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Digging into Business: Roanne Adams

This week we’re launching a new section to talk about business side by side with design and creativity. In the new Digging into business section you’ll find some successful stories of startups and studios run by women, digging into freelancing, challenges and motivation.

Roanne Adams is an American art director and entrepreneur. She was born and raised on the east coast, in Connecticut, and spent twenty years in New York City, where she founded a creative agency named RoAndCo. She also self-publishes a magazine called Romance Journal, and leads a series of retreats for women founders, that are both a spiritual as well as a conscious leadership practices. She’s also a mother of two children, 10 and 5 years old. She’s living in Los Angeles these days and she runs her own business remotely from LA while her team and office are in New York. If all this seems to you astonishing, we confirm it is. It’s been such an honor having this conversation with Roanne and discovering so many facets of her work and her life. Keep on reading this interview to discover more.

Around 2006 and 2008, after graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York and with a solid experience–built in some New Yorker larger agencies–Roanne founded her own business starting as a freelancer. Nowadays the studio RoAndCo is a design-focused agency specializing in full creative services from strategy, branding, website design and even packaging design, not to mention the recognition she gained in these sixteen years with her company.

As the focus for this interview is the business aspect of the design work, we ask Roanne to tell us more details about her beginnings in the world of art direction and branding, and above all, the biggest challenges when she started spreading seeds.

Roanne also adds that obviously money also played a leading role at the very beginning, it’s no surprise that the economic factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to start freelancing. 

Even if it’s not “what I’ve experienced first hand” she says during our conversation, “I think for sure there’s gender disparity in my field.” She adds that it’s simply a matter of fact, what she knows is true statistically, and comes from a number of stories she’s collected from other people’s experiences and how hard it can be. Roanne also recalls her initial steps when she was working in larger agencies: “I noticed the gender disparity more at that moment seeing the men advancing in their titles and careers faster than the women, but that also might have just been what was happening by chance, in that window of time that I was working there.” Her experience of starting up, too, was in a–different–way connected to gender disparity, in fact she admits that she was involved in a lot of things early on that probably she wouldn’t have if she were a man. “I don’t like to think that my gender held me back, I like to think that I stood out because of it and perhaps if I was a man I wouldn’t have been invited to speak at conferences because I would just be another studio owner.” She continues: “I was invited to speak at conferences probably because I was a woman, maybe also because I worked hard and had an incredibly talented design team and we were creating great work, but I also think that it might have been because I was a woman.” There’s actually another aspect of being a woman founder that Roanne cares to share with our community, coming directly from her personal experience:


At some point, to celebrate the 10-years anniversary of her studio, Roanne had the idea of launching a print magazine, “a little bit ridiculous to create a printed publication” she points out but it was actually a gift to herself. So came into being Romance Journal, a publication devoted to raising consciousness, born out of a profound need for inspiration as a form of escape from client work. “It felt like everything was on repeat like the same kinds of clients, the same kinds of projects, the same kinds of things. And simultaneously my one year old daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and the disease management was so challenging I felt drained and exhausted and really trying to find a way to be creative through all that. I had to stop solely focusing on client work and client needs, I needed to go back and do something that felt really inspiring, I needed a reset.” She admits that the first issue was very cathartic and kind of therapeutic. The interviews were around the theme of emotions and about how women founders or artists deal with the challenges in their lives, how they balance their careers, and what they do to get themselves through the hard times. All these experiences were presented with a high taste level and impeccable art direction. Romance Journal is currently on its third issue.

So Roanne started this retreat idea along with her friend Meredith Markworth-Pollack, and like Roanne, she’s a mother of two. They both share the experience of a total burnout–Meredith has been a costume designer for movies and TV for 15 years–and when she found her career to be relentless and tiring, she decided to leave the TV and film industry and start a healing collective called PALMA Colectiva which is based in Santa Barbara, California. Roanne and Meredith decided to host retreats for women founders in order to expand their consciousness and hopefully create a ripple effect for their teams, their clients and the greater communities around them, as they’re in a place of leadership. They had their first retreat in Mexico back in February under the name of Of Two Minds. The name and the focus deal with the “two minds”, that is to say the attempt—both Roanne and Meredith went through—to holistically align the professional purpose with their spiritual calling. The next one is planned to take place October 2023 1st through the 5th at Sea Ranch Lodge in California.

Lastly, we asked Roanne to give a piece of advice about business to her younger self, that’s how she answered:

And that’s all for this chapter. We thank Roanne very much for the time she spent with us sharing so many details about her professional and personal experience. See you in the next episode of Digging into with another guest.

*** All the images are property of ©RoanneAdams, you’ll need her explicit permission to reproduce them

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