Featured Vancouverites: Don Williams and Tak Yukawa

Don Williams and Tak Yukawa

Don Williams: The small town of Quesnel, British Columbia
Tak Yukawa: Richmond, British Columbia

How long have you been a Vancouverite? 
DW: 15 years
TY: I’ve been a Vancouverite for 15 years as well.

DW: As a co-founder of Free Agency Creative, I have been working in the creative field for almost 20 years. My desire at Free Agency is to bridge the gap between business objectives and creative strategy through the effective writing of brand messaging platforms. I am also responsible for business development, in a diverse range of industry verticals that include technology, outerwear, event marketing and real estate. As a company, our ability to engage our clients in a collaborative process and bring strategic thinking to progressive design has been essential to Free Agency’s success.

Additionally, I am a sessional faculty member at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in the design degree program. Emily Carr has worked with both Tak and I to create a co-teaching environment that allows students to develop their senior thesis projects under both our direction. Recently, the university has asked Tak and I to bring our creative business philosophy to the Professional Practice Management class. Our relationship with the University has been an important part of our development. It has given us an opportunity to nurture young Vancouver talent and we’ve been able to bring the best of this talent to Free Agency to continue their growth as designers. Free Agency has also engaged in partnership with Emily Carr that allows students to apply their research findings to real world projects.

TY: I’m a Director and Co-Founder of Free Agency Creative, a branding and design company in Gastown. I’ve also been a sessional faculty member at Emily Carr University of Art + Design since 2007.

I’ve been working in the design and creative field for well over 12 years. My creativity is fuelled by a love of pop culture, commitment to contemporary issues and a strong background in fine arts. As a Creative Director, I try bringing forth an understanding of digital media and brand strategy to the development of integrated campaigns for clients in fashion, retail, technology, hospitality and real estate. My creative responsibilities with Free Agency revolve around harnessing the creative potential of our internal group through advocacy for the design process and a strong commitment to understanding current design styles and aesthetics.

As the company continues to grow, I’ve enjoyed an ever-expanding role of envisioning and developing the path of our own business. Handling internal responsibilities such as HR and financial management has been a welcomed everyday reality.

Best way to connect with the Vancouver creative community:
DW: I think the best way to connect with the Vancouver artistic community is through creative events. Two stand out in my mind: Creative Mornings and Pecha Kucha.

Second to that, Vancouver’s creative community loves to eat and drink. In Gastown, there are a few spots you’re sure to find creative-minded locals. For amazing drinks and some interesting meats, stop by Wildebeest. Since the venue is right next door to us, we’re regulars. If you want something communal, grab a long table at Salty Tongue and for coffee, you can’t be in Gastown without visiting Revolver.

Online communities are also important for many of Vancouver’s creative companies, ourselves included. Many use Cargo Collective for their web platform. This amazing online platform allows you to follow other Cargo members and share your creative developments. For pure browsing, Graphic Exchange presents some of the best work in the industry.

If you’re looking to connect in a slightly more formal way, the BC chapter of the Society of Graphic Designers is a great way to meet other creative people in Vancouver.

TY:  I agree with Don that magnets for Vancouver’s creative community are the places that create the most relevant, engaging and rounded cultural experiences. My favourite success stories seem to revolve around coffee – Revolver in Gastown, 49th Parallel on Main and any JJ Bean location.

My favourite online resources are HYPEBEAST, The Cool Hunter, Designspiration and Ventilate.

What are the biggest benefits and biggest challenges with being entrepreneurs and business owners in the city of Vancouver?
DW: I believe one of the biggest benefits of being an entrepreneur in Vancouver is how small the business community really is. As a service-based business, we rely on our reputation and the relationships we nurture. In Vancouver, everyone knows everyone, so if we build great relationships, word of this spreads quickly inside the business community. I think that Vancouver is progressive in nature and young at heart, fitting nicely with our culture. Because the city is not as rooted in tradition, it’s a great place for a young company to make an impact.

TY: Our biggest challenges revolve around the cost of doing business in Vancouver. Business overhead is high, with the high cost of commercial space and employees that are trying their best to afford living in one of the most expensive markets in the world. Inevitably, this means increased costs to the customer and they are not willing to pay those higher fees unless there is value in it for them. Obviously, in a small market, there is a lot of competition for a small number of clients. At Free Agency, we’ve spent an enormous amount of time figuring out ways to add value to our process and service offering, in order to stay competitive.

Most inspiring Vancouverite:
DW: John Fluevog – not only has he created a very successful retail model but he has been able to nurture a culture within the company that extends to an authentic customer experience. As a leader in the Gastown business community, his integrity and commitment to his brand is a model that inspires us at Free Agency. Plus, we love his shoes!

TY: Someone who has always inspired me in Vancouver would have to be local boy, Jeff Hamada. He’s the creator of one of the largest and most respected art blogs on the net. He’s everything that a creative Vancouverite should aim to be: collaborative, humble and true to his or her roots. He’s created a rare and enviable place in BOOOOOOOM.com, where creativity and art can co-exist and thrive amongst pop culture.

Do you know someone who would be a great featured Vancouverite? Let us know in the comment box below!

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