Lauren & Frances, Founders of Duo Creative Media

Think women can’t work together? Think again. Welcome to She’s My Cofounder, a series all about powerhouse cofounders who also happen to be (you guessed it) female. We’re going to be diving in with women who support and nurture each other through all things business and beyond to find out just exactly what it’s like working alongside a gal pal.

This week, we’re joined by Frances Para-Mallam and Lauren Brener the founders of Duo Creative Media. Duo Creative is a digital marketing and communications agency founded in 2016. The agency focuses on launching and challenging brands to work smarter, not harder by combining the principles of creative and media thinking up front as part of the solution – not as an afterthought. We discuss with these two power houses how they are combining forces together to build and transform amazing brands.
  1. How did you become co-founders and how long have you known one another?

 Lauren: We met about 7 years ago in a performance marketing agency in London, where we were both told that we were going to work with someone that we would get on really well with. Frances had been brought on to be the first designer of the agency and I was sitting under new business. We were both a bit perplexed about this as we had never met and felt a little bit like a blind date set up. But when I met Frances – I completely understood why they thought we would get on so well. She was bubbly, kind, brimming with ideas and laughed at all my terrible jokes. I knew it was meant to be!

We were thrown in together at the deep end of the media world to come up with the 1st social pitch for the agency (sounds strange – but 7 years ago, you were lucky if you had a Facebook page).  So with both of our creative backgrounds, we started to test the waters to see how far we could go. We won the pitch and within 3 years together in that agency we built a creative team within a media business.

Frances: When I met Lauren for the first time – she walked into the building as if she owned the place – full of confidence, dressed in black, ready to take on anything. She then sat next to me and said she loves to quote Borat. I knew from then on she was weird and wonderful and that we would get on like a house on fire. We spent 3 years together working across 20+ brands tying creative and media planning together.  At that time trying to combine Creative and Media was a bit like fraternising with the enemy – but we were able to test, learn and decipher different and more effective ways of work in the digital. We joked for ages about starting our own business – sitting during our lunch breaks fantasising over the idea, (giving ourselves the name F & L Media) but soon we stopped laughing about it and realised that it could actually be something worth considering as there must be a better way to work!

  1. Lauren & Francis, Founders of DUO Creative
    Frances Para-Mallam

    Trust is an important aspect in any relationship, how have you been able to build the trust between you?

Lauren: I have come to the conclusion that businesses are not made by things, computers, technology, presentations or even awards for that matter – rather the team you surround yourself with. Frances is literally the other half of me. Over our working relationship we have experienced a lot together – both successes and difficulties and I know that throughout all of these she is 100% behind me. The phrase – you are only as good as your next idea should be rewritten – You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.

Frances: We work in an industry that requires a lot from you. Long hours and lots to get through. We spend so much time together (more than we spend with our significant other halves!) and even after a long day – she is the person I want to have a cocktail with.

  1. Disagreements happen in every relationship, as co-founders how do you manage disagreements and making final decisions?

Lauren: I am the worrier and Frances is the cool thinker. This ying and yang helps us manage any potential concerns or disagreements. I sometimes need a bit of cooling and Frances sometimes need a bit of fire. So we compliment each other.

It also allows us to litmus test our ideas. It is through our differences that we find the best outcomes. It means we have to communicate and we have a challenge. The more we challenge the more depth we give to our projects, business and ideas.

Frances: Any kind of relationship needs to be worked on. We have spent the last 7 years building ours. We don’t necessarily disagree – we rather share alternative opinions that help us coordinate how we proceed or how we tackle a project. We debate through ideas, process and operations – but ultimately its through those discussions that we find a common ground.

The phrase – you are only as good as your next idea should be rewritten - You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. - Lauren , DUO CREATIVE Click To Tweet
  1. What are your working styles and if different from one another, how do you bring them together?

 Lauren: I am kind of a method in madness worker. I like to think of every possible worst-case scenario so that we can unravel any potential problems. Frances then helps find answers for those pitfalls. She is a lot more level headed about the work  –  she keeps me sane.

Frances: I am more methodical. Deep thinker, clear notes, visual in approach and concise. Lauren helps me bring out the storytelling. Whenever we go into a pitch or presentation – I know exactly what story she is going to tell – but her energy surprises me every time and I am sold!

Lauren Brener
  1. There’s a myth that “women can’t work together because we tend to be quite emotional, petty etc” and some other lies, what are your thoughts on this and what message do you have for people that hold this opinion?

Lauren: It is a shame that these stereotypes exist. Yes there are always office politics where emotions run high – but that happens with both men and women – so pointing the finger that women can’t work together is a bit of a lazy statement. It is important that women support other women in the workplace as it through this that we elevate each other and debunk the myth. I have worked with some incredible women (other than Frances of course) who have taught, championed and inspired my career in different ways. Women are emotional – yet this is what makes us human.

Frances: This is an old fashioned, generalisation. It echoes old narratives – putting women into the uncontrollable, irrational boxes that completely ignore ability and talent. It is a statement that tries to simplify what some might deem as complex. We have to try to stay away from commentary that plays to stereotypes and rather focuses on encouragement and champion what makes us unique. Our emotions are a part of this.

Frances Para-Mallam
  1. What are some important attributes one should look for in a co-founder?

Lauren: Someone who has the same ambition as you. You both need to have a common goal. Frances and I have always had a want to do better and do something different. It is important that you have someone who shares the same work ethics, drive and passion.

Frances: For me, it is someone who brings out the best in you. I have moments when I feel uncertain or that I can’t do something – Lauren builds me up to be making me have that confidence.

Lauren Brener
  1. What makes you feel empowered?

Lauren: Seeing something we have had a hand in ( big or small) come to life. It is the most elevating feeling to see your hard work in flesh.

Frances: Meeting others who are in the same boat. It feels comforting and humbling to know that you are not alone – yet also excited as what is to come.

  1. Podcast or book? And which one would you recommend?

Lauren: Book – there is nothing better than letting your imagination run away with you. But to add to that – I am a massive theatre buff. I find a lot of my weird and outlandish inspiration comes from the stage ( Yes it is true I am a bit theatrical) but some of my thought starters come from seeing books, stories, plays interpreted in different ways. It shows you from one idea comes multiple variants – each completely unique. Highly recommend plays directed by Katie Mitchell. She really makes you sit back and think.

Frances: Book/ Magazine – I am a massive fan of Magnify. I love the combination of style, art, culture and faith all seamlessly combined. There is so much truth and inspiration from the editorial. It really strikes a chord with me.

We don’t necessarily disagree – we rather share alternative opinions that help us coordinate how we proceed or how we tackle a project. We debate through ideas, process and operations – but ultimately its through those discussions that we find a common… Click To Tweet
  1. Could you share something about your co-founder that you would like to appreciate?

Lauren: I would like to say thank you to Frances. For having a lot of courage, faith and trust in me to take on this endeavour together. It hasn’t been easy. It is not a glamorous life, but it is exciting and I love that we are doing this together.

Frances: Just want to appreciate the stamina, grit and dedication, Lauren brings to DUO. She inspires me to be bolder and think bigger and not to be afraid to be all of me.

  1. Any last advice for those seeking a co-founder?

Lauren: It is all about chemistry. Like any relationship that you are going to invest time, dedication and commitment to – you have got to have the chemistry.

Frances:  Choose someone you have fun with. This is your everyday and you have to enjoy it.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a Brands and Communications specialist with a passion to support females in reaching their full potential.

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