Tricia Clarke-Stone knows what you want before you do.
Even back in her teenage years, the born innovator saw opportunities where others saw deficits, launching ventures like a clothing company with her sister. After studying at Skidmore College and working in traditional media at Emmis Communications, she found a passion and gift for digital media and for creating trends. She was hired at Internet portal, Excite, and then re-hired at Emmis to launch their interactive division, guiding brands like PUMA, iTunes, Fox and many more. In 2009, Russell Simmons tapped Tricia for his media platform, Global Grind, where she led over 100 cross-cultural, digital, social and transmedia experiences for the likes of Universal Pictures, Toyota, Pepsi and Sony. Ultimately, in 2013, she and Simmons created Narrative_ to create immersive experiences, products and campaigns that connect people and brands emotionally. As a co-founder and CEO with insatiable curiosity and a desire to improve on the status quo, she has been dubbed a visionary time and time again.
Here, Clarke-Stone describes the importance of finding one’s “white space” and of seeking connections in a fast-paced world:
Live The Process: Have you always been interested in or had an instinct for drawing connections between people and ideas?
Tricia Clarke-Stone: I’ve never been at a loss when it comes to ideas, and I have the ability to see sparks in people and connect those sparks to opportunities and concepts. Whether it’s an idea driven by human insights, a person with a skill set that can bring an idea to life or an idea that needs wings, it starts with a vision, genuine connection with people and a roadmap.
I was a problem solver from an early age. I wanted to participate in just about every activity in high school, but my allowance didn’t cover all the expenses. I knew I was on top of the trends and my friends respected my taste, so I came up with a plan to sell trendy threads at a profit. Since most of my friends didn’t have access to outlet stores, I would go out and buy gear at discounted prices to fill their demand. I’ve also always loved the intersection between tech and fashion: As a child, my Christmas list always included the latest techy gadgets, like the Kodak Tele disc camera.
Knowing the trends also allowed me to innovate what I wasn’t seeing. For example, my sister and I felt there was a void in the market for really cool, stylish tops, so in 2003 we launched a collection under our own fashion label, TAC. It included twelve styles that we produced and sold online and in stores in New York, LA and Miami. We moved a few thousand units! My sister has always been my partner in innovation. Because we are twins, people are always asking us to share our experiences—what it’s like to be a twin—so we developed our own ways to share, connect and, ultimately, tell the best stories.
I’m intrigued by what makes people tick—the currencies and territories that interest people. So many elements of pop culture can serve as capital to connect with people; and it’s not just about culture. It’s about understanding trends to identify need and create what’s next. When you can establish relevance and create value for your audience, it will drive authentic connections.
LTP: How did your past experience prepare you for your work at Narrative_?
TCS: We’re an advertising agency that operates like an innovation lab, and innovation permeates every aspect of the business. We invent new ways to experience stories across all channels and platforms—stories you can walk around in. Everything we make begins with a CTE (Call To Experience): an invitation to experience something. It’s part mission, part call-to-action and asks a person to participate in advertising and/or real life. If we think it, we build it. We leverage tech to bring brands deeper into the worlds of their consumers. We make culture, and we reward anyone who can cross the line from spotting trends to crafting new ones. In addition to creating enchanting brand campaigns for our clients, we commit real resources to enable discovery—new ways to engage people and build relationships by inventing, prototyping and incubating ideas, content, products and experiences. Our Creative Catalogue of IP, innovation projects and culturally-focused products is available to clients and brands to inspire, inform, drive brand innovation and business invention.
My entire career has been predicated on innovation. Whether via marketing, media, digital, tech, publishing or content platforms, I’ve consistently identified ways to create new and unique experiences, clear points of differentiation, value and opportunities for growth. This approach drove my success at Emmis Communications, Excite and Russell Simmons’ GlobalGrind. I launched Narrative_ over three years ago, and innovation is built into our DNA.
The moment that defined my career was when I left Emmis Communications (a traditional media company) to work for the Internet 1.0 portal, Excite. This was the first time I challenged myself to find my white space, to explore the possibilities in the unknown. The Internet was still in its infancy, and there was much to discover. Six months after I left, an executive from Emmis reached out and asked if I’d come back to launch their digital division, which I did—continuing to forge my own path and follow what intrigues me most.
LTP: What advice would you offer to women who aspire to your level of achievement in a field for which they feel passion?
TCS: What drives me is making an impact, knowing that what I do will create change or propel us forward. I may succeed or I may fail, and I’m willing to take that risk. As an innovator, it’s my job to redefine the status quo, to identify how things can improve.
I’ve been insatiably curious my whole life. I get inspired by the future and riffing off what I can imagine, build and invent. What’s cool about Narrative_ is that we believe storytelling is a craft with infinite possibilities that becomes tangible and compelling when experienced the right way with the right tools. When certain tools don’t exist, we make them. When we go places uncharted, we map them. And when we believe in the things we discover, we plant a flag in them—all with conviction.
My advice is the same for men and women: Identify your white space—what you uniquely bring to the table—and invest in it, so that you become a formidable player. Above all, you must be passionate about what you do. I chose a field in which you’re only as good as your last win. I’m proving myself and outdoing myself over and over. Without passion, you’ll never sustain that level of hard work and perseverance.
I’m a calculated risk-taker. It’s important for me to have a plan, so that I can clearly see what’s next. I tell my team to have a plan B, but do the work to manifest plan A.
Most of all, don’t be afraid of hard work. Be proactive: Find the opportunity or void and figure out how to fill it. You’re not doing the work for the accolades or money; you’re learning a new skill and stretching yourself. Keep pushing forward, and the rest will follow.
LTP: How do you keep yourself feeling healthy and balanced, despite whatever pressures or stresses exist in your life?
TCS: I make a conscious effort to strike a balance. I haven’t perfected the art, but I prioritize experiences, socializing and connecting with people. Being with others fuels me and helps spark new ideas. I also prioritize vacations; I’m a pro at the long weekend. So, I may not take myself fully out of the loop, but I manage to get some space from the day-to-day.
I’ve meditated for fifteen minutes every morning for the past five years, and it helps ground me. As a CEO, my role is to figure out how to evolve my company, but we’re small and I’m hands on, so I often get stuck in the weeds. Meditation is my way to clear the mind and make space for things that aren’t right in front of me. These are my moments for self-reflection and higher level thinking. I don’t have any attachments to the outcome. Sometimes bigger insights will bubble up, and I’ll take note, but sometimes, it’s just my time to disconnect and be in a quiet space, so I can start the day with a sense of ease.
I’ve been experimenting with a new ritual designed to tap into my unconscious and dreaming mind. Before I go to bed, I ask myself a question or set an intention. When I wake up, I write down the first thing that comes to mind. The goal is to keep the intention consistent for a period of time, so I’ll ask the same question every night for a week. At the end of that week, I’ll gather all the first thoughts and check for a pattern. I also journal regularly—maybe one or two times a week. Setting aside time for freeform writing helps me with problem-solving.
Regarding health, I’m a major Reformer Pilates fan. I also drink green juice for breakfast most mornings, and I’ve even had juice-ologists come by the office in the morning to make custom blends for my team.
As I mentioned, I love being around new people. I’m forever inspired by people that I meet, by new experiences and by avoiding my comfort zone. For example, I’m not a baker, but I love the Momofuku birthday cake—it’s so over the top. Logically, I signed up for a baking class with a friend, and we learned how to make it. It was unexpectedly fun, challenging and mind-expansive. Also, I’m all about playing vs. repeating. This allows for opportunities to explore, experiment, learn, fail, invent and grow.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
TCS: Living my passion. Connection. Loving and being loved. And winning in all its forms. I love uncovering moments of possibility for creation and making an impact. Most of all, I love making and experiencing magic—that ethereal thing that happens when all the dots connect.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process,” and how can we all do that more each day?
TCS: Living the process means taking the necessary steps to become the best version of oneself, but knowing it won’t happen overnight. It requires self-reflection, passion, vulnerability, openness to all of life’s ups and downs, having deep connections and experiences and being there for others.