2 Minutes With … Natasha Chetiyawardana, Co-Founder of Bow & Arrow

On hiring based on belief and talent

Natasha co-founded consultancy Bow & Arrow, which Accenture acquired in 2019. Her expertise includes driving growth through new businesses and creativity. She also serves as a non-executive board member at startups, scale-ups and established enterprises. 

We spent two minutes with Natasha to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Natasha, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Birmingham U.K., but fled to London as soon as I could, lived in NYC for most of my 20s, and returned to London to found Bow & Arrow. I've just moved to Lisbon with my newborn and family. I was yearning for the next adventure. 

How you first realized you were creative.

Less of a realization, more of a destiny. My grandmother was an artist, as is my mother. So for me, it just was. I see the instinctive urge in my oldest daughter to create, too. My creative husband doesn't believe creativity is genetic. We agree to disagree on this. 

A person you idolized creatively early on.

My grandmother. She never stopped creating. The last time I saw her was in Sri Lanka on her 90th birthday, and she was making toys for her great grandchildren. She was an amazing cook and baker, which I also see as creativity, and it's something I love doing, too. 

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I chose to do an art foundation course at Central Saint Martins instead of a gap year, with the flawed plan of getting art out of my system and then pursuing a "proper" degree and job. I passed my final project, which automatically gave me a place in the product design program at Saint Martins.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Much rap and hip-hop ('80s and '90s, mostly) because I love to dance; and my brain-to-speech doesn't function as quickly as most rappers, so I am often in awe, and dancing at the same time. If I had to pick one: A Tribe Called Quest. Current artist: Kendrick Lamar.  

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Book: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. It's historical and inventive and weaves together so many different narratives and perspectives.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

At Bow & Arrow, I initiated and trialled implementing "Consciousness"—creating positive impact—into every project we did. This one for Cracking Energy is one of them. I am also proud of Mobolise, founded by the indomitable Kanya King. There is such a need to actively support Black talent in the creative industries, and Kanya's vision and work is important. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

I've been working with my brother as a side hustle for over a decade. I am massively into food and drink and my involvement in bars and restaurants (White Lyan, Cub, Dandelyan, Lyaness, Silver Lyan, Super Lyan, Seed Library) has allowed me a different kind of creativity. We've worked on many different projects together—from whiskey to content, but doing our recent launch of limited-edition ready-to-drink cocktails was one of the most fun. With Ryan on design and me on the drinks, it was a true collaboration. Also, I haven't designed in that much detail for a while, so crafting graphics and using my friend’s beautiful typeface was so much fun. 

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

I awarded The London Underground team the Chair's Award last year for TfL Go. Their focus on accessibility is inspirational. It's a seamless experience from app to the tube. They thought about simplicity at every step and they've practiced what I think is one of the most important things about good design—restraint. There's nothing extraneous, only what needs to be there. 

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

It has to be MSCHF.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Paying it forward. I didn't have mentors in the industry and I had to work incredibly hard to build a network. The best thing about Bow & Arrow was enabling young talent as much as I could, in whatever way I could. I hate the way Millennials are dismissed in so many ways. You get what you put into people, whatever the generation. 

Your biggest weakness.

Not being able to let go of detail. I'm known for spotting every typo or gap. That led to being a total micromanager. As a child of immigrants, I have that pervasive feeling that to progress you can never trust that everything will go the right way. I'm still fighting that urge.

How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

At Bow & Arrow, right from the beginning, we hired based on belief in younger generations and talent versus just looking at experience. We hired a chef, an actor and a barrister. They wouldn't have made sense to other people. At Accenture, I was part of the pilot program to support and further the careers of young Black talent. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

Technically, I’m not in advertising, because Bow & Arrow was part of defining a new industry in venturing. But, if I weren't doing that, I would have a small food and drink-based B&B. Perhaps that's in my future at some point.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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