Nadja-Timea Scherrer, VP & Cultural Impact Strategist plus305 is this week’s Woman in Business interview.
plus305 – Creative Impact Boutique in Switzerland and the US. Best Agency of the Year 2019 – Best Non-profit Campaign 2019 (American Marketing Association) HULA APP: Winner of UNITED NATIONS Challenge of the Circular Economy 2020.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally.
I am an impact entrepreneur from multicultural Switzerland. I believe in building bridges through storytelling and emotional connections. Being an Inclusion and Equity enthusiast, I am especially fascinated by lifestyles and perspectives that are very different from mine because it helps me rethink my own views and values. That is why I studied Intercultural Communication and Linguistics and have lived in and traveled to many different countries, among them Turkey, France, and the UK. I learned the languages of all the places I have lived in because language is closely linked to identity and culture. I love how languages give you access to the way people see the world. People only create words for what is important to them in a culture. In my own language for instance, we have a word that you cannot directly translate to English: Fremdschämen. It describes the act of being embarrassed for somebody else who is behaving in an embarrassing way. The fact that we have a word like this tells you a lot about our culture.
I started my career as a translator at the biggest media monitoring company in Switzerland and ended up building and heading the Language department which, for many years to come, achieved one of the highest turnover growths of the company. I then built my own company, consulting global organizations and government institutions on Intercultural Communication as well as offering PR, Interpreting, and Copy Writing services. When I worked for Apple in Silicon Valley on the intercultural adaptation of communication assets to the Swiss market, I met Alberto, the founder and CEO of plus305 in Miami. We decided to join forces in life and business and developed plus305 from a traditional advertising agency into a Social Impact Boutique. It has been quite a ride leaving my career behind and venturing out into the world of entrepreneurship, but it has been totally worth it. I have now been a partner, VP, and Sustainability Communication Strategist with a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at plus305 for six years. Since 2019, we are also based in Switzerland.
What do you enjoy most about your profession and why did you choose it in the first place? What was the inspiration for your company/project?
I always felt that something was missing in my work. Having profitability as the only benchmark just didn’t feel right. At the same time, I was also disappointed by the NGO world with all their scandals back in the days. When I came across B Lab and first read Conscious Capitalism by the Whole Foods Market founders, I realized that we can create a new form of capitalism that made much more sense to me. I really believe in business as a force for good. After all, businesses are often a big part of the problem, so they also must be a part of the solution.
Supporting organizations in finding their purpose, their values, their voice in the world and accompanying them on their sustainability journey using creativity and strategy is beyond rewarding. You can of course not change companies from one day to the next, especially not if they are big international companies and you want to create long-term change. But we really believe that even small steps in the right direction can make a big difference. We are very adamant about not supporting green-, blue- or value-washing. And we tell our clients or prospective clients that, but we are equally adamant about not letting us stop because perfection can’t be achieved. Because perfect really is the enemy of good. Having the freedom to define our own values as entrepreneurs is one of the most important things to me. We integrated the Triple Bottom Line of benefiting People, the Planet, and Prosperity in equal measures into our companies’ bylaws. And we are also on a journey to become B Corp certified.
Tell us about any new projects you have coming up.
We are currently working on an exciting and impactful Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion campaign for Viacom/CBS in Europe and LATAM. In Miami, we are currently working on a campaign with the Miami Dade County and its Chief Heat Officer to reduce heat-related illnesses in vulnerable people. Another project that is close to my heart is the beautiful long-term concept that we are currently developing in collaboration with the Cisneros Group and Pvblic Foundation around Gender-Based Violence. What I love so much about our work is that it is impactful. Advertising and the media play a huge role when it comes to what is being seen as the “norm” in society, and storytelling is incredibly powerful this way: it can give a voice to the voiceless and create role models for people who might think they are alone in the world. It is a terrible feeling to not see yourself represented in the world around you, it makes you feel like an outcast. We also address systemic and structural issues through our other offers because we believe in a holistic approach to culture change.
What is a typical day like for you?
My typical day is untypical. Every day is different and that’s what keeps me motivated and moving. What is very important to me though is that I also dedicate some time to my mindfulness practice, my body, my friends, family, and laughter. I love having a nice home-cooked meal and a glass of natural wine with loved ones. And supporting other local impact entrepreneurs means a lot to me, so I always get my natural wine from Karina Iglesias at NIU WINE in Downtown Miami. These things keep me balanced.
Tell us about your community involvement – what you are passionate about outside of work and home and why/how you participate?
To me, community, work, and home are all one. I don’t stop being the person I am when I work or come home. So, when I grocery shop or when I am looking for a product, I need to buy, I always do my best to take conscious decisions and keep sustainability in mind. I don’t always succeed but it is important to me to try. Supporting small impact businesses and sharing our experience with the next generation are very important to me. At plus305, we do a lot of volunteer and pro bono work. We especially love supporting the next generation on their impact path. That is why we often accept pro bono mentoring assignments, among others for students at the University of Zurich or St. Gallen in Switzerland, or the Miami Ad School, Casimiro Global Foundation , etc. I am also a Member of the European Standard Advisory Committee of B Lab . B Lab is the nonprofit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. Their international network of organizations leads economic systems change to support B Lab’s collective vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. And I have just applied for a position at Solafrica to be a Board Member for the Marketing part of things. They are bringing solar technology to underdeveloped areas in Sub-Saharan Africa combining social and environmental sustainability with entrepreneurship and education. I also used to be on the Gala Committee of Voices for Children Foundation . We always have an open ear and open door. We take time to share our experience and help others make an impact.
Because to me, trying to make a positive impact is more a way of life than something that is bound to a project: it is the way you talk to a waiter, treat your employees or clients, but also someone you don’t know and might need help and of course also your loved ones.
What is the biggest risk you ever took professionally and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
The biggest professional risk has definitely been becoming a full-time entrepreneur. I didn’t have a lot of savings when I started out and I had bought a share in plus305 to become a partner without knowing if our niche of Sustainability Communication and Purpose Branding will get the attention it deserves. Back in 2016/2017 it was not such a hot topic as it is now. One of the biggest obstacles, I have to overcome daily are my own doubts and my impatience. I am working on having faith and overcoming my doubts through my meditation and yoga practice. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, especially in the beginning. I am very glad that I have been able to share it with my partner Alberto. I learned a lot from him in terms of persistence which is crucial if you want to go down this path.
From where do you draw inspiration? Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?
My mum has inspired me a lot. She is a very positive person who always finds a reason to laugh. She also taught me not to take myself too seriously and go for what I want. Most importantly though, she showed me that you have to speak up when something does not feel right, no matter the consequences. I believe that I have my optimism, courage, and strength from her. She also introduced me to mindfulness when I was a child. I am immensely grateful to her for all that. My first mentor was my boss Linard Campell at my very first job. I was very young, and a bit entitled, too. But I had a vision and he supported me full-heartedly and taught me a lot along the way.
What do you do to keep yourself sharp? What one thing have you done in the past year that has made a significant difference in your life/your business?
I like turning inward. Spending time by myself. I have made it a habit to observe my mind. That is how I discovered that I have had a tendency in my life to take decisions without wanting to deal with the negative consequences. And let’s face it: absolutely every decision comes with positive and negative consequences. So last year, I (finally!) decided that I wanted to learn to deal with this better. I remembered an interview with the author Liz Gilbert where she said: you just have to decide which version of shit sandwich you are willing to eat. I realized that I had chosen my shit sandwich consciously and that I preferred it over all the other shit sandwiches out there so I would have to learn and accept it. This is when I took the decision that I would not suffer any longer about my own conscious decisions. And it worked. It has been life changing. It might sound trivial, but it brought me a lot of strength and empowerment.
What one thing would you like to learn this year?
It is more a thousand things than just one: I love learning new things and teaching, I also have a background in education. I would like to learn how to make professional French pastry, I want to become more financially literate, I would like to improve my Spanish and my business negotiation skills, I would love to learn rock climbing… the list has literally no end.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Co-leading – with a lot of enthusiasm, social impact, and abundance for everyone involved – with Alberto the leading Sustainability Communication Agency in the US and Europe: plus305.
What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?
I absolutely love traveling and spending time with my family, friends, and dogs and in nature, surrounded by flowers and trees. I also dedicate a lot of my time to cooking, baking, and taking food pictures for my recently opened foodie Insta account . And I love hiking in the Swiss mountains, it gives me peace. And without my yoga and dance practice, life wouldn’t be the same.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Coming from a lower middle-class family, I always have to remind myself to dream bigger, if you feel the same: don’t stop reminding yourself!
What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you?