Abraham Abbi Asefaw is not only an inspiring entrepreneur who has founded two agencies but a relatable and inspiring voice in the industry. As the Co-Founder of The Pop Up Agency, which he created before he turned 30, Abraham has stepped into his role as a leader in the industry with gusto. His major clients include Facebook, Adidas, Nissan, and Sky. During our conversation, we discussed his journey from leaving the legal field and taking the brave leap into entrepreneurship, the major differences between international clients and American brands, his unique vision for the Pop Up Agency, and his goal to re-define the role of creatives in the industry. Abraham is challenging the status quo and bringing us all along on the ride! Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Deanna Testa and edited by Keisha “TK” Dutes.
Abraham Abbi Asefaw is not only an inspiring entrepreneur who has founded two agencies but a relatable and inspiring voice in the industry. As the Co-Founder of The Pop Up Agency, which he created before he turned 30, Abraham has stepped into his role as a leader in the industry with gusto. His major clients include Facebook, Adidas, Nissan, and Sky.
During our conversation, we discussed his journey from leaving the legal field and taking the brave leap into entrepreneurship, the major differences between international clients and American brands, his unique vision for the Pop Up Agency, and his goal to re-define the role of creatives in the industry. Abraham is challenging the status quo and bringing us all along on the ride!
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Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Deanna Testa and edited by Keisha “TK” Dutes.
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Maurice: All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.
Abraham Asefaw: My name is Abraham Asefaw. I am the founder of a company called The Pop-up Agency, so basically a creative agency that is known for solving briefs in 48 hours, so that's what we're known for, our agile creative process. For the last seven years we worked in over 55 countries. Worked with everything from brands to government, to agencies, to NGOs, you name it. So yeah, that's me and that's us.
Maurice: So, I'm curious about this solving briefs in 48 hours because first of all when people go to the website for The Pop-up Agency that's the first thing they see as the scroll down the page, in huge red letters we saw, "Briefs in 48 hours. I ran a studio too, I ran a studio for 9 years, so I have to ask, how Sway? How do you do it in 48 hours? What's that approach like?
Abraham Asefaw: There is obviously, I mean the story goes as following. So like, the way we solve it. First and foremost the way we solve briefs in 48 hours is that at the end of the day what it is, it is focus. It's focus, it's having all the stakeholders in the room, clear sort of brief and then it's just about having this clear structure, and then keeping people... getting people aligned and voila, you solve the brief in 48 hours but if I take a step back and I try explain to you like why we choose to work that way. So, seven years ago I... so my background actually is in law and politics but then I studied one year design [inaudible 00:01:37] to a post master in Sweden, at a school called Hyper Island. At two weeks into this program, so just to give you this understanding, they have the class for Scandinavian students and half of them were international students and the requirement was you needed some... a bachelor and work experience to go, so everybody had kind of experience.
Really quickly when I started this program a realized it's a lot of smart people here, so how do I create a side project that allows me to work with as many people as possible, so basically with that in mind I came up with the idea of a pop-up agency, and I just picked the five people that at that point, two weeks into program I was sort of vibing with and explained the idea, and then from there on we basically sort of down on needs and values and created it, and so just to give you an example. It's just like wanting to [inaudible 00:02:35] projects, wanting to work globally, wanting to constantly evolve and learn [inaudible 00:02:41] in my company, and so on and so on, and that's how we came about, and then, if you're wondering why the 48 hours. The reason why it became 48 hours and not 72 hours or any else time frame was because at that point we were students, we were very busy, and the only time we actually had to execute something was during the weekends. That's the 48 hours, and you ask what do you deliver after 48 hours.
The deliverable was an idea, a concept, so yeah, so that's the story. That's why we solve briefs in 48 hours, and then to continue that the first student year the objective was to sort of prototype this concept if it's like... does this actually work. Is there a need for this? And secondly launch it, so what we did was first and foremost sort of articulate it and craft what is it, so we all were clear about that. Secondly, it was about how do we prototype and launch this. We came with this idea of sort of a pop-up tour, 15 weeks, 15 clients, 15 countries. That was the way we were going to sort of launch it and prototype it but before that we had like even earlier prototyping, and then just to fast forward, so we did that the first year as students, and we did 26 jobs in 15 countries.
Abraham Asefaw: And then graduated, and then moved to London and set it up, and the reason why we chose London, I mean I'm jumping ahead here. It was between being in New York and then London, and for us it was very important to be a global business and it just made sense to be in London because time zone, language. It just made sense to be in London. New York was just too far away from everything else.
Maurice: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Abraham Asefaw: Even if we had majority of our clients in the US we just chose to be in London, so yeah.
Maurice: Now do you approach every project for The Pop-up Agency like this, in that same kind of 48 hour time span?
Abraham Asefaw: The principle, yes but some projects requires more than 48 hours. The majority of our projects are the 48 hours, so obviously we've evolved from that. That's sort of how we started and that's what put us on the map but at the end of the day what we also realized is the core proposition and what we were really good at was our agile creative process and we use that to sort of go in and help clients, and solve problems but we also use that to go in and sort of train an organization on how to become more agile and creative. So yeah, to answer your question majority of our jobs are still the 48 hours, that's what they prefer but some require a bit longer.
Abraham Asefaw: What then happens is like you have like multiple 48 hours, so it becomes multiple iterations of that piece of the project.
Maurice: So what is a regular day like for you? If that even exists. I can only imagine just from looking at your website you have this extensive travel schedule, like this year it's Paris, it's Davos, Stockholm, Berlin, Moscow, Nairobi, New York, DC, what is a regular day like with all of the...being in different cities at, you know, sometime during the year?
Abraham Asefaw: I mean it's like... I have sort of tWo gears for me and my team. It is we're in London at our offices and conducting daily work and that could be catching up with the admin and mail, and what not. Sort of development in sort of products and services that we're creating, and then just catching up internally with the team, but then the other side is we're on site working on a project together with our clients. So, it is like these two different sort of like... I'm either in London dealing with my team and working on internal things or I'm away on site working with a client. [inaudible 00:06:34] and going back, the reason why we travel so much is regardless if we're goin in and solving a problem or we're going in and sort of training [inaudible 00:06:43] to become more agile and creative. We always have to be on site, that's the only way we could sort of accelerate things, so don't get me wrong we live in a time where everybody is pro remote work lifestyle and kudos to that but for us to do what we do we see it as like, you know digital is great, it's a great tool but at the end of the day to really make things happen or accelerate we need to be on site, and have all of the stakeholders in the room, and that's the way we sort of accelerate things.
Maurice: Yeah. I have to imagine your discovery and intake process is pretty stringent in order to find the types of clients that would allow you to work in that way, right?
Abraham Asefaw: No it is, and I think also it's the... it's something that has taken time to understand and learn how to do it because now we include the client in the process. In the beginning we didn't do that. We came in sort of like as [inaudible 00:07:39] in as a sort of a swat team and yeah we sort of challenge and got a space within that company and then start working on it, and then voila. After the 48 hour here was the solution, but we found some challenges with that. We realized for example, there is one thing is coming up with a solution but then another thing is, especially in our case when we work with such a large organization, there are a lot of politics, so one thing is coming up with a solution but then there's the another journey that the idea has to got through and have a co-sign a lot people before actually it can see daylight, and also that our part is the sort of ideation phase.
We help them come up with ideas and align people, so we are not a part of the implementation, so that is even more important that the client have that clear ownership and understanding of ideas, so we had to involve them in the process and what in coming to now, that tool time also to understand. How to sort of navigate and how sort of to facilitate that session, those sort of interactions because you come in there externally, you're there to help them and to provide solutions, but you're also at the same time trying to sort of facilitate and navigate this people that are in the room.
Maurice: So yeah, I would imagine that's interesting you're coming in, you're giving these ideas, but you're not involved in the implementation. You're basically making sure the client is ready to implement what you all have already suggested.
Abraham Asefaw: Exactly, so that's why when we go in and do these projects we always have all the stakeholders, so that means the ones... the decision makers, the ones that are going to build it, everybody is in that room together, so when we leave everybody is... had the ownership and that clear understanding, what ideas and how we're going to go about to sort of implement it, so like in the beginning, and this is sort of obviously... it's inevitable evolution, change. We started as purely sort of like, as a creative agency in the sense of like we were... we came in there, we came up with these solutions and great ideas for our clients but as we were running our own business our interest and understanding for business has started to grew, so that is also applied in the solutions today. That's why in the beginning we would walk into the creative, and the marketing departments and work with them, but now we still do it to some degree but majority of our time also now we go in much more often to the board, the founders, CEO level and work with them, and that's also why in the beginning of our journey you could see us aa a purely creative agency. Today you can look at us and it's a hybrid of a between a creative agency and a management consultancy.
Maurice: Yeah, that's what I was thinking. It kind of sounds like that hybrid.
Abraham Asefaw: Because at the end of the day our skillset is more geared towards the soft skills not the hard skill in the sense of it's much more in the thinking side of things not so much on actually building, physically building it.
Maurice: So with the clients that you have that are all over the world I'm curious. One, what are the best types of clients for you I guess in terms of the type of work they do? And two, have you found that international clients, I'm assuming clients that are in Europe or Asia, or wherever, or Africa, are they easier to work with than clients in the US?
Abraham Asefaw: I think this is going to sound... I think our ideal client is all our clients, and what I mean with that is that when you co-sign to the way you're going to work with us, because we're not your average agency and don't get me wrong, I have nothing against everybody else, but what I'm mean is that you need to commit not just time and resources when you work with us. It's a lot of things that you have to consider, okay cool, I order to have an accelerated process and if you agree to this, because this is the way it's going to work, so in the beginning we were much more open and we worked with a lot of type of clients but we realized that this doesn't work and there's a certain type of client that needs this and they need to be of a certain mindset to actually make it work, and see the value of what we do, so we had this like rigorous process of like, they need to sort of like, we need to do our research and then they have to co-sign before [inaudible 00:12:15] with us so that's a long answer for saying that the clients that we work with we're happy with them.
They are our ideal clients and again by doing that rigorous process that is also assuring that we have the right type of client that actually needs [inaudible 00:12:30] but also are willing to come back because they see the value and they need this, so there are clients out there that needs it but they are not willing to commit to what comes with the [inaudible 00:12:43] process.
Maurice: Yeah, I would imagine some clients, you know they... and the reason I asked about... and I still kind of want to know the answer to this in terms of the difference between international and clients in the US, is that clients sometimes just want you to come in and just do the work. They're throwing money at the problem, and they don't really want to get involved with it, they just need it done, and is sounds like because of the process that you all have built with The Pop-up Agency that's not how you all work.
Abraham Asefaw: And especially what we're trying to solve, you can't do that. It's so complex and big thing that's going to affect the business. You need to have everybody involved, you can't just outsource that, and I understand that some things yeah, outsource that I understand you can do it, but the [inaudible 00:13:30] sort of work that we do you need to have everybody. You can't just outsource that so you need to have them committed in the room and we need to keep the accountable for it. And in terms of your second question I think that's something that's so interesting, so for example the... I think my background has helped me a lot and some of my team members also because I grew up in a very, very... I mean like I lived in four countries... I think yeah-
Abraham Asefaw: ... I think yeah, I've lived in four countries and I've lived in three countries at the age of seven, so I've always had a diverse surrounding around me all the time. So, I didn't really realize that was an asset in itself to understand how to navigate through different cultures, but that's basic what I do on a daily base with my business because I'm constantly working with people from different cultures, and obviously you have to take that into consideration because there's... it was nothing something that I thought about as I was starting the business, but it's definitely something very important that you can't do business the same way in every nation, in every country. You can't do that. It's done differently, and you have to sort of respect that and work around that. So, I definitely see that on a daily basis and there's definitely differences, there's not doubt. There's no doubt.
And it took me a minute to realize that, to really see it because there's a lot of impressions to digest but there's massive culture differences in terms of working. Just being within Europe is differences obviously. There's difference being in North America and there's a difference between being in Africa and Asia and different parts of Asia, so yeah.
Maurice: So you mentioned growing up in these different countries as a child, so I'm curious to know was creativity a big part of your childhood?
Abraham Asefaw: I would say no, it was definitely not. No it was not. My mom and my dad, for that matter, they were very keen like many immigrant or uneducated parents. Obviously we moved to the West just for us to have a better future, but for them it was traditional working titles as the doctor, teacher, lawyer, or engineer. Those were the sort of things they were sort of pushing us and encouraging us to do, so creativity was definitely not existing. I was growing up, no, there was never presence at all.
Maurice: Do you remember what it was like going from country to country like that as a child?
Abraham Asefaw: I have vague memories. So, just to give you understanding, I have heritage in Eritrea. That's where I'm from. I was born in Saudi Arabia, in Judah, and then I moved at the age of four to Europe. I moved to France first and foremost and was there for roughly a year, and then we continued further to Germany. I was there for two years and then eventually ended up in Sweden, and that's where I spent the majority of my childhood, where I grew up. So I have vague memory of moving around a lot. Even within Sweden, we moved, I think, three or four times before we settled in a small town. So there's a lot of that. The first sort of ten years of my life was a lot of moving around with my mom and my younger brothers. My dad stayed.
Maurice: And as you told me before we started recording, there's actually a pretty big Eritrean population in Sweden.
Abraham Asefaw: It's definitely a big community. Of the African nations, East Africa has the biggest representation in Sweden, Somalian being number one and then I think I would say Eritreans are number two. Without having the facts in front of me, but I would say Eritrean community, outside of Eritrea, would be, and not in that order, U.S., Germany, Italy, Sweden are probably where you find most Eritreans.
Maurice: What draws them there? I'm curious.
Abraham Asefaw: I assume it is that other Eritreans are there. I mean my mom-
Maurice: No, that's real talk. That's real talk. You want to go where the people like you are there.
Abraham Asefaw: The same things with Westerners. They call it, what's it called? Expats. I was just in Ghana now and I saw parts of Ghana where I just saw British and French. We all do that, and I think especially when we did that move from Germany to Sweden, it was word to mouth. My mom has friends and family members, more friends and family members, that was in Sweden, and they were liking it and they thought it was good, ended up there.
Maurice: That makes sense. So you studied political science and law. When did you know that going into this creative agency work was what you wanted to do for a living? When did that shift happen?
Abraham Asefaw: I think it was when I came to, I started studying at university, and it definitely was sort of, I was living in a very isolated area in Sweden in the sense of, it was just immigrants, working class immigrants. When I came to university, my whole world was just destructed in terms of the types of people that I was surrounded with, there were from different classes of Sweden, but then also there were international students, so that sort of open up a whole new world for me. And what happened was instead of being resistant to that and being defensive, I was embracing it. I was taking it in. Slowly and slowly, I was taking that side.
I think what the pivotal moment was, I have a younger brother he's five years younger than me, [Madhana 00:19:36]. I think I was around probably I was 27, I was almost finishing up the [finance 00:19:46] of my law degree, and he came to me, he's like, "Listen, I don't think this is for you. I don't think this is for you. I think you should venture out to the creative industry."
And by then, during my university years, so I was like five years into my university, I was doing bits of things on the side. I was DJing. I created my first company. But I never saw it as this is going to be my nine to five, this is going to be my job moving forward. I never saw that. I just thought, okay this is a hobby, and I'm just doing things here. I'm working with music, I'm working with clients in my new company, I'm working with publishing a bit with that. I would say experimenting. I had no sort of direction. I was just doing things.
Then my brother told me, "You should rethink this." And that's when I took a break from that and studied one year design lead. And even when I came into that, I've got to be honest, I still remember the first week I was studying this post-masters program, I was just so nervous because all of the people around me, they had experience in this field, they studied creative, they worked the creative industry. I felt a bit of a fraud when I came in there, the first two weeks, let's say the first one and a half weeks.
Maurice: This was Hyper Island?
Abraham Asefaw: Hyper Island, yeah. I was just super reserved, but them somehow I just came to this realization: I'm here for myself. I can't compare myself to these people in this room. I've got to focus on my skill set and what I'm strong at and just take what I want from here and then just get out of here. From there on, I just unapologetically was myself and just went with it.
Maurice: It sounds like Hyper Island was really sort of the nexus point for you and your carer.
Abraham Asefaw: I think yes and no. I would say I definitely believe my first company that I ran, because I ran that not seeing it to be my future, I ran hat for six years as I was in university, and my brother, that is what was pivotal.
And then what Hyper did was give me more the language, the tools, and more understanding. Because up until then, I was sort of reinventing the wheel. I did not know what I was doing. I was just doing things on the fly. I was learning. But then as I went into school and I learned more and all of a sudden, I took the sort of energy that I had and all of a sudden I now had knowledge and I could navigate much faster through the industry.
Even I think that's been in my benefit, running my businesses. I didn't have that much baggage. I came in very naïve. I didn't know a lot of the things. That's why I just, okay let's do it like this let's run the business like this. I think that helped a lot. Had I understood more where I am today, I think I would have been much more conservative. I don't think I would have dares to come up with the idea I did back then.
Maurice: I like that idea of coming in with no baggage into a sort of design education track, and the reason I'm saying that is because certainly there's more than one way to be a designer. There's more than one way to be a designer in this industry. You don't have to go the route of art school undergraduate, intern apprenticeship somewhere, and then working at some big company. And sometimes that, even though it sounds like that's the ideal track, what that ends up doing is it, like you said, it gives you baggage when you go into other sorts of design things because you're pulling from this past history of what you think it's supposed to be or how you may have experienced it before, and it can hinder you. And it sounds like the fact that you came in without that was really a benefit.
Abraham Asefaw: Listen, it's mad. I studied that for one year. I did not even design a keynote.
Abraham Asefaw: I mean I know why they did it. They give me a [inaudible 00:24:00]. But I just realized my skillset was on the soft side, not the hard side. So I have soft skills, not hard skills. I just went with it. I was not even trying to learn a bit of the hard skills. I was like, you know what? I am 28. I know what I'm good at. I'm going to focus on that, and I'm not interested. I'm not interested in designing and coding. I'm not. So I'm like, let's focus on what I'm good at. I have a strong drive. I'm very vision-driven. I'm good at leading people. I just focused on that, what I was good at.
Maurice: Who or what are some of your influences?
Abraham Asefaw: I would say my mother, my family, my culture, 100%. This is also one of the main reasons I entered to the creative industry. I'm studying law and politics, mainly for my parents' sake, and with that you're molded into a box, you're dressed and talk in a certain way. When I was entering the creative industry, was here is a place where diverse thinking, being different, is valued. I was like, oh, this is a place where I should be because my complex identity in terms of being from somewhere else but grew up here, I'm allowed to bring all sides in of me here. This is the way I should be. I do not know how I'm going to make a living by being in this place, but this is what I should be because I am allowed to be myself here.
That ties back into why I think the greatest inspirations still, are at the end of the day, it is my family it is my culture that I think, to a certain degree, was a bit suppressed being in another culture, working in an industry that just wants to be a robot in law and politics. So stepping into the creative industry was a liberating feeling, and I think that's why this is where I belong.
Maurice: I'm allowed to be myself here. That's powerful. That's powerful thing to say.
Abraham Asefaw: Yeah, and I think that's still at the end of the day what I love and appreciate more. That said, obviously there's much more work to be done in the industry because we might say we value diverse thinking and whatnot but at the end of the day it doesn't reflect that, but we're working on that side of things. But that's why I'm in it and I'm still in it and I did that sort of pivot. And I bless my brother for giving my that sort of reality check and making me iterate in terms of where I should put my energy and focus.
Maurice: Do you feel satisfied creatively?
Abraham Asefaw: Yes and no. Yes in the sense of the space that I am, but that's a struggle that I have: to enjoy what I'm doing right here right now because I'm always already thinking on the second and third step ahead. I even remember the first [inaudible 00:27:08] there was so much things that had happened. You know I was in 16 countries, 26 jobs, we were having coverage all over the place in terms of our company, but I was looking back at it. I was not present. There's so much things going on. And that's something I'm trying to work on with myself, try to be more present and enjoy what's going on, but also at the same time look forward.
Maurice: I know that feeling all too well because sometimes I think, with creative types we're so focused on the future, it's just by the time other people have caught up to what we've already done, we're over it. It's in the past, and it can be sometimes a struggle to try to relish it as it happens, you know what I mean? So I get what you mean about the struggle is enjoying it, being present in the moment is tough because you're-
Maurice: [inaudible 00:28:00] the struggle is enjoying it. Being present in the moment is tough because you're so focused on, "What's the next thing, what's the next thing?" I can give just Revision Path as an example. We're doing the show, we're recording and everything. I'm already thinking, "Our 300th episode is coming up, our 325th episode I think is going to be later on in the year." I'm thinking, "What do we do to get to year seven?" Because now this is year six. What do we do to get to year seven and to level up and to keep the conversation going?
Because in terms of design podcasts, we're one of the longest running ones. There's Design Matters, there's Adventures in Design, there's us. And the fact that we're so focused on a particular niche of ... And even to call it a niche I feel like is doing it a disservice. So we're focused on talking to black designers and creatives. This is something that hasn't been done for this long, continually, at a part ... I'd say at a point where people are really visibly seeing it. So I'm always thinking, "What's the next thing I have to do?" I'm never really thinking about right now. Last year we got a bunch of awards and stuff like that, and it was great, but I'm thinking, "What do we do when we get to 300?" Which would happen the next year. So I'm already like ... I get what you're saying is what I'm trying to say.
Abraham Asefaw: Listen, kudos respect for the work that you've done, that's really impressive. 300 episodes? That's ... Hats off.
Maurice: Thank you. What kind of dream project do you have that you want to do one day?
Abraham Asefaw: I don't know if I should put it out there but-I
Maurice: You can put out as much as you're comfortable with.
Abraham Asefaw: I'm always big picture. I have this idea of being involved on the nation level, to sort of, how do we sort of stimulate ... In some case it's about stimulating creative economies, and some case it's about kick-starting creative economies. And that for me is more geared to working that towards the continent, going back to Africa and working. That's why I try to be there more and more often for the last couple of years. To try to figure out ... Understand how do I add value and how can I contribute and plant seeds here? That's the dream project that I would have, is like how to do something on that level.
Don't get me wrong, come back see me in five years, I'll have probably a couple of more companies under my belt. But, and I keep building businesses, focus on change and purpose-driven business always. But I have this dream idea of, how could I be on air involved on a national level. That's also why you mentioned Davos and our schedule. For the ones who don't know why Davos is on schedule for this year, is that we were at the World Economic Forum, and that's the second time we've been. And again, it is ... You won't probably see that many creative agencies at Davos. It connects to like ... Yeah we're known for our agile process, but also our message that we believe that [inaudible 00:31:39] creative and we want to use creativity as a vehicle for change and human progress.
Again, the thing is, at the end of the day the business is a reflection of us as founders but I also realize sometimes I cram in a lot of me and my time, sort of all of our values in our businesses, but at the same time I also realize that sometimes maybe I need to do something outside of my business, especially in this ... I'm talking about this dream project, sort of working on a national level. Maybe in a content level, how do you develop and stimulate the economy, in some cases it's about kick-starting it. But yeah.
Maurice: You mentioned the continent. And you were just recently in Ghana, in Accra. What was that experience like?
Abraham Asefaw: That was amazing. To all Ghanaian, thank you so much for your hospitality. So I'm from East Africa, I've never been in West. And one experience was Ghana ... All the Ghanaian, listen, I can't explain how much I love you before, but I love you even more now after being in your country. I was just ... The way I was taken care of, and the experience that I had, yeah. It was beautiful. I really enjoyed it. I was also really surprised to see the amount of people moving from Europe, the US, back to Ghana. I see that also in Nigeria a lot. Like in West Africa people [inaudible 00:33:12] moving back a lot. I mean whether they have roots in these countries or not, I see a lot of people predominately black people, coming back ... People of color moving back to the continent and doing great things. But then also I was fortunate enough to meet amazing talented people in the continent, that was doing great things, I mean, in Ghana. I mean, it was an amazing experience.
I was there for a project with a local business. Really progressive, you know. It's a family owned business, been around for I think 12-13 years. So within that company they have three [inaudible 00:33:56], so there are three companies. One is focused on security, one that focuses on green energy, and one that focuses on logistics. So yeah, it was really inspiring to be there.
Maurice: I have heard so many good things about Ghana, about Accra specifically, but about Ghana. I have heard so many good things from people visiting. I know people that have moved there. There's this ... You've heard of the Brexit? There's this thing called the Blackxit?
Abraham Asefaw: Blackxit, yeah yeah yeah. I [inaudible 00:34:26] about that.
Maurice: Of people specifically of African Americans moving to Africa. This one person I know who moved there told me that the reason why she moved is that she went to visit, she had come back and visited about three or four times, and she said that when she was there, it didn't feel like she had to prove herself to anyone else's standards there. Like in America, it can certainly ... Especially if you live in a big city, it can be that way where so much of what we do is inevitably rooted in some level of competition because that's how America exceptionalism just sort of thrives, thanks to capitalism.
But over there, they said it just feels like a totally different ... It's a totally different vibe. I want to go. I gotta go. I'm putting that out in the universe. I wanna go.
Abraham Asefaw: Do, please do. It's ... And listen, I've been to five different countries in the continent, and they're all beautiful and amazing in their own ways, but do you have a point in terms of sort of like, Ghana was interesting in the sense of ... Yeah it's very ... I mean all of the African nations are very welcoming, but like, it's on another level. I could see why there's a lot of people that [inaudible 00:35:44] there's people that are not Ghanaian that are not moving there. There's just like ... I enjoy being here. I feel welcomed, and I could definitely see that. It's a beautiful place.
Maurice: So with all the travels that you've done for work throughout the world, you have this very unique perspective on where design and creativity is going in the future. Can you talk about that a little bit? Like where you see it going?
Abraham Asefaw: Dude, that's a tough one. I'm not a big one on trying to predict things, but I ... What I see though is I mean ... I'm just ... I just see design used in different ways. I mean I, myself, am a great example of that. I'm using the principle of design but as a sort of entrepreneur, as a business owner. With my soft skills, and not with hard skills. I'm seeing it also being used ... I mean there's no secret that design, the role of design has significantly increased in terms of its importance and its need, you know, the last decade if not more.
I'm just seeing it more and more and more used more purposefully, in different ways, if that says anything. But yeah, that's my two cents on that.
Maurice: What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps with what you've done?
Abraham Asefaw: I would say ... I say this a lot but I'll say this again. I would say, "Be naïve enough to believe in yourself and your ideas. Be stubborn enough to see them through, but also be smart enough to have a support system around you with people that have more experience than you, that can guide you, and advise you. Those are the three things I would say are the key things, and this is something I live by myself, so. To emphasize, really, the things I just said now is very basic, but they could have a significant impact on your life. I can't stress that, and especially the last part of having smart and more experienced people around you that could guide you and advise you. I waited a bit long. I waited almost two and a half to three years into my journey with my business, but when I did it, it significantly changed things. I was learning things on a much faster pace, and I was applying it, and it just impacted our bottom line, everything.
It was crucial. But what I would say to that also is like, first and foremost, you need to figure out what are the areas of skillset or domain that you're missing [inaudible 00:38:39] knowledge in your skillset in your business. Based on that, you find profiles that fit that. But these profiles, don't get it twisted, they have to be the [inaudible 00:38:48] of their domain. You're not looking for middle management in-I did that mistake at first. I took people that had interesting titles and worked for interesting brands, but I realized that this is not the type of people I need. First and foremost, some of these people haven't even ... They don't own their businesses. They don't know ... Do your due diligence. Whatever the areas that you need help with, find those profiles and make sure that they are the [inaudible 00:39:15] of their domain.
Maurice: Where do you see yourself in the next five years or so? What kind of work would you like to be doing?
Abraham Asefaw: I think what I know at this ... There's three things I know. I think I'm going to be ... So up until now I've run this business [inaudible 00:39:32] seven years, and I've had a previous business for six years, so I've been independent for 11 years now. Oh, sorry, for 13 years. But, all of that has been service-focused. Consulting agency, and whatnot. So I would want to go into more product-side and be a product owner, and take that next journey. I know that I'm going to be more in the [inaudible 00:39:56]. I know that I'm going to have at least one if not two more businesses in the near future.
Maurice: Well, just to kind of you know, wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
Abraham Asefaw: Our website, thepopagency.co, and if not there, you can find me and my company on Twitter, Instagram. That's our most active.
Maurice: All right, sounds good. Well, Abraham Asefaw, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show and for sharing ... I mean, one, for sharing about your business, because I feel like what you are doing is so unique in the creative space right now in terms of traveling and doing these things it's like a kind of creative consultancy. I feel like that is something that is really ... I don't want to say it's the future, but certainly I think we are moving towards that, especially if we are looking at diversity in the industry and stuff. But also sharing just, your background, and how your life has gotten to this point in terms of moving from different countries, and you know, starting, maybe even a little bit later in life, to going into the creative field. I really feel like this is an interview people are going to walk away from and get a lot of information. I think you dropped a lot of gems here, so. Thank you so much for coming on the show, I appreciate it.
Abraham Asefaw: Bless you, and thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor, and a real pleasure.