Two Creatives Start a Workshop for Those Wanting to Break Into the Ad Industry

By Kyle O'Brien 

The ad industry might seem impenetrable to join, especially for those who didn’t go to school specifically to get into the industry. That’s why two creatives decided to start The Workshop, a new, free creative mentorship program designed to help those who have discovered advertising after they’ve already entered another industry or who haven’t developed a portfolio.

Copywriter Mary Buzbee and art director Lauren Meadows, both of whom work at Kansas City agency Barkley, started The Workshop after their own experiences, which didn’t involve advertising schooling until near the end of their college careers.


“Growing up in Alabama, I didn’t really know what working in advertising entailed. I always associated advertising with personal injury attorney billboards and local car dealership commercials,” Buzbee told Adweek.

Meadows and Buzbee found their creative outlets at Minerva, the University of Alabama’s undergraduate portfolio program, which they both said they stumbled into after spending a few aimless years as undergrads. After seeing how easy it was to nearly miss out on advertising education, the two decided to make the process of finding creative callings easier for people.

“I wanted others to have an opportunity to break into a creative career without compromising the commitments they have in their own lives,” Meadows told Adweek. “We’ve been on dozens of calls with creative hopefuls trying to break into advertising that didn’t find out about it until they already earned another degree or were working in another industry.”

None of the prospects knew where to begin when it came to building their portfolios and they didn’t have consistent guidance, so Buzbee and Meadows got to work on branding and website for The Workshop. They decided that a free and flexible online mentorship would be the way to go, so people could work around their existing jobs while still honing a career in the creative field.

They then recruited various creatives by sharing a Google form on platforms like Twitter and Fishbowl to gauge professionals’ interest in the program. They received positive responses all around, and have now signed up over 60 teachers from across the globe from agencies including Mischief, Translation, BBDO, Recipe LDN, DDB, Ogilvy, Fig, Anomaly, BSSP and others.

How it works

There are currently two disciplines, art direction and copywriting, and apprentices from each will be paired and matched with a teacher to work on three open-source briefs over three months. Teachers and apprentices will meet virtually for a few hours a week when it works best for them, and by the end of their time, the goal is for the apprentices to have three solid pieces of work in their portfolio and newfound concepting, art direction, and copywriting skills.

Buzbee and Meadows believe that mentorship is vital in the advertising industry, to help new talent navigate everything from organizing websites to networking, to knowing how to break the rules in the right ways, so a program like The Workshop can be invaluable to help new talent to flourish.

First classes

The Workshop is currently taking applications for apprentices and will announce selected candidates on July 19. The first official class will begin August 2.

Currently, The Workshop is being funded by just Meadows and Buzbee, but they are hoping to find a partner who will pay for Adobe Creative Cloud memberships for all apprentices. If the program is successful, they would like to expand it and find other professionals who can lead areas like strategy, production and brand management.