Looking at Mimi Nicklin’s early years it’s no surprise that the advertising industry has always been her calling. Growing up in southern England with a father who was an adman in the ‘70s and ‘80s meant she had forged her career path before she’d even been to university. Mimi’s first foray into the industry was a role at Grey which set her up to work at 34 in South Africa, Grey in Singapore and Rapp in Dubai before she founded FREEDM in August of this year.
Aside from her advertising journey, Mimi is also an author and podcast host. Her book Softening The Edge focuses on ‘global empathy deficit and its tragic impact on our people and our workplaces’ and has been a hit with readers.
As FREEDM turns four months old, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with Mimi to hear more about the agency, her belief in balancing ‘humanity and capitalism’ and why Sri Lanka is home.
LBB> Let's go back to the start, what was your childhood in the UK like?
Mimi> I grew up in the south, in a small village. My childhood was peaceful, happy and full of love. I grew up with a stay-at-home mum, a best friend of a sister, great big dogs, and an incredibly creative, adman father. I was extremely lucky.
LBB> Was your father’s career an influence for you to enter the advertising industry?
Mimi> Yes, absolutely. My dad was (and still is!) my hero and he was an adman in the ‘70s and ‘80s. He lived the industry when it was full of big ads and big money and was surrounded by fast cars and long lunches!
I wanted to follow in his footsteps from the age of 12 and I set my entire degree to find me a path onto one of London’s most eligible graduate schemes. I started at Grey London and they truly impacted my entire career ahead. I will forever be grateful.
LBB> What were your biggest learnings in the early years of your career?
Mimi> That the world will meet you exactly where you are. If you put empathy for others and a true desire to connect and care for those you engage with, people will respond similarly. As humans, we are far better when we are connected and the more you put this connection to others first, the deeper your ability to impact change becomes.
LBB> What made you take the leap to go international having worked in South Africa, Singapore and now Dubai?
Mimi> I always had my sights set on travelling the world with my work. My personal passion and fire comes from uncovering culture and the discovery of the true insight behind our shared humanity. I could never have done that from one country alone. This set me on a path to living on nearly every continent, a journey that continues today.
LBB> Tell us more about FREEDM and what inspired the agency?
Mimi> Our industry needs a change. We still have far too little inclusion out there and far too much segregation. Too many creative minds remain unseen and unheard. We have too much burnout, too much discrimination and too little fun! FREEDM is aligned to UNESCO’s goals for the creative economy and in that way, our focus is to create opportunities for creatives without barriers or bias, anywhere in the world, as a hybrid virtual agency.
Advertising and content is our medium but our vision is to help elevate creative professionals globally wherever they come from and whatever context they are working within. We want to balance humanism and capitalism in such a way that we change the world, little by little, every single day.
LBB> What does it mean to 'balance humanism with capitalism'?
Mimi> To balance humanism with capitalism is to show great business growth and success by entirely focusing on elevating and offering sustainable development for humanity (the people in our businesses) beyond all else.
LBB> Let’s talk about your book ‘Softening The Edge’. What inspired it?
Mimi> Softening The Edge became a bestseller to my great surprise. I feel as if the book wrote me rather than the other way round. It is a leadership book that puts forth the Empathy Deficit and its impact on our world, and world of work, and paints a case for how and why we must address this hugely negative issue.
It is also a story of my own journey through our industry and to turning around an agency against all the odds. When you put empathy at the heart of business strategy, the power of people is surprising, and this book shows you exactly why.
LBB> What is empathetic influence for you?
Mimi> I believe that the more the world talks about empathy, the more empathy the world will have. Empathetic influence is each individual and leader’s choice and power to change our world by putting the understanding of others and ourselves, first.
LBB> Tell us more about The Empathy for Breakfast Show podcast.
Mimi> I started my podcast during the mid-months of 2020, from my bedroom. I wanted to create an open conversation about empathy in the business and creative world and to bring together global thinkers to drive this discussion forward. When 85,000 people joined me for breakfast, I knew the podcast had legs to carry on into another season.
LBB> As such a traveller, where do you call home?
Mimi> Home is where my daughter and my dog are. Currently Colombo, in Sri Lanka.
LBB> Outside of work who is Mimi?
Mimi> There is only one me, I bring my entire self into every day because my work is exactly who I am. I don’t feel like my work is anything other than the manifestation of my desire to spread empathy and to make a difference to people. That is who I am wherever you find me.