JO SENSINI – FOUNDER OF VELVET PR
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up with a love for languages and diverse cultures – my father taught French and Russian so that was a strong influence and it’s stayed with me to this day.
I did a degree in modern languages (French, Spanish) and originally went into banking before quickly realising it wasn’t for me. I went on to spend much of my early career living and working abroad – acting as a business trainer in Milan and later to Tokyo as an international project manager for the European Commission’s prestigious export programme, ‘Gateway to Japan’.
I worked with so many inspiring people in all my early roles, but it was always the ones in communications roles who I found most interesting. So much so, that at the age of 29 I did an internship with a largish London PR company and got hired. A few PR roles later I set up Velvet PR and the rest is history!
What led to the decision to set up your own business?
Flexibility was a key reason. I’d gone back to work when my son was just over a year old and back in 2000 there just wasn’t the desire to accommodate working mothers in quite the same way as we see today.
I just wasn’t prepared to put up with this rigid approach and decided that setting up on my own would give me much more freedom and the power to create a business with a culture and a structure that worked for me.
What are your top tips for women wanting to make it in the PR world?
My advice would be the same to both men and women – work hard, be curious, be proactive and don’t be afraid to be different and to think differently. I firmly believe differences are what make for a great office environment and culture and should be celebrated.
Building your own network is also really important. Focus on giving and sharing and don’t be mercenary about wanting something back in return – that will happen organically in my experience.
What campaigns are you currently working on?
This week I’m working with our client Wunderman UK, a global digital agency, on their fantastic new ‘Fund Female’ initiative that’s launching on International Women’s Day.
From Friday 8 March, for at least a week, Wunderman employees are rising to the challenge to spend their money exclusively at female-owned businesses.
To inspire and support employees in the challenge, the agency has built a microsite – www.fundfemale.co.uk – which includes an open source API map of female-owned businesses local to Wunderman’s Camden office, as well as throughout the UK. They’d love for Albright members and contacts to sign up for the challenge and to list their businesses on the site!
Finally, do you have a motto or mantra you live by in your professional life?
Sharing knowledge and being generous with your time to support colleagues and contacts is so important in business. I definitely believe in karma.