Exeleon Magazine

Joanna Shaw: Integrating Authenticity

Joanna Shaw_Exeleon Magazine

“We are often taught to dream big dreams,” mentions Joanna.

Her willingness to dream big led her to meet a collective of big dreamers. Together, they formed Unicorns & Unicorns, a one of a kind Creative Production Studio that uses magic to ensure best results for its clients.

Moreover, they back their unique market positioning with a diverse hiring practice, sustainable action, and a desire to integrate authenticity into their leadership.

In an Exclusive Interview, Joanna Shaw, one of the Co-Founders of Unicorns & Unicorns, talks through her journey and beliefs.

What according to you makes one a transformational leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

What makes one a transformation leader is being your authentic self. You have to wake up every day being okay with all the strengths, quirks and nuances that make you, you. Be willing to wake up and be okay with who you are.

Integrating authenticity at my Production Studio Unicorns & Unicorns leaves room for elevation and growth in leadership.  I recently promoted my assistant because she was efficient, thorough, and ready to solve problems. I was able to witness her grow/transform into a leader by being unapologetically herself.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader that you can remember?

Growing up I got to witness the prototype of leadership through my mother, who is a Pediatrician. She was one of those people who always got it done! Work was always a part of living for her. She took care of kids, and she is a mother. It’s what she does. She was educated and worked in a hospital in the Bronx in the 70’s. A time when women really weren’t doctors. It was always her passion to work hard. So, I had a great leader at home.

I remember a time I spent 3 months hiking in Kenya, Africa as a part of The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). NOLS was a school that taught you all sorts of cool outdoor skills like kayaking, first aid and hiking of all sorts.

Before we went out in the jungle the group leaders said “Okay, we’re going to split you guys up in three groups, you all must vote on the leader of your group”

The role of the leader was to get the team safely to the top of the mountain. I’m proud to say I, as the voted leader in my group, successfully led my team to the top of the mountain.

What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the media and production space?

At an early age, I discovered the art of storytelling. I knew I wanted to tell stories, but I didn’t know how. I had a very strong theater background, so I grew up wanting to be an actress. Later on, through my early thespian career was when I learned this wasn’t quite the life I wanted, at least not as bad as others.

Something that always stuck with me was, and still is, my mission to save the world. I’m extremely passionate about serving whether I’m spreading awareness of human trafficking, poverty or cleaning up this world through recycling.

Throughout the years, that shifted as I began working with my Producer friends. That particular relationship lent me the opportunity to produce music videos for Hip-Hop Artists like Jay-Z and Christina Aguilera. It was during this time while in New York, I stepped full-fledged in the media and production space.

I left New York to work on a creative project in Los Angeles. Once the project was complete, I ended up spending a little more time in Los Angeles than I anticipated. I was able to find a job at an agency where I met the other Founders of Unicorns & Unicorns, Sun Komen, and Adrianne McCurrach.

It was behind those four walls we began discussing the idea of creating our own production company. We put a plan in place and here we are!

Talk to us about Unicorns & Unicorns and what led to its inception.

We’re often taught to dream big dreams. You dream and you also want to get out in this world and execute them.

Often times we go out into the world and get opportunities to meet other people who’ve executed their big dreams. When you do, it gives you a moment to evaluate your dreams and seamlessly connect with others and dream together. That’s ultimately how Unicorns & Unicorns was birthed.

Founders Sun, Adrianne and I actually met at our former job, a creative studio.  The three of us were often on the same page when it came to expanding our creativity. Through our collaboration we knew we didn’t want to be invited to the dinner table, we wanted to build the table, make the dinner, and invite others by giving them the opportunity to join us during our feast.

Being the Executive Producer, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?

As an Executive Producer it is my job to incorporate resources, in all aspects of advertising, digital content, editing and such to elevate our final project.

For example, Adrianne handles branded content and Sun manages our digital components from populating website content to fulfillment of our creative products.

If we take on a project, it is my job as an Executive Producer to manage our resources by incorporating each other in each other’s worlds as often as we can.

What is the approach followed by the platform when it comes to providing optimal client satisfaction?

By allowing the Unicorns & Unicorns team to be our best creative selves. We take pride in understanding the vision and making it come to life.

Looking back at your journey, what would you have done differently if you were to start out again?

I’m never not working, but I also absolutely love what I do! Looking back at what often seems surreal sometimes, I would be more present.

I lived from producing videos with Hype Williams, Nintendo, Ford and an iconic Superbowl Ad for Wix, which I am absolutely grateful for and remember them all. However, I would take a little more time to soak everything in.

What would be your advice for aspiring and emerging women leaders or entrepreneurs?

Remain true to yourself.  If you’re true to yourself and you want to lead, you must affirm that.

What has been the biggest roadblock during your journey? What has been your biggest learning?

Being lazy has been the biggest roadblock to my journey.  Most people may not want to admit that’s the reality, but if you’re tenacious – the reality is, you’re going to get there.  We have to be honest and proactive with ourselves when recognizing that.

Finally, what does the future look like for you, both personally and professionally?

Continue doing great work and have a blast doing it. Both personally and professionally.

Visit Unicorns + Unicorns Website.

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