House of Coco had a chat with Kristina Spionjak, (spionjak.com), a publicist specialised in helping creative minds ‘tell their story’ to their target audience in the most compelling, distinct and relevant way, about wanderlust (a girl after House of Coco’s heart!) and how to make it with only £200 in your pocket.
HOC: Kristina, tell us about your business and the journey that got you here?
KS: I came to London in 2009 with just £200 in my pocket. I didn’t speak any English and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had come for London for a two week holiday, went back to Zagreb and then moved over!
The first thing I did was to work as an au pair which really helped me to learn the language and understand your culture. After that I was unsure of what to do next. I was over qualified to work for free and didn’t want to take a job where I’d be scraping £6 an hour, so there was no other option than to start my own business.
Back home in Croatia I worked in Political PR and a friend of mine there was a fashion designer and asked me if I would promote them in the UK market. I gave it a go and really enjoyed it, so I decided to start offering PR services.
HOC: That’s amazing, how did you go about building a name?
KS: The first obstacle was to find clients so I could make money! I started running PR workshops and teaching people how they could do their own PR, but my workshops were structured in a way that once they were over, they would realise they still needed my help to navigate the ins and outs and shoals of PR. I gained my first two clients shortly after by only charging £200 a month, which is now ridiculous! I put together my portfolio and then it started rolling in earnest.
We have our 5th anniversary this March and I have a small team and very capable team now built around me!
HOC: How did your friends feel when you came to the UK?
KS: It was wasn’t a great surprise to most of them. I’d already lived in three different cities! Croatia is very small, so after two years in its capital Zagreb it felt like you knew just about everyone and especially in the Media industry. The city felt small and I wanted more.
I remember when I came here on holiday. I was in Camden market and there was a mad mass of energy and rushing people. I knew then that I wanted to move to London for sure. Now that I live here, more people live near me in North West London than in the whole of my country! I took a leap of faith and it has paid off.
HOC: It must have been full of challenges, any tips to share?
KS: Yes. It was a rollercoaster, and even now I still have ups and downs. You need to have patience most of all!
You should also surround yourself with people who are informed and are hungry to keep learning. I read three books a week (I use an app that neatly summarises a book I’m interested in to decide if I’ll read it) which really helps me to manage my time well. In most cases, books can be written in twenty pages! I like to read psychology, behavioural sciences, economics and self-development books — the standard fare for PR where you need to know and understand your audience.
As a consultant, I often need to know about lots of different areas and background that I wouldn’t necessarily normally come across. I always like to be prepared before a consultation and will always recommend them to other professionals if I see that I’m not the best person or match for them or their project.
HOC: I think people forget how, while running your own business is an education in itself, you have to keep learning alongside it. You mention surrounding yourself with great people, do you have any mentors?
KS: I have a couple of mentors whom I unexpectedly discovered by chance! While I was still figuring out what I wanted to do, I taught Croatian and made a friend who is a property developer. He runs an old fashioned business and it was so useful to get his perspective and insight on my business; it’s great to discuss ideas with someone from a completely different industry. It really opens your eyes and helps you see from outside the bubble, in.
Another friend of mine is a marketing and PR manager who helped me define my brand strategy. I also have a number of people I work with like my creative copywriter and others who are fantastic to talk to and bounce ideas off. The people around me are mostly male, which is a coincidence.
HOC: Interesting that your mentors are mostly male! How do you find working in the industry as a woman?
KS: This industry is actually very female orientated with not many male clients! That said, I feel there are lots of differences between men and women in business. Women seem to be more caring of what’s going on but men just want to get it done!
HOC: What’s the next adventure then?
KS: I’ve already bought a place here in London so I’m trying to make this city my home and let it settle in. I’ll definitely be travelling somewhere or living elsewhere for a few months when the opportunity occurs and to check it out!
We love your attitude and approach to life, Kristina and can’t wait to see what you will do next! We don’t know about you but Kristina’s story has got us wanting to pack up and move abroad in search of adventure…