Gina Din Kariuki is a great example of the trade she practices perfecting the public image. An expert in the communications and Public Relations field, Gina has grown her company Gina Din Corporate Communication into the award-winning machine it is today.
After 14 years with finance giant, Barclays Bank, she took a leap of faith and decided to be her own boss. The communication agency has been responsible for the strategic PR work for major brands like Kenya Airways, Red Cross, Safaricom and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). SLA contributor, Diana Odero engaged with Gina to discover the tricks of her trade and on why she thinks being a boss isn’t always as glamorous as people think.
Why did you choose to get into the communications and PR field?
I am actually a trained journalist but I have never practiced.
After school, I got a temporary job at Barclays handling their shares issue and ended up working there for 14 years. I started off as aPR manager and rose to become Head of Corporate Affairs. After that amount of time, I decided it was time to start my own company. October of this year will mark 20 years since we opened the doors to the Gina Din Group.
What has kept you going in this industry for almost two decades?
20 years in October! Quite a feat, it has been an incredible journey, let me break it down a bit for you.
- Keep evolving: I have always set a high standard for the work we do. There is nothing we do today that will be good enough for tomorrow. We don’t place limits on what we can achieve and keep pushing ourselves further.
- We have always had people who gave us opportunities. Starting out as a relatively unknown brand playing in the field with only international players (at that time) was challenging. We were lucky to have businesses that rolled the dice and gave us a shot well before I earned it. I am grateful to them 20 years later.
- Perseverance. The ability to roll with the punches and hang in there even when things weren’t great. To have an inner faith and belief in yourself that tomorrow will be another day. Remaining optimistic is so important when running a business.
- A great team is indispensable. I have had the opportunity to work with incredible people. Many who came to me with little to no experience but with passion and drive.
- Treat your business like you would a lover. Give it love, attention and nurture it. Reignite the fire every now and again and always stay relevant.
What skills do you think one needs to be a great communicator?
You need to know what you are talking about. Obtain knowledge, insight and earn the respect of people in your industry so that you actually know your subject well.
Don’t just talk, listen. Focus on understanding what the other person is saying. Watch out for the non-verbal communication. Be open to other points of view. Build relationships.20 years running a communications agency is quite a feat, @gina_din breaks down how she did it Click To Tweet
Running a company is no easy feat and you have probably felt burnt out a few times. If yes, how did you deal with it? What do you think is the best way one should deal with that feeling?
Of course, I have, as most business owners have. When I do feel a sense of burnout coming I take time to recognize I am human. Sometimes when one is successful we can be perceived as super humans… we can be seen as invincible and never failing. I have failed often and suffered burn out and fatigue. The key for me is to keep evolving as a person and as a brand. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you’ve finished changing, you’re finished.”
On a personal level, I keep a good balance between work and pleasure. I start the day with quiet time and set the tone for what my day will look like and that really helps in ensuring my mind doesn’t get too overwhelmed. Also, I travel a lot and love visiting new countries and seeing new cultures. I exercise, practice yoga and spend time with loving, supportive people.
As an expert in your field, you’ve had your fair share of multitasking jobs. What skills would you advise young business women to have in order to be effective multi-taskers especially when working in a profession as demanding as Public Relations?
I like to break things down in blocks so it doesn’t appear too overwhelming and I try as hard as I can to avoid distractions.
Being efficient with your time is important when you have to juggle. It’s also crucial to learn to prioritize tasks and delegate what and where you can.What has kept @gina_din going - the ability to embrace success & failure in equal measure Click To Tweet
Building an award-winning company from scratch must have come with its various challenges. How did you overcome any challenges that you faced and how would you advise the women reading SLA to handle challenges that may come their way?
I have faced many challenges and failures in business and in life but through everything I have found my inner strength and that is what has really kept me going -the ability to embrace success and failure in equal measure. When I first started my business, I took failure very personally but as my inner strength has developed, I have developed the knack of quieting the voice of resistance and stepping outside my comfort zones.
I have always tried to keep my spirits high and now fully understand my ‘big why’. In my 20 year journey, I have come to understand you never know what’s around the corner. It can be all or nothing and I am okay with both. I have a mentor who has created a very successful business and his advice to me was –act like a grown up.
Take responsibility. Don’t whine and complain. Do whatever it takes. I have learnt that perseverance is actually more important than skill in running your own business and whilst talent is important, it will only take you so far. My wall may be well decorated with awards but my greatest accomplishments are what I have had to overcome to get here.
There's a lot of talk about entrepreneurship right now and it has become quite glamourised Click To Tweet
What is the most important thing one must know about starting a company/business?
One must know that it’s not all cocktail parties and CEO moments. There’s a lot of talk about entrepreneurship right now and it has become quite glamourised. The thrill of one having freedom from full-time employment is so seductive. What people rarely talk about is how the freedom doesn’t come on a platter.
Success isn’t overnight… it takes many many nights of late toil, a lot of personal sacrifice, of building networks and serious hustling. The reality is that no one owes me a pay check and no one owes me attention. It’s up to me to ensure I create value.
I remember when we first started with literally no capital, no brand recognition, a few small clients and staff on our payroll. It was scary because there were literally so many people depending on the company for their livelihood. I had my share of sleepless nights.
Coming out of the safety net a blue chip organization, it was difficult to know what to expect. I had no boss, no performance review and no idea how to measure success. What I soon learnt though was success for me was about the learning… the learning of my clients, the market, my business and myself. Most of what I learnt couldn’t possibly be learnt before I started.
Starting out can be pretty lonely because you don’t have a trusted support network (which established businesses do) so you can’t get feedback from colleagues. I missed that part of belonging to the Barclays Family but I wasn’t doing what I was doing just to be an entrepreneur, I was doing it to build a life I love. To be able to build brands and empower individuals, to be able to spend time with the people I care for.
I knew what I wanted to contribute to the world and wanted to do something that makes me come alive every day. Too many times people build businesses without considering what they want on a personal level and soon become prisoners of their own making. Having your own business also means there’s no boss to blame. We make our own rules and get to create our own magic on our own terms.
What mantra do you live by?
The spaces beyond one’s comfort zone is where dreams come alive.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.