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In conversation with… TLC’s Angela Farrugia

The Source talks past, present and future with the co-founder of TLC.

“I was so way out of my comfort zone, it was rather scary,” Angela Farrugia admitted to The Source back in June.

Was she referring to leaving the safety of a leading licensing agency to set up TLC with her kindred spirit Melvin Thomas? Was it due to the complexities involved in licensing deals with A list celebrities David Beckham or Jennifer Lopez (recently announced)? Was it about leaving the UK to set up an office in New York (as she did for eight years)?

For the vast majority of people, any of these scenarios would have given all but the most confident of business people the collywobbles, but Angela Farrugia has taken them in her stride. In this case, the rare admission of fear was something that took Angela to new heights (literally), a skydive on the morning on the first day of Licensing Expo in Vegas, before the show opened.

A daredevil in business maybe, but jumping out a plane thousands of feet up in the sky was not something Angela Farrugia had on her ‘to do list’, but formed part of a mighty impressive charity fundraising programme for global street children charity, Railway Children to mark TLC’s 20th anniversary.

skydive

“We have had 20 years of being lucky in life and business, so felt we wanted to give something back in this important year,” said Angela. The fundraising initiative, which spans all 20 TLC offices (now part of the Global Brands Group), has smashed the original target of raising £20,000, raising $180,000.

In keeping with the ‘20’ theme, the fundraising programme launched on April 20 (and continued on the 20th of every subsequent month) with a 24 hours cycle challenge to bike 2,200 miles with all the offices participating, either on static bikes or out on the open roads all over the world.

That was a memorable date in Angela’s diary for another reason too, as it coincided with the inaugural Brand and Licensing Lifestyle Awards (B&LLAs) at which she received the very first ever Brand Ambassador award.

LSB’s Jakki Brown’s citation prior to the award being presented touched on the TLC journey, which started when Angela and Melvin left CPLG to form their own agency.

While TLC’s initial focus was on entertainment brands, they spotted the potential of brand licensing way before almost everyone else.

tlccheque

Angela admits it was initially an “uphill struggle” to convince brand owners that their IP really should be utilised in other directions, winning over licensees and retailers to share their pioneering vision which is evident in the licensing deals with many leading fashion, auto, food and beverage and lifestyle brands (including Coca Cola, Jane Packer and Jeep) that generated an incredible $8.4billion in retail sales in the last year alone.

Fighting back the tears, Angela gave a gracious acceptance speech, in which she paid tribute to the many people in that room who had been part of the TLC journey over the years, as well as an affectionate nod to Melvin, who she refers to as her “work husband”.

“Melvin and I work incredibly well together because he is anchored in reality – and I’m not. I can always tell you where we want to be, but I don’t necessarily know how to get there!”

tlcteam

For someone not so good at ‘journey planning’ Angela (and TLC) have not done so badly over the last two decades. Now part of the large CAA-Global Brands Group, with a joint venture with Iconix, Angela and Melvin are a long way from their entrepreneurial start-up days.

“Ownership and leadership are two different things – I am proud that we founded TLC, but also very happy that we now have a much bigger pond to play in!” states Angela.

The ’20 years in business’ celebratory evening on October 10 was a cause to reflect on the last two decades which has seen TLC spawn offices around the world, take brands where they might never have gone before as well as catch up with the people who have been part of this journey.

Two decades ago, Angela and Melvin were two individuals with a dream to make a difference. They were two ambitious entrepreneurs with high hopes. Skydive or no skydive, they have definitely scaled the heights.

This feature originally appeared in the autumn edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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