The founder and author on striving to give a voice to Black women so they can have a seat at the table
Flavilla Fongang is a business tour de force. After noticing that her marketing agency, 3 Colours Rule, needed a sprinkling of tech know-how to make it fly, the company has gone from strength to strength. And she has since made a strong name for herself in the tech industry, having gone on to found TLA (Tech London Advocates) Black Women in Tech. We caught up with Flavilla to talk about her impressive experience, the inspiration for her book 99 Strategies To Get Customers and stand-out highlights of her career so far.
What was your route to working in tech?
When I launched 3 Colours Rule in 2015, we used to work across various industries, such as luxury, fashion, FMCG and technology. We realised we weren’t applying what we preached. We were the equivalent of a great hairdresser with bad hair. We weren’t applying our advice by focusing on too many niches. I remember, one day, watching a short video on Twitter. It was the story of a young little Black girl in a poor village in Africa, who created an app to help kids who get lost from travelling miles to get to school, get help and find their way home. That story moved me - so young and so brilliant! The choice was obvious, and I chose technology. This was the best business decision I have ever made.
What specific areas of your industry interest you the most?
When I started working in technology, I quickly realised the lack of diversity. Most women or Black women who work in tech will often find themselves being the only ones in the room. It was a reality that I didn’t want to accept as a norm. I was accustomed to being surrounded by men, and I'd had enough. There are a lot of societal issues the world needs to tackle, and I keep saying to my clients, 'being good at what you do is no longer enough'. More has to be done. So, with the support of Russ Shaw, my ally and founder of TLA network, I launched my non-profit company, TLA Black Women in Tech to improve representation, diversity, and opportunities.
When did you launch it?
September 2019. My non-profit organisation was born out of frustration. Every company is somehow a technology company. The pandemic has told us that we must be able to carry on delivering our services or products wherever we can, in person or virtually. Being able to create products or services that serve people from diverse backgrounds requires a diverse team. A lot of opportunities are untapped because not all products or services are equally designed or marketed to serve us all. TLA Black Women in Tech wants to give a voice to Black women so they can have a seat at the table.
What has been a personal highlight of your career so far?
There have been many personal highlights in my career. But the one that means the most to me are the ones that had an impact on a larger scale. One was writing my book called 99 Strategies To Get Customers. I'm not a writer, but it was important for me to write this book so I could support as many businesses as possible through this pandemic. Another one was being an international speaker and being on stage delivering an impactful message in front of an audience with thousands of people. Last but not least was the creation of TLA Black Women in Tech. I couldn't have expected how quickly this community would have grown. It's only the beginning, but I'm excited about what we will be able to accomplish for the Black women in tech and the next generation. Creating The Voices In The Shadow project is something I’m also really proud of.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the concept for The Voices in the Shadow?
The under-representation of great Black women leaves Black women and young Black girls to accomplish their goals without role models or confidence. Therefore, an increase in representation is imperative to raise inspiration. Also, new research suggests that more than half of the UK workforce lack essential digital skills needed for work, raising fears that the country is heading toward a digital skills shortage as employers begin ramping up their post-pandemic recruitment efforts.
The Voices in the Shadow aims to showcase the journeys of 51 Black women in the UK who impacted the tech industry. In turn, it gives Black women and young Black girls the empowerment they need for them to feel that there is a place for them to flourish professionally. (Ed: You can find out how to fund the book here).
What was the inspiration behind your book, 99 Strategies To Get Customers?
When we were hit by the pandemic, I was sitting in my office by myself, and I realised but I was lucky because my team was already hybrid, and we could carry on delivering our support to our clients virtually. I have always been a positive person and it was phenomenal to see how many people wanted to help too. Plus, I'm fully aware that most people cannot afford to work with an agency and the best way to reach as many people was to write my book and share everything I learned. I'm not a writer and I don't like to write but I did it because somebody had to do it and it was me. I had less than four months to write this book, but I was highly motivated because the sooner it was out, the sooner it could help people thrive through Covid-19. It's a strange feeling when people send you pictures of themselves reading your book from around the world. It made me glad I went through hell for this.
Talk us through the work you do with the 3 Colours Rule?
3 Colours Rule is a branding and marketing agency. We do everything from brand strategy, brand identity design, digital identity and brand marketing experience. We work with technology companies at different stages of their growth. Companies come to us when they want to launch their business and need to make sure their brand portraits trust, credibility, and value. Tech companies come to us when they want to improve their current brand presentation as it is not aligned with the success, expertise, or experience they have accomplished. They also come to us for very specific marketing campaign projects.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to pursue a career in tech?
Stay curious, build your network and find a mentor. Never be afraid to start something that scares you. You don't have to have a degree in math or engineering to work in technology. If you have a great idea, believe in it. You don’t have to have it all; figure it out. Just bring great people on your mission to help you make it come true.
What is your favourite part about your job and career?
I love to enable people to achieve or find their greatness, their uniqueness. I may have many titles but my favourite one is the enabler.
Words: Grace Goslin