Leaving a 9 to 5 and starting your own business requires guts.
In this inspiring interview, we dive into the journey of Align Agency's founder, Tahnee Shakerley, and discover what led her to take the plunge into the challenging world of entrepreneurship, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Tahnee! You quit your job last year. Tell me about it…
“I was a music marketing manager at an agency, running campaigns for clients. It was really comprehensive. I was leading social media strategy, coordinating content across artwork, music videos and more, managing promo teams, creating billboard campaigns, EP launch events, the works.”
“It was full on at times! My team was incredible and I loved what I did, but I felt like I didn’t have a lot of freedom in who I worked with, as well as being able to operate on my own terms.”
Did that have anything to do with her deciding to leave?
“‘You know what, in hindsight I’m incredibly grateful for my last job. I feel like it was a blessing in disguise that something didn’t feel right. So much so that I had to confront the terrifying reality of quitting and entering something completely new and unknown.
“Deep down, I always knew I wanted to work for myself, and create something I could direct in a way that I felt was in 100% alignment with my own mission, values and approach.’
Tahnee tells me that she left her job in September last year and took a break to figure out what she wanted to do next.
By February 2023, she’s launched her first business!
What is Align Agency?
“The marketing agency for female artists in the music industry. We specialise in managing 360 marketing campaigns for female artists and their labels.”
She talks about the underrepresentation of British female artists in the UK music industry and this being an underserved audience. Can you believe that in 2019, only 20% of artists signed to 219 UK music labels were women?!
“Align Agency rose from the fact that female artists were always a minority in my previous jobs, and I think that’s reflective of a lot of people’s experience in the music industry. Women are still wildly underrepresented, not only on the industry side, but also on the frontline with female artists too.”
Tahnee believes that a lot of labels look at these statistics and take them as evidence that there’s not much demand for music created by women.
“Female artists are super talented! My mission is to show the world that female artists have huge potential to reach chart-topping success and create sustainable careers in the UK. I think female artists don’t see the success they deserve because they are under-resourced, not because they lack talent or audiences. Align Agency’s perspective is that under-representation should not be viewed as a pattern, but as an under-served opportunity that we can tap into.”
She takes a deep breath and laughs – “sorry I’ve been rambling”.
But it’s not rambling, it’s inspiring and I can feel how passionate she is about this mission.
Where did the name come from?
"It took me so long to come up with the name! I was going back and forth with friends and family but 'alignment' really resonated with me."
Align Agency is all about things being aligned and making sense. Tahnee talks about how important it is to her that the agency’s mission, goals and objectives align with those of the clients she works with, even down to the small details.
“So if we have a socials idea, is that in alignment with our objectives? And with the artists’? Does it feel authentic?”
The name perfectly captures what this company stands for, I love it.
People often talk about the financial security aspect of leaving employment and starting up on your own. What advice would you give to anyone who’s thinking about doing this?
“I have to be honest, a lot of people say to stick with your 9-5 until your side hustle has developed enough that it can be your new full time job – and I do think there’s a lot of validity in that.”
Tahnee’s been working since she was 16 and built savings that she’s been able to dip into. She’s also been taking on freelance marketing jobs to help cover costs during this start-up phase, as well as taking on copywriting and journalism work for clients in the industry.
“Not everyone has savings they can rely on and I’m fortunate that I’ve always been quite crafty with saving money and having a back-up plan.”
She talks about the importance of having a strong belief that it’s going to work and you’re going to be able to support yourself.
“You’re going to be the only person that’s motivating you every day. So if you really want to do this, it has to be something that you really feel like is your purpose. There will be times where you’re doing 12-hour days and you’re not seeing any results. It’s very demotivating and you don’t have a team around you telling you ‘oh it’s going to work out in the end’.”
“You just have to have that faith in the invisible. If it’s not something you’re 100% sure about, you’re going to lose that faith really quickly.”
What’s been a challenge so far?
Tahnee talks about the rejection that comes with running your own business and how a 9-5 doesn’t really prepare you for that.
“Learning how to fail and not think you’re a failure has been a really big challenge for me.”
She tells me about experiencing imposter syndrome (something I think every young entrepreneur can relate to).
“I honestly feel like a bit of a fraud doing this interview! I’ve just started becoming more vocal about it. I’ve got such big imposter syndrome so I’m really trying to actively talk about the agency and put my mission out there.”
What's next for Align Agency?
Align Agency is currently open for new business, looking for music businesses and female artists ready to take their marketing efforts to the next level.
She is offering a full campaign management service for a monthly fee (mainly targeted at businesses) as well as 1:1 artist coaching sessions to make her marketing expertise more accessible to independent and developing artists too.
“I used to work with 5-10 clients at a time, but part of my USP is that I‘ll be working with fewer clients, so they’ll each get more of my time and attention and the projects will just be better for it.”
As the agency gains traction and a steady income, she plans to expand her team by hiring a marketing manager and a virtual assistant.
“Having the opportunity to work with artists I love, music I enjoy and incredible, kind, brilliant colleagues who love it as much as I do - that’s what drives me. It’s really important to me that my future team, my future marketing managers have the opportunity to shape their own working experience too, partly A&R their clients, and work on projects that spark joy. There’s nothing more productive, and no one more motivated, than someone that not only loves what they do, but also enjoys who they’re working with.’
I’m beyond excited to see what Tahnee gets up to over the next year. Her passion and enthusiasm is contagious and her story is so inspiring.
I know that at Rookie Hustler, we’ll be watching as Align Agency grows and cheering from the side lines – hopefully you will be too!
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