Sue Fennessy has spent her life obsessed with how the media shapes people’s lives. But after seeing the impact it has on our mental health, the climate and the economy, she decided to do something about it. Thus, WeAre8 was born.
We spent the day with Sue to discover what it’s like to be the founder of a pioneering social media company.
The inspiration behind WeAre8, the people’s platform
I grew up watching Bewitched and the Brady Bunch on TV, and these shows shaped us, often giving us narrow views of the perfect life – which is never real or attainable. But the control that social media is having on lives today is so deeply disturbing to me. These companies are fueling the biggest challenges of our time – the mental health crisis, the climate crisis, and the economic crisis by using our time and taking hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue every year.
As the founder and former CEO of Standard Media Index and a unique view of the $450B digital advertising market, I became obsessed with the lack of effectiveness, transparency, and waste in major digital platforms and the damaging effect this was having on content creators, people, and the planet. I knew that there had to be a solution, and in 2012, WeAre8, the people’s platform was born.
WeAre8 is a reimagined social platform with a zero-tolerance for hate and a truly unique advertising model that redirects the wealth of the digital ad industry, paying both people and charities for every ad that is watched.
I now feel excited and optimistic about our reimagined social media, where people are valued in a hate-free environment and where the majority of the advertising revenue is shared with people, creators, and causes that matter.
Creating time and space to think
The reality is that I should be far more disciplined than I am. I would like to say that I start my day with yoga and meditation. Still, the reality is I often wake up at 5AM, spend 30 minutes imagining the day ahead and thinking about things I never normally get to think about, then I jump into the shower and race to work.
I am always freshest in the morning and love the idea of a new day. Perhaps it is the simplicity of just trying to stay in that mindset that makes everything positive.
I like to get to the office by 7AM and have those undisturbed beautiful hours to work and think. I do spend 5 minutes doing little rituals at the office, like putting on aromatherapy diffusers and getting a coffee. It also really brings me joy to see my team in the mornings.
Prioritising everything is really important when you are growing fast and have limited time, so I go into every day super clear on exactly what I want to get done and what I need to move forward. It doesn’t always work out the way I intend, and I force myself to stay open, but if I don’t get the most important things done I force myself to do them in the evening. Which is extremely painful, so I try to stay on track every day.
Tackling afternoon slumps
I am always working on my communication. I find that difficult, as well as staying on track at around 4PM every day. When I get tired, I like to do the easy stuff. So most days I give myself time to have a cup of tea, listen to a good song, and then crack on. As I say to my kids – just sit down and start working and then you can just keep going. Just get on with it. I remind myself that it is a marathon.
I also find working on my biggest challenges and problem-solving to be the most rewarding aspect of the day. You cannot have the highs without the intensity of the lows. I love working with my amazing team. I get inspired by them every single day and get very excited seeing our business and platform evolve. I love the challenges of refining the strategy and then deep diving into the product. I love the buzz of working on big systemic change and seeing how all the pieces come together. Big solutions are exciting, but the devil really is in the details.
Reconnecting and staying present
I have three sons who help me stay present, although I am sure they may disagree! I love going for a walk with my husband James, and my Jack Russell most evenings. Movement helps me think. I try to do a yoga class once a week, and I love cooking. But the reality is I am very bad at switching off. I love what I do and let it naturally flow into my brain at other times outside work. I learned a long time ago not to stress myself by trying to be too rigid.
Bedtime reading is a lovely moment in my day. I am reading a wonderful book at the moment called Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi… Completely inspiring. Perhaps that is all we aspire to? A flow that makes us happy every day.