Interview: Anisa Morridadi from Beatfreeks ahead of International Women’s Day
We caught up with inspiring entrepreneur Anisa Morridadi from youth engagement agency Beatfreeks based in Birmingham and doing great work with big brands like Google, Selfridges and Unilever.
Tell us about your work history and how you came to start Beatfreeks. It started with a poetry jam, right?!
Yes, in 2013 after graduating from University and having run social enterprises since I was 15, I found myself between two worlds. Young, creative people who had loads of ideas, energy and felt they had the birthright to change the world and then lawyers, accountants and bankers who were desperately curious about how this new generation thought, what they wanted and how they could engage with them meaningfully as citizens, consumers and talent. It started with an experiment: what happens if we give spaces reserved to business professionals (in this case that was a fancy coffee shop in the finance district of Birmingham) over to young people to express themselves through stories, poems, raps. I wanted to know if any young people would come (they did), if they’d have anything interesting to say (they did) and if business would care what they had to say. I made that my job and my mission, to make sure businesses listened and used the insights in a way that grew and improved their business but also benefited and uplifted young people.
What do you think brands get wrong about young people?
They misunderstand their activism. Gone are the days where young people choose between being a consumer and being an activist. Those lines are completely blurred. There is a new hybrid generation of citizen-consumers who take a stakeholder approach to capitalism.
They still want stuff, they still consume, but they are also deeply concerned with the impacts and life cycles of their purchases, they care who works at the companies who make their products and whether they represent them and their values or not and they demand better conditions for the planet, for communities, for strangers. They will buy and march, they will cancel and switch their loyalty, they will research and educate themselves in a way that no other generation has been empowered to (or possibly even bothered) before.
What advice would you give to cultural organisations trying to engage more with young people?
Culture is everything, it’s everything. It’s co-produced with young people every day: it’s made by existing, living, making, consuming, wanting, feeling, connecting. I’d say make culture relevant to young people by making it connected to their everyday experiences instead of making it something young people have to go and find and understand.
Cultural organisations can let down their boundaries between what is art, heritage, media, entertainment, education and instead allow and encourage young people to playfully explore their own lives through the incredible work, buildings, shows, exhibitions, activities and outdoor spaces we have to offer in the UK.
Who or what inspires you to do your work?
I’m obsessed with the ambition and verve of entrepreneurs from Birmingham who refuse to let being from the ‘second city’ hold them back from building first rate businesses like Leke Sholuade founder of Black Valley and Ben Francis founder of Gymshark but also the wealth of leaders coming through that are refusing to let their age define their contribution like Henrietta Brealey, CEO of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce who is the youngest CEO at 30.
Mostly I’m inspired and driven by the people I get to and have worked with in the 9 years I’ve run Beatfreeks and the projects I’ve run along the way like starting up TEDxYouth in the city. I thrive off seeing the right people in the right seats and that is a huge inspiration to get to work with great, passionate, smart people every day.
What are your favourite haunts in Birmingham? (To eat, to go out, to get a culture fix etc..)
Of course I can’t not plug Beatfreeks’ Poetry Jam, every first Thursday of the month at Symphony Hall, as a great place for a culture fix!