Leaders

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Gayle Carpenter on collaboration and diversity

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Starting your own business can feel like quite a big and daunting task. How do you abandon the relative security of a paid job to tackle such a huge challenge?

Founder of Sparkloop Gayle Carpenter made that choice a long time ago, and hasn't looked back ever since. After a placement at Wolff Olins, she realised her love for the design industry knew no boundaries, and she decided to break away and set up on her own. Today, Gayle still remembers making that decision as the biggest challenge of those years.

15 years on, and Gayle's business is still going strong. Today we are Getting to Know an entrepreneurial creative and team leader, one who gains her motivation from her team and has strong hopes in a diverse future for the industry.

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Tell us a bit about your current role.

I am the Creative Director of small, but mighty, Sparkloop Creative agency. We deliver branding, digital, print and video projects to clients and brands the world over.

How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge?

After graduating from Uni with my Art and Design degree, I started with a placement at Wolff Olins. From here I knew my first love was always going to be based around branding and I was lucky enough to work with both small and large design and branding agencies in my formative years.

This led to me being presented with an opportunity to eventually break away and set up on my own and making that decision was actually the biggest challenge. Not having the security and support when working for someone else wasn’t really where I thought I would go. But once I started, there was no going back… and I have always thrived on challenges and new opportunities.

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What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

I’m a Londoner (a real one), so I’ve always been submersed in the best that culture and art has to offer. 

My parents were old school (especially my Dad) so I didn’t tell him for 6 months that I had actually switched my course at Uni from Business Studies to Art and Design. When I did finally tell him, he said ‘It’s OK, Gayle can do art because she’s a girl’. Thankfully, things have changed since the 90s (well a bit)! 

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If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I can’t really think of anything else as this is my passion. Ultimately it would be something creative; garden design or interiors possibly, but that’s only as I get older and I see those as careers I could have been involved in.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Inspiration comes from getting out and about (bit trickier these days!) and to keep changing and adapting, not fearing the new but embracing it. To put it in perspective, when I was at college, we actually had to book a slot to work on a Mac for a few hours each week (??) and we used floppy discs! So things have really progressed and changed since then and that’s exciting.

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My motivation comes from my team. We are a tight knit crew and gee each other on and I am continuously thankful for them – I have a business because of them and it’s so important that we always remember that, particularly through the lockdown period and all having to adapt to working from home – they have been amazing.

How do you recharge away from the office?

At the moment I am spending a lot of time in the garden, growing veg and getting back to some basics. It’s a total antidote to ‘now’. The satisfaction of digging up my first ever carrot was quite something! Simple pleasures. I also love cooking and tennis which are doing wonders for my mental reset these days.

Also not forgetting my dog Buster and Sparkloop's wellness coach who are both a huge help!

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What is the one advice you would give to creatives looking to be successful in the industry?

Be open to new ideas and constructive criticism. If you are starting out, work for free, turn up and show up… it’s your chance to shine. You need to find your place in the industry and experiencing many opportunities will help with that. In this industry, it is also important to learn to share your ideas and try to work collaboratively with others. This will only lead to better outcomes.

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What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

Honestly right now it is probably still being in business 15 years later and doing the very thing I set out to do from the get-go.

Only two weeks into setting up on my own, I had the opportunity to pitch to Red Bull UK for an NPD packaging project. This was quite something and I still remember my cheesy “Established in... 2 weeks ago” intro, but it seemed that our quirky honesty got us through, and we won the pitch!

15 years later we are still working with them on many varied projects across the globe.

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What’s your one big dream for the future of the creative industries?

I really want to see more diversity for sure, especially in senior roles. I feel this is lacking at the moment. I also hope that as creatives, we remain valued and critical to the growth of any business.

The dominance of ‘platforms’ does sometimes make it even harder to convince people of the value that creative agencies bring to a project and maybe we won’t always win those people over but as a creative community, let’s aim to.

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