Every year, BIMA celebrates 100 of the people who are leading the industry right now. We’re not talking about work and projects – we’re talking about the leaders, pioneers, entrepreneurs and changemakers – the people we look up to. In the BIMA100 Voices series, LBB is publishing enlightening conversations with these inspiring people.
Awards and nominations seem to follow Natasha Chetiyawardana wherever she goes. They were ever present in her early design career. They have been a feature of the bars and restaurants she has launched globally with her brother. And her unique take on the innovation agency – Bow & Arrow – has seen the team shortlisted for Design Team of the Year. Here, she discusses her career journey and the excitement she feels at working with MOBO on a new platform to uplift, empower and inspire Black talent.
Tell us about your career path – what led you here?
I graduated in Product Design from Central Saint Martins in 2002 and was awarded 'Designer of the Year' at the New Designers exhibition. This led to a string of awards and a bit of a whirlwind tour of exhibiting work internationally in Seoul, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Cologne, New York and Valencia.
I then moved to New York in 2003, working my way around the innovation and design agencies and creating the world’s first innovation syllabus at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
I then co-founded Bow & Arrow in 2009, with Ben Slater, a venturing consultancy creating White Space Digital Innovation – bringing the strategic rigour and commercial robustness of a management consultancy together with the creative mindset of a design agency. Bow & Arrow was acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2019 and now we are set to scale.
Who has been your greatest inspiration/mentor to date and why?
I haven’t had a mentor really but my greatest inspiration has to be my ‘Innovator of the Year’ brother. We’ve been working together on the side for the last 15 years and we’ve launched award-winning bars and restaurants globally (many of which have won Best New Bar and one of which won Best Bar in the World). He is an inspiration as he both challenges me and gives me amazing ideas at the same time. The way he looks at the world, at creative opportunities, at disruption, at ingredients and even commercialisation really blows my mind. And keeps me on my toes.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you love about what you do?
My three year old unfortunately. I wouldn’t mind getting more sleep. If it’s not that, I need variation in my time – if I have homogenous days I can get dangerous in my boredom. I love variety. I also love people – the thing that gives me the most energy is working with our people. You always get something unexpected with them.
Workwise, what’s exciting you most right now?
That’s easy – Mobolise
. We are building a platform with MOBO to create a place where we can uplift, empower and inspire Black talent to mobolise their careers and get the best possible jobs with forward-thinking organisations.
In your career to date, what has given you the biggest sense of pride?
The design team at Bow & Arrow. It’s led by ex-interns of the team and in its short life has been shortlisted for Design Team of the Year (when we were just eight!) and goes from strength to strength. They are so much fun, they speak without words and above all, they care about each other more than I have ever seen creative teams do before. There’s no competition, just collaboration and looking out for one another. When we started, I could never have wished for more.
What difference has being part of the BIMA100 made – or what difference do you hope it might make?
It’s wonderful to be recognised for not always saying yes, for being challenging and perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. It helps to know that you can be yourself – no matter how ‘other’ you are and that can be a good thing :)