Joining us on this segment of Women In Marketing is Caroline Muthoni who is the Founder and Head of Strategy at GutandMind. Pivoting from the corporate space and starting her own company, Caroline shares her story of how she found herself in the marketing industry and ultimately, starting her own venture in 2021.
LET’S GET PERSONAL
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES, CAROLINE. LET’S START ON A LIGHTER NOTE. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES GROWING UP?
I was born in Eldoret. We lived in a small town called Timboroa for the first seven or so years of my life. My parents were teachers and would travel quite often to Eldoret for personal errands and shopping. One of my favourite memories was standing at the back door of our house to see my parents walk home with Ukwala supermarket shopping bags. My favourite things were the Cadbury crunchies and Paul cookie man’s cookies. Such good times!
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE IN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE YEARS?
In high school, I was a misfit and a typical teenager. I was shy, introverted and popular only in my small circle of friends. My friends would often make me feel comfortable enough to have fun and be reckless; this was the same through college, too.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
If a homing pigeon and a phoenix were to breed, I’d be that offspring. I’ve survived every challenge I have been through; I always find a way to bounce back regardless of how my experiences turn out.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULD FEEL NO SHAME FOR NOT SHARING!
Rice and well-made lentils or beans. Listen, it will not matter how wealthy I become, it will always be a staple in my home.
IMAGINE WAKING UP $10 MILLION RICHER TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Scream my lungs off.
If I am still alive after that, I will start the work of building a production kitchen where I can brew from, sell from and host at. That same space would double up as an audio studio where I would spend time recording podcasts and writing. I would also support my family with part of the fortune and set up a creative mentorship and coaching program for women and small business owners
WHAT IS THE ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T FIND ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE? ANY HIDDEN TALENTS PERHAPS? PREVIOUS WOMEN IN MARKETING CANDIDATE, DR. LIEZEL BYGATE SAID THAT SHE IS AN EXPERT HULA-HOOPER!
I am an avid reader even though I never used to read my books to the end until a few years ago. I always enjoyed the suspense and the joy of playing around with possible endings in my head. I still struggle with reading the last few pages of a book because I find the shift in the weight of the book in my hands hard to balance. Strange, huh?
CAREER AND WORKPLACE
WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN MARKETING? AFTER ALL, MOST OF US GREW UP WANTING TO BE DOCTORS, RIGHT?
It was a complete coincidence in 2015. I had been out of work for a while. I was so desperate for something to do. So when I saw an internship opportunity available at a Brand Strategy agency, I decided to give it a shot. Marketing grew on me during my years with that agency. I decided to go back to school to hone my skills and explore marketing. It has been my life’s passion since and I am so glad I got onto this path because I am an absolute natural at marketing.
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I fast through my morning. What’s a millennial that’s not into Intermittent fasting? LOL! So I would typically take my lemon water, herbal tea and a glass of kombucha to midday. I would then break my fast with a mix of nuts or a bowl of warm oatmeal. Boring but efficient!
HOW BEST DO YOU MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I try my best to work within my designated working hours (9 am-5 pm). This is how I leave room for myself and the other things that are important to me like sleep, rest and Netflix!
SABRA MWAURA WAS A FEATURE FOR OUR WOMEN IN MARKETING SERIES. SHE MADE A FEW GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORSHIP FOR WOMEN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MENTORSHIP?
Mentorship, coaching and therapy are essential parts of growth and personal development. Mentorship is for everyone but mostly for women. It is because I think we are more susceptible to impostorism, faulty limiting beliefs and self-doubt, all of which can slow someone’s progress down.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
I feel like job-hopping is viewed negatively without any substantial reasons. I believe that people move jobs in search of opportunities that meet their needs. It could be in search of better pay, a better work environment, opportunities to grow and personal fulfilment. So for me, job-hopping aids growth. I don’t see it as detrimental.
BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE BEGAN ESTABLISHING A VOICE IN AS FAR AS SOCIETAL TOPICS ARE CONCERNED. SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND TOPICS SUCH AS BLACK LIVES MATTER, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AS WELL AS COMMUNICATION IN EDUCATING THEIR AUDIENCES ABOUT COVID-19 HAVE BEEN THE AGENDA FOR A LOT OF ORGANISATIONS. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR BRANDS TO HAVE AN ‘EAR ON THE GROUND’ APPROACH? WHY IS IT GOOD FOR BUSINESS?
I think it creates relevance and positions the businesses as ones that are in touch with the wellbeing of their customers and audiences. For me, it’s a point and an opportunity for companies to connect and develop stronger relationships with their customers. It’s a personal investment of sorts that says, ‘we don’t just want your money, we care about you too’.
ONE OF THE LEARNING CURVES FOR MOST ORGANISATIONS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE PANDEMIC, IS THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURES TO FACILITATE REMOTE WORK. FOR TECH PLAYERS IN SILICON VALLEY THE TRANSITION WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH WITH THE LIKES OF FACEBOOK AND TWITTER DESIGNING A FUTURE WHERE THEIR STAFF MAY POTENTIALLY WORK REMOTELY FOREVER. THE ARGUMENT THOUGH, IS THAT THIS IS LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE COMPANIES TAKEN SO LONG TO IMPLEMENT REMOTE WORK OPPORTUNITIES?
FEAR and unnecessary reservations. It’s like the freedom experienced by staff working from home or on Flexi hours makes their stomachs hurt. Having to report to work every day is how various employers maintain control over their employees by ensuring that they have very little time to think about other things that would take up their time. It is a selfish interest, in my opinion.
WORKING FROM HOME IS AWESOME! MOST OF US CAN AGREE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOT WITHOUT IT’S SET OF CHALLENGES. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS HAS TAKEN A SIGNIFICANT STRAIN WITH PEOPLE WORKING LONGER HOURS AS A RESULT OF EMPLOYEES BEING ‘ALWAYS ON’ AND NOT BEING ABLE TO SWITCH OFF. HOW CAN EMPLOYERS GUARD AGAINST EMPLOYEE BURNOUT OR IN THE WORST EVENT, LOSING THEIR BEST TALENT?
Stick to regular working hours regardless of where people have to work from. Allocate hours for when work starts and when it stops to allow everyone enough time to rest and regroup between days. Employers and employees need to understand how overworking results in burnout and how that affects productivity and output in the long run.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE?
To me, innovation is not only about using technology to make advancements. It is the ability to address existing needs by providing efficient solutions that are sustainable. You could achieve this through technology-focused developments, but that is not the only way.
HEMAL THAKKAR, BRAND MANAGER FOR BURGER KING INDIA IS A RECENT WOMEN IN MARKETING FEATURE. ONE OF THE KEY AREAS SHE IDENTIFIED FOR CONTINUED GROWTH IS THAT OF INFLUENCER MARKETING. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF MARKETING LOOK LIKE ACCORDING TO YOU?
Data! Data! Data! Data science and analytics are about to be a big hit! Marketing solutions will require data evidence as an essential part. Working in the Kenyan market, where Digital Marketing is still in its infancy, very few businesses have utilised influencer marketing correctly.
2022 AND BEYOND
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, HOW WAS YOUR 2020? ANY PIVOTAL MOMENTS OF YOUR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL LIFE YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?
2020 stripped me bare and then put me back together. It was painful as hell but, I think it was necessary. I happened to lose my job at the end of March and was out of work for about seven months. Those seven months out of work and in quarantine gave me room to introspect with minimal distractions and, I got to see myself in a whole new light. 2020 changed me, for the better!
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY AND IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
It gets better.
I spent so many years beating myself up and feeling like I was either making such slow progress or no progress at all. I would tell that girl that it is okay to be here and it’s no use comparing herself to other people. When the time is right, everything falls into a perfect place.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
In July of 2021 I took a step back from my career in marketing to re-evaluate my plan and pivot my career towards work that would be deeply fulfilling for me. In the time between then and now, I decided to set up a small business to keep me going and slowly over the months, running the business has felt like a big part of my life’s work. At this point in my life I feel like I am in the middle of a transformative chapter and so the challenge for me has been in staying level headed through the uncertainty of where I am headed in my professional life.
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS?
I haven’t traveled since the beginning of 2020 so, I would love to do that for myself soon. I would be happy to go back to podcasting as well.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR SHEROES?
Dr Chao Mbogo is a woman I admire deeply for her work and her charisma. On a global scale, I believe Meghan Markle and Megan Thee Stallion are absolute badasses!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
I am reading ‘My Sister, the serial killer‘ by Oyinkan Braithwaite and re-reading ‘Blue ocean strategy‘. I read a lot of fiction because I find that to be a great way to get lost in another world. I am a paperback diehard.
WHAT WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN THE NEXT LIFETIME CAREER-WISE? DO YOU THINK YOU MISSED A CALLING?
I would come back as a teacher or a VC Funder, no doubt. And I keep thinking that I will end up being a teacher before I get to the end of this lifetime. It would be great if I can teach marketing and growth strategies for small businesses while simultaneously giving them access to funding as a catalyst for business growth.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Too many things to count. I am in between health documentaries, christmas movies and a bunch of reality shows.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
My grandmother, God keep her and watch over her.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AMAZING WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO GET IN TOUCH WITH?
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
There is so much to learn in marketing. There are endless possibilities for all the things you could grow to become. Stay curious and explore as much as you can. There are very few things that are as exciting as a career in marketing is.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME CAROLINE. WE HOPE THIS INTERVIEW WILL INSPIRE FUTURE LEADERS AND OTHER WOMEN IN MARKETING. HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU AND YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
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