Levi’s Pioneer Nation | An Interview with Anthea Poulos

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Anthea Poulos is inspired by the people she meets every day and believes that exposing yourself to different cultures is an important factor that shapes you as a person. Before her current position as the director at The Bread, she worked as a trend analyst at Instant Grass which, according to Anthea, is where she learnt everything she knows.


A pioneer in her own right, Anthea is one of the organisers of the Levi’s Pioneer Nation festival which will be held in Braamfontein on the 25th September. The festival is aimed at motivating and equipping young South African entrepreneurs to discover themselves and their hidden skills in order to make their ideas a reality.


Tell us more about yourself and what inspires you?


The people that I get to interact with every day, at work, on the street etc, that’s the real stuff of inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I read blogs the same as anybody, but finding inspiration around you is a gift, so I feel pretty lucky about that.


How have you come to be where you are today?


To be honest it kind of happened by mistake. I started interning at Instant Grass when I finished university and at the time they were focused a lot of trend forecasting. When I got there my focus was on street culture and being there helped me learn how to refine that into ‘actual work’. I’ve always been into understanding how young South Africans define and understand themselves in our time and that started directing me into how they represent themselves creatively though fashion and art etc. From there my two friends had this business idea, at first I thought it was crazy and declined the offer, but the more I thought about it the more sense it made, so I just took the risk and so far it’s working out!


How do you view the creative industry in South Africa right now?


Sometimes I find there’s a lack of originality from the industry as a whole, I see way more creativity coming out of the streets than out of the bigger studios and businesses. But I guess that’s good because eventually the people in those positions will take the big jobs.


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Have you picked up on any commonalities amongst young South Africans – in terms of their aspirations, dreams, ideas and ambitions?


South Africans have a unique understanding of how things work and we have an incredible way of adapting things to make sense to us. We’re in an interesting place because all the kids know what’s going on around the world but we don’t always have access to the brands or the money to get the brands. That said, somehow we always figure out how to make it work. When I travel so many people ask about South Africa, the world is excited about who we are – now we need to be too.


Tell us more about your involvement with Instant Grass, and what you gained from this experience.


Instant Grass taught me almost everything I know, and that is the truth!


Currently, you’re the director and strategist for The Bread. What could sorts of things could a typical day for you entail?


Not being at my desk! I like to spend my time out and about chatting to people and asking their advice and opinions, it’s how I stay afloat!


What skills or characteristics does it take to do what you do?


Hard work, a tough attitude and a sense of humour. A BIG SENSE OF HUMOUR!


What do you love about what you do?


My business partners! Honestly the work I do is cool, but if it wasn’t for the two of them it wouldn’t be half as fun. They make me laugh all day and they inspire me and push me to keep moving forward!


What advice would you give to someone looking to do what you do?


Get an internship and start learning, there’s really no other way, it’s a tough and confusing industry so it’s the best way to learn. Ask questions all the time and above all LISTEN. Even when you’re not being spoken to, listen.


How do you expect that Pioneer Nation, as a platform, can contribute to shaping and equipping young entrepreneurs in South Africa?


There’re a lot of kids out there aiming to do what many of our guest speakers have already done. The best way to learn is from experience, if not from yourself then from those that know, but I guess above all that learning about failure is almost as important as learning about success so I hope that part resonates.


Stay tuned with Anthea on Twitter and check her blog on tumblr.


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This interview was conducted as part of a collaboration between us at 10and5 and the Umuzi Photo Club’s #P50 students, who interviewed and photographed a selection of creatives who will be representing at the upcoming Levi’s Pioneer Nation Festival. Interview by Simangele Shabalala and photographs by Simangele and Xolani Phakathi.


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