• Warrior Monk

Warrior Monk Conversations 016: Enabling Diversity in the Creative Industry with Love Malone

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

She also shares stories of how she was able to help individuals based on skillset and talent, provide access to people, and connect brands to talented individuals.

Further, she delves deeper on increasing access and finding the right talent via The Gradient Group. Love also talks about how she loves LinkedIN and how it has helped her be more connected with people.

Finally, Love Malone also shares where she has been getting her strength for resilience in dark times—which includes meditation, prayer, and daily routine of being connected with herself.

Love Malone is the Founder and CEO of The Gradient Group . Prior to starting the Gradient Group, Love received numerous awards at both Ogilvy & Mather and BBDO Worldwide where she diligently worked with fortune five companies to create innovative advertising content, brand sponsorships, collaborations, and consumer experiences. Some of her client experience includes: BlackRock, iShares, Universal Pictures, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Genentech.

Connect with Love Malone on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/love.malone and on LinkedIN https://www.linkedin.com/in/love-malone-b3b39ba

Intro and Outro Music: Hearts on Fire by Immersive Music

Connect with me for inspiring and educational content on Instagram.com/warriormonk, Facebook.com/thewarriormonk, and Twitter.com/warriormonkiam

Read more about the Warrior Monk mission here: www.thewarriormonk.com

The repository of Warrior Monk Conversations podcast episodes are found here: https://www.thewarriormonk.me

#diversity #creative #industry #poonachamachiah #lovemalone


Warrior Monk Conversations 016: Enabling Diversity in the Creative Industry with Love Malone

Welcome to Warrior Monk Conversations, a treasure trove of inspirational discussions in personal and professional development.

I am Poonacha Machaiah. Join me on this journey where I have immersive conversations with the most thought-provoking leaders and everyday heroes from our communities to inspire, educate, and empower you to build resilience and reach your highest potential. Join me on this mission to create a positive societal shift to the compassionate transformation of humankind.

Love Malone is dedicated to disrupting the marketing, media, digital, and entertainment industries through innovation in technology as CEO and Founder of The Gradient Group. Love believes that teams that best reflect the target market are the key to long-term brand success and created The Gradient technology with that in mind.

Prior to starting The Gradient Group, Love was an award-winning advertising, marketing, and sales executive with experience at companies including Ogilvy, BBDO Worldwide, and Merck. She worked with global companies in creating advertising content and brand sponsorship for companies like Merck, Pinnacle Foods, Johnson, Universal Pictures, BlackRock, and Genentech.

Love earned her Bachelor of Science Education with minors in History and Physics from the University of Illinois and holds a certificate from the Center of Excellence in Advertising from Howard University. She's currently a candidate for a Master's Degree in Management from Harvard University. Love currently serves as an official member of the Forbes Agency Council.

Poonacha: Okay! Good morning, friends. This is my daily podcast or conversation, and my attempt is to really bring people who are really making a difference in our community today, and with all the noise going on around COVID and the pandemic, there's always this, I would say, resilience in the community, and this morning, I want to kind of talk to a good friend of mine, an entrepreneur, Love Malone. Good morning, Love.

Love: Good morning!

Poonacha: How are you? And before I get into the conversation, I want to give a very brief into, I would say, overview of Love. She has been the Global Director at Ogilvy, and really, I would say, early this year, launched a platform called The Gradient Group, and looking at tackling a very specific problem, which is diversity. Everybody talks about diversity. It's a great buzzword, but nobody does a lot about it.

And she is really, head-on, really looking at media, marketing, and entertainment, and how do you really bring diversity and hiring and really translating into real jobs into, in this particular sector, and she has built an amazing technology platform. I actually had a chance to look at it and, which is basically, she's designed it and managed the engineering process, and it is in short, the LinkedIn for the creative industry.

So I'm really excited to talk to her about her vision, the future of work. I think that there's going to be a new norm, right? The way we look at work as we go into the future is going to be very different. So no better than somebody who is in New York, what I call New York Tough, to really talk about, you know, the future of work, how she's looking at her startup, and really, really start this conversation this week.

So with that, Love, why don't we just kind of dig right in? What are your thoughts? How was---how do you see---first of all, how are you doing?

Love: I'm doing well. Thank you so much for this opportunity. How are you?

Poonacha: Wonderful. So I know---let's kind of before we get into The Gradient Group, how is this whole, you are in the epicenter. New York and New Yorkers are I think, I would say, are the poster child for resiliency after 9/11, and now, how are you doing? What are some of the things you are doing? And how are your friends and your, I guess, professionals and co-workers in New York doing? And how are you handling all this?

Love: Well, I will say it's really taken a lot of us back because one, in New York, you know, you don't really have a lot of time to think. You're always working, and you're always moving here or there; you're waiting for other markets to open up, and this has really given you a time to pause.

Poonacha: Uh-huh.

Love: And, you know, if you, you know, after you get out of the 'oh no! What? This is happening to me,' you really get to, like, kind of settle in now that we've been doing this for a while and kind of appreciate the pause, and being able to connect with family and friends.

I've been able to connect with people I haven't had to, and also seeing that we're global, much more global, but I will say, in New York, the healthcare workers, the, you know, firemen, policemen, you know, our essential workers, all together, like, you know, the fact that they have been risking not only their lives but their family lives to make sure that New York keeps going, you know, so appreciative of all that. It makes you appreciate people a lot more, so, and what they do every day.

So just being able to stop and thank people, I think, I wish I was there for the military, now I'm doing it for everybody. If you're thankful, please stop the toilet paper. (chuckles)

Poonacha: Yeah, yeah, grateful for your service. So let's kind of get into, you know, let's kind of, maybe walk us through director, Global Director of Ogilvy, and then, you know, obviously, very successful, very comfortable. You could have been doing that for a long time. You decided to get on this entrepreneurial bug because you really believed that not enough was being done in diversity. So, kind of walk us through that process and where you are today and how you're looking at this journey.

Love: Well, some days, I wonder what was I thinking when I just (both laugh)

Poonacha: Yeah, what was I thinking too? I'm like, 'Geez!' You know?

Love: No, I was really blessed and lucky. I worked really hard. I had my head down, and I got to a really comfortable position and very comfortable check as well, now that I don't get that, I realized how comfortable that was, and one of the biggest things that I saw was that, you know, what I was doing every day seemed like the authentic voices of people who use the products, you know, I was in advertising, so the more authentic it was, the more heart, the more you could give to that story meant that more products were sold.

Everything was more successful as far as a brand, and it kind of baffled me that diversity was an issue in this case. You know, if you're selling diapers or you're selling, like, there are women that are using that. There are people of different colors, different races. There are people with different disabilities, different walks of life that are using these products, and so why aren't we hearing those voices?

And I knew from my experience, being able to bring those voices in met a difference and not inauthentic where it wasn't about, like, the day-to-day people will use it. Not just looking at people for their gender, for their color, but looking at them as people and individuals, you just got more, and it really baffled me that there wasn't more, and, you know, you could talk about stuff. You can get up and complain about it, but that's not when change happens.

We all know that, you know, change happens when we put our foot out and you step out on faith or whatever it is and you take a chance to do it. So I thought, you know, people had done that for me to get to where I was. So really, it was about me stepping out, and I was actually challenged as well by, you know, to just do more. It was like, 'what else can you do?' And I'm like,' I probably could do something else, but it's going to cost me,' and I decided the cost definitely was worth it.

Poonacha: Uh-huh. So kind of walk us through like, you know, so looking at, you know, we've been working with this whole, probably over a year now or two years since you started this journey. You did the MVP in December 2019. You're now live. I think you have six clients, but they're big names, and---what has been your---kind of walk us through the problem, right? So $8 billion being spent by companies in the US and not much to show?

Love: Yes.

Poonacha: And how exactly are you looking at it from your platform perspective? And what are some of the learnings you had?

Love: Well, the two things I wanted to do was look at it from the industry's perspective. Well, I think in many cases, when we look at diversity, we look at this one thing, like, we need more women, or we need more people of color, and that's really not how the industry looks at it.

So if we're looking at it, that it feels like, you know, we're doing the world of service because that's the right thing to do, but the industry always looks at diversity---we all know from the internet, we're spending much more time on it; when they're serving ads, you know, they know exactly who they're serving them to. They know---we're looking at programmatic-PIEs. We know how old you are. We know where you live. We know a lot of things that are demographics that make us all different.

And, you know, diversity was still very surface, where it was like we were looking at a man or a woman, you know, their sexuality, how old they are, like, what race they are, and it was very surface versus what millennials and how the world is going to be changing soon and how our behaviors are, and in putting these all in, I guess, better demographics, better buckets.

So what we did is, we actually looked at segmentation, very similar how, that, how work is actually being served to you, and then looked at making sure those people are part of creating the work. And so you kind of throw diversity out of it, where everyone gets all nervous about diversity, but they're not a part of it. We're really looking at everybody being a part of segmentation, and telling stories that are connecting, and being able to see yourself in the story.

I connect across a lot of things when it's done that way, but if you're only looking at, you know, my race or religion or, you know, my spec, you miss a lot of things about me, and that's not fair to me or any of the other things that I want to do. So I think we wanted to make it a little bit deeper so it felt authentic and that people could succeed.

You know, I grew up in a very small town in Central Illinois. I worked on accounts that, you know, banking and healthcare, that didn't necessarily fit what you see, but if I was limited to that, I would have never been able to be on those accounts and get where to, you know, get where I was at. So I wanted to make sure I dug a little deeper with what we were doing with the product, and technology allows you to do that.

Poonacha: You know, in fact, I know your technology team, actually, are part of them in India, in Mumbai. So, you know, when I'm listening to you, the kind of thing you're addressing and trying to solve is just not a US thing. It's actually a global thing, right? Technically, it's a global issue. I recall back in countries like India, where I've had experience working, we have a similar challenge too.

So if I look at---when you look at your platform today, are there one or two stories you want to share of when you go back and say, 'wow, I really helped this person.' I'm sure people relate to that. Without disclosing names, you can just say, you know, 'this is how, one or two examples of how normally, they would not have had an opportunity, and now, how their employer is able to find that'?

Love: Well, the first thing that we did with some of the technology and some of the employers that are able to do it, you know, they, you know, have had a lot of trouble connecting because as you said earlier, I work with a lot of the bigger brands. I call it the Ivy League effect, right? So, if you have a big name on your resume, people tend to, like, bring you in just because, obviously, if you were educated there, you must be really smart. (Poonacha chuckles)

So if you worked at these big brands, and obviously, you must know the craft, and so, originally, I had started in an advertising agency, where we work with very large brands with small and medium projects, and I worked with everybody because what I found was, there were people that Hawaii or any of the races, different groups that had a lot of trouble getting it in, and so being able to look across everybody, you can actually see because you can't really get a great stats unless you're looking at every one as a whole.

And so when I also noticed that we are spending, just in the US, $8 billion on diversity, and there was a 64% increase after the Me Too movement, and so companies are, it's not because they---they're actually putting the money behind it. They want to see this change. They have bought into, you know, if you bring more people in, you're getting better economics, you're getting better outcomes across your industry.

However, the numbers just didn't show that. We looked back at 30 years of numbers, and actually, 30 years ago, the numbers are actually a little better than they are today. So why is this disconnect happening across this? And so what we found, you know, was really, you know, access, you know, it all starts with people getting access, working with organizations that are already there, and then providing access, and us not being a part of what I say the con----we'd like to be a part of the conversation, but our goal is really to focus on just the job portion. [outside noise disrupts] Time in New York, cloud.

Poonacha: No, that's great. That's perfect. Actually, it makes it even more real, right? If it was really quiet and really, really quiet, I'll be like, 'oh, wow!' You know, and you clearly as jay.

Love: But just making sure that we focus on just the job. So when we work with our clients, we are only focused on the talent, how are we getting there? What do they need? What is it that they're missing? And bringing in that talent across their skill sets and matching them not only with their skill sets, what they're wanting to do, but also what what the company needs because we want them, you know, we want them to be there a long time, not just for, you know, Nike because Nike has a new shoe product, so let's bring in a millennial or somebody that knows shoes.

Let's put them across a lot of different, you know, brands. Make sure that they match, so that, you know, one, the company has great ROI, right? They have great retention on this person that they're bringing in, but, you know, this person also feels that, you know, they have a lot to give the company, and we want them to be loyal and be there for a long time.

Poonacha: So, I think you've talked about two aspects, access and talent, right? So, specifically, we talk about your platform, The Gradient Group. Maybe what we should do is, maybe just give us a quick overview of The Gradient Group platform, just like a high level, the key features and the, I would say, the pillars, then specifically, let's talk about what you're doing to increase access and also finding the right talent? How are you matching, matching---doing these two things.

Love: So, overall, the Gradient is a tech HR platform. We try to focus just on that. What we're able to do is, we have two clients. We have what we call our main client, which is our talent, partner, talent membership, and then we have our corporate membership. So we do it a little differently. This is what happens when you're in advertising for a long time. You use it in there.

So our corporate members are either invited, or they can fill out an application, and our corporate members are saying to us or one of the things that they're saying is that they are going to hire so many people. This is what they're going to, like, how they're going to be a part of our community in order to have access to this membership. We take our membership very seriously.

So we don't---what we didn't want to do is have our clients pay, you know, because they've done something bad, and so they want to make sure that they get their logos up so that they get forgiven. We don't do that. When you're free, please feel free to go for that.

So what we want to do is make sure that our corporate members are serious about what they're doing. It cannot come out as diversity dollars. It has to come from the talent team that---so we ask the CEO to sign up, but we also ask the CMO to be a part of it, but more importantly, you want the Head of Talent to be a part of it because those are the people who are actually making the decision. So it has to be 100% commitment from the Head of Talent.

And then after they come in, you know, over the year, we have an advisory board that decides, we're like a country club, they get to decide whether or not they put in what they said, and we vote on whether or not they get to stay the following year. If they don't, then we open up that space to someone else, another company.

So we want our companies to be accountable for what they say they're going to do and then put forth the effort to make sure that they're doing that and give them all the assets. To do that, by giving them access to these numbers.

For our members, our members, you know, are everything, you know, we wanted to make sure that they have access, but the one thing that we've forgotten is with some of the organizations and some of the events, they've gotten really costly.

Poonacha: Uh-huh.

Love: People go into some of these industries, they don't really make a lot of money, they didn't expect to make a lot of money, but if we, you know, if your company is, you know, kind of behind you, then you can spend this six or two or $3,000 it takes to go to these events. An average event is about $2,700. Some of the most, most expensive events can be up to $10,000 to go, in our industry, and if you're making $50,000 and living in New York, you probably have two roommates. (both chuckle)

With that, you're not going to be able to spend $2,000 on your own to go, so you don't go to any of these events. So we're missing a lot of talent, and that has nothing to do with race or color or any of these other things. This is---

Poonacha: This is affordability, just economics.

Love: So a lot of people who can't afford to be a part of this industry are not a part of the industry, but they're buying all these products, you know, so they should have their voice there. So that was when we wanted to have access be for everyone, and true inclusion is really being, you know, equitable, and equitable is, when people talk about inclusion, it's not just opening a door and inviting you to a party, it's you having access to get there.

Poonacha: Right.

Love: So that's the number one thing we wanted to do with our talents, and number two is to provide them with people who are not just lip service, but are actually looking for them to hire, and giving them a very easy way to know who they are deeper than the surface, and so that's a lot of what the tech does.

So, for the company aspect, our goal is everyday to figure out how, everyday, like how many people we're working with, and adding in the gig economy, because freelancers, and I think we'll talk about it a little later, I think that we know that freelancers are going to look very different, and I think it's going to be a bigger part of our economy, but in advertising, media, entertainment, it already is a big part, and so with those people, we want to make sure that we're hiring people ourselves and making sure they're getting there, and nothing is getting in the way of them being there.

Poonacha: So when I look at your platform, I think one, at least my initial look was that it is very focused. That's what I really love. It's really looking at media, entertainment, marketing, right? So you really---it's got this, so if you're an employer or a corporation, the kind of the tagging, the searches, the recommendations, it's so you don't waste time. So when I will when I look at your hashtag less talking more hiring, I really saw that translate into your platform because if I'm a hiring manager and I'm going to be looking on LinkedIn, I'm really struggling to find the right hash---the tags to find the people. I think what I love about what you've done is that you actually made it very easy to onboard talent, right?

Also, what are some of the things you have done to help the talent position themselves better? Are there things you've noticed that, typically, when I look at a LinkedIn profile, people gloss over certain prof---even though they're really good, they kind of skim over. Are there certain things you've learned in your own designing of the platform?

Love: Yes, first, thank you for that question because that's one of my favorite things. I love LinkedIn, right?

Poonacha: Right.

Love: Everybody posts on LinkedIn. The problem is, not all of us are on LinkedIn, especially when you talk about this particular industry. Recently, they're not on here. It's usually more business to business, a little bit more senior level. And the other thing is, you're not really able to put your portfolio. If you're a makeup artist, how are you putting your portfolio up on LinkedIn?

Poonacha: Right.

Love: The other piece, we know that the LinkedIn CEO himself stepped down because diversity was an issue and networking. So that's something that he's trying to solve because he realizes that people of color don't have a wide network as some of the other groups do, and so being able to help more people network so that they can, you know, have better careers is something that he's working on. So we know that that's an issue if the CEO has stepped down.

So we, and ironically, of course, that wasn't something I knew when I started this, but I did know for sure that we did not have access, and so, you know, us being able to, you know, cut through all---the thing about advertising is we cut through all the stuff. Nike is just do it. Like, you don't need a lot of words to get to what the insight is, and the insight is, we have all these organizations out there that do an amazing job with, you know, internships, giving people information, training people, but then once that is done and the companies have spent money for the event, what happens the rest of the year and for them to get access?

So our goal, the one thing we hear from our talent is, we had one particular thing that we put up, which is our portfolio. So we have one portfolio, and I talked about equitable all the time, things that are equal.

Now, if you have a lot of money or the know-how to put up a great website, you know, you---sometimes people look at your website because it's so wonderful. It may not be the work you put on there, it's how you did the website and how you present yourself, and so you would get access, or people would know who you are because of that, or you pay someone. So if you have 7000, anywhere from five to 7000, in order to put up a website, then you would have that. So if you don't have money, again, you know, how are you putting up a great way to tell your story?

So the first thing we want to do is go to some of the top portfolio schools, go to, again, the people who are doing the hiring, and we put together a portfolio for our talent that, you know, we are, we will constantly change as the years go by, which is great about technology. We're paying attention to what people are looking for, but we actually are able to see who people are looking at, how long they're looking at, what they're looking at, and when they get hired, what made that person go over the other people there. So we're able to make sure that we're constantly showing the best of our talent.

Poonacha: And this is so important because I think everybody understands that this is like really the secret sauce, right? Because you are democratizing talent. You're giving everybody an opportunity to position and show their capability and kind of level the playing field, and this portfolio tool and the ability for you to showcase, like you said, if I'm a makeup artist, I don't even know, I can go start maybe a medium blog or, you know, put up a website, but then that's---in the middle of everything I'm doing, right? That's really hard. So especially giving these tools where people can at least have a level playing field where they can showcase their talent, and the hiring managers can also look at it with a certain quality, right? That's really important.

Love: If you're on LinkedIn and, you know, you don't know anyone that works at that industry or in that particular company, how are you getting access to that hiring manager because you're not in their network? And you don't know anyone in the network for you to be connected.

So us being able to be your, like, kind of your network or your friend get you right to that person. It kind of cuts through that middleman for our talent, and to your question, like, 'what are some of the things we've heard?' is that 'I have access', you know, 'I put my resume up', or 'I've reached out on', you know, 'this site or that site, and I didn't hear anything back.'

We make sure that you hear something back from us immediately. We let you kind of keep you in touch with what's going on, and then, you know, through our technology, you know when a company is looking at you, which makes you feel pretty good, and then also when, you know, when we're expecting to hear when these jobs have been filled, and then we've kind of let you know if they've been filled in. If you ask for feedback, we love and try to give people feedback on what makes it a little bit better.

Poonacha: It's a closed loop, right? So there's---so people don't feel like, 'I'm just putting in into this kind of ether, and then God knows what's going to happen!' And this is really---from my perspective, I mean, I look at some of these platforms. I look at platforms like Upwork, which are very much with general purpose, right? 'What talent do I have?' I can go find anything I want, or look at very engineering focused, like Toptal, right? Very focused on the software sector, and I look at Gradient, I mean, that's exactly it's, it is very focused on creati---in the creative industry, and which also requires a certain amount of nurturing, right? I think it's just a very different mindset. So I love it. I just love the way you're thinking about it.

What are some of the challenges you've had when you looked at, you know, when you started designing this two years ago and where you are today? What are some of the lessons?

Love: Well, some of it is you cannot, you know, as we get a little further, you know, people are always like, 'what about this group? What about them?' And we've gotten, you know, we've had people from the finance industry reach out to us. We've had accountants reach out to us. We've had people from the healthcare industry reach out because they're in health care for so long. They're like, 'what about,' you know, 'having this for these industries?' And it's something that we all get, you know, we want to get to you, but, you know, to your point, we wanted to be very laser focused.

Poonacha: Uh-huh.

Love: We wanted to make sure that, you know, we're not on LinkedIn, because LinkedIn is for everybody. We wanted to make sure that you're really looking at this industry, and so the way that we approached this industry is very industry focused.

The way that we would approach healthcare or how we would approach banking would be based on how that industry is focused. If we want it to be, it feels authentic, and so if it's, you know, if people can be authentic of who they are through their, you know, getting their job, then the employer can see who they are, and they'll still be authentic in who they are coming into that company.

It bridges---it kind of, like, leaves a lot out where the, hopefully, the employer doesn't have to work so hard to figure out who this person is, if they fit. I hope that we've been able to do a bit of the work, and---people in the creative industry, you know, they're special people. They, you know, they care about their craft, and a lot of feelings come into it. It's not like just adding numbers. You know, they---

Poonacha: Yeah, it takes a lot of emotion. Having worked in the creative industry a little bit, I realized that it requires a lot more of EQ than IQ.

Love: You don't want people just to like, you know, say, 'oh, this isn't good' or 'this isn't,' you know, 'what we were'---you want people to understand where you were when you built this, what your thoughts were. So we like to bring a little of the person there so you can actually, it may not be what you're looking for as an employer, but you can see the process, which may be perfect for you, and so what we do is we get a little bit deeper into that person, and to be honest.

Poonacha: So I'm going to, obviously, share the link thegradientgroup.com, but you know, from my perspective, I love---this kind of checks the three principles, right? Is it authentic? Right? And that's one thing which I love about what you do, the authenticity. Does the co-founder, CEO have the integrity to follow with the belief because so many people can do so many different things, but if you're steadfast and say, 'I really want to be of service to this industry. I want to get people'---not to just talk but to really get into actions.

And the most important thing is higher purpose, right? Why do we do what we do? And the goal today, and this is us switching topics, like when you look into the next year or the next 20-24 months, the world has changed, right? And if you don't think it, it is not going to be the same, and we have to dance with change. We have to adapt. We have to be very nimble, and so the gig economy, which we all talked about, is almost kind of gone into fast forward, right?

Love: Yes.

Poonacha: People have now realized the importance of pausing, the importance of really, how much do we really need to be happy? We don't need a whole lot, you know. We don't need excess. We can do with what we have. People are going to start questioning what projects they work on, right? What kind of employer? And what is the ethos? How do you see all this playing out? Over the next---what is your lens, from an entrepreneur perspective, for the creative industry? You talked with BBDO, Ogilvy, Edelman. What do you hear?

Love: Well, you know, it's fast forwarding everything, right? So the first thing is, you know, the brands and the agencies, as well as the industry, you know, the entertainment industry, they now realize, people, you know, they need to figure out how they respond to the, you know, some of the thing that, you know, we do in advertising, and brands is, we tried to make sure that you're connected, and you know that we're connected to you. So, how are brands going to actually connect to people after this?

I think before, we always talk about, you know, the different generation, but I don't know if we were really focused on them caring about what it is that they're, you know, taking into their bodies and what they're eating, what companies are actually doing to give back. I think those things now have become, like sustainability, what companies care about, have come to the forefront, and I think that companies will need to really kind of show that to employer or to people---potential employees now, more than ever. I think that's probably the biggest thing that we're kind of preparing for.

Number two, we're preparing the fact that we know in 2008, a lot of gains that we had in diversity kind of all fell apart. After 2008/2009, people were laid off, and then we had people who will be rehired later, and then now, we're kind of doing the same thing. So working with companies is to see, okay, now that you're doing these layoffs, how are you making sure that diversity still is a part of the formula, of who you're laying off, but also, who are you hiring? Whose is the space for now? And making sure that, you know, we're paying attention to that. That's a---it's a big deal.

But then, I think a lot of people not knowing what's next. I think the uncertainty is extremely nerve racking, so we will see the gig economy, the freelance market, really move up quite a bit because companies will, you know, be slow to bring people back on because they're not sure financially what this means for them down the road. So, opening up the freelance portion, we now have moved that up. Originally, we were going to wait a little longer than that.

Poonacha: Right.

Love: And now, we realize, it was always in our plans this year, but now we're moving to do that a little faster so that we can get that up and running and support our freelance workers so they can get in and support companies by being able to help get them in and shove them in and put them in faster.

Poonacha: Is also the lens for the talent now moving out of the US, are you also looking at a global talent, or is it still focused on the US market right now?

Love: Right now, we're still focused on US. People are moving up to---it's a hard question. So, I'm really---

Poonacha: Right.

Love: Look, focus is in the US, but because our companies are global, it's hard not to think globally, right?

Poonacha: Right.

Love: Because as soon as you are, so there are always going to be like, well, you know, there are always particular departments who are going to call. We were on a call with Switzerland. We were on a call with UK last week. We know that these issues are there. Sometimes they're different, the laws are different, so we're starting to already look at the UK.

They look at BAM as a major, you know, issue across not only advertising media and entertainment and digital, just how are we going to start to connect, but the brands that we're already working with, one of the sections on the application is like, how are you looking at this globally?

Poonacha: Uh-huh.

Love: And so we're talking about it already. I think we will have to, like some of our---we're already talking about it. The investors are like, 'what about global?' We will need to move that up. I think what we learned with the COVID is, we are really a global world.

Poonacha: Everything is connected. I think that's been proved. There's no religion. There's no race. There's no boundary. There's no country. Right?

Love: I think---look at ours, where we look at---that's it

Poonacha: We're always connected.

And so, I guess, Love, on the---towards the end of this, I just come from a time perspective. I wanted to kind of ask you, what was in your life, as you know, in different careers you've been through, now and as an entrepreneur, what have been your lessons? Where do you go for strength, for resilience? As an entrepreneur, in those moments when things look, you know, dark and, you know, and it's like---where do you find your strength? And what are some of the things you'd like to share for people listening?

Love: I think right now, it has been probably the hardest because I couldn't, like, turn around the team and see how they're feeling or like, I'm a connection person, so I like to pull people to the side and make sure they're okay, and a phone call doesn't always do that. Sometimes, on zoom call, you can't really feel like how they're feeling, so that's been a challenge with, you know, with making sure people are okay, making sure my talent is okay, making sure our clients are okay because they're nervous as well about what's happening with them and things like that.

So I think my biggest challenge as an entrepreneur always is taking this chance and wanting to know if I'm going to succeed or fail, and I think once I took failure out of it, and it was just about how am I succeeding each day and looking at, you know, succeeding each day versus failure. That was a big piece. That's kind of---it took a while---and meditation and prayer.

I've always prayed, but I have to be honest, I do it now daily, sometimes it's two days, twice a day, sometimes more. Sometimes it starts with meditation and ends with a prayer. Sometimes a prayer it moves in. Sometimes I'm not sure which one it is, but I realized that a daily routine of that, just connecting with myself and being okay with whatever fear I have, whatever I'm thankful for, but being able to connect with myself and check in, I think the one thing I hadn't done in a while was I was going, going going. I wasn't checking in with myself and being okay with whatever it was that I felt, like if I felt failure that day, if I felt success that day, I felt happy or sad or indifferent. I want to connect with that, and not necessarily try to push that under because knowing what those feelings are is important---and then reaching out to mentors and mentees.

The one thing I've always been lucky is, I never really saw, like I wasn't looking for a man to be my mentor, or woman. I have my mentors go across all kinds of things. I've called you before.

Poonacha: Right.

Love: I found that you're easy to talk to, but there are things that I wasn't sure I wanted to talk about that we were talking about. So, you know, sometimes connecting with people that you just respect and trust so that you can be vulnerable, I think I've been the most---being a woman, being a black woman, being all these things, there's, you know, there are all these things that people expect, you are going to be strong, like I always hear, 'oh, well, you're strong,' and so you're trying to always be this, and then sometimes you just want to be vulnerable, and I think what---in the meditation, in the mentors and the people I trust, just being able to be vulnerable has also allowed me to be really authentic with other people because I think sometimes you hide behind your strengths, and people see something that isn't always there, and you're just as,you know, you want them to, you know, succeed you want. You have fears, you have all these things, and I think that the prayer, the meditation and just reaching out to people and being vulnerable was, you know, I still work on the vulnerability. I'm working on it with people I trust so I feel like it's very safe, and I've been able to get through that, and this time has been lonelier. Entrepreneurship is lonely anyway.

Poonacha: Sure.

Love: Oh, you know. (both laugh)

Poonacha: Thank you. This is, you know, I mean, this is invaluable insight that I want to summarize what you said because this is brilliant. So one is, check in with yourself, right? Everybody needs to do that. One thing which, what this adversity has taught us is that you have to check in with yourself. Okay, you could be doing so many different things, but pausing and checking with yourself, which is really important, that's what we call present-moment awareness.

The second thing you talk about is that everything is chaotic, but you got to exist in the chaos, right? And you got to embrace the chaos because this too shall pass, right? And that's the second thing. Just beautiful.

The third thing we talked about is connection, and really, it's about, we talked about mentors or connection and to be able to be who you are, which is the essence of being vulnerable, right? And the last one, which I think is really important, something which you said in passing but---is trust. Because today, we got to build trust, and today, we got to build trust on a very accelerated path because we don't have the time to really spend 2-3 years. You're going to do a lot of things online. You're going to get---things are going to get virtualized.

So trust, building trust as a platform, and I think this is really important as Gradient Group starts building the platform. How does it build the trust between the talent and the corporation? Right? And that's going to be really, really important.

So, thank you, I mean, this is, you know, a really exciting conversation, and it really sets the tone for the week because we touched on everything, you know, entrepreneurship, resilience, trust, being vulnerable, and I'm really excited for The Gradient Group, the work you're doing, and for people listening and people I want to share this with, is that stay tuned because, I don't like to say it is going to be the next LinkedIn. I think Gradient Group is its own platform. I think it's its own identity, but I love the focus that you're looking at the creative industry because you're absolutely right. The industry is so different. The needs are so different, and it's important to have that laser-like focus and really bridge the gap.

So, once again, Love, thank you so much for your time, and let's connect soon. Take care.

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Warrior Monk Conversations 016: Enabling Diversity in the Creative Industry with Love Malone

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