Just before the whole Coronavirus chaos began we were able to host our annual Meetup with CBP alumni. The CBP Network has made it a tradition to invite some alumni from various industries and with interesting career paths to talk about their professional journey after graduating from the CBP program. With that, we are aiming to inspire current students, have them discover career opportunities and foster communication and exchange within our creative network.
Due to the unusual Coronavirus situation two of our speakers were not able to attend our event, unfortunately. However, that just gave our two other speakers the opportunity to really deep-dive into their experiences and to extend our Q&A session in the end.
Our first speaker Theresa Blank Schjønning, who is passionate about the intersection of strategy and creativity, already kicked off her career while studying at CBS. Since she and some of her friends in the program loved baking and bringing different people together through their food, they one day started to open up pop-up bakeries. The concept was to have multiple pop-ups spread all over Copenhagen in different, sometimes unusual locations which ranged from cafés to private apartments to Roskilde Festival. Each pop-up consisted of a full table of food and was themed differently. This period helped them to build a network and strategic partnerships in the Danish market which set the base for transforming their ideas into a legitimate business.
They were doing something out of passion, one could even say for fun. However, with time they started developing a business mindset around this passion. While receiving an increasing amount of increasingly demanding inquiries they realized that they were in need of a viable business model. This was the birth of Sweet Sneak Studio, an agency that creates “mouthwatering branding”, communication strategies, event concepts and content production around food.
The business model really took its shape with their first big project. They were inquired to deliver 3000 mini cakes for a big corporate event. They quickly realized, since none of them was a professional chef and was able to stack 3000 pieces of pastry in their kitchen, they needed to outsource the production or rent a professional kitchen for smaller-scale projects. But from then on, they started focusing on their core competencies which lay in the event and menu planning, food photography and social media representation. Additionally, their target audience gradually changed from B2C to B2B.
Always hungry for value-creating network and business development, Theresa is now also running Blank Space Projects which is a business development agency that consults on food and food-related matters with a more holistic and strategic approach to food and design. She is also working on a project that aims to develop an ecosystem for an informed and sustainable future of food within Denmark as well as bridging to Germany and the US. She will soon launch a platform that fosters knowledge exchange, mutual inspiration, collaboration and innovation between various players from the food and culinary industry. This basically brings her back to the roots of her desire to gather people around food.
Theresa’s story is a prime example of how to turn a passion into a successful business. Her advice on being a successful creative entrepreneur is that you not only follow what you love most but that you also need to have a lot of determination, resilience, and persistence. You should try to always think out of the box, stay curious and follow your passion. Funny how this often revolves around food, very similar to Grød’s story!
Then the other CBP alumni, Aleksandra Samsonova entered the stage with a big smile. She started by stating that her story will be a completely different one compared to Theresa’s and that she is currently figuring out herself if she is successful or not but she definitely, like Theresa, is developing her career and personal success.
Aleksandra first told us a little bit about her educational background. She did her Bachelor, which her parents chose for her, in International Management and Administration in her home country Russia. They chose it for her because of the „good money she will make later“ even though, at first, Aleksandra was not interested in business at all. But she said that “No matter what you do, there will always be something that interests you. And for me that was languages”. This is why she obtained a degree in interpreting and chose to go on exchange to Denmark to study at CBS. She fell in love with Denmark and the fact that in contrast to Russia she felt freer, could express herself better and develop her ideas independently. Ultimately, she came back to get her Master’s degree at CBS and stay in Denmark afterward.
After graduation, she started off working as a Marketing Specialist which is where her biggest interest lays in. However, a few years into her professional career she discovered a new interest in IT. Always eager to learn new things she changed industries without having any knowledge in the IT sector. She started off with an internship which in her eyes is not a major drawback as many companies will most probably either hire you afterward or provide you with a valuable network. In her case, the latter served as a basis for her next career step of being a freelancer within marketing and IT. Today she mainly plans and executes outdoor sports events, conducts community management and develops and maintains websites. Alongside that, she is an interpreter in Russian, Danish, and English and a fitness and flexibility instructor.
Aleksandra is a true multitasking talent. While she was studying she was working as a student assistant, did internships in the Marketing field and had her first interpreting jobs. On top of that, she was learning Danish which she now is fluent in and investing much time in her personal hobby and passion pole fitness. In fact, she wrote her Master’s thesis on the perception of pole dancers in society. As you can imagine, this was not a usual CBS thesis topic but Aleksandra stuck to her idea in spite of her difficulties finding a supervisor, finding another one after the first one suddenly disappeared and justifying the topic altogether. Until the very end, up until her oral defense, there has always been someone telling her that she cannot do it or nobody would understand it. But this just taught her to always stand up for what she believes in and stick to her ideas.
During her talk, Aleksandra provided some useful advice on different areas of her professional career. Moving abroad means going the extra mile in order to be successful. Therefore, she recommended not only to learn Danish but also to really integrate into society. A great way to do that is volunteering. While volunteering at festivals such as Distortion or in a recreational institution for kids, which also helped her improve her language skills, she gained an understanding of the Danish culture and expanded her personal and professional network which helped to make Denmark her new home. She highlighted the importance of a good network multiple times and advised to attend career fairs with a well-prepared elevator speech, to be open for professionally unrelated jobs, which also help to develop soft skills and to have coffee meetings with inspiring people because they usually genuinely want to help you out provided that you do your homework before contacting them.
Theresa and Aleksandra are two CBP alumni that both in their own way have lived through the start of a successful career. Both have proven that, especially as an expat, a good network is a key resource to gain access to the Danish market. Both have shown that a career nowadays is neither straight forward nor does it ever standstill. There is constant and dynamic development, there are many other elements feeding into your career such as a good network and side jobs or hobbies and what was once seen as a drawback is now just a new exciting opportunity. Lastly, both of them have succeeded in finding out what brings joy to them together with economic success.
By Angelika Pawusch
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