Maira Genovese is the founder and president of MG Empower, a digital marketing agency. Born in Brazil, she began her career in fashion advertising for brands including Alexander McQueen, packing everything to launch her agency in her coffee shop. We spoke with her about her beliefs, fashion, influence, language, establishment of a cafe-based agency, and great English pubs.
Hello Myra! Please tell us briefly about MG Empower.
I’m from Brazil but I’ve been living in London for 16 years. I founded MG Empower as a talent management agency in 2015. In 2017, we changed our business model to a digital influencer agency that supports brands with new marketing methods through influencers and creators.
How did you get into the world of influencers?
My background is fashion marketing and advertising for luxury brands like Burberry and Alexander McQueen. In 2014, I started seeing the rise of social media when I was pregnant with my son. Facebook was huge. Instagram (as a photo app at the time) became very popular. Creators are starting to use the platform to organically promote their brands. I thought ‘this is the future of marketing’. The future will be the Creator. They will be advertisers.’
So, when I was pregnant, I devoted my time to studying influencer marketing as well as caring for the baby. I had a vision of starting my own consulting business. Some brands have tried to understand how to engage with influencers. Jimmy Chu, for example, was one of the first brands I applied for.
MG Empower’s ‘MG’ seems to represent the initials at the time of consulting?
yes! And ’empower’ is because we exist to empower people – our customers and our team to empower people to achieve their dreams. But there is another story. I am very religious. I am a Christian. Sometimes I say ‘MG’ can also mean ‘my God in power’. I truly believe in the power God has in our lives. It can be both.
How did your time in the fashion world prepare you for society?
Well, I went back to Brazil and worked in the finance department at American Express. I moved to London to enter the fashion industry and work with luxury brands. I had to step back a lot. The fact that I worked in São Paulo was of little value when I moved here. So I started from scratch. My first job was as an intern at Alexander McQueen. I did an internship at Sergio Rossi until I got my first full-time job.
So when you start an agency, do you have experience starting over from scratch?
I literally had to start over. I didn’t speak English at all. You could say, “I’m Maira and I’m looking for a job.” That’s it.
So I went to an English school. But to really learn, it took real practice and I had no friends other than Brazilians. So I got a job at a bar. I didn’t think it was necessary to speak English at the bar. I’m offering a pint.
It was a very local pub. Every day, the same customer comes at the same time, drinks the same drink, and eats the same food. But they were very kind to me and I really started learning English. And they say, ‘Okay, so we’re here, we can help, and we’ll talk to you.’ That bar is where I actually learned English, not English classes.
I still love to create different linguistic cultures. There are people from Greece, Italy, Brazil, France and Africa. No matter where you are or what language you speak, you want to show people that there is an opportunity. If you dream of London, here is your career.
Has the fashion industry been with you?
Fashion has changed a lot in attitude and behavior. When I worked in the industry, I had a lot of pride. Titles are important. As a director, you have some respect. Very difficult to navigate. And add luxury customers to that luxury brand. What I have learned and applied very much here is that you should always be kind to everyone, no matter what title you have. Sadly, in fashion, I’ve had an experience where people aren’t friendly. The fact that I’m from Brazil: ‘Oh, she’s not from here either. What is she talking about? She doesn’t understand the market.’
However, if an agency is to retain or empower employees, it must have a culture of kindness and empathy.
So, how do you start an agency in a coffee shop?
It was Costa in the Odeon Cinemas in North Greenwich. I went there with my bike, newborn baby and laptop to get some fresh air. As you become a new mom and spend all day at home, you need some fresh air.
One day, I decided to quit my job and start this business. That cafe was a place that actually gave me the courage to do it. It became my office every day. I worked there for a year until I had enough clients to have office space.
Does that coffee shop spirit remain with you?
Well, mistakes are important. There was constant testing and learning in the coffee shop. I made a lot of mistakes. I was reaching out to friends and influencers to work with me, but not necessarily in the field. But if you don’t make mistakes, you can’t learn. The important thing is to keep trying.
Would you recommend starting a coffee business to anyone thinking about it?
To be a conscientious founder, you must have guts. You have to be resilient. He has to believe in what he does. Therefore, competition in the industry is fierce. How would you like to make it? How will you get clients?
I’ve gotten a lot of people saying ‘just give up’ over the past few years. I don’t allow anyone to stand in my way, but I’m a good listener. I will listen to what they say, but I will not change my mind. I always knew what I wanted. You can’t get anyone to tell you that your vision won’t work.
Make sure you have the resilience to go through a lot of pain. Growing up is very painful. But don’t let the pain or your mistakes get in the way of what you’re trying to achieve.