Natalie Alberta Dusey is an entrepreneur who has been intimately involved in the creation of the people-centric ad agency group, Meet The People (MTP) — a holding company she helped to found and launch with Tim Ringel and Tom Armbruster in 2021. As the organization’s Global Chief of Staff, she is involved with crafting a new vision of a group of advertising agencies that maintain their independent identities and cultures, while working together as a seamless whole. Her previous roles include an executive position at Artefact, where she helped lead the agency to a top position in Europe. She has also worked for Spring Studios, IQ-EQ, Great Portland Estates, and Mobeus Equity Partners, in both domestic and international positions.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Natalie Alberta Dusey: At its heart, entrepreneurship is all about managing risk, because, after all, real change is always a bit risky. That’s why, in order to succeed when building something completely new, you need to be thoughtful and intentional at every step of the process.
The good thing is, managing risk is one of my core functions and I’m very good at it. So, while it can be scary and uncomfortable to take on an entrepreneurial project, for me it’s also completely fulfilling.
Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
NAD: My first encounter with a true entrepreneurial mindset was probably when I met my current co-founders in Meet The People, Tim Ringel and Tom Armbruster. At the time we were building a global digital agency group for one of the major advertising holding companies, and I was captivated by their embrace of risk and their determination to succeed at all costs. Joining them in that effort taught me a lot about what it takes to bring a new idea to life and how to represent it well.
What is your company’s origin story?
NAD: For some time prior to founding meet the people, Tim, Tom, and I were bothered by the operational inefficiencies and the lack of respect for people (I.e., employees, clients, third-party partners) in the typical holding company model. They were all eager to acquire new agencies but usually had no effective plan for valuing and engaging the individuals who made that acquisition so attractive in the first place. And don’t get me started on DEI initiatives. There were simply no workable plans for shaping the advertising world to look more like society at large.
We looked at these issues and saw a real opportunity to create a different kind of agency group that made more considered choices in acquisitions and fully valued and empowered its employees. Now two years later, that vision is a reality and we’ve created the world’s first people-centric agency group committed to respecting people, while still generating great ideas and remaining profitable.
What do you wish you had known when you started?
NAD: I don’t mean to be coy about this, but frankly I wish I had known how much fun I would be having. I may have started even sooner. But then, part of my job is to assess risk, so I was already painfully aware of the headaches involved in a startup, and very little surprised me — other than the fact that I was completely suited to this lifestyle.
What does success look to you?
NAD: As a person of color who immigrated from Ghana to the UK as a girl, and who now shuttles between London and MTP headquarters in New York, what I most hope for is that other people who look like me or who share a similar immigrant story, will see what I’ve achieved and be inspired to pursue their own dreams, whether business or personal. That, to me, is the truest definition of success.
What is your superpower as an entrepreneur?
NAD: I would say my greatest asset is my empathy. Don’t get me wrong, as part of a leadership team in a startup I need to make all kinds of hard decisions that employees may not like. But these decisions shouldn’t be needlessly cruel. If you take time to see your actions through an empathetic lens first, you’ll often find a better path to take that is more respectful to the people around you.
What are your personal driving principles?
NAD: First and foremost, I am driven by the need to bring a more humane perspective to the business world. People have lives outside of work and providing them with accommodations for a better work/life balance is essential. I’ve always found that you get more productive and more loyal employees when there’s mutual respect.
I’m also driven by the need to bring more diversity to advertising. It’s simply unacceptable that an industry that is so impactful on society is not reflective of that society. There is only upside from more inclusive approaches to hiring and ad creation because it’s the only way we can stay relevant to the people we’re trying to reach.
What’s it like working with your partners?
NAD: We all share similar principles in the shaping of this venture, so it’s unsurprising that I find it easy to work with my fellow founders. But more importantly, we all have a clear understanding of our internal hierarchy. Someone has to be in charge. Someone has to manage day-to-day operations. Someone has to shape our personnel needs. We all have our roles, and we trust and respect each other enough to perform these roles with very little in-fighting. I think if more people started ventures with this kind of understanding, we’d have many more successful organizations.
How do you think about helping others through your work?
NAD: Much of my role in Meet the People is centered around the people, so I think about how I can help people all the time. There are my efforts to manage burnout amongst the staff, my strategies for improving diversity in hiring to open new opportunities for more people, my constant focus on helping clients and third-party partners to have the best possible experience with us — the list goes on and on. Certainly, advertising is not high on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or anything, but as a profession, I’m convinced it can change the lives of our people for the better.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
NAD: I’ve already said, manage your risk and go for it, so the only thing I’ll add is to believe in yourself and your idea. No idea has the potential to be life-changing until you believe that it can. So, what are you waiting for?
What do you want your legacy to be?
NAD: My definition of success and defining my legacy completely overlap here. I want to be an inspiration to those who share similar backgrounds to my own, as well as those who may be underprivileged. I want to set a clear example for others to follow and let them know that they can do something amazing — something that’s both life-changing for them and impactful on the world around them. I’d love to be remembered as being this kind of person.
Do you have a mentor and what role do they play in your life?
NAD: I currently do not have a mentor. I had one at the start of my employment journey and I did find it very helpful in that early pursuit of my career goals. However, as time passed my priorities changed and I moved on. That being said, though, I would definitely be open to another mentor relationship if the circumstances were right, and I felt I could benefit from an experienced individual’s considered advice. I definitely believe in the power of receiving guidance from someone who’s been where you are and who is willing to share their wisdom with you.
What daily routines do you follow to keep yourself grounded?
NAD: For me, staying grounded always comes back to positive thinking and surrounding myself with family and friends. It’s hard to get full of one’s self when connecting with the people who know you best, flaws and all. I’m constantly reaching out to people I know truly care about me, and it never fails to improve my attitude and re-energize my positivity. I’m also lucky to have Tim Ringel and Tom Armbruster as my co-founders. We’re such a tight team and it’s always a joy to work with people you value, respect, and get on with.
What are you currently reading?
NAD: I am re-reading “The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8am” by Hal Elrod. It’s a solid reminder for me that there are no shortcuts in life and that I have to work hard to achieve my dreams. The book says that even though many people dream of having an extraordinary life, they often will settle for a mediocre one. That’s why it’s incumbent upon us to start each day off right, focused on achieving our full potential. I highly recommend it.
Where do you go for inspiration?
NAD: I always look to the examples set for me by my mum and my dad. They worked hard and made many difficult choices to ensure I would be well-prepared for life. And through my mum’s continued support and my dad’s legacy (he died when I was five years old), I’m always able to ask myself, “what would they do in this situation?” It never fails to inspire and guide me to better outcomes.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
NAD: “Never say never,” is the mantra of my life. I’m powered by positive thinking, and I fully believe that I can achieve anything I set my mind on achieving. Erasing doubt and believing in yourself and your abilities can be a powerful thing in life.
What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
NAD: I’m troubled that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives still remain little more than lip service throughout much of the advertising world. I know that we all can do better here. What’s more, I believe it’s imperative for us to do better. The population in the US is shifting dramatically, and if the staffing of advertisers and their agencies don’t reflect these changing demographics, we will very quickly lose our ability to remain relevant to consumers. We need to do better at attracting diverse talent to our companies and empowering their voices within our organizations.
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