this is like these are, and I've had this before, because we've when we've been swamped. We've tried to like, reach out to other agencies and network and I've got other agency friends are doing the same thing at the moment. And we're being we're being led that by agencies who was promising the world and doing this stuff. And and I'm just like, these guys have got good reputations, like how is this possible? I don't understand it. So. But I think they just don't really seem to care. Because there's so much work out there that they just think, okay, it doesn't matter. I'll just screw that one, I think.


Robert Craven  12:26

Two really quick examples for me. One was kind of a friend of a friend, and she said: Oh, we're getting really lost. We've done all this digital stuff. Can you come and look, I said: Well, no, I think it's too late. But I'll come and have a cup of coffee with you. They had a redundancy payment of 100,000 quid, and they went to a web designer, graphics artists, social media person and someone else. Yeah. And they each took 25,000 quid for the privilege of designing something on all day, a premise which was, which could never work, like you just looked at an event. For this to actually work, you need to sell this many units, it's never gonna happen. It's just like, and you've got no traction. It's like, it's like, you should have been told not to do it. Everyone was happy to take the 25,000 quid quid for the brand design, web design, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Nobody actually said actually, I think you're wasting your time lady, you really need to be doing something else. And she was 100,000 pounds down and she said to me: I've got no one, the website just launched yesterday and no one's visited it and it's like, well they're not going to because you're not solving a problem anyone wants solving and even if an even if that is a problem that people have the solution you had is of no use so and the other one was we were pulled in to do some work for a significant mobile phone operator. We quoted I think 23,000 quid to do a big piece of research lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots we got kicked out of the office when we gave them the result it was that thing What do we tell the client the truth or not we tell the client the truth and we get and we get kicked out we told the client the truth, your products rubbish we got kicked out they then we then went they then went to one of the big consultancies who spent they spent three and a half million quid with them and they got the same result and they came back to us and then said you know what, you were actually right which is decent thing to do. But I mean, this happens all the time. You know that people don't they don't value opinion they don't listen or alternatively despicable people. Will, you know will will just take money from people irrespective of who they are, anyhow, enough Marathi let's talk about the subject at hand. It's this weird that everyone talks about diversity over all right. We're very, very, very, very diverse. It's interesting. got seven white men on the stage. You know, we're incredibly diverse. But when I look at your website, nobody in the board is is anything but a bit male and aged 40 and university educated, possibly Oxbridge. So So I guess, how do you? How do you? How do you see the lack of diversity? Rolling out? How, what do you see happening? And why do you see it as a problem that started off that?


Sabrina Chevannes  15:38

See what you mean? First start? Do you mean? Like, why why is there such a lack of diversity? Is that what you want to know? Okay, so I guess I think that, I guess, historically, it's always been, you know, I guess a white male industry dominated industry, I guess, if you take madmen on TV, for example, I don't know if you've seen it. But you know, it's a, it's obviously portrayed in that same sort of way. And the character that Elizabeth Moss played, obviously, she worked for absolute ASAF, to get into that world, and, you know, do quite well, but she was an anomaly. And all the women, there were just secretaries that obviously, the men slept with everyday that, you know, that was that was the kind of culture that was the dynamics of it. And I feel like that there is that history of it. And so, I do feel that there is, you know, a lot of nepotism in the creative industry to like, so I feel like, again, you you get into it if you've got parents or other people who've inspired to be in it. So naturally, if several years ago, the whole industry was white and male, then it's not really going to be that diverse. Several years later, I also think that take lots of immigrant families. So my, my mum's from my mom's Chinese and my dad's Jamaican, so they both were born and then respective countries and came to the UK. God knows how many years ago, but they'd been in the UK 45-50 years, something like that. 50 years, I think. So. For both of them. And, you know, when they came to the UK, they've got very traditional approach. And obviously, as well bringing up I think, children of colour in, in a, you know, a very, in a British country, they want their children to do really well. So they are very traditional, that sense of: Oh, you must go and be X, Y, Z, you must go to university, you have to get good grades. Exactly. Exactly. What are those three? Definitely. And that's it. And I think that that's, that's what everyone would expect from people of colour. That's generally what I've seen. And, and so therefore, if you say: Oh, I'm going to go become a graphic designer, what on earth for? Like, I think like, first of all, they wouldn't even know what that is. Because, again, they're the generation that wasn't really a thing. A lot of the skills in the creative industry are quite modern skills. So it's not like those those jobs even existed when they were around. So it wouldn't even make sense. And naturally, from there and their influence, it would, it would pass on to us to go and do one of the more traditional kind of careers I started off, I went to medical school, both of my brothers, that's that's kind of what we went into, like we were that was, that was normal. And then when I when I kind of started my own company, when I was at uni, that was really bizarre. They didn't really understand it, they didn't understand what what I was doing, or why I was doing it. As long as I phased let me get on with it. And I'll just be kind of long for later. But it was, I think that's also an issue. I think. Another another thing that I've noticed is that in lots of people of colour, they, they feel that in order to get somewhere in the world, you need to be like twice as good as everyone else. Right? That's, that's, that's generally the thing that people think of that if you want to be successful at same position, you have to be twice as good as the next person to prove that you are actually good. And I think that a lot of people don't see anyone that successful in the creative industry who are higher up or haven't done in the past. And so never thought it was possible to even get get to that position. I know that that was even the case when I was doing doing law. A lot of people said to me, oh, you know, in law that, you know, black females do not do well. I mean, females don't do that. Well, black people don't do that well, so you definitely have a terrible time. So go: Don't be a lawyer. And that's what they said. They're like me, it was in a black female judge, like that's never gonna happen. So that was kind of the thing when I was when I was in a level of deciding what to do. And I can imagine that that wasn't the case. And I never even considered a career in creative. I didn't think that it wasn't a career. I thought it was just a skill and a hobby. Like even then I still didn't, didn't understand it. Like I was always playing around with Photoshop. I loved it. You know, that was something I did at school like you know, And, you know, I think that's, I never saw it as an actual career. It was never drilled into me that was a career. Like I said, from, from my whole upbringing. Everyone in my family is either doctor, like a professor, a lawyer, like, you know that a normal career path, like you said, like, you go to university, you do a degree, and that turns into a job. Like even no one even did stuff like politics or like history or something like a subject that, you know, could lead into something else. Like, even that was too up in the air. And you know, you it's too much, there's no, there's no clear path, like everything, they wanted something with a clear path, really. I think my cousin was the first person who didn't, and everyone was sort of like: Oh, my God. He did really well for me. And, you know, he's still doing really well. But like, I think I'm definitely one of the first who's actually gone and done my own business and done this by myself. And so it's been a bit of a strange thing. But people still don't understand it. I think maybe that's what I found from other speakers, other people, people of colour, who have tried to start their own business, that's generally what it is, is that parents don't agree with it. Or they've never tried to do it, because they feel like the parents won't approve. And that's probably a lot of the reasons why there is a lack of diversity.


Robert Craven  21:14

And how does that lack of diversity impact on on the agencies the type of work they do the work they do for clients? What's more, how do you see that?


Sabrina Chevannes  21:28

In my, in my view, I see as then there's a lack of diversity of actual creative out there, like, you know, you, you look at, you look at some sites, and it's like, it's really bad at some sites, you think that's clearly done by X agency, because they don't really have any diversity, you can see that from their portfolio, their times are really similar, like, they just don't have that much creativity. And if you have people from all the same demographic, within your agency, they're probably all going to, you know, architect from the same background, they're going to be into the same sort of things we're going to be looking at, there's just not that much variety within the agency anyway, to be able to come up and brainstorm different things. So they may all watch the same programmes, they may all like the same books, and they want same fashion things like, you know, that sort of stuff. And it's, I think that's where diversity comes in. Like, I know that there's so much focus on dei at the moment. And I think people are sort of thinking it has to be all you have to handpick like, one black, one white, one Asian, like, you know, like your female female, like, you know, LGBTQ people feel like you have to do this to have this big pot, and, and therefore we've ticked all the boxes, and therefore we're diverse, but then I'm like, okay, so what does that diversity mean to you? Like, why is that important? And then that's what I think people are missing that point. I think it's so important, because otherwise, you know, you're creating the same campaigns. And there was, there was no like, bigger picture, like, look how many stupid marketing or advertising mistakes there have been in the past, like, the really bad failures and people like, how did that pass quality check? I don't understand how like, like, you know, some of those really silly ones, whether they're clearly like the basis of a claim, like bigoted or some way about how did no one look at that, and see that from that point of view. But the only reason that is possible is that every person in the agent just thinks the same way. Because, like, how have they not seeing it from the other perspective, I think that's the point what I'm trying to get at, like, diversity doesn't have to be about gender, or race or sexuality, like the dimension, but it could just be a diverse way of thinking as well, like, because I think that that's what's required someone to bring a fresh outlook on, on a different campaign. And that's what creativity is all about. It's about thinking differently as well, like, you know, you have to think, you know, that's what creative all the time, people just think, oh, that just means physically creating something like making it look nice. And they go, okay, so actually, I need a creative person to help them in this campaign. And then the belief is, I want you to copy my competitor. And that is the opposite of creativity. That is you're literally just giving someone a brief telling them exactly what to do. And you're actually copying some that's already out there. You're not creating anything at all, by definition. And I think that's where people are missing the point, like, diversity and creativity is absolutely central if you want to stay creative, but that's just that's just how it is.


Robert Craven  24:14

So is it so is it that there's, yeah, I mean, 30 last 30-40 years, a lot has changed the television, the television that was on when I was a kid. Yeah, half half. It's not allowed on now, you know, and half and half, half the DJs and comedians are imprisoned or been locked away. So the world the world has changed, you know, and, and what's acceptable and what's not acceptable has changed, but, but I guess one would have expected more. One would have expected the creative industries to be more up to speed and recognising that it needed diversity than than anywhere else. It seems like ironic that that the one place where you would expect to see dive versity is a place where still, there's lots of tokenism going on, you know, lots of you get lots of work with the token black woman on the left hand side looking over the shoulder with the white man holding the piece of paper or mat, you know, there's lots of kind of tokenism going on. And it seems to be very often in to the diversity in the work that's done is kind of feels often that it's, again, ticking boxes, rather than genuinely, this is a bunch of people who work at wherever it is, or here's a bunch of people going out for a drink there seems to be I'm just trying to get my head around that or is this just a London thing, because if you took a photo in a, in a London pub, you're gonna get a very, very different picture from if you so I'm in I'm in Bath, okay, take a photo in a bath pub, you know, that will be kind of all the support paths rugby yo, yo, yo, yo, it'll be a very different 10 faces from the 10 faces in, in a London pub, and just wondering whether it's a London thing or...


Sabrina Chevannes  26:06

I think that, but that's also really important take if you had an agency and bar they are mainly going to be like you said, you know, the white middle class into their burgers is what is going on here. But I had a housemate who for bar, and I live with her. She wasn't racist at all. But she she said to me, she's like: Oh, you're the first black person I've ever met. And you look 25. And she said that to me. And she was like: Oh, this is incredible. But she wasn't that, you know, booed about it. She just that was just what she was saying. And she was like: Oh, she was asked me this question that fascinate it was really bizarre, but she just never met a black person before. And you know, she's, she's lived in Bath, but she moved to London. And then she was like, oh, and we were living in Stratford. And she's like, there were so many black people out here. She's like, I'm a bit scared and like, mugged me. And that's what she said. And, again, she didn't mean it. In the most. She wasn't like that, if you see what I mean, it was just like that kind of accidental racism based on stereotype. And she was nervous and didn't know about it. And so I think there's a difference between that sort of thing. So she was saying, same sort of thing. So if you also have a company in bar or whatever, where is predominantly white, that's not their fault. That it like you said, that sense and I feel like, I feel like I don't want it to be the other way around. So at the moment, there's so much criticism, like there's so many things what, you know, Marks and Spencers have renamed their sweets because I couldn't call it midget gems. Let's call it mini gems, and there's like a road in Yorkshire or something, I think it's called like darky alley or something like that was deemed racist and to change it, but that's just too much. I feel like there's, there's no like mal intention there at all. Like, that's just, you know, and it's not really causing a problem.


Robert Craven  27:55

I mean, they've got whiteladies road and they've got black boy.


Sabrina Chevannes  27:58

It's not like, it's not like on those modes that only one demographic lives. It's different if that was the case. But I think like, you know, take this a BB agency safe it was all white all male, right? I don't think there's anything wrong with that. In general, I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that they've done that I don't think that means that agents is racist or sexist at all. I just think that they've just happened to hire people that they get on with and they just and again, naturally you'll get on with people who are from similar backgrounds, you have the same interest and that's just what happens. What I think the reason for diversity there is so that you can do a good job. So say take those say let's I'm making this up eight lads came from university, they all became friends and started to create an agency together or probably say 25 to 30, white middle class, male intellect rugby, likes to go skiing in in March, I'm being really.


Robert Craven  28:59



Sabrina Chevannes  29:02

Something exists like that, let's say if that does happen. They're probably really good at their job. Right? You know, they probably had a great upbringing. So they probably you know, did well good at school make straight A's brilliant students like whatever, probably really, really good at their job. And they probably can produce some fantastic campaigns and everything like that, where I think the issue then lies is say if they tried to like pitch for a sofa had a female brand or something like so, for example, you know, we we get a lot of female bands come to us for obvious reasons, but you know, so if it was about women's problems or fertility issues or menopausal issues or whatever, like that sort of thing. None of them can relate like none of them know they can be empathetic, they can be very intelligent about it and they can be do their research, but no one will truly get it if you see what I mean. And it will be really hard for them to produce the best possible work because they won't understand it. But if they have one member of their team, he fit into that demographic, they could then really, truly relate their feelings onto other teams and team members, and they would then be able to produce better content or whatever. And I think that's the, that's the important diversity, diversity. And again, it doesn't have to be diverse in terms of those demographics and talks about it could be in terms of class or you know, interests. So, you know, if you have a brand that comes to you, and their target audience is actually the working class, how many agency owners would relate to that, but it's, you're not going to have that. And so you're not just gonna, you're just not going to produce as good of work as you could have done. Unless you have someone employed in your team, who came from a working class background, maybe their parents, you know.


Robert Craven  30:48

Surely that's also the fault of the client for not going: Oh, this is interesting, though. They're all their own path rugby tops.


Sabrina Chevannes  30:56

But maybe, also from BB and one to the rugby. But the rest of the team work. That's the problem. And that's, and that's we've had that problem before in the past, where the marketing managers really like us. And then the CEOs don't like us, because they're just different demographics, and that sort of thing, as well. And they will always go with someone that they think they can relate to, or they can talk to you that in their meetings will be interesting with and I think that's the problem, I don't think there's also the even the selection process who said it is the fault of the client, sometimes it's not the fault of the agency. And, and maybe that's where the whole niching thing comes into play. And that that bath rugby team agency probably shouldn't be pitching for work like that. And they understand that, and they might not do, obviously showing a very extreme example. But it also shows a case of where the clients aren't picking the right agencies for that, for that work, they should really be looking at who is in the team, and how they can relate and understand their brand.


Robert Craven  31:49

Everyone thing is everyone, so I work with an ad personnel agency, who I sent you in the call before who I think they've got one, one white man over the age of 40. And I think three or four other white guys, and everyone else is either either female and or of colour. And, and that's probably not deliberate, that's actually mainly geographical because of where they are in London. And, and there's a very large Asian community there. But they discovered that all the people who had the brains to become a doctor or an accountant or a lawyer who couldn't bear the idea of doing that, we're also running working in digital in digital space. So you've got these incredibly bright, incredibly bright, 25 and 28 year old people whose brains like this, who are just doing bloody awesome work. And, and, yeah, in some senses, the client should be looking, I guess, for diverse agencies if that if that's what my point is. So I'm rambling. But my point is, everyone claims to be diverse. Everyone has that photo of throwing the ball in the air, and they push the push the females and the people of colour to the front, you know, and the old white guy stare at the bank. And everyone claims, you know, our values open, honest, transparent, where we started off, yeah, we believe share value, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I guess my point is, some do, but I think many, many don't. And it's like, it's like, we're back to Seth Godin is all marketers are liars. You know.


Sabrina Chevannes  33:38

That's, that's pretty true. Like, it's actually really bad. But that's, again, the whole load audit thing. And that's what people say to me. When they interview me, like, I've never met a marketers so on, it's like, and then that's the thing because it is true. And I get this a lot with, like, you know, the type of posts that I write on LinkedIn, and people say: No, you need to be more marketing about it, or you're too open and untried and honest about it, that you'll be you shouldn't be saying that stuff. And it's a common thing that I get told a lot. And, and, and unfortunately, marketing is that in some ways, if you were to define marketing, it's basically is lying in a way it's like you are framing something in a certain way, but I that's where I don't like it. I don't ever want to have to lie for client. I don't think that's ever the right strategy. I think you could definitely positively find things that different but like, you know, having to straight out lie, that's just wrong. But I do think that there is that thing in agency world where it might say even take, take an agency or go for a pitch I can say. And I said that I think that the right thing to do with clients is to look at the team of who you're working with and understand the see how they will fit your brain. But then you'll get agencies now who handpick people who would fit that brief and ask them to come pitch as part of the team. And again, that's also dishonest. In my opinion, you could say these people are contractors that I work with them, but they will. They'll pitch them as part of a team. And they'll try to pick a diverse team saying these are the people understand that they just happen to be perfect for your brief. And it's a whole game in that sense. So there is a whole thing of that. And it's just it's keep going rad.


Robert Craven  35:20

 So what are you saying? Are you saying that there should just be more diverse, generally more diversity? And people just be more honest about it? Are you saying that non relatively non diverse agencies shouldn't be pitching for work that's not related to them? Or what's your where are you?


Sabrina Chevannes  35:42

And so I just want to clarify as well, when I say diverse, it doesn't mean you have a whole agency of women and people of colour, because it's by definition, not diverse, because you do need to white males, and otherwise, it's just not. So when I say when I say diverse, I mean, truly diverse. I mean, the idea of any company, not just agency, what any company, if I feel like you need to have people of all races, genders, religions, like sexuality, just say that, you understand what it's like. And I think that also, just from a cultural perspective, in our team, for example, we have all these, like random conversations with the office, and you can learn stuff about other people. And they'll come up with stories about what it's like in their religion, or their culture, or even as a life as a bisexual male, like WhatsApps. Like, they come up with stuff and and the rest of the team is just educated. And the rest of the team sort of has their eyes open to what it's like, in that. And I feel like, just having that really diverse culture is just healthy for everyone to learn about what it's like, and just the empathy that you can get for other people. I think that's really important. And that's why I think diversity is important. I'm not saying that you shouldn't necessarily pitch for projects that you don't that you know, that you don't relate to. But I do think that from a client perspective, is it's not the agency's fault, because they want work and they want money, right. So it's really the clients fault. But I think from an agency perspective, clients perspective, they should really be picking agencies who, who can relate to it. So there's a reason why we get tonnes of fashion and beauty and like wellness, women's stuff that comes to us, because there aren't that many female led agencies who also can build the website and etc, and actually get it and the amount of times I have a call with someone, and then I: Oh, my God, you're the first agency has actually asked me that question. And I don't know why no one's ever asked that. And I'm just like, it's really obvious. But to me, it's obvious. But to the next person, it may not be obvious just because I get it. And like vice versa, if I on a client call, I might not understand something else. And same thing, because I just don't, I just don't have that mindset. And I think that's where diversity is really important, because you can, and then around the table, if you have like a whole table, brainstorming something, and if you have people from all different walks of life, then the questions that you can bring up about that brand, you'll be able to, like, discover so much more about it and, and be aware of so many more competitors, and all that sort of stuff. And I just think it just changes everything. So that's the reason why I think diversity is so important when it comes to marketing just from to get a much more holistic view of everything and actually find out more about what's relevant to your brand.


Robert Craven  38:23

And your argument would be, therefore, that that was a more diverse agency. You're able to deliver content, which is going to be better received, and will be more more rounded.


Sabrina Chevannes  38:43

Yeah, I think that and I think there'll be fewer mistakes as well, from the perspective of.  I mean, I've actually also written I wrote a social media post last year for Black History. And two members of my team personally texted me asking me to take it that. And I was like, wow, I wrote a post basically. So every month, we did a dedication on different prominent figures in Black History, the white one or Harriet Tubman. And I wrote something about the life along the lines of, you know, what, she's what she's done is incredible. You know, if it wasn't for her, then, you know, most black people will still be slaves. And I was like: No, I certainly wouldn't be still running an agency right now. I certainly wouldn't be that session. So I'm very, very thankful for the work that she's done in history, blah, blah, some of those lines, but to white members of my team, so they weren't comfortable with that wording, because they were saying that as team members, I think it was written in that way. And it was like our director, whatever they felt like that It would sound like save someone thought that they wrote it, it, they thought it would sound racist or something. And they didn't like it. But I think of that, because I just didn't think of that. And I still think about, I still look at that, I don't understand how that could be portrayed as racist or bad. It's only complementary, it was only, but again, I have to take other people's feelings into consideration. And for me who's not why I didn't understand why people would be but they didn't they both on separate separately privately messaged me saying: Please, can you remove that I don't like that, I don't feel comfortable that. And so, you know, there's, that's the other thing, like, you know, from from from the flip reverse of that, I, I didn't understand that. And I could have done with a voice of like, that was them helping me. So therefore, you see that was and that was a white female and a white male. So there were there were different. But they both didn't feel comfortable with it. But like I said, from from just from a rounded perspective, having people's different views, and okay, there's obviously some, some argument for too many cooks and all that stuff. And if you have like a million different people around the table, you're gonna have a really different opinions, and you're not going to have satisfies all of them. But at least you can consider a well rounded view of a situation rather than just one perspective. And I think if you have different demographics put up with providing their perspective on a situation, you're less likely going to miss certain those big errors that people are made as big marketing babies that people talk about, and have to, like, kind of make up for it. So


Robert Craven  41:39

I'm just gonna just flip it around again, there is, you know, I would argue, you an advantage of of being visible, I put my size 12 well as on of being in a minority, and as much as because there aren't many women and because there aren't many people of colour in the industry, you stand out for what of a better word, and that that should be could be and I think probably is, is to your advantage, because it's not: Oh, there she is. That Sabrina? I met her before age men. So yes, there is there is there is an upside.


Sabrina Chevannes  42:26

Maybe I think you're right in that I definitely stand out. But it may not be for good reason. Like, I think that, for example, in the agency world, I'm known as the loud opinionated one. And when that's because I am loud and opinionated, because I pretty much am. But also then it could be like a negative connotation to because I'll be like: Oh, well, not to black women allowed and, you know, opinionated. And that's how they are. And they'll stereotype it. And you know, then if I get angry about something, they call me, the angry black woman. And so it can also backfire. So, you know, whilst it could be a good thing can be a fantastic thing, like I could tradition to be able to use diversity to my advantage, like you said, there's not many, how many black female agency owners do you know, there's gonna be very few. And, you know, I could perhaps even go into a pitch saying that, and I could offer a diverse perspective, I'm not trying to do that, to be honest. But I think that what what I've noticed is, you know, again, generally, when we've lost pictures, the marketing managers have generally got unwell really well with us, and they've generally been female. And then when it comes to the ultimate decisions, the male CEOs don't relate to us. And every time I've looked at who's then one, that pitch is always an agency that's very white, male driven, whether that's a coincidence or not, I don't know. But that's what's happened. And it's, it's, I think, again, it's just who you relate to, it might not be, and it's not everyone, don't get me wrong, some people will be like, who I am and what I have to say, and obviously otherwise, I wouldn't be here otherwise. But you know, I think that that happens a lot. And again, it's just because if they are white male in their 40s, then they're probably going to relate to someone else is white and male in their 40s. That's just how it is. And likewise, if I have, if I have someone come to me, who's a mixed race woman in their 30s isn't the same stuff as me and is on a pitch, I'm probably going to connect with her more and I probably stand more chance to do it. So it could go the other way. There's just again, there's that fewer black females money into my businesses out there. So therefore, again, I have that disadvantage in that sense, but but you never know that there might be more people who are looking for a diverse look on beans and...


Robert Craven  44:40

And glass half empty. The time is just zapped by. I have two final questions for you. So the first one The first one is, is what is what do you want people to take go away from this interview. So I'll give you that give a little think about that. So the first one is what do you want people to take away from this interview? Because there is some messaging going on here. And the second question which you can come to after that is, what are those words? You endlessly seem to be saying to people? What are those, those golden nuggets that you seem to say to agents that people are running agencies all the time that that you can't not necessarily tire off? But like, if I were you, I do that when people ask you about growing an agency. So so what what do you what do you see as the key takeaways from this from this conversation?


Sabrina Chevannes  45:35

Yeah, I think there's two perspectives, one from the like employee and one for employer sort of, so to speak. So I guess, like the employee perspective, is that if you are a person of colour, or you're in a minority of some kind, whether that's again, like a sexuality, whatever it is, and you feel intimidated, or you feel like you can't make it in the creative world, I'd say that's changing. And you need to just you need to find if you're really passionate about creativity, and your whatever, whichever field it is, then go for it. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, you know, you will find someone who isn't bigoted, and someone who will support you. And there are so many amazing people, obviously have talked about the negative side of things, but there are the creative, the creative world, is so supportive in general, there are so many incredible people out there, like agencies might be seen as competitors, but they're really supportive of each other still, there'll be they'll have each other's back. And there will always be someone out there, who will take you under their wing and support you and teach you until you can become, you know, successful in your industry. So don't be put off by any of the negative stuff that you've faced, or any sort of racism, sexism, any of that sort of stuff that you face, because you will face that in whatever industry you go into. That's just unfortunately, life. And unfortunately, there are still lots of scumbags out there who still judge people from, for whatever reason they do, and there's nothing you can ever do about those people. But what you need to do is find the people who aren't like that, and then the amazing people who will support you, and then there are people out there and the creative world is full of filled with them. And so just surround yourself by those people, you'll you'll be you'll be good. So that's that's the first thing from that perspective. from an agency perspective, I'd say that my my takeaway message is the fact that try not to see DI just another thing that you have to do as an agency owner, but it's stressful as an agency owner, but you have all these things that you have to think about, like finding clients, finding staff already, there's kind of two things that you know, we had was a bind, but then there's all this stuff. Now, sustainability is another buzzword, you know, wellness, like, you know, team of our mental health, it's like, there's always a new thing every day that you have to worry about spending thing, you know, and it's just like, it's stressful. And dei is one of those things that: Oh, my God, and they look around and like you said that accidentally built their team and like, my entire agency is white. Oh, my God, what do I do? Am I racist? Like, and no, that's fine. That's absolutely fine. Don't stress about it. But then what I'm trying to say is realise the advantages of diversity, don't see it as just another annoying thing that you need to do. One to get that diverse team in because it will do wonders for your business. And it will actually open up your eyes and your client and produce better client work. And it just be a much more fun environment. Having more cultures on your team, you'll learn more, you'll just, it's just amazing thing. So I would just want agency owners to realise that VDI shouldn't be something to be scared of and think of another annoying thing that you have to do. But actually, it's a wonderful thing that you can now take advantage of because, again, from the first point, there are more people coming into the industry, it is becoming more diverse. It's like now more than ever, you've got the opportunity to have more women and more people of colour and everyone in the industry. So it's great, take advantage of that and take advantage of what they can do. So that's what those will be my takeaway key messages I'd say from from a Facebook perspective.


Robert Craven  49:07

Then finally, just what are your golden nuggets? Are the things you seem to be you find yourself saying to other agency owners, when people come to you and ask you about setting up an agency? What are the sort of things you find yourself saying to them, is it put up prices or whatever, I'm going to be curious to know about what your what your kind of general sort of, well worn phrases are.


Sabrina Chevannes  49:30

Stuff a lot of stuff comes from staff is like, when to hire new staff or like, you know, what do I look for in new staff? The question of do I go junior training them up or go senior straightaway, but obviously, like there's pros and cons of both. That's a common thing. I get that a lot. And I would say for me, regardless of what level they're at it they have to absolutely I know people say I hire culture. First of all stuff I've always have done but I think that's a cliche term as well, what I'd say is more important than anything. And I've even gone through this recently, I've gone through a bit of a firing session with my team, because it's values for me, it's ethics and values. If they don't have that, right, you should have everyone that has all these company values on the face of things they put on a website, it's a whole thing that people do. But how many people actually do the whole employee values? How many people do the internal things I don't think, as many people do, and I think that's so important is what are the values of the staff that you want surrounded by you and your team? Because I think that a lot of people hire people because they're desperate to get them in. But then think about it. So if you landed your ideal client, everyone's got that target client, ideal client, and they want to land or whatever. Imagine they turn around and go, I'd like to do that. I know, you're tight team, do you feel confident that all of your team would reflect you well, and do a good job and all that sort of stuff? And a lot of people that actually know, when I asked that question, I say: No, I'm actually not, I was thinking each of those team members are you're worried about you won't affect your company well, or won't do a good job or let you down. You just get rid of them, essentially, or training them up, depending on how bad it is. And only hire people who can so for me, staff is a big thing. I guess the biggest thing, me personally, is because like I said, I'm very vocal about when things go wrong. I'm very vocal about it, I will put on LinkedIn. And I'm like, okay, so this crap happened to me. This sucked, like, Why do I want to own a business? It's horrible. It's stressful. And it's like, you know, a nightmare. And so, but every time something bad happened, I always find a lesson to learn from it. And and, and how I can stop this happening again, there's always some there's always some sort of positive comes from it. I think the question that people always ask me is, how do I survive? Like, how do you? How do you get through all these bad points? And how do you keep going, like, when do you think I actually this is really bad, I need to give up. And I think for me, it's because I always, like when it got really, really bad. I think rock bottom when I felt like I was like, I couldn't take any more. I sat there and thought, right, if I had all the resources in the world, I could do anything in the world, what do I do? And after a long, hard think I basically was like, think I would do this, like, I still want to do this. It's like, really, really pathetic. But I was like, I'm doing what I want to do. Like, this is pretty much what I wanted to do all my life, and I've got a formula as to get here. This is just part of the roller coaster that you need to go through to do it. So I would say for those people who are stressing thinking, is this what I want to do really, really reflect and think, Is this really what you want to do. Because if it's not, then you probably shouldn't be doing. Like, we've learned that life is definitely too short. But if it's really, really what you want to do, then you need to start thinking right, this is a hot this is one of the lows of of the highs and lows of life of an entrepreneur. And then work out how to cut out those lows, or at least make them a bit higher than they were. And you know, go on. But as soon as you realise that that is actually what you're meant to do. There was no other path. You just need to make this pathway and ride that wave. And I think that's that's one of the things I'd say.


Robert Craven  53:06

Brilliant. Absolutely, absolutely loved interviewing you. Our time is up. People will follow you no doubt the links are coming afterwards. And they'll certainly follow your blog. It's been an absolute pleasure talking with you. And all I can say is thank you very much.


Sabrina Chevannes  53:24

No problem. Thanks for having me.