Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham. Maz Coote and Roxy Jacenko. Romy White and Michelle Weinberger. Iconic female friendships that also serve as successful creative partnerships are so few and far between that when we come across them, we insist on celebrating them.
Here at Social Concepts and Oraco, we are lucky to be able to live and breathe the epitome of #SquadGoals on a daily basis. Part of what makes this boutique and busy agency so special is the uniqueness of showing up to an industry we love each day, amongst people who truly support and care about one another.
Leading that team is our very own home-grown, iconic duo – directors, Jessica Humphreys and Leanne Nicholson.
Jessica and Leanne are business partners as well as great friends. In light of celebrating all things International Women’s Day, I caught up with them away from the desk to find out a little bit more about how this partnership came about, and why it seems to work so well.
You have worked together for almost 4 years now – what’s the best part about working with each other?
Leanne: Working with Jessica has given me a lot of knowledge and experience beyond design and web. We bounce ideas and questions off one another and really supported each other throughout our start-up stages.
Jessica: The best part is really just not having to do it all on your own. I started freelancing in 2013 and quickly realised that I needed someone with design skills to help out. I put up a post on Facebook in early 2014 and a mutual friend tagged Leanne. I had lots of people enquire and I interviewed one more person, but ultimately I knew Leanne was a perfect fit from the start.
Can you talk me through a typical day in each of your roles as directors (if there is such thing as a typical day)?
Leanne: Haha, you’re right, no day is similar for us! I like to start the day off answering emails. I then go through my tasks for the day and prioritise them. Every day really is different; we could be working on anything from mobile app branding and corporate brochures, to merchandise and go-kart decals – it really varies from week to week.
Jessica: Ha! There definitely isn’t a typical day, but there are certainly some consistent tasks that occur every day. I wake up and scan the media, social media and emails every day before writing my to-do list. As far as work goes, sometimes I might have multiple client meetings, at other times I need to meet with and support staff, and then there’s also my own work I need to complete. I often end up doing most of my own tasks in the evening when everyone else goes home and the emails aren’t flowing in.
What would you say the other one’s strengths are?
Leanne: Jessica has a wealth of knowledge and experience and is always thinking about the big picture. She is solutions-focussed and she’s always thinking about a number of ways our clients can leverage their campaigns and ideas.
Jessica: Leanne has so many strengths. She has the ability to look beyond creating designs that are visually appealing. She creates concepts that deliver clear messages. She thinks about marketing as a whole and is able to offer valuable insights across every part of a project – we are a team in every sense.
Tell us a little bit about your friendship outside work?
Leanne: We clicked instantly! We like to call ourselves twins because we have a ridiculous amount in common – from our taste in music and dress sense to our passion for animal & human rights, and the environment.
Jessica: Leanne is my twin! Our interests are so similar; it’s quite uncanny actually. We both follow similar lifestyles and have the same political and social values. We love live music, eating veggie or vegan food, animals and jewellery. As a result, a strong bond and friendship has formed outside of work. I really miss Leanne when she is not around and every time something of significance occurs in my life she is one of the first people I want to tell.
What are your top tips for managing your wellbeing being a small business owner?
Leanne: I’m very guilty of having not done this the past 6 months. It’s VERY easy to get caught up in work and forget to look after yourself. I love yoga, running and getting outdoors on weekends to camp, kayak and bike ride. I also love live music – it’s one thing that can put a smile on my face instantly.
Jessica: Get a Leanne! Seriously, I think having someone to rely on is pivotal. Both Leanne and I have had breaking points throughout the years and thankfully, they don’t often happen at the same time which means that we are able to help the other one dust off and pick up again.
We’re actually going away together later this month to bond over our passion for live music and the hippy lifestyle at Bluesfest. Taking time out has been a problem for both of us the past few years. We both work exceptionally hard and we work long hours. We are dedicated and often struggle to be away from work but we now recognise the importance of having a life outside of work as well as having time to rest and recharge at times.
What women inspire you and how?
Leanne: Any woman who stands up for what they believe in, does what they love despite setbacks, helps others and makes a difference is super inspiring to me! There are so many amazing women – past and present – that do just this. One, in particular, that has inspired me is Jane Goodall. She has dedicated her life to a cause she feels so strongly about and has made huge contributions to chimpanzee habitat conservation and restoration.
Jessica: Mia Freedman and everything she has achieved within her career inspires me – I’ve watched her career grow and blossom with interest. I’m also inspired by the everyday women around me – the movers and the shakers – and the women who stand up every day for what they believe in.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to creative professionals just starting out their careers or looking to start and build their own businesses?
Leanne: Don’t wait or hold off on anything! Jump right in and take those big leaps. Get involved with your community and your clients as much as you can. Ensure that you take breaks from work and do other things that you love, as you will be so much more productive. Make sure you’re passionate about what you do and never lose it – passion is a huge driver of motivation and the foundation for success.
Jessica: Start. You can spend your whole life planning but the reality is you need to start and you will most quickly learn along the way that all of those things you planned look a little different in reality. You need to go with the flow and be prepared to change course when and if required. We are in a landscape where tech and digital are moving so quickly things can change in a matter of hours!
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