Interview with Screenshot about the creation of Platform LDN, a youth agency I co-founded.
New gen bosses: Navi Ahluwalia, co-founder of PlatformLDN on going from an internship project to a youth creative collective
New gen bosses is a new series created to guide and inspire more people to go out there on their own, either as new business founders or freelancers. And what better way to do that than to ask the ones that already succeed at it? We want to know about big fuck-ups and even bigger successes, and the risky decisions they had to make along the way. We want to be the last little push you needed.
Job title: Co-founder
Industry: Social Media and Marketing
Company founder or freelancer: Founder
Company name: PlatformLDN
How long have you been doing it: 2 years
What pushed you to start on your own?
As Platform was born out of an internship project, for quite some time, we relied on our mentors to help us figure out our next move and the direction we’d take in becoming a fully-fledged agency. Once the project ended and we were left to our own devices, we decided we didn’t want things to end and believed that it was something we could continue to develop independently.
What was the very first thing you needed to do to set everything up?
The very first thing we needed to do, but didn’t do, was to set clear roles and essentially job descriptions for each member. We needed to establish a long-term commitment through contracts and job specs but that’s something we, unfortunately, learned a little later!
What was the riskiest decision you had to take?
We got to a stage in our meetings where we felt like the old and new members weren’t meshing as well as they could and there was definitely some tension. We hosted two four-hour meetings where we let everyone get absolutely everything off their chest, took a three-month social media break to allow us to rebrand as a group and came back in the new year with a new sense of purpose and direction.
Taking a break from social media in a time where you’re just beginning can be super risky, but we all agreed we’d rather have a clearer sense of direction than a social media presence that didn’t make sense to everyone.
What was a skill you didn’t foresee needing that you had to learn?
Team management for sure. Up until starting our own agency, none of us really had a chance to develop the skills required to lead, manage or motivate a team of other young people since we’d all either be working for ourselves or in junior positions at other companies. Eventually, we realised we had a lot of learning about each other to do—our goals, our motivators and our aims.
At what moment did you realise that this was going to work out?
I think I speak for the team when I say we knew for sure we were onto something when we were offered a monthly slot for a radio show on Soho Radio. We knew we had something to offer that not a lot of other agencies did, something that relied on the collective power and creativity of young people and something that hasn’t been found anywhere else.
What did you spend your money on?
We spent our money on paying the creatives that we chose to work with; artists exhibiting at our events, musicians doing performances, the team working hard to staff these events and workshops that we put on. We wanted to ensure, as early on as possible, that we could afford to pay the people that we wanted to help.
What was your biggest fuck up?
When adding new members to the team, we didn’t take the time to properly get to know each other which at times left a bit of a ‘them VS us’ hierarchy which we’re really not about. As everyone on the team is still working somewhat full time, it’s been a difficult process to ensure we’ve all made time for each other and that we’re all on the same page. Though we’re definitely far closer to that goal now!
What was your biggest success?
We’ve been working on an initiative called Soho Music Month for two years now and have held some incredible events with big names like Red Bull, gal-dem and GRM Daily, which I know we’re all super proud of.
A few of the team recently worked on a project with Google this year, called the Social Switch Project, all about helping young people use social media responsibly, which meant a lot to us. Having said that, I think our biggest success is still yet to come, we’ve got so much on the cards for this year and honestly, we’re just getting started.
What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
To be a fully functioning agency, creative platform, whatever—you need to treat it like one even when it isn’t. Weekly meetings, meeting notes, actions—it’s all so important!
What are three tips you would give someone who wants to start on their own?
One: Surround yourself with people that motivate, uplift and inspire you—you can’t do it all. We’ve tried…
Two: There’s no rush, good things take time and time can be years.
Three: Know your niche, be very clear on what you have to offer and why it can’t be found from anyone else.