The Female Focus: Briana Pegado

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Introducing Briana Pegado

We’re so excited to feature Briana, a Design Thinker, Speaker, Coach, Futurist, and Social Innovator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We talked to her about who her role models were growing up, what spurred her passion in activism and her advice for female founders starting out.

Hi Briana, thank you so much for featuring! In a few words tell our readers what you do and why…

Hello, lovely Mac&Moore. The best way to describe my work is to say I’m a social entrepreneur, creative director and creative freelancer. It truly depends on the day of the week, you’re asking me!

Who were your role models growing up and how did they shape who you are now?

 I had too many role models when I was growing up, but one thing I can say is that my first role model was myself. I was much better at the self-love game as a youngster than I am now. Going through puberty and this last decade as a adult means that society has bombarded me with messages that I should doubt myself. I have been trying to re-cultivate my youthfulness, love for myself and genuine #extraness before #extra was a thing.

 You're originally from the USA - why did you make the move and how have you found living/working in the UK?

So, this is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I am a child of the Harry Potter generation. I dreamed of getting my letter from Hogwarts long past my 11th birthday and I grew up in a family that’s been heavily influenced by the U.K. in more ways than one. My mom and dad met in London in the 80s. My dad was working for the Angolan State Oil Company - Sonangol, and they set up their London office in the 70s. My mother’s client was the Angolan government and, by extension, the oil company my dad worked for. They met and quickly fell in love. They got married off of the Marylebone High Street in 1984. When my dad relocated to the States later on and I was born about 8 years later, I was raised on a steady diet of some of the (maybe less finer points of British pop culture) like Austin Powers, but more importantly, the Beatles. We are both a huge fan of the Beatles. I think this history subconsciously influenced me. I didn’t actually visit the U.K. until I was 12, but I always romanticised it and loved it. When I visited as a 12 year-old, I had a feeling of coming home. When it was time to apply for university, I made the leap. However, coming from a liberal arts education to the British system was quite a challenge. I quickly found the Scottish Higher Education system that allowed one to take outside courses, change their degree and have a four year education was more within my comfort zone. I applied only to Scottish universities including Edinburgh, Trinity in Dublin, the American University of Paris where my sister attended, a number of universities in Canada including McGill University in Montreal and then a handful of American universities (my college counsellors were not about to let me forsake the U.S. completely) and in 2010 off I went to Edinburgh University. It was one of the first life-changing and best decisions I’ve ever made.

During my time at university, I got massively involved in student politics and in 2014 I was elected the first black female President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) in the organisation’s 130 year history. More importantly in that year, I learned how to manage a 10 million pound charity, chair a board of trustees, the true meaning of campaigning and representing a constituency, but the most important thing I did was launch my first venture - a social enterprise called the Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (ESAF), which I ran for four and a half years. I quickly became embedded in the creative and start up community in Scotland (it is a wee place), but most importantly living here has given me a perspective on my American upbringing I would not have otherwise.

You're a Founder of multiple businesses, board member and blogger.. How do you fit it all in?

Well, this is the ultimate and operative question. Having mad time management skills is the short answer, but the long answer is that I don’t always get it right. Often I’ve been told that if you’re a doer and you get things done, more people will ask you to do more things for them. I’ve found this rule of thumb to be correct throughout my life. I love new projects, ideas and collaborating with people. It’s less that I get bored easily and more that I get inspired/excited very easily. However, I have certainly learned the hard way through overwork and burnout that I can get ahead of myself. Having a routine is key to balancing things and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that scheduling in time to think is very important. I used to be the type of person that barely had travel time factored in between meetings in my diary, but I’ve now learned that more spaciousness is better. I try harder to protect my evenings and weekends because naturally as a freelancer and entrepreneur when you are passionate about something and managing your own time, your free time can go out of the window.

All of your work is rooted in social justice, feminism and equality. Were there any defining experiences that led you to be so passionate about these causes?

This is such a good question. It is a question I rarely think about because it has simply always been part of who I am. I have grown up in a family that has always championed equality. I have attended schools that have done the same. It may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in Washington, D.C., a city that has been at the seat of many social movements, modern democracy and political change in our modern era, but I have always been a highly sensitive and highly empathic person. I truly feel what others feel and experience their pain/injustice of their situations personally. It is really hard for me to ignore. I have also always had the skills, tools and resources to do something about it - to help create change. I have always felt a strong prerogative to contribute to a more equitable and fairer society. If I allow myself go back, I might even say that being raised in a Montessori School context instilled these values in me.

As female founders ourselves we've found the business world at times a tricky place to navigate. What is your advice to young women/creatives starting out in the world of work now?

Always remember who you are and what you’re doing. You don’t have to have all the answers, no one does, but try not to let others discredit you or make you feel small. When you’re ready there is a community of incredible women out there to support you and cheer you on. Women help women and by learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable, to share, to be honest - you can do anything. It may be a long slog. It may be tricky, but you’re not in it alone.

You're a big ambassador for self-care. Can you talk us through why this has been so important for you in terms of your life and work? Any tips for us?

Self-care is fundamental to my work. I hit burnout at 24 as a result of running the arts festival, working freelance for multiple clients and generally overdoing it. I know that I’ve been trained to be an overachiever and I always embraced throwing myself into work when things get hard. I always loved taking myself out on dates, going for long walks, taking baths, investing in good beauty products and looking after myself with what I ate, but it became even more vital for me to look after myself properly after that first burnout. Millennials are the burnout generation because capitalism, our society and the systems in place encourage burnout. I feel we are constantly on a hamster wheel trying to stay healthy. No job is worth making yourself sick and no passion is worth making yourself sick. Remember not to compare yourself to others and to go at your own pace. I am still trying to let that lesson sink it.

I would say always manage your screen time (which I struggle with) and make self-care a ritual. Choose something small you will do every day for your own self-care and then invest in a longer period of time over the weekend for example or during a week night to indulge in a ritual. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be getting to bed extremely early, cooking your favourite meal, staying hydrated, going for a long walk or reading your favourite book. 

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Looking to the future what are your hopes and dreams?

“This may sound a little boring, but I’m at a stage in my life where I hope I can feel more settled. I have done so much in such a short period of time because I’ve felt on some level that I’ve needed to prove myself. In reality, I have. I have had to prove myself to the Arts Council England and the Border Agency to retain visa status. Now that I have this highly specialised status and I am allowed to be here for a while, I would like to slow down. Take pause. Allow myself to be a bit more - to achieve less.”

What's a quote you live & work by?

‘The universe tends to unfold as it should.’ This quote may appear to be a bit passive at first, but I have always found comfort in it - a comfort that allows me to be active and engage with my life in a positive way. I’m a person that tends to overwork and overcommit to things. It’s not only passion, but simply the way I was trained at school and at work. I was instilled with the good old American work ethic, but more importantly raised in the era when middle class kids (I acknowledge my privilege here) were bombarded with the mentality that one needed to be jack of all trades and master of all, not none. This quote, hilariously picked up from ‘Harold & Kumar Go To Whitecastle,’ an early 2000s cute classic about two stoner friends that get hungry and drive upstate to a fast food restaurant called White Castle and embark on ridiculous adventures. This quote along with its origin reminds me not to take life so seriously and that, most importantly, things tend to work out the way they should. Or in other words, the universe has our back. We sometimes just need to relax into things and trust we are in the right place, doing the right things at the right time. Things tend to unfold as they should.

Photos courtesy of: Katharina Maria.