Her creative spirit trapped in the day job of a lawyer found a way to break through and manifest itself into Joanna's heart project @offbeatagency - a collaborative creative and editorial agency. Joanna and her multiple collaborators offer individuals and businesses content creation, story-telling, and people relations - interacting with their audiences in an authentic way in order to build trust.
Joanna's story shows that true passion and determination, even if it means starting over from zero, will lead you to fulfillment and happinness. Read more about it in the interview below!
Joanna, what drew you to become an entrepreneur?
It has been quite a journey! When I was young, the things that made me feel truly alive all revolved around creativity and people. But I struggled with how they translated into a career. I think there are few people who, at a young age, are lucky enough to know how to turn their passions into professions.
At school we were encouraged to follow ‘traditional’ career paths – lawyer, doctor, etc - and the world of the entrepreneur was only something for the brave. I wasn’t brave then, so to be very honest I just picked one of the traditional professions and crossed my fingers that later in life I could work out how to make something out of my passions. The problem was that I picked being a lawyer as I loved the courtroom dramas on TV – not exactly the best rationale!
Well, as any lawyer will tell you, it’s a long and hard road. Years later I was working as a lawyer in the City and wondering what had happened to the creative girl I used to be. I didn’t feel like my working life was my own, and I knew I needed to change, but the thought of starting over at the age of 29 was terrifying. I knew that writing was where I needed to start, and so I spoke with different publishing houses. The big thing was that my CV just screamed ‘lawyer’! I realised that I would have to start at the bottom again and work my way up, so I joined a niche legal publishing house and trained in each department to really know all about the business before becoming an editor. It was the scariest yet best decision I ever made!
It also meant a huge pay cut, but I can honestly say that it has never been about the money, it has been about finding the things that make me happy and those things do not have a price tag.
Joanna, you started your entrepreneurial journey as a solopreneur, but over time you built a network of experts to support your vision. What made you adopt this approach?
The Agency started life as a solo project for a few years in London, and it was through this that I got offered the opportunity to be the editor of Iberian Lawyer magazine in Spain and Portugal and based in Madrid. This opened many doors, for which I am so grateful, one of which was a move to Barcelona to work with RCD, a law firm with an incredible trajectory. I worked alongside one of its founders Ignasi Costas, an amazing entrepreneur, whose vision and innovative spirit was infectious, as was his faith in me as a person.
These pit stops allowed me to learn and grow and made me want to take up the reigns of my solo project again and create something more than just ‘me’. With the incredible amount of talent there is around the world, and the ease of working virtually, the ability to collaborate with people worldwide on projects was too appealing.
And so The Offbeat Agency was born, with the goal of creating a worldwide community of collaborators under one 'collaborative creative and editorial agency' umbrella. It is through networking and wonderful communities such as LinkedIn and Instagram that I am connecting with some incredible talent that I can bring together to fit a client’s needs. This is the start of what I hope will be a long journey!
What are some of the challenges you face in your daily work as a business owner? On the flip side, what is the most exciting aspect of your work?
Every day and every project is a challenge, but that’s what makes it exciting. No two days are the same, and you’re constantly learning and improving. You have to accept that you are going to make mistakes, it’s inevitable. Just never make the same one twice! The biggest challenge, however, is financial, especially when you have made the switch from a 9-5 job with a guaranteed salary at the end of the month. It’s a rollercoaster, and you need to be prepared for the highs and the lows at the start.
We love, that you offer personalized packages and your motto is „one size does not fit all “. Can you share a bit more on why you have chosen this approach?
The ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ approach came from the fact that as a client, I was tired of being offered services that were generic, didn’t take into account what I actually needed, and offered no flexibility to tailor them. And if you do want tailor-made packages they always cost much more even if they give you less! I wanted the ability to be able to work with any business or individual, and the way I believe you can truly do that is by working with them to identify what they need and come up with a package. I’m not just selling you my services, we are working together and it’s all about ‘collaboration’ – the whole point of the Agency!
Non-profit collaborations are part of your life. Tell us about your current project: Dinners that Matter! Why is this project so important to you?
My frustration early in life, especially being a lawyer, was that I never really felt like I had made a difference in anyone’s life. When I started working for myself I was very clear that I was going to dedicate some of my time to non-profit, and I was lucky enough to meet Xavier Xargay, an entrepreneur and the founder of Dinners That Matter, and a friend for life! He is someone who gave me the opportunity, not just to collaborate with him, but to take on the project together, and for that I can’t thank him enough. He’s also set up a video channel for me so that I could do my favourite thing – have conversations with people! DTM is a non-profit bringing people, restaurants and businesses in support of their communities and local social projects. We’ve started in Barcelona and have other cities on our horizon. Quarterly dinners are held at collaborating restaurants that donate 25% of the total evening’s takings directly to a local social project. Each quarter we support a difference cause, and all people need to do is something they do already – go out for dinner! We have such a variety of restaurants, and anyone can get involved as there are no set menus or minimum spend, you could even just go for a coffee and still be contributing. Our next dinner is in Barcelona on 28 September so I invite any of your readers who are based here, or who will be visiting, to come and support us!
Do you have an advice for a woman who wants to start her own business, but hesitates (e.g. thinks she is not good enough, scared to leave current employment, feels responsible for family finance etc.)
While every woman has different responsibilities and limitations, I truly believe that fear and lack of confidence are the two biggest obstacles to women who want to set up their own businesses. They certainly were for me! And that’s where the support and help of a community can make the world of difference. Connect with like-minded people in your target market, and ask for advice – don’t be afraid! But the key thing I would say to anyone is to first ensure that you are doing it for the right reasons: to follow your passion. Because if you’re not passionate about your business then how can you expect anyone else to be?!
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