Owners: Matthew Tsang
Year Started: 2020
Employees: 1 – 10
Today’s guest on the show is Matthew Tsang with AndHumanity, a diversity and inclusive marketing agency based in Vancouver, Canada. Matt began his agency journey with his sister Tammy over 13 years ago. The level of sacrifice Matt and his sister have endured to make their purpose a reality is truly inspiring.
Listen to how they evolve from your typical agency to one that is on the leading edge of inclusive marketing.
Enjoy the story.
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[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up, the first big sale. Passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth. Hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach, enjoy the next agency story.
[00:00:39] Russel: Hello. Welcome to another episode of An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host, Russel. Today’s guest on the show is Matthew Tsang With AndHumanity, a diversity and inclusive marketing agency based in Vancouver, Canada. Matt began his agency journey with his sister Tammy over 13 years ago. The level of sacrifice Matt and his sister have endured to [00:01:00] make their purpose a reality is truly inspiring.
[00:01:03] Listen to how they evolve from your typical agency to one that is on the leading edge of inclusive marketing.
[00:01:08] Enjoy the story.
[00:01:12] Welcome to the show today everyone. I have Matthew Tsang, with AndHumanity. And folks, I can tell you’re gonna enjoy this one today, welcome to the show Matthew.
[00:01:21] Matthew: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
[00:01:23] Russel: Absolutely. My pleasure. Let’s get right to it. There are a number of interesting and unique parts of your story to even include what you do.
[00:01:29] So with that in mind, what is AndHumanity, what do you do and who do you do it for?
[00:01:33] Matthew: AndHumanity is an inclusive marketing and communications agency. We basically authentically immerse JEDI principles. JEDI being justice, equity, diversity, inclusion principles into a marketing communications services offerings.
[00:01:47] In many ways we’re a full service, fully integrated agency, but we’re unique in the sense that not only are we co-founded and led by a diversity, equity and inclusion expert everything that we’ve done that we do from research [00:02:00] strategy, creative production even the way that we measure our work has an inclusive lens.
[00:02:06] Russel: Very cool and one might try to easily assume what inclusive marketing it is, but you know what they say about assuming. For the folks that may not know, or to even just set the record straight is there more to expand upon what inclusive marketing actually is?
[00:02:20] Matthew: Yeah, absolutely. We like to say that inclusive marketing is not diversity marketing.
[00:02:25] It’s not multicultural marketing. It’s a little bit something more nuanced than that. So we usually us e an analogy to explain what it is. Imagine there’s a podium and there’s a microphone, and that microphone gives you access to speak to the rest of the world. Just marketers do they speak to the world or they speak to specific audiences?
[00:02:44] Traditionally person in power you can say someone with a dominant lens gets to speak to the rest of the world and they have control of that microphone. Now, diversity marketing or multicultural marketing the way we define it is using this analogy is that, we add more microphones and more podiums to the table so that there are other [00:03:00] people with different lived experiences that have their voice.
[00:03:02] So everyone that has a microphone now has a voice and we all share and we collaborate. But what inclusive marketing is different. We keep that one microphone and that one podium, and we pass the mic instead. So we focus on what we call elevating underrepresented stories, communities.
[00:03:19] And what we focus on a lot of is telling stories that aren’t usually told. The thing with inclusive marketing and this definition is that we traditionally, as marketers are taught that, if you have seven different personas, say as part of your target, you have your primary target, your secondary target, your tertiary target, and you have different personas and things like that.
[00:03:39] We’re taught from from school that in order to create an effective campaign for these seven different personas, what you have to do is find a universal message or a universal value, whatever it may be, that ties all these seven different personas together. And the problem with that is that there’s an assumption there, like you mentioned assumptions.
[00:03:58] All these seven [00:04:00] different personas can be tied together by a universal value or message. But I can tell you right now my definition based on my lived experience of something like as quote unquote, simple as bravery or loyalty is gonna be different than yours because your lived experience is different than mine.
[00:04:16] Mine is different from someone else’s. And different cultures have different definitions for the same words and different values that are kinda linked to those same words. So there is no such thing as universal values or universal messaging. So what we’re taught actually doesn’t work with what how we define inclusive marketing.
[00:04:33] How we define it is going deep and telling deep, culturally nuanced stories of one specific community with all the cultural nuance. It’s raw, it’s authentic. And knowing that deep story will have mass appeal. It will appeal to the greater community. And it doesn’t just appeal to folks that it that come from that community? So that’s the backwards or the difference of inclusive marketing. We tell deep stories knowing [00:05:00] that it will resonate. ‘
[00:05:01] And you know what like I say, ho Hollywood has caught on to this already. There’s big budgets going behind movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” shows like “Never Have I Ever.” Shows like “Heart Stopper” that are specifically from the point of view of an underrepresented community telling a story. And people that don’t come from those communities are resonating with it. Why is that? It’s because telling deep, culturally nuanced stories is rare and it’s also something that people are craving.
[00:05:28] Russel: That’s wonderful. What a thorough, and now how much more enlightened with that definition. So you perfected that part of your art, which I imagined you would’ve had to be in a more unique space. So certainly want to talk more about that.
[00:05:40] Let’s go back in time for just a little bit, and your agency didn’t start out as what it is today. How did you get started and probably also important to the story, who’d you get started with?
[00:05:52] Matthew: My sister was the one who founded our original agency. It was called My Loud Speaker Marketing. And how it started and how it, [00:06:00] it’s a wild story. But back in 2005 or six, something like that, so many years ago Tammy, my sister was at the University of Toronto.
[00:06:09] She was still in school. I was in in Vancouver, University of British Columbia. She was doing a double major and also working for like the dean of students or something like, and she was like a head of a club, she was one of those people that was like everywhere.
[00:06:22] So highly involved. Yeah, exactly. And yeah, such a keener. But she is very smart and everything and charismatic. So she just had a lot of connections and a big network there. And somebody had approached her, like a friend of a friend to promote this program. It was for CBC television. And she didn’t know anything about marketing. She actually was double majoring in psychology and HR. But she was the head of the student club. She had so many friends, and this person was just like, Hey, some sort of grassroots promotion.
[00:06:49] And they were thinking like street teaming. So this person gave her a bunch of flyers and everything like that, and told them to hand it out. After, hiring some friends to help hand it out and doing this side job, she’s this is [00:07:00] ineffective. So instead she was like, Hey, if we wanna promote this program, why don’t we just throw a party instead?
[00:07:08] So she through a party and I think sold $2 pitchers at the campus bar and it just did really well. Cause obviously $2 pitchers and whatever. And then, of course a lot of people, yeah, it extended the program for another year or so. So it was, generally successful. So that was how she dipped her toes into marketing.
[00:07:24] It was very event based and not really strategic. But from that grew something a little bit more because she was asked to throw more events and do more things around that, through that connection. And although she never really wanted to be an entrepreneur, she’s loved hiring her friends and being a part of it. So she did eventually incorporate in January of 2007. She was doing this as a side thing in Toronto. But she was gonna move back home for her family, just, to be back home with family and support.
[00:07:52] And I had just graduated with an English literature degree, so obviously I had so many job prospects. Just kidding. I had no job prospects.
[00:07:59] Russel: [00:08:00] Wrought with job opportunities..
[00:08:00] Matthew: Yeah. Yeah. Just absolutely my fill.
[00:08:03] All I did in university was read. That was the only thing I liked to do was read. So that’s why I graduated English literature, much to the chagrin of my traditional mom who was like, if you’re not a doctor, a lawyer, , fail. Failed the family fail. Yeah, it failed. And obviously she wasn’t too harsh about it.
[00:08:16] She did let me graduate. Long story short, she came back home and I was like, Hey, I heard about this thing you were doing there. I didn’t know anything really about marketing. It was like let’s start that up here. She’s I don’t have any clients here.
[00:08:27] It’s not really a business. So what happened was our mom, who is an entrepreneur I was, we were raised by a single mother since I was about five. She was an entrepreneur herself and went through her own struggles. She as a, traditional Chinese mom, they don’t usually support entrepreneurship cuz it’s not stable and understandable.
[00:08:43] But because she was an entrepreneur herself, she gave us a chance and she gave us a ultimatum chance. Where she said, I will let you live at home and use my old home office. She had I don’t know. It was like maybe 300 square foot, like a closet. It wasn’t that bad, but it was small.
[00:08:58] It was enough for maybe three [00:09:00] desks. She’s I’ll let you and Tammy live here and work out of here for one year. But if you’re not out of here in one year starting this business of yours, whatever you wanna do you have to go, you find real work. That’s what she called it Real work.
[00:09:13] I was like, you’re an entrepreneur yourself. Why are you calling? But she wasn’t a marketer, right? She was an import expert. She didn’t still to this day, doesn’t know what I do, so it’s okay. But anyway we were given a year, we wrote a business plan and essentially we’re, luckily we’re out of there in six months.
[00:09:28] We got a government contract to , funny enough throw a throw an event, throw a conference. And we actually didn’t have, I didn’t profit at all from this, but we had enough money to move to outside. Adhere to what my mom’s ultimatum was. So we were able to get out of there in about six months, we moved to not the greatest neighborhood, to be honest.
[00:09:47] But it was what was affordable. And it was an old vinegar factory actually. So they used to make vinegar in this factory, and it was refurbished and had these really ugly linoleum green floors. [00:10:00] Like an old class an old, elementary or high school or something like that.
[00:10:03] And we couldn’t afford the rent ourselves. So we actually moved in with another startup company called Line Test Collective. And they were like a mo their motion graphics agency. So they’re doing similar work to us. And we shared this big 3000 square foot space.
[00:10:18] And we roughed it in the sense that we didn’t have any money.
[00:10:22] Russel: One of the parts I love so much about your story is how, you’ve not only bootstrapped your business by making every dollar account to essentially earn your way to each next step, but tell us what are some of those early days like and how you were able to get by and save money and some of those, oh, yeah sacrifices you had to make .
[00:10:39] Matthew: Oh, it was wild. I have so many of these, but I can tell you right off the bat, when we small and in the vinegar factory we all split chores. People had different chores. Somebody had to do the floors every week. Somebody had to do the washroom cleaning every week.
[00:10:52] Like we were our own janitors. We couldn’t afford a cleaning company. I remember when we finally could, and that was amazing. But yeah, we couldn’t, obviously at [00:11:00] first the little things in life, like yeah, the little things. So we split that and we did it happily, we were excited to do it.
[00:11:05] But it, you’re talking about a 3000 square foot. Space that needs a lot of cleaning . We really split it well with the other company that we were sharing the space with.
[00:11:12] Another thing I probably ate ham and cheese sandwiches every day for I don’t know, it felt like four years. I probably could afford like ramen noodles or something like that, but I couldn’t afford a lot, so I was eating ham and cheese sandwiches every day. Healthier than ramen probably. Your inside, is it? I dunno. I was using processed cheese cause cheaper, I dunno how much. Yeah. But I was eating that a lot in terms of it and , I remember I met my now wife at the time, my partner wife were married with a kid now, but when she f like she was yeah.
[00:11:39] Kind of involved in the agency there. She, I remember her asking me, he’s like, why do you keep eating ham and cheese? And she can, you stop eating ham and cheese sandwiches every day. But once we moved in together, she realized that we had a budget of I think our grocery budget was like 50 bucks a week, or no, 50 bucks a month.
[00:11:55] It was something like where we had to eat. I think it’s called rice noodles like a lot of the [00:12:00] time and just really affordable food and eating out was like not an option and unless it was like a hotdog or something like that.
[00:12:06] Like we weren’t paying ourselves a lot for a long time. My sister too lived at the office illegally. There was a side room there that of had I don’t even want to call it a bed. It was hardly a bed. They made it work in there and she lived there illegally cuz you’re not supposed to live in this kind of like industrial office type space.
[00:12:23] But again we just had to find a way to work and I found an apartment nearby in that same scarier neighborhood that was very affordable. And, I would witness drug deals in my alleyway there. And outside our office we had actually prostitutes that were constantly there at night and things like that.
[00:12:40] And actually wasn’t too bad cuz they protected the office. There was no thieves that would come because there’s always someone standing on the corner, so you’re not gonna rob an office that they’re still there. As much as yeah, there’s a less seller situation there’s a, it is positive definitely more positive than it was not.
[00:12:56] Russel: So yeah, sounds like you had to do some [00:13:00] interesting things to keep the lights on in your own words, but it doesn’t even end there with ham and cheese sandwiches. You actually would rent out the office to other groups and whatnot. Tell us about that.
[00:13:11] Matthew: I used to joke that we had more of a thriving rental business than we had a thriving agency, at least in the beginning years.
[00:13:18] Yeah we had this big 3000 square foot space. It had high ceilings and it was great for productions, great for parties, as long as you didn’t mind the area. And it was affordable, relatively speaking.
[00:13:29] We bought our own equipment as an investment cuz, we were shooting commercials and things like that. So we rented out that same equipment and we would give like full service packages of, oh, you can rent out our equipment and a space for super affordable.
[00:13:42] So we would rent it out to productions, photo shoots, parties, events like that.
[00:13:46] Russel: What a definition of sacrifice and going through some of those struggles for all the things you mentioned but making the most out of everything you’ve done.
[00:13:54] After getting through all that, you started to have some success. But eventually, what did that look like when [00:14:00] you started to think about the transition from My Loud Speaker to the origin of AndHumanity?
[00:14:04] Matthew: It actually started out with the success of My Loud Speaker that AndHumanity relatively young from inception in terms of only about five or six years old. We were doing a lot of pro bono work that could be used as case studies, and that’s how we started getting some more clients.
[00:14:19] I remember being so happy when we got our first six figure client and it, like these moments and these milestones of it happening really stick with us. It was just slowly finding success. So what eventually happened when we started actually being profitable, we finally did move out of the space. And this timing was very serendipitous cuz it was around the same time that the other company was finding success too.
[00:14:41] We grew together in so many ways and we both wanted to, go our separate ways in some sense, or still friends obviously. But go our separate ways in terms of like them moving to their own office and us finding ours. So we found our own office. More of you can say a hipster, like a cooler vibe area where other, you can say more successful startups [00:15:00] and tech companies were around there in other agencies too.
[00:15:02] There was only one meeting room. But we continue growing slowly. And I say slowly cuz this is like over many years. This is not oh, two years and we’re there. No, this was like seven years. It felt like forever. And then when we moved in that office, things grew exponentially using that very carefully, but they grew quickly. Cuz once you had the case studies and the portfolio, it was easier to sign new work and grow from there.
[00:15:26] What was super hard at the beginning is starting from nothing. So anyways we grew and then we were in that office and we outgrew that office eventually too, and then moved to another office within that same building that had two meeting rooms and could fit
[00:15:39] Russel: There you go. Moving up in the world.
[00:15:40] Matthew: And then, AndHumanity eventually came along.
[00:15:42] Russel: What is the origin of AndHumanity? How did that idea come about and what did that look like? .
[00:15:48] Matthew: Yeah, so is this funny?
[00:15:51] Tammy and I are Chinese and we are not adamant about Chinese astrology, but we listen to it .And we consider it. And probably more so now that [00:16:00] I’ve gotten older, but people are assigned elements based.
[00:16:03] Their year and date of birth and everything like that, you can look into it. But we are both the tree element or wood element. And what the wood element is that we prioritize growth. We’re always trying to grow cuz we can’t help ourselves.
[00:16:15] But a lot of this was driven by my sister Tammy, who’s just if I’m a branch, she is a tree. She just cannot stop growing. That’s just only thing she knows, she’s always thinking.
[00:16:25] About five years ago, she’s on maternity leave and her first son. And she comes to me with this idea of inclusive marketing. And she’s it’s not diversity marketing, it’s not multicultural marketing, it’s inclusive marketing.
[00:16:36] And I wanna start an agency around inclusive marketing. I was like, whoa, you’re on maternity leave? What? Why are you doing shouldn’t you be resting or, whatever. But she just was really passionate about it. It’s something I skipped earlier on, but when My Loud Speaker was struggling in the beginning we had to take other jobs. I was working part-time for a financial recruitment placement firm as a marketing consultant and she was working for the Canadian Center [00:17:00] for Diversity Inclusion the CDI. She was working there part-time. And I was doing some other stuff. Fast forward to this pitch for inclusive marketing she was making to me.
[00:17:08] She says I, am passionate about this work. Diversity, equity and inclusion is part of my what I’ve done before. And it’s something that’s, personally, deeply, personally to her. In my late teens volunteered for a publication called Schema Magazine. And all what they focused on was Asian Representation Media.
[00:17:24] We went to Adweek in New York, or Tammy did specifically to Adweek in New York. And she brought this idea of inclusive marketing to some of the biggest brands in the world and remember this many years ago. So a lot of the feedback we got was like, oh, we see the moral imperative, but what’s the business case and how do you measure something as intangible inclusive marketing, and how is it different than multicultural marketing?
[00:17:44] It didn’t really land as well as we wanted. Decided to take it back and work on what an inclusive marketing agency is on the side.
[00:17:51] We took our own trainings and we talked about, if an agency does everything for research to strategy to creative, to production, to execution. How can we make [00:18:00] that whole process more equitable? What are some of the foundational things that we need to change as as an industry so that we are not reinforcing oppression and we are systemically dismantling how agencies run. So those, these are big questions.
[00:18:13] Fast forward to about January, 2020. We’re doing this on the side and around January, 2020 pandemic is serious hits. We’re losing clients every day from My Loud Speaker in terms of that they’re calling us and saying we need to pause, et cetera.
[00:18:25] Totally understandable. But then Tammy and I had time. So we’re like, Hey, why don’t we launch this inclusive agency we’ve been, talking about for so long. So we ended up launching it in around March, 2020. It was a soft launch. We didn’t have any media spend behind it.
[00:18:41] We didn’t have money. And we just did it more so quietly to our own network. And there was, some interest, et cetera. But two months later, George Floyd was murdered. And that’s when the influx of inquiries and interests. So when we launched we figured, five ten year plan.
[00:18:58] This is not something that [00:19:00] society even wants or cares about that much right now, but it was something that personally meant a lot to ourselves cuz of our past story of what we cared about.
[00:19:08] Russel: A reborn agency, so to speak. As you’re making this transition to AndHumanity from My Loud Speaker. How are you navigating that transition from, keeping the two brands and your focus and what does that look like?
[00:19:20] Matthew: It’s not the easiest to be honest. AndHumanity is what I wake up in the morning for.
[00:19:26] It’s something I a hundred percent believe in, but all those years working on My Loud Speaker, that’s my baby. That’s something that I grew from nothing and I love that too. It’s difficult because it’s hard to let go of one or the other.
[00:19:38] Two different kinds of love for them. But at this point right now, we’re not really promoting My Loud Speaker too much. We’re only taking on very specific projects that kind of fit what we want to do. And we’re more actively promoting AndHumanity and we know this is the future. We know this is what we wanna be doing. But for our current clients they’re aware of what we’re doing here, but [00:20:00] we’re basically holding onto these legacy clients and serving them because they’re good fits for us.
[00:20:05] Russel: Often as agencies, there’s lots of industries we can continue to serve well and have really great clients in. And then sometimes it’s almost a difference of positioning versus still doing what you do really well for folks Yes. That don’t fall in line with that positioning.
[00:20:17] Absolutely. So I can certainly understand that. As I understand that you have a very personal story as it relates to why inclusive marketing is so important to you. As you mentioned something you’re very passionate about. Do you mind sharing that story?
[00:20:28] Matthew: Absolutely, I have a story that’s written on our blog on AndHumanity.
[00:20:32] It’s called “The Story of When I Realized I Wasn’t White” which sounds silly and maybe purposely controversial, but it truly is what happened to me when I was young. Up until probably nine years old or eight years old. I would dress up for Halloween. Cause I was obsessed with, DC comics, Marvel, all the superheroes, Spider-Man, Batman, et cetera.
[00:20:52] I was really into it. So I had all the costumes and I would dress up the as them every year for Halloween. At [00:21:00] around that age, around eight or nine, I started realizing that I didn’t look anything like the heroes I was trying to portray. I didn’t look like Peter Parker.
[00:21:08] I didn’t look like Tony Stark. And I didn’t realize that at the time, the trauma that caused, but I brushed it off and I was like, oh, you know what? Instead, I’m just gonna dress up as a ninja every year instead. My mom thought I was obsessed with ninjas. I wasn’t. It was just something I was comfortable with.
[00:21:22] So I was like, yeah, get me a ninja costume and I’ll be a ninja. She’s like a ninja again. I was like, yeah, I’ll be a ninja again. It was just something I was comfortable with and I didn’t realize that I was just suppressing I guess the trauma or what I felt of the fact that I didn’t look like who I wanted to dress up as.
[00:21:35] And instead of being like, whatever. I just rejected and self justified or justified internally to myself that it’s okay, I want to dress up as a ninja anyways. But it wasn’t the truth.
[00:21:45] We as marketers, we shape so much of culture and society because we create millions and billions of pieces of content and millions and billions of people see what we create.
[00:21:55] But there’s a responsibility when it comes to that and the reason why we [00:22:00] started AndHumanity. There’s such a strong moral imperative and a case to do what we do. Because as marketers we can truly shape the world and shape how people see it just by the choices we make.
[00:22:11] We talk so much about ROI and numerical data and the work that we do as marketers. There’s the impact and the intuition that comes from doing something right in this case prioritizing representation that can’t be quantified, and that’s okay. But the problem with our work is that we’re so stuck in the structure of quantifying things, that you ignore your gut and you ignore your intuition.
[00:22:35] And that it’s like the ROI is the fact that you feel that it’s the right thing to do. You will impact people, right? You just can’t quantify it. But quantifying it is not a necessity, right? We’re just taught that it is. So anyways, the invisible impact, and I was also watching an Instagram video.
[00:22:51] Russel: Yeah, it’s almost fascinating you say that because so I’m big on culture and obvious included in that is, is DEI in terms of an [00:23:00] organization, but one of the things that I’ve had to pivot on my own path in is it’s hard to sell culture, and it’s hard to even implement culture if I don’t at least disguise it a little bit as growth in numbers. I have to bake it in on the backside in terms of how I work with folks. More so than saying, culture is the way you’re gonna grow your business, but absolutely that nobody wants to necessarily buy into that.
[00:23:23] But the next question is, how do you think inclusive marketing is viewed in the marketplace today?
[00:23:29] And I know you mentioned it, it certainly is a lot more so than when you initially had the idea, but what does it look like today versus how you’re seeing it evolve into the future?
[00:23:38] Matthew: Yeah, great question. Today there’s a lot of respect for what we do, but like anything, change is hard and what we’re asking of clients and our brand is to systematically dismantle a lot of their beliefs and a lot of their processes and a lot of how they do things.
[00:23:58] And I [00:24:00] completely a hundred percent understand how that is super difficult and almost near impossible in certain situations at this time. Oftentimes we are brought in by a single champion of a brand or a company and they’re the ones that are like, give me the ammunition I need to sell to leadership or to sell to whoever needs to be sold to that this is what we need to do. Because they know that we’re trying to do things a authentically, but we always try to meet our clients where they are.
[00:24:25] I’ve worked in the advertising industry for so long, I understand. they’re looking for, but I also understand that we can’t completely adhere to giving them exactly what they want or else we’re perpetuating the same thing and we’re not true to our word either. So it’s a very fine balance of slowly educating, knowing, it’s an iterative process of slowly educating that, Hey, if you want to meet this goal, you’re gonna have to change this.
[00:24:48] But knowing that they’re not gonna do it right away. So oftentimes we have to repeat ourselves or we have to know that it’s gonna take time.
[00:24:55] This generation and the generations that will proceed gen Z are more [00:25:00] environmentally, politically and socially conscious than any generation that preceded them, including my own. And the way they think and the way they feel towards this work is more of the same way that my generation demanded digital. In the sense that of course you have to do it. It seems obvious to them that you should be inclusive. It’s not something that’s controversial. It’s not a layer add-on. It is. That is what you should be. So I know that if you want to future-proof your brand and you’re talking about what inclusion and inclusive marketing is, it’s just innovation.
[00:25:33] All we’re doing is the next iteration. Just like digital was innovation.
[00:25:38] Russel: Love that. You mentioned in a lot of the work that you’re doing as it relates to inclusive marketing is more focused around consulting, and in fact, in a lot of other agencies are almost jealous that’s what they want to be focused on, more so than maybe you’d say the general production, but that’s not quite the case in your own journey.
[00:25:57] And why is that? [00:26:00]
[00:26:00] Matthew: I don’t know if other agencies are jealous that maybe you’re saying that they are, they would be?
[00:26:04] Russel: Because they just, yeah. So you, if you, I guarantee you,
[00:26:06] if you went to most agencies and said, Hey, would you rather get more of your money from consulting or more of your money from in production?
[00:26:14] I would be willing to bet most of them would say from consulting or strategy. And less on that in production.
[00:26:18] Matthew: That, you know what? That’s a, that’s probably a good point.
[00:26:20] I’ve talked to our folks about this too. It was like, the, first of all, the brands that want to work with us or can work with us, obviously need to have a budget to do something that is different and extra. Or the way that they’re framing it as an extra. Doing inclusive marketing, communication work are processes.
[00:26:39] It’s more thorough, there’s more time involved, more resources required, et cetera. So if you think about the brands that can afford that, it’s obviously gonna be larger brands and larger organizations or government or federally funded or provincially funded organizations. But knowing that it takes more time resources.
[00:26:56] You’re not targeting, businesses of micro-businesses, small businesses. [00:27:00] They’re not going to be it, they’re not gonna be prioritizing that cuz they don’t have the money to prioritize it when they can find another agency that does, full service work that, maybe isn’t inclusive is for a fraction of the cost sort of thing.
[00:27:11] Right now we work with a lot of more, you can say bigger brands, but they already have agencies of records or they have an RFP process where they’ve already selected their agencies a lot of the times. So we’re being brought in as a secondary voice, sometimes as a checkbox, which we don’t like.
[00:27:27] So we have to work that out. But the idea behind it is that we are brought into consult and to help strategize and be partners with either other agencies. And we’re fine with that. We play nice and we’ve actually done a lot of pro bono trainings for other agencies who really want to translate their intent into impact and we try to help them.
[00:27:45] So it’s not the problem with that. It’s more so the fact that because these brands have these agencies that are already assigned to do the creative production or to do more of the tactical work. Who are we to come in and do that, even though I know we have the capability, they have a [00:28:00] relationship.
[00:28:00] So we are often coming in as like that consultant to, to provide the lens that we provide. But it also means we don’t get to be the direct, you can say either final say or make as much direct impact. Even though we’re consulting, they’re not necessarily taking everything that we want to do or they’re not necessarily applying everything.
[00:28:21] And we always say that inclusion work is ongoing work, right? You can’t just take one training or do one campaign, et cetera. So if we were talking about authentically inclusion work. How can we expect not just the brands we work with, but also the partner agencies have gone on the same journey we have and to follow the same inclusive processes.
[00:28:42] We can educate them and verbally tell them or write it to them. But applying it is completely different. We had to completely uproot how we do things in all our processes to be where we are today, and we’re still not even close to perfect, right? So how can we expect that they’re gonna do the [00:29:00] same thing?
[00:29:00] Russel: We’ll switch gears here for a second. One of the things we didn’t get into, and I imagine a question that a lot of people want to know is, how has it been running a business with your sibling?
[00:29:10] Give us the good, bad, and ugly there.
[00:29:12] Matthew: Good, bad and ugly. Oh God, everything. I always say this, the greatest thing about it is the fact that no matter what, no matter how many fights we get in, or no matter how many disagreements or whatever, I know that she will not screw me over. And I know every relationship is different, but I know firsthand we agree in terms of our partnership, that family always comes first, right?
[00:29:35] So even when it comes down to something as sensitive as money or the direction of the business, family always comes first. And her being the not just the older sister, but the one that initially incorporated she owns 60%. But she always gives me a 50/50 state regardless.
[00:29:50] Which is. just a testament to how great of a partner she is. In terms of that. And we have nev, she has never had to use the thing as I own 60%, so I’m making that decision. [00:30:00] We are so aligned in our values and how we wanna do things and we complement each other. She’s the visionary and I’m more of the, we can say the implementer, the executor, and it just works, right?
[00:30:10] So that’s the good the great thing. But we’ve had a lot of bad and ugly moments. There’s actually a point in time where we physically fought each other, . This was near the early days where we weren’t making any money. We’re still living at home, not making any money.
[00:30:22] and my mom had to stop us cuz we’re like, we’re gonna quit. But there was pushing and it was like bad because there’s so much stress, like it for sure the ultimatum didn’t help but obviously it was motivating.
[00:30:33] But our mom’s you’re either quit or you go ahead with this, there’s no fighting, blah, blah, blah. So we continue ahead. We’re very different people, which is why we complement to each other, but our approaches are very different.
[00:30:43] The hardest thing though is not talking about work. When we’re not at work. It’s cuz like you, you work, 40 hours a week with this person and then, we’re talking about family.
[00:30:51] It’s like, how does work not come up? It’s so hard. So separating that is very difficult. But other than that, yeah, it’s been a blessing.
[00:30:58] Russel: That’s a what I commonly hear [00:31:00] amongst sibling or family run businesses. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I’m glad neither of you have beaten each other up,
[00:31:05] Yeah. Yeah. We’re certainly a success. As we start to wrap here, what is the long-term goal with the business? Five, 10 or more years from now? What are you hoping to achieve?
[00:31:14] Matthew: Like I mentioned earlier. I’m hoping five, 10 years down the line, we don’t have to call or brand ourselves as an inclusive marketing agency. Just a lot of agencies that are digital don’t necessarily have to have digital in their name, , or in their byline or whatever you call it. But I’m hoping that by then because Gen Z or whatever generation has started to demand it that brands will naturally be like, oh yeah, we have to work with agencies that have inclusive practices and processes and them themselves.
[00:31:41] They have to be, well-versed in this. I’m hoping it is something that is natural and not something that we constantly have to convince is worth the time. So that’s what I think the future of the business is gonna be. We’re gonna continue growing to the point where we’re not constantly educating and, people are more knowledge about this.
[00:31:59] I hate [00:32:00] using the word normal because there’s no such thing as the word normal, but it’s not something that’s different or unique anymore, it’s just what it is.
[00:32:06] Russel: AndHumanity is written into the history books as the front leader of what a normal agency is.
[00:32:13] Matthew: I don’t know if that even matters so much as long as we’re there. Because if you look at the people that started the digital marketing revolution, I don’t even know the names. It just happens cuz it has to happen. I just want to be there when it happens.
[00:32:26] Russel: I don’t need to host the party, I just need to be invited.
[00:32:28] Yeah. Just, yeah. The party just needs to happen.
[00:32:31] Matthew: Just the party just needs to happen.
[00:32:32] Russel: Last big question for you. Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
[00:32:37] Matthew: Both Tammy is a born entrepreneur ever since she was young.
[00:32:40] She’s fiercely independent. They say that my mom says that my daughter right now have a two and a half year old, is very much like Tammy was. Won’t hold my hand won’t listen. Wants to run off. You go to the park and she’ll be like, I wanna see that tree 300 yards a week and we’ll run to the tree rather than playing at the park with the kids.
[00:32:55] And Tammy was like that when she was young, apparently. And just always [00:33:00] about what’s the next, what’s the next thing? And always the prototypical entrepreneur in the sense of I will drive this ship forward. And I’m a made entrepreneur because I always said that I would’ve been comfortable working, a typical nine to five.
[00:33:13] Clocking in, clocking out and being happy and excelling at that job and growing. That didn’t scare me like it scares a lot of entrepreneurs and people. I love the freedom obviously, that I have now to do what I wanted to determine what that path is. But it was, in many ways, it was very hard for me at the beginning because there’s so much risk involved of not making money and eating ham cheese sandwiches, like that was not my ideal.
[00:33:37] So I think I became made because I had to either embrace it or quit. And so I embraced it and then I got used to it, and I got comfortable with being uncomfortable, which was the hardest thing ever.
[00:33:49] Because as an entrepreneur you’re always uncomfortable. It was made over time for sure.
[00:33:54] Russel: So if people want to know more about AndHumanity, where can they go? Where can they find out [00:34:00] more?
[00:34:00] Matthew: So you can find us at www.andhumanity.co or.ca. All our information is there in terms of our services and how we do things.
[00:34:08] You can also email us, directly email@example.com. You can find us on Instagram and LinkedIn. That’s where we post most of our content around JEDI marketing communications principles and work. So if you’re looking to learn more about it, that’s definitely where I would go.
[00:34:23] Russel: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that.
[00:34:25] Thank you so much for your time today, Matthew, thank you for being on the show. It was an absolute pleasure and inspiring story, and I’m glad you took the time to share it with us today.
[00:34:33] Matthew: Thank you for having me, and thank you for dealing with my many rants and and we’re all welcomed and appreciated.
[00:34:40] Yeah, I appreciate it.
[00:34:42] Intro: We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. An [00:35:00] Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction.
[00:35:03] Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5 million and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
[00:35:14] Matthew: But there was this one. Party that was particularly, I would say this was a traumatizing one. We needed money, so we took everything and there was a bachelor party that was there. . And this was a traumatizing experience. They used it for a bachelor party. We figured it’s fine. They hired strippers.
[00:35:30] We found out later on and they brought them to the office. And because we had to be there to monitor and make sure, things weren’t damaged, we were just in the back room. And we never went out. But we could hear the things that were going on and it was like, this was pretty traumatizing.
[00:35:45] They luckily, they were supposed to be out by a certain time, like pretty I think it was midnight or something like that. So they came in, they paid us at midnight and they’re like, Hey, if we give you an additional, above our hourly rate, can we stay? And we’re like, we really need the money.
[00:35:58] So we accepted. . [00:36:00] And then they came back again the hour, next hour after and kept giving us more money until, I don’t know, it was maybe four. Four in the morning, five in the morning. Oh my gosh. And we’re like, oh, we made a lot, but oh my lo ugh. I can’t even tell you what the mess was like cleaning it up after.
[00:36:16] I can’t imagine. Yeah. And you can cut this out if you want. There were stains that are unknown, but known I of know what they are, but I don’t want to talk about it. So we had a hefty clean in terms of after that.
[00:36:28] But you know what, in, in, in some ways we had to do it. Like it was either that or we, moved back to the home office, which we wouldn’t have been allowed to.