The Jump Blog, a multilingual web portal for advancing women in the wordplace, interviewed Olga Slavkina about her successes and setbacks on the path of building Schmoozy Fox. The original interview can be accessed here.
Successes and setbacks encountered along the way:
As founder and managing partner of SCHMOOZY FOX, a Brussels-based strategic brand and marketing consultancy, I work with companies to help them build Funky Brands™ — high-quality products and services that are edgy, fun to experience, and bring positive functional and emotional benefits to those who use them. To put it simply, my job is to make companies famous by creating strong brands.
After doing an MBA at a top-ranked IE Business School in Madrid, most of my friends went to work for big consulting firms, or investment banks. I took a different path, decided to follow my passion for branding, and started my own consulting business. Taking a secure job at a big company would have probably set me on an easier path — and indeed with my MBA it would have been very attractive financially. But I decided to jump into the unknown, and take the challenge.
One of the biggest challenges was to win the first client –SCHMOOZY FOX™ was totally new, and I had to be very good at communicating my value proposition. I had already been writing a blog about Funky Brands™ for some time (my blog is www.schmoozyfox.com/blog), and in combination with my academic and professional credentials, it helped me win the first project. Even now it is still a challenge to win new projects — SCHMOOZY FOX is still a very new name in brand consulting, and it’s taking a lot of effort and creativity to get it off the ground.
Which is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is that I’ve remained true to who I am — a smart and professional, but also a very fun and warm person. I’ve always believed that professional life could be combined with a lot of fun.
This was not always easy to implement, and I did end up at rather hierarchical organisations at the beginning of my career, where I felt that my energy and creativity were simply under-used. I didn’t want to be a follower, but a path creator, and high academic achievements certainly helped me establish my high credentials. I was granted a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study in the USA, and later on did an MBA at one of the top European business schools. I worked really hard to receive top education and build my own personal brand. Now I feel that it’s easy to combine these credentials with the fun aspect of my work. For instance, I can now select interesting projects to work on, and this is certainly a big achievement!
Where does your energy come from?
Running my own business and, together with my partner Sean, raising two young children requires an immense amount of energy. I can think of three main sources of my energy: enjoying nature, dancing and meeting people.
How can you explain your success?
I was born in Latvia, in mid-70s — it was part of the USSR back then. When I was growing up, there were only a couple of possible career tracks I could consider. A girl who brought good grades from school, could become a teacher, or a doctor. These were respectable careers, and dreaming outside of this framework would not lead anywhere. It was a different world.
Then it all collapsed — the Soviet Union began coming to an end, and my father died when I was only 13. I remember the sense of emptiness, and a sudden loss of support. From then on, I had to be a fighter, and take responsibility for my own life. The urge to survive and succeed prompted me to finish high school with top grades. I got into the university, and when I was 19, I was awarded a Gorbachev-Bush scholarship for study in the US for one year. When I came back to Latvia, I firmly decided that I wanted to travel, explore different countries, and continue my studies in the US. Later on, I went back to Boston where I was a Fulbright student. And my last degree — an MBA — took me to Madrid.
My persistence, positivity and belief in myself took me to many countries, and helped me meet many wonderful people along the way. When I look back at my childhood years growing up in the Soviet Union, I myself can’t believe how much I’ve achieved!
What do you still have to accomplish?
My short-term goal is to continue working with innovative companies helping them build Funky Brands™. I am also an entrepreneur at heart, so I don’t exclude building a whole new Funky Brand of my own one day.
What is your message to other women?
Pay attention to your personal brand and nurture it in order to get where you want to be. This will only be successful if you know what you truly stand for, so invest your time and passion in this rewarding activity. And of course, believe in yourself!