“We are trying to shift that norm and showing that women can also work on the tech field,” says GBC entrepreneur of the year.
Awarded last May as Entrepreneur of the Year, Dymika Harte started her career as a graphic designer in ninth grade. Now, owner of an all-female creative agency, Dymika and I talked about her past and how being always open to new things led her to follow this entrepreneurship’s path.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Hello and welcome to the Dialog’s podcast. My name is Luiz Felipe Lamussi and today I talked with Dymika Harte who was awarded last May George Brown College Entrepreneur of the year. She and her business partner Kiana Eastmond have an all-female creative agency called UNSGND, so I talked to Dymika to understand her path till here, her plans for the future and mainly what kept pushing her towards this goal of being a successful entrepreneur.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Okay Dymika, thank you for coming today. So you are a former student at GBC, you did Graphic Design here. You won last May entrepreneur of the year.
Dymika Harte: I did, I did.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: How was that?
Dymika Harte: It was exciting! I felt like it was a big title to take it on, as the entrepreneur of the year. I’m working towards being that.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And now have your own company, “UNSGND”, it’s an all-female creative agency. But first I want to understand how “Dymika the freelancer”… Because you were a freelancer before studying here at GBC. How did the freelancer start to think about having their own business?
Dymika Harte: Yeah, it starts to came out of the idea I had part times jobs before and freelancing shown me that I can make my own money on my own time. And I got to meet a lot of cool people along the way. I got to pretty much set life on my own terms. And I was a little bit scared to take the jump. And I believe right into my first year of college I still working. My mentor and business partner was like: “You need to jump into this like full-fledged”. So I knew I could do that. And it would be something I could make a living of it.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And, how did that started? You thought: “Okay, I’m going to open my own business now”. Did you look for some kind of guidance? You went to somewhere here at GBC, right?
Dymika Harte: Yeah, so it actually started when I came here in high school actually for a dual credit program. So that was really amazing for me. I got the chance to learn how to do graphic design while I was in high school. And because I was put it on GBC email list, I got an email saying: ” Hey, do you have a business idea? Why not come here?” And I didn’t have a business idea but I could figure something out. I had some ideas while I was in high school. My original idea was to start a magazine. I’ve always been interested in recording artists and producing. I was actually through high school learning how to produce music. I came to the program with that idea. And then I met my now business partner and mentor Kiana Eastmond who owns a recording studio called Sandbox studios. We team up in that program. We realized we had different skill sets. She was an entrepreneur and I was a graphic designer. So we built each other’s plan to have a deal that if we win, we would create the company. So she actually said to me: “You are a graphic designer, you like music. So why you don’t branded artists instead (of the magazine idea)?” So that’s how the idea of UNSGND came.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Since we are taking this path to talk about your company, it’s an all-female agency. And the thing is.. I was thinking to ask you about that but If you were an all-male agency I wouldn’t ask anything.
Dymika Harte: And there is a lot of all-men agency. There are very very few women that are on their teams.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: I want to know about your thoughts and why an all-female agency. The thing is, I know why but sometimes we need to talk about it.
Dymika Harte: Yes so, a lot of creative agencies, there isn’t a lot of women who are on the board in a high-level position. So, us been an all-female agency doesn’t mean we don’t work with men. We collaborate with guys but we always give females an opportunity first to be in those higher positions. We want to them been working on the bigger roles in the company.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And do you think this could be a mirror for other companies too. You have been a role model for others. And it’s important because I was reading an article that only 15% of the companies here in Canada are owned only by women.
Dymika Harte: Yeah. And another thing that I learned building my business plan is that those within 15% of companies are not necessarily in the design and tech. They are more on retail, administrator things. So we are trying to shift that norm and showing that women can also work on the tech field. In terms of being behind a computer as coders and developers are still something that there is a big gap. You don’t see many that many women. I worked as a freelancer with different creative companies. And that’s kind where I started understanding a lot of this creative companies are more like focused on men. And the team were more man, there wasn’t a lot of women that where doing the things I was doing.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: So that was the moment that you notice that?
Dymika Harte: Yes!
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Before that…
Dymika Harte: Before that, I was just on my own. I didn’t even go to school as a graphic designer. I was like ” I can build a logo. And you can pay me 200 bucks”. I was deeping my foot into the game so I didn’t know much about the business at that time. But once I started working with bigger companies, than I started to understand how the industry works.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And what did you thought when you realized the all men thing?
Dymika Harte: That when I started to realize that something has to be different. Or I started to realize that I would love to work in a company where my manager was a female. Or the creative director was a woman. And I just want to see more of myself in there.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Now I want to understand what was your path. So you studied graphic design at school?
Dymika Harte: I kind of felt into it. At the same time, I was always like sketching class and getting in trouble for that. In grade nine they (the teachers) were tired of me playing on photoshop in class because I was pretty good at it. So they asked me to design the yearbook. At the same time, I applied for different competitions where I got to go to Waterloo and I won a couple of times. It was a national competition actually with different schools. I never won the national but I got the cities though. That was pretty cool. And at the same time, I was focusing on learning on how to become an audio engineer at the community center. So at that same time, I was learning how to become an audio engineering but I sketching things while I supposed to be playing the piano. So I met another one of my mentors who works for the City of Toronto. And she actually worked for a design company. All this happening at the same time and people noticing that I was good at design at school and in the community center that I use to work at. She took me under her wing and started teaching me a lot more like advanced design skills and how to become a business person. So while I was in high school I was learning the technical stuff and in the community center I was learning how to go meet people and I got my first contract with the city of Toronto to design covers for a toolkit that went out across the city.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: How old were you?
Dymika Harte: At that point, I think I was 15. So it was a pretty big job and I end up getting a lot of connections out of that. That’s how I got started in graphic design, saying yes to a bunch of things.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: I really liked what you just said. “Say yes to a lot of things.”
Dymika Harte: That’s how I got my job.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Yes, and that’s how you start anything. Saying yes even when you don’t know how to do it.
Dymika Harte: I still do it till this day. If someone asks me to design a billboard or an app I will do it. But I need to do some research before I do it.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Yes because the next time when they ask you to do that you will know. Because you were trying to do something new…You need to take some risks mainly when you are starting something. And you said you built a lot of connections there and this connection helped you to keep this graphic design path?
Dymika Harte: Yes! A lot of the people I met in the community center, I’m still in contact till today and the still connect me with different people. The network that I built when I was 14, 15, just starting as a freelancer helped me built the connection that I have today.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And after that did you went to George Brown or…
Dymika Harte: So, at this point, I took a year off of high school and that’s what I find out about the Youth Starter HUB. So I graduated in 2014 and I think I started in the next September. I stayed there for a year flashing out the idea of the business.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And it’s funny because you were like 19…
Dymika Harte: 18 actually!
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And you were already thinking about your own business. Did you have someone in your family to inspire you to do that? Where did that grow in you? It’s awesome that in your 19s you were thinking about: ” Okay, I can run everything…”
Dymika Harte: Honestly, not a lot o people in my family are entrepreneurs. My mom is definitely a go-getter, she would always make sure that she can provide for the family. But she wasn’t someone that was interest in running their own business. And I didn’t grow up in an entrepreneur family but is more my idea of always saying yes to things. I never want to say no to an opportunity. If I can do it, I will do it! That’s how I got pretty much… I saw the email and I thought: “I can totally start a business. Why not? What’s the worst thing that can happen? I don’t get into the program?” I just say yes to everything.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: You said yes to this interview, so… And this thing about saying yes to everything is crazy because I’m a little bit like that. I’m doing sound design here at GBC, I’m also an audio engineering. But I never had mixed a song, I always worked with movies and advertisements. And I friend of mine came and ask if I could record and mix a song. And I said yes but I had no idea. But I did and that’s the good thing because now I’m going to do again and now I know what my mistakes were at the first time.
Dymika Harte: Yes because when somebody asks you to do something that you might have been thinking of doing it before… For example, I really wanted to do a logo but nobody offered to pay me. So if somebodies is asking: ” Can you do this I have this amount of money to give you?” I’m going to say yes! So I can figure it out. Maybe I will mess up the first time but now I have that skill to go on with.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Now I want to understand how was your path during George Brown. Because is not easy to be a student, you have a lot of assignments, a lot of stuff. I can tell by myself. And you were like studying, working and trying to open your business?
Dymika Harte: Yes! It was stressful. I will be very honest with you, it wasn’t all like roses and happiness. It was a lot of me saying no to hanging out. I know that for a lot of people the college experience is like party and hanging out. I’m not saying that I didn’t have friends, I built an amazing group of friends. But in between classes I was here early. I at lunch sitting by myself answering emails, making sure I got my assignments done. I had to block out my time really well to manage things because I had real clients asking me where the work is. And I had my assignments to do at the same time. So I really had to understand how I was going to balance those things.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And you got your first clients while you were at GBC?
Dymika Harte: It was not necessary first clients, I took a lot of the clients that I was freelancing with… So when they came back, I introduce them to the company. So a lot of the clients that I had where clients from freelancing and at the same time I was building connections for winning the pitch competition at George Brown.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: And what changed from being a freelancer and now having your own company? Do you think the approach with the clients changed? The way they looked at you?
Dymika Harte: For a while, it was just me and my business partner at the company. And it was more like me front facing so would be talking to the clients and my business partner where doing all the strategy and things like that. Now I have staff. So now it’s a little a bit of curve for the client because they were more used to talk to Dymika the designer/adman person but now I have both. And I’m more of the creative director, so you will not get to talk to me on the phone as soon as you call. You will talk to the adman person. But yeah, most of my work is managing my team and the money and numbers. Which is fun.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Since you talked about the money, do you feel the pressure… I don’t want to say like… I mean you are hiring people and paying people. Do you that pressure because you are so young and you changed from a freelancer world to having a company. Are you feeling this pressure?
Dymika Harte: Oh yeah, there is definitely pressure. I was just talking to my friend yesterday because a lot of my staff are on contracts. Which is fine but when I find someone that I really like, then the pressure is on me because I need to make an extra amount of money to pay full-time.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: That’s when you stop sleeping.
Dymika Harte: Exactly! That’s where I’m right now. But it is not going to kill me.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Yes! And the future. The UNSGND future… What are you expecting? What are you building?
Dymika Harte: We definitely want to be the leading one-stop shop. Our model is a little bit different in terms of we focus on strategy to the design and printing. We want to be that “go to” place for recording artists and small business to come and think “I can come here, figure it out which is my business’s problem is. They are going to help us with the strategy, build some awesome designs but we can also print it here”. Which is a big point for a lot of small business and artists. So we want to be that “go to space”. That’s what we are working towards.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Thank for coming by today.
Dymika Harte: No problem. Awesome
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: It was great!
Dymika Harte: Thanks for having me.
Luiz Felipe Lamussi: Thank you!
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