LOW: Why did you set up your company?
For me, the only career I could imagine was an entrepreneurial one. Even before I was 18 years old, I was already sure of the kind of company I wanted to set up – including its specific area and products. After that, it was just a matter of defining how this company would be set up; that happened when I was 19 years old and still pursuing a university degree.
LOW: When did you set up your business, and how long did it take?
I met my future business partner in 2008, and we quickly decided that our business would be a creative agency which would kick off by the end of 2009. We set up Modal Creativity in 2009 and it has been growing ever since. Almost eight working years later, we’re still achieving very interesting results.
LOW: Did you have a ‘lightbulb moment’ (ie. which led to you starting your business, or which triggered a change in the way you did things)?
I normally say that I believe in love at first sight due to the business world! When I was introduced to my business partner, we clicked immediately and had the feeling that we were on a mission together; in short, I had found my business “soulmate”. That was the moment when it all started.
LOW: Where did you source funding to set up your business?
We had to ask help from the banking sector. At the time we were two ambitious young people; at 19, I was too young, but Elsa was able to apply for a loan. We asked for some funding, chose our collaborators, our headquarters and developed our business plan. From then onwards, it was all hands on deck.
LOW: Were there any EU, national, regional or local business support services, programmes or funding initiatives that helped you set up or grow?
Yes. At the time, Portugal was the host of a EU funding project called ILE – Iniciativas Locais de Emprego (or Local Initiatives for Employment, in English), which provided non-repayable support in the form of a 45% top-up of any investment we were able to secure, plus a grant to take on four hires. It was an extremely helpful opportunity for us.
LOW: With hindsight, which would have been the single most valuable skill to have before setting up your business?
When Modal kicked off, we were only sure of one thing: our quality. In a nutshell, quality, willpower and courage are essential traits for any entrepreneur. There is no room for quitting, and problems must be seen as a natural consequence when you do business.
LOW: What is the single best piece of advice you have received along the way?
“This too shall pass”. The business world is driven by constant achievements, which will be old news the day after. The same can be applied to our less-than-stellar moments. Everything is reversible in the business world, because human beings are always capable of more.
LOW: Who or what are you inspired by?
I’m not a man of faith; I’ve always been taught to believe in oneself. But I am inspired by entrepreneurs who started from the botttom and now have an entrepreneurial empire that they built from scratch and can be proud of.
LOW: What is the USP that distinguishes your product or service from its competitors?
We are a 360º agency that is developing its international market. Creative agencies often have big, heavy structures in order to achieve that. As a way to fight the consequential increase in prices, we want to be a small global agency: small structure, an excellent price-quality relation, lots of creativity, and just a dash of madness.
LOW: How would you describe your progress so far? Are there any significant challenges you have had to overcome?
Modal Creativity started from scratch by two young people: at the beginning, we had no money, clients or portfolio. Eight years later, we have offices in Porto and Madrid, which also caters to clients in Brazil and the Netherlands, and a turnover of over €1 million in 2016.
LOW: How are you planning to grow your business?
Given that we’re being financed by an EU internationalisation project, we intend to set up business branches outside Portugal. We’ve already done so in Madrid (Spain) and are very close to setting up another office in Brazil, where we already have ongoing collaborations and business projects. Belgium, the UK and Germany are also in the can, and we also have plans regarding the brands we work with. Our motivation is to come up with creative and advert-like projects that people can value and relate to.
LOW: If you were in charge of the government ministry for SMEs and start-ups, what would be the three most important changes you would make to help them grow?
I’m not very political myself, but I do believe there should be a mechanism that would gather and evaluate ideas and help entrepreneurs in three specific areas: clients, taxes and ‘incubation’ (starting up and scaling up). Businesses are more likely to succeed if they are helped in these key areas during their early years.
LOW The best thing about being an entrepreneur is…?
Not even the sky is the limit for an entrepreneur.
LOW: What do you see as the key trends/disruptors for 2017 relevant to entrepreneurs?
More than the digital universe, I believe that the relation between companies/entrepreneurs and the digital economy (what it can do for them, its added value, etc.) will be the biggest issue in 2017. Too much information is often hard to process. I think that the biggest trend nowadays is to find a collaboration between our laptop and our notepad, between our smartphone and our soft skills. This is not only valid for marketing processes, but also for management, quality, commercial and financial processes.
LOW: If you could go back to when you were about to start your company and give yourself a single message or piece of advice, what would it be?
Working well and working a lot are as important as achieving results you can be proud of.
Learn more about Modal Creativity: http://www.modal.com.pt/en/