Photo: Nick Robot
Apollonia San Contreras was recently named as one of Sweden’s ‘super talents 2019’ by business magazine Veckans Affärer. Currently heading up digital marketing at Hövding, here she tells Nigel Wright about how she’s built a strong reputation so soon in her career, as well as what motivates her to succeed.
First of all, congratulations. How do you feel about being included in the Veckans Affärer ‘top talent’ list?
This is such an outstanding surprise and honour. It’s motivating and humbling but also a reminder that all these long days and hours of hustling pays off. My plan is to use this recognition to inspire and encourage young women to talk loudly about their dreams and take a seat at the table.
You’re in the ‘careerist’ category. At 27, you’ve already achieved lots in your career. What’s motivated you to climb the ladder so quickly?
I’ve always been clear and transparent with what I want to achieve and can deliver, as well as very careful when it comes to choosing my managers. These two factors have been crucial in my career. Also, being an underdog, I’ve always tried to impress my colleagues and exceed their expectations. At Kronaby and Hövding, I’ve worked with smart, motivated and inspiring people who believe that anything is possible, which has driven me to achieve more. I guess it’s easier to move up the ladder quickly within ‘start-up’ or ‘challenger brand’ environments.
Being on the list means you already enjoy a strong reputation in Sweden’s business community. How have you been so effective at building your personal brand?
I was told by a University lecturer that marketing is all about ‘standing out’ and doing something that no one else is doing. When I joined Kronaby in 2016, I knew that influencer marketing was an excellent tactic to build brand awareness and reach our audience in an efficient and cheap way. I advised my boss to adopt this approach and he asked me to conduct an influencer marketing trial, which proved successful. He then gave me the go-ahead to pursue further influencer opportunities.
We got great results from a brand and company perspective and I started to share our experiences via LinkedIn – explaining what methods did and didn’t work – which led to me being invited by various organisations to give presentations about Kronaby’s influencer marketing success. I’m now a recognised influencer marketing expert – already in 2019, I’ve given seven presentations to different organisations. It’s all about doing a good job, talking about it and inspiring others to do the same.
My personal mission is to encourage more brands to work with influencers.
Your role as co-founder of the EMC network is another reason behind the Veckans Affärer accolade. Tell us about this? Why is EMC an important forum for women in business?
EMC (Empower and Motivate for Change) is a female empowerment platform for young women in Sweden. Its aim is to empower women to ‘own their careers.’ Networking with others helps you conceive better ideas. It's easy to become isolated and stuck on your own. We’ve done lots of events during the last three years where we’ve discussed various themes including how to identify the right manager, how to negotiate the right salary, how to build your personal brand and the importance of wellbeing and self-care. I guess the overarching theme is: ‘How can I become a better me?’
You’re currently Digital Marketing Manager at Hövding. What attracted you to that opportunity?
Hövding wanted to improve its global brand awareness by leveraging digital influencers. The business has huge potential to grow and there's lots of opportunities to improve its social media presence. As soon as I met Hövding’s Marketing Director, Anna Katarina Skogh, it was clear this was a great fit for me as we shared the same values, ways of working and approach to marketing. It’s an amazing product with a real purpose, but it’s not particularly ‘Insta-friendly’ like a watch or phone case. At the same time, however, we do have a unique and authentic story that engages our followers – so, it’s a challenging opportunity, but fun and exciting too.
What was it like working with Nigel Wright’s Tobias Sjöberg who headhunted you into this role?
Tobias is so professional and a pleasure to deal with. As soon as I met him, I trusted him. When Tobias called, I knew it must be a serious and relevant opportunity. He described this ‘innovative company in Malmo with an amazing tech-product and the potential to go global.’ I was very curious and happy to meet with his client. Tobias clearly understood my motivations and presented my profile to Hövding effectively. I appreciated his honesty too – he didn’t oversell the opportunity or overpromise things. It was a very transparent conversation.
What have you achieved there so far?
I’ve built a global influencer community of around 80-100 influencers and secured partnerships with ‘tier 1’ influencers in most of our key cities. Our Instagram following has also doubled by almost 3,000 people. Engagement via social interactions with our content has improved by 200% too. A pretty good start, given I've only been here six months!
What’s planned for the year ahead?
We have a big launch coming up, so there's lots of activations planned – in store as well as online via the influencer network. I’m currently working on digital PR, trying to get influencers writing about us. Our strategy is targeting specific cities where there's lots of cyclists, rather than whole countries, so we’re knocking on lots of doors trying to get the right distribution partners. It’s challenging. Hövding is an innovative product, but people are often sceptical about whether it works. That's understandable, as people have worn head protection on their head for centuries – just look at the Vikings and romans! We need to work on building trust with consumers and the influencer community will play a major part in this.
What do you love most about your job?
There’s a big focus on testing different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t. I love not knowing what will happen. Hövding’s ‘higher purpose’ – contributing to a better world by encouraging people to cycle and be safer while they’re doing it – is also very motivating.
What advice would you give to other young women hoping to progress in their careers?
Build your squad from day one and create a community 0f like-minded people. A peer-to-peer network will help you in the long term, as those are the people you will grow and develop with. Don’t ask for permission, just do whatever you believe in. Women will often wait for opportunities to come to them. No one can read your mind, so talk loudly about what you want and make sure it becomes a reality. Finally, work ‘smart’ not hard to avoid career burn-out.
How do you see your career developing over the next few years?
I like to visualise my career as different ‘missions.’ At Kronaby, the mission was launching a new global brand which we did. The challenge at Hövding is to establish its digital presence – this will take time but we’re making good progress. At some point, I would like to work overseas and in a global role. I’ve previously lived in Madrid and Hong Kong and enjoyed interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds – it’s a great way to learn. Whatever I do, though, it must be fun, otherwise, it's not worth it.