Making something new takes time and puts you in a vulnerable position. Finding support to help bring your ideas to life is a journey – Marie-Anne Leuty (she/her) announces a sponsorship that has enabled TQTB to grow.
Building new systems in real time is a trip…
We’ve been offline for a while to build partnerships with people who see where we’re trying to get to as a platform and work on new content. Obi and I have also been taking stock of the journey so far – let’s catch you up on where we’re at now.
Throughout 2021, the response to Journal 001 was resoundingly positive from individuals and organisations alike – people had never seen a publication like it. As an independent BIPOC-founded platform, TQTB exists to celebrate and highlight our community by centring the experiences and voices of people from historically excluded groups. But with lack of representation in media and creative, as well as a lack of resource, we face daily challenges to get our work out there.
Once we completed the renovation works to our studio space in the Bijlmer last summer, Obi and I delved into developing a strategy that would help us to grow the platform. We reached out to brands, creative agencies and funding bodies who all expressed how necessary and important our work is.
As a creative duo, we had to decide which opportunities were worth our time. We’re not designers so we learnt how to make pitch decks as we went. We made a dozen proposals for a dozen ideas in three months so there was no way to get paid work as well. Things were tight but with so much interest shown towards our ideas surely at least some of them would result in collaborations?
Ultimately, as one pitch after another fell through, we saw what we’d seen time and time again working as BIPOC creatives. Our proposals were strong but we still had to justify our ideas and jump through hoops to get meaningful support.
The serial rejection was disappointingly familiar.
Support from an unexpected space
The last of our pitches fell through in January. We had to look to other industries willing to make space for us.
A week later, I got a message from Jeroen De Lange, Vice President of Design at Adyen.
Founded in 2006, Dutch payments platform Adyen is one of the largest fintech companies in the world. Aimed at helping businesses grow, their products enable end-to-end payments, data and financial management using a single platform. In 2021, the fintech processed €516 billion worth of transactions for the likes of Uber, Spotify, Levi’s and eBay.
Jeroen was looking for people to join Adyen’s growing Design Studio and my name came up on his LinkedIn search. We spoke about the goals we were each trying to get to and he invited Obi and I to come in for a chat in person.
After more discussion, we shared an idea with him that had been rejected by a funding body a few weeks before. More on this in the coming weeks…
Persistence, tenacity and belief in our ideas were starting to bear fruit. After months of pitching and an initial chemistry test phase, we finally had a sponsor.
Improvement over perfection
Having tried so many avenues to get support, it came as an unexpected surprise to find a sponsor in the tech space.
Back in 2020, I left the industry. I’d been working as a UX writer and after two burnouts in three years I knew I had to leave. There were significant challenges navigating the industry as a woman of colour. However, what I appreciated most about my time there was the opportunity to learn about processes.
More specifically, iteration.
When tech companies make their products, they experiment, update and improve things all the time. Mistakes and failures are encouraged as a way to learn faster and make unexpected discoveries that go towards improving the user’s experience.
This is vastly different from working in the creative industry – a never-ending pursuit to create the perfect campaign before moving straight on to the next one at breakneck speed.
A tech sponsor that understands this iterative way of working enables us to build a system from the ground up that we need and deserve. Our partnership with Adyen gives us the resource to create from a state of grace and the opportunity to show up at work as ourselves.
Telling our stories our way
As we start on this new path, we’re grateful to be making this journey on the shoulders of giants whose knowledge and support have given us the confidence and resource to keep going on our own terms.
We’re building a new system in real time. It’s challenging. It’s messy. Trial and error is a part of the process. That’s precisely why we need space to iterate.
Since we started developing TQTB in 2018, we’ve tried out many combinations to see what does (or doesn’t) work when it comes to building a safe framework for ourselves as BIPOC makers.
Now with a sponsor we can implement what we’ve learned. That prioritises centring our needs and those of our communities in conversations that can lead to greater opportunity and autonomy.
Thank you to Jeroen and the Adyen Design Studio team for your support. We look forward to building something great together.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks for news about the initiative we’re developing with Adyen Design Studio that aims to make design more accessible and inclusive.
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Follow Marie-Anne: @marieanneleuty
Follow Obi: @obi.island
Follow Adyen Design: @adyendesign