Founder of the month: Sacha Martina
Written by Clare Adamson
This month, get ready to be inspired by one of our role models: Sacha Martina. Sacha is a passionate, people person, an unstoppable force, and a living testament to the fact that “just because you have a more difficult start, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a successful ending.” She is the founder and Chief Epic Officer (CEO) of Your Talent Agency. Driven by her passion for matchmaking and her desire to be a powerful role model to her two daughters, her journey has not been without challenges. Continue reading to learn first-hand from her experiences.
Fashionista turned recruiter
At university, Sacha studied fashion management and figured that fashion was her passion rather than her career path. Instead, she pivoted into HR and recruitment roles when she entered the workforce. She found a magnetic attraction and her love for professional matchmaking in these positions. To develop a well-rounded perspective, she worked in all kinds of businesses. From start-ups to scale-ups to big corporates to agencies to freelancing. Sacha developed a thorough understanding of what the recruitment world needed. Professional matchmaking lit up a fire inside her, and she knew she wanted to explore the opportunities in this industry further.
From the start of her career, Sacha has worked in international, English-speaking companies. She found a divide in the company demographics when comparing notes with her friends in the same field. “Either it was an international company, and the majority of people were international with a low percentage of Dutch employees. Or the company was primarily Dutch, built from Dutch people and had difficulty integrating different cultures and overcoming the language barrier.”
Challenges in recruitment
The tech industry faced a shortage of 350,000 tech professionals at the time. As a recruiter, she found that filling all the spots with only local talent was not easy. However, many internationals were already in the Netherlands and promising candidates abroad. She asked herself, why not make it easier to recruit and onboard them? Especially in counties with many tech professionals, the opportunities to advance your career are limited. Her market research revealed that the tech scene was suffering from unconscious biases that made it difficult to integrate more internationals. Most companies and founders prefer to hire Dutch people, but this meant they were missing out on the opportunity to grow and diversify their team, ultimately making them more successful.
Your Talent Agency
This was when the idea for Your Talent Agency was born. Being a mix of start-ups and scale-ups, the Dutch ecosystem is very attractive to foreigners. Considering the talent gap is only growing, Sacha jumped at the opportunity to build a business to address this pressing need. She founded Your Talent Agency, a B2B recruitment and integration company focused on serving the tech domain. They recruit and relocate talent worldwide while taking a people-focused approach to ensure the newfound talent feels at home in their company.
Searching for the ideal client
While Sacha had substantial experience in recruitment, their company was new to the international recruitment scene. Their competitors were immigration lawyers or recruitment firms focused on the local scene. Most companies they approached within their first year understood the problem and recognised their value but were unprepared to take the step. “You could almost say that our solution was too innovative.” Companies would rather spend double the amount of money on hiring someone local than hire someone foreign within budget. “The majority of people don’t like change”. But, with time, they found their ideal client in scale-up companies, who still had a rebellious and flexible attitude.
As well as being an entrepreneur, Sacha is a mum of two. She had her first daughter at 25, coinciding with the kickstart of her freelancer career. Four years later, she was pregnant with her second daughter. She launched Your Talent Agency while seven months pregnant. “Not the best timing, but on the other hand I think this is a living example of the fact that there’s no such thing as perfect timing. When you know it, and you feel it, you have to act on it. It will all work out!” Aspiring entrepreneurs might delay the start of their company, saying, “first I want to take that trip, first I want to buy a house.” She points out that “there is never a perfect moment until you decide that the moment is perfect.”
Entrepreneur to Sought-After DEI Speaker
As a woman of colour and entrepreneur in the tech scene, Sacha’s intersecting identities meant that her life experiences had a lot of insights that others were eager to learn from. She was increasingly asked to speak on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics, despite not being trained as a public speaker. She rose to the challenge and has since become a sought-after DEI speaker. All this considered, Sacha considers herself a life longer learner and is continuously levelling up her capabilities. Just before this interview, she was completing a storytelling workshop because she knows that there is always room for improvement.
Lessons from Sacha
Sacha did not come from an entrepreneurial family and lacked role models and guidance. “I started with a lot of energy and google.” she laughs. The internet was a valuable resource for teaching Sacha more about entrepreneurship. Still, she cautions others to be critical of the information they consume. “It can be a confusing place as a starting entrepreneur. The internet is an open source. Just because you ended up on someone’s blog doesn’t mean that it is the truth.”
Another lesson Sacha learnt from working with many companies and starting her own is the importance of having a good company culture. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Without the right people and culture, a company will never be truly healthy and successful.”
Advice for future founders
To women early on in their entrepreneurial journey, Sacha underlines the importance of having a good network, whether a person down your street or somebody’s mother who knows more about a certain domain than you. You never know who can support your process. “If it’s not in your interest, it’s draining your energy.” Moreover, Sacha recommends finding a supportive business coach or mentor that you can learn from. Having someone offer their advice and ensure you are not alone in making the big decisions can make an enormous difference.
Since she founded Your Talent Agency while pregnant, it was not long before it started to gain traction. Companies were finding her business and showing a lot of interest, which meant that she had little to no time for maternity leave. “There was finally some traction, and when there is traction, you need to jump on it. It means just do it and take the baby with you wherever you go. I had to be creative with meetings, and presentations and pitches. When I look back, it’s just proof to me that, no matter the challenge, there are always solutions.”