SHE'S CONNECTING WOMEN WITH THE RESOURCES THEY NEED
There is a lot of talk about powerful women these days and for good reason. Women are leading the wave of business creation in just about every industry, the gender wage gap is being tackled head on, and here in the USA, we have a real shot at seeing a woman elected to be President for the first time. With all of this girl power going on, it can be easy to forget that the struggle is still oh so real and being felt on a global scale. From corporate to creative, the disparities amongst women and men is present. That's where Otegha Uwagba comes in with her London based collective, Women Who. Otegha's platform is a "URL and IRL network for creative working women" which includes everything from offline events, digital support and a nifty how-to handbook.
Who is Otegha Uwagba?
I’m the founder of Women Who, a London-based platform for creative working women I launched earlier this year. I set it up because I wanted to create a community for creative women that feels modern and relevant, and connect women who - separately - have the same thoughts when they wake up in the morning. It’s very much a combination of all the things I’m most inspired by: creativity, other women, and work.
Women Who is very much an online and offline endeavour – it’s a mixture of online content and real-life events, and there’s also a book that I wrote and self-published to commemorate the launch. I wanted to make some kind of physical item, and a friend suggested I write a book, which made sense as I really enjoy writing. I ended up creating the Little Black Book (www.womenwho.co/the-book), which is a toolkit for working women in the creative industries and beyond. It’s essentially a collection of practical and philosophical ideas to help working women along their way, and covers everything from negotiating pay increases and overcoming creative block, to public speaking and effective networking. I wrote it based on my own experiences and those of interesting creative women that I either knew or reached out to, and the response so far has been incredible – the initial print run sold out in two days, which was totally unexpected, and I had women buying it all over the world. I’ve now restocked so it’s available on the Women Who website.
Besides running Women Who, I’m also a freelance writer and brand consultant, having spent years working at media powerhouse Vice and world-renowned creative agency AMV BBDO.
Top 3 Takeaways:
1. Thinking about quitting your daytime job to pursue your passion? Write a plan and don't skip any details.
2. Share your creative process with others.
3. Work hard and be nice. It'll go a long way.
When did you decide to pursue your current career path?
Towards the end of last year. Career-wise I’d had itchy feet for a while, and I’d been toying with the idea of setting up something like Women Who for a really long time. I quite impulsively decided to quit what was a really great job and go freelance, to allow myself a bit more flexibility to pursue my own creative projects – namely writing more, and setting up a platform connecting like-minded working women.
How did you go from idea to execution?
It’s pretty boring but I started by making a very detailed written plan. I thought about all the different elements that needed to come together and mapped them out on an A3 piece of paper: everything from the logistics and admin, as well as the creative side of things, and all the strategic thinking and writing. I figured out where all the dependencies were, set some deadlines… and then I got to work! Obviously that plan changed as time went on, but it was useful to have that to refer back to. I also spent a lot of time writing and rewriting my strategy, so I was really clear about what I want Women Who to be, both at launch and in the future. Having that clarity when you’re trying to get a project off the ground is super important, because people will (for better or for worse) try to project their own interpretations and ideas of what you are onto you. You need to be able to retain the core idea behind what you’re doing.
How does the city you live in influence your creativity?
I think one of London’s best aspects lies in the value that’s placed on creativity, culture and the arts. People are so ready and willing to champion creativity, and it’s recognised as a really central feature of London life. That’s something which up until fairly recently I really took for granted, having lived and worked here my whole life – but starting Women Who has made me appreciate that anew and realise how unique and valuable that is.
What lessons have you learned from building your business?
Well I’ve only just begun so ask me that again in a few years’ time! One thing I’ve learnt even at this early stage, that’s been crucial to getting things off the ground is: don’t be afraid to open up your creative process to others. I’m very independent and tend to want to figure out everything on my own, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Recently, I was suffering from a real mental block on an ostensibly simple task, and it had gotten to the point where I wasn’t able to focus on anything because I was so obsessed with this one thing. Eventually I had the good sense to email a few friends and peers to get their opinions, and ended up exchanging a few emails with one friend in particular. She didn’t deliver the answer on a plate per se, but our conversation gave me a fresh perspective on my problem that definitely led me there. So that would be my advice – don’t try and do everything on your own.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue the same career as you?
Work hard and be nice to people. It’s such a standard and frequently repeated piece of advice that it’s become something of a cliché, but following those two basic principles – in any career – will get you so far. Although to clarify, ‘being nice to people’ doesn’t mean allowing them to walk all over you. It means being a decent person, which is something I always try to do.
What has been the pit and peak of your week so far? (a low and a high moment)
The pit has definitely been dealing with my finances. I’m generally pretty good with accounting but I’m dealing with something of a backlog, which is extremely tedious. I’m looking forward to being on top of things again.
The peak has probably been meetings I’ve had with various women and organisations for events I’m planning. My favourite part of doing this is getting to have conversations with like-minded women and hearing about their experiences – I could spend all day doing it. I have to be careful to reign myself in with meetings to make sure I’m actually getting work done!
In your words, what does it mean to be a “creative”?
To me it’s the process of putting your ideas, thoughts, and feelings into your work – that’s why there’s such an endlessly rich spectrum of creative work out there. The best kind of creative work is always a reflection of an individual’s unique combination of influences and inspirations, which can’t be replicated.
Top resources for creatives:
I always flick through Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org) when I’m looking for inspiration – it’s such a brilliant repository of interesting musings, and I love the way it draws inspiration from every corner of literature. I find it’s perfect for when you need new ways of looking at old problems.
The Dots (the-dots.com) is a great (UK-based) creative jobs board full of the kinds of jobs you actually want. It’s like Instagram meets LinkedIn. I’d recommend it to anyone in the creative industries who’s on the job hunt.
Finish this sentence:
I want people to remember me as: Kind.
If I only had 24 more hours to live, I would: Spend the day eating at every restaurant I’ve ever wanted to visit, accompanied by my friends, family, and plenty of wine. I’m never happier than when I’m at a dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) table.
If I had to choose a theme song to represent me it would be:
Work by Rihanna. This feels pretty apt given I spend so much of my time either working or thinking about work – and of course I’m a die-hard Rihanna fan.
For more information on Women Who visit www.womenwho.co
Photos courtesy of Felicity Davies