I dance one hour a day under the most ridiculous songs of the 80s, it helps me process the emotions and I feel so much better after this.
I make many (bad) jokes, all the time, to diffuse the stress.
I have a strong network of friends so I am well supported.
I have a lovely family life and even if a client or talent loses it, I can cuddle my son and play with him.
I look at all the art we have integrated in my interior and on the streets near my home.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Marine Tanguy.
After seeing the restrictiveness of the traditional gallery model, Marine launched MTArt Agency in 2015 which is the first talent agency for visual artists worldwide. Marine was awarded Forbes 2018 30 under 30 Europe: Art & Culture and UK entrepreneur of the year for the 2019 NatWest Everywoman Awards. Her talks include two TEDx Talks on how to transform cities with art and how social media visuals affect our minds.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
With pleasure, my name is Marine Tanguy and I come from a tiny island off the West Coast of France, called Ile de Ré. My mother is a primary teacher and I grew up surrounded by the most amazing women, from my granny who fought the war (luckily on the right side of the French resistance) to my mother who overtly cocooned me. Sadly my father was violent physically to me and I started building an imaginative world to escape my reality. I invented stories, I painted them and I wrote mini novels. These visual narratives that I imagined helped me cope with life and twenty years later, my entire job is to imagine new visual realities, that is integrate art on the streets in the form of public art projects, or integrate artworks in various interiors, digitally or with other creatives (music and fashion) with my company MTArt Agency, the first talent agency in the art world.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Of course! The art world is incredibly exclusive and I was working in the art world for 6 years already — I was owning my own art gallery in Los Angeles at 23 years old and I was fed up to not be able to inspire everyone with the art of my artists. The gallery walls felt incredibly restrictive and my artists wanted to do crazy projects and I wanted to be the one who would be able to support them. I was lucky to be mentored by Michael Ovitz when in Los Angeles and he explained to me how he built one of the most successful talent agencies in the world, CAA, and suddenly, it hit me: what if I introduced a new business model to the art world: the talent agency. It would enable larger audiences, more collaborations and would build the reputations of our artists in a much more powerful way. That was it. I sat down on my bottom and took a drawing board and started listing all my core values that would be the foundation of this business. Fast forward two years, we also became the first B Corp in the art world, respecting these core values.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I never understood the word ‘no’. I can thank my father for the lack of respect I had towards hierarchies, he had shown to me that one could have power and not deserve it morally and therefore that it was worth challenging the hierarchies that were pre-established in society. I wasn’t a business mind but I did care a lot ,and I would always go the extra mile for what I cared for.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
So many people! And in fact, it’s impossible to bring it down to a single person. I have been lucky to be listened to, even when my dreams were mad and to be supported, even when I was taking major risks by friends, family and so many people along the way. I am here thanks to so many people and I try everyday to give back what I received.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands strongly on a philosophy that is to support the top artists in the world to inspire everyone and that sets us apart. We have a vision to see visual artists inspiring all of us daily, everywhere, and I want to see them literally everywhere. A key example was when we conducted the largest public art painting in the world with our artist Saype in the centre of Paris: https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/news/events/beyond-walls-explore-giant-fresco-saype-eiffel-tower. That was magical, we were all in our twenties and I was 8 months pregnant: nothing can ever stop us.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I am not sure I am ‘yet’ a success but I love that we have been able to do so much and impact as much, I cannot wait to do more!
- I take hard decisions fast and I execute on them. My key sentence for this is ‘onwards’. I am not scared by conflicts or tough decisions and it has enabled us to not compromise, ever, our vision. When it comes to examples, I feel hard decisions always involve people and accepting to let people go that may not be right for the larger vision and community.
- I have A LOT of energy. Three hours in my day is two days for most people. I have always been hyper and in fact, it used to be an issue at school.
- I read a lot and I am able to execute upon the knowledge I read daily.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
So many! The worse that still makes my blood boil is: ‘I come from a wealthy family, I am not like you, I do not need to eat so I can build a bigger business. It made me feel horrible at the time but how wrong was that person, it is because I need to eat and so do the rest of my community that this business is growing fast.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
I am trying to learn daily about this. I find that the book of Mary Portas, Work Like a Woman really helps, especially to make sure that you do not build a toxic alpha culture. Now that we have achieved financial safety and long term, I want to make sure that we have the best culture, to attract the most inspiring people.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Be vulnerable, communicate about your challenges and help others.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
So many people pitch to me ideas that they have designed perfectly in their heads and they have no understanding of any clients or people that would truly need it. Know your community, your supporters and your clients and build a business for them, not the other way around. Spend more time asking questions to anyone who is interested and building a business that would truly add value. We do not need another app that adds no value to society.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
I remember a journalist not being factual about our business, I emailed her to correct it and she responded: ‘you shouldn’t be so emotional about it’. Well, yes I am emotional about everything we do at MTArt Agency because I care a lot. And the highs and lows are because for every high, it’s the best news in the world and for every low, I feel like we failed. I am wholeheartedly invested in our mission. A regular job implies that there is life and a job. My job is my life and vice versa, all is integrated, my family life is even integrated in it and I do not divide much, I prefer to integrate life. The idea of a ‘job’, something that is not essential to me living, hoping and breathing is something I am not equipped to do.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Of course! In January 2018, most of our clients had paid late so I didn’t have any money and I was in New York for an exhibition at the Quin Hotel. I remember walking up and down the streets under the snow and the freezing wind as I couldn’t even afford a tube ticket and I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to pay my employees at the end of the month. I would create excuses for my artists on why I wasn’t joining them for a drink and I was miserable (but looking happy on the outside). A week later, I was made Forbes 30 under 30 and all payments arrived. This is a good summary of what it means to be an entrepreneur, especially in the early days.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Absolutely! At the start of the business, I was 25 years old and received so much bullying for trying to disrupt this industry. I was a little broken in the inside as I genuinely wanted to add value and felt that I may even have solved a problem in the sector, it was so hard to constantly be attacked, on social media and emails. It was truly hurtful and sadly seems to be common for anyone trying to disrupt a traditional sector like the art world.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
I really believe in the mission of MTArt Agency. If we succeed, we get to show that no matter your background, you can succeed in our sector and there are businesses that can help you do so, like ours. It, therefore, shows that for the first time in this sector, it is going back to how talented you are versus where you come from. It also means that we can show that art belongs to all, can inspire all and can help young people, like I was once, to cope with life. This is why I always bounce back : ).
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- I dance one hour a day under the most ridiculous songs of the 80s, it helps me process the emotions and I feel so much better after this.
- I make many (bad) jokes, all the time, to diffuse the stress.
- I have a strong network of friends so I am well supported.
- I have a lovely family life and even if a client or talent loses it, I can cuddle my son and play with him.
- I look at all the art we have integrated in my interior and on the streets near my home.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is something that teaches you that you have to keep running, even when it is tough. It’s truly like a marathon, it is when you wish to give up that you have to push your whole body to continue. And it always works out at the end as you keep planting seeds and they do blossom beautifully, at least a couple of them, always. You simply can’t control their timings and that’s why you need to keep running. Onwards : ).
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
So many! My father really hated the arts, it felt that it was purposeless. When I wanted to take part in a play when I was 12 years old, he refused to drive me there (it was a 45 min drive in the winter) so I took my mini bicycle and rode it under the rain. It felt amazing.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Absolutely and I think that’s definitely one of my strongest skills, I can motivate my team, I send flowers, bring cakes and make jokes. It’s never as bad as you think.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
We saw it last year, as the entire sector was super down and miserable on social media, we took the stance to be the ones that would bring hope, inspiring and positivity on our Instagram account (@mtartagency) and newsletters. We received an outpouring number of responses telling us how much they needed that and how the art of our artists was truly helping. It gaves us so much energy and joy to read it. We had an incredible year (we tripled our revenue by 3 while our sector shrank by 35%) as a result.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Live the life of your imagination. It’s a tribute to my young self, apparently, that was too much of a dreamer and she got to live the life that she had dreamed for herself.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!