Lisa Hennessy | #WomenWhoKnow Interview
Name: Lisa Hennessy
Location: Los Angeles
Company/Brand: Fernweh, Slow Content Studio
IG Handle / Website: fernweh.land, @fernweh.land, slowcontent.studio, @slowcontent.studio
“I got more and more fed up with the ego driven bro-culture and wanted to work with people who want to make a difference in the world…”
How did your company/brand come to be?
I have been a Creative Director, working in Advertising and Design for nearly 15 years now. Big, international agencies for the longest time, first full time, later freelance, here in LA and before that Berlin, London, Amsterdam. I got more and more fed up with the ego driven bro-culture and wanted to work with people who want to make a difference in the world instead of just more profit. So I started Fernweh. Now I am able bring my expertise to start-ups and mid-level brands who want to do things differently and help them be competitive in the market and grow.
The project you are most proud of?
The smaller ones that really make a difference in peoples lives make me much prouder then the world wide ad campaigns that won awards and such. If I help my client Junes sell more reusable bags, not only will I encourage the use of less plastic in the world, but I will also support the women's co-op in Mexico that make a portion of the bags. And the challenge to create something fun and meaningful for a brand with a small budget can be tough, but is always more rewarding than a giant photoshoot with 20 people involved.
What have you found to be the greatest difference between working as a creative in Berlin and a creative in LA?
In Berlin (especially in my industry) the competition was immense, and women in leadership roles were rare. It felt like you had to be tough, one of the guys, there wasn’t much support.
Here in LA I am still in awe about the incredible networks of women, coming together to support one another, sharing, helping, inspiring each other. Everything feels more collaborative and I love that.
Maybe the constant sunshine does make people happier and therefore a bit nicer too…
“We believe that it is time to take our own frustration with social media and the way the world consumes information these days and turn it into a movement.“
I heard you've started a studio with your husband called Slow Content Studio, tell us what is Slow Content?
Ah, yes. This is brand new. Slow Content is our personal, little revolution against everything superficial and careless.
We believe that it is time to take our own frustration with social media and the way the world consumes information these days and turn it into a movement. It worked for slow food and slow fashion after all, so I think rethinking content is the logic next step.
We want to create content that means something again. We want to take our time and craft and curate, evoke feelings and translate a brands true purpose. I believe this is what will connect brands with the right audience and can finally allow us to take a breath in this world of lies and performative living.
As a creative director you set the tone and the design direction, how do you manage to work with so many personalities and their creative perspectives?
Empathy. You have to understand where each person comes from. What they know and understand about themselves and their brand and how to help them find their purpose. It’s mostly a matter of listening and taking your own ego out of the equation. It’s a process. And there is no single solution for everyone.
You approach bigger brands differently than individuals who are often times creative themselves and have their own personalities tied up in the brand.
I assume there are times that one can have a creative block, what do you when this happens for you?
Take a break, go for a walk, or look at any form of inspiration. What also always helps me is to talk to someone who isn’t involved in the project. Explaining my thoughts to somebody else usually clear up what was standing in your way to begin with.
Or just sleeping on it and starting fresh in the morning. Breaks are the most important thing for a good process, I have learned. After years of just powering though, not sleeping enough and eating in front of my computer, I realized that regular breaks make me so much more efficient in the long run.
I find women have a hard time selling themselves. What is your philosophy when pitching your company? Do you lead with pitching your mission or your work? Or are you a hider and pray people will find you?
I am definitely one of them. I was lucky and never had to do any of the selling as a freelancer, people knew me and found me.
It’s a totally different story of course, when it comes to running your own company. You have to fill all the roles. And the pitching and finance side of things is definitely a struggle. I try to just have genuine conversations with people and help where I can. I do believe that great connections lead to collaborations with the right people and that you don’t necessary need to get salesy to find your ideal clients. Ideally your own mission and purpose speak for yourself and the right people will connect organically.
I do have to remind myself regularly that what I am offering is a service that most smaller or mid-size company’s usually can’t get. A creative director that helps them see the bigger picture of their brand and holds the reigns on all things visual usually costs a lot of money if they were to hire a full time person, not to talk about hiring a bigger agency. So offering them the same knowledge on a totally affordable retainer basis is great. But still, I struggle sometimes, like most creatives I know.
What do you look for in a community? Knowledge? Support? Connection? (rate each 1-5, 5 being most important)
Connection, I think, that leads to support and knowledge. I feel like the most helpful thing is to just hear other people struggling with the same thing. Breaking through the instagram perfection and hearing real stories.
What's the one thing you outsourced that helped your business grow?
The first thing for me was book keeping. I just want as little to do with numbers as possible. And for me it wasn’t so much the time I spent actually doing my accounting, but the days that lead up to it, filled with dread and frustration, knowing that I had to do it. The procrastination around it was incredible. So, having a fantastic book keeper freed up so much more than a couple of hours per month for me.
“I strongly believe that we are always better, when we open up and let others in. You are never done learning.”
If you could name one woman in the world to be mentored by, who would that be?
Uh, so many…ideally I would have a board of advisors. I would go with Brené Brown for her vulnerability and people skills, Vivienne Westwood for confidence and trusting your instincts and simply not giving a fuck what others think about you, Miki Agrawal for her innovative thinking and Nathalie Molina Niño for her crazy business skills. And then, if I could please have Maya Angelou back, and Mary Oliver, my board would be complete.
How important is collaboration for your business?
I strongly believe that we are always better, when we open up and let others in. You are never done learning.
I love feedback, I love working with so many of my talented friends. I love working with my husband.
And without a great team of people who care just as much about their work and get obsessed over the small details like I do, I couldn’t do it.
A key part of success is building strong, professional relationships. What practices do you use to cultivate relationships in your community?
I offer support and connection where I can. Not because I expect anything in return, but because I want to help and connect.
I am truly interested in people and I get so excited about someones ideas and dreams that I can’t help myself but support them where I can.
And I love sharing my studio space Downtown. Inviting people there to work is such a wonderful thing. It helps everyone to get out of their own space every once in a while and the big table that we have there and the light make it the best place for conversations, inspiration and collaboration.
What’s in store for 2019?
We just launched Slow Content Studio, so I am hoping we get to work on some wonderful projects together with people who feel the same way about quality work filled with meaning and love.