HOW I GOT HERE
Brand consultant and marketing expert Kubi Springer shares her career journey
Kubi Springer shares her secrets to career success
When Kubi Springer’s career as a dancer was cut short, she interned for MTV and worked her way to the top of the marketing game. Now, she is one of the leading experts in the UK and has worked with brands including Nike and Aston Martin.
DANCE WAS MY CAREER PLAN. I trained in ballet from the age of four and moved into jazz, tap and street when I was 10. By 14, I had a commercial agent; by 17, I was balancing A levels with performing on the Spice Girls’ European tour. Then I injured my knee and my dance career was over before I turned 18.
It was a huge knock, but good people around me encouraged me to explore other things I was good at, like talking!
THE SUMMER AFTER MY INJURY, I PUT MY COMMUNICATION SKILLS TO THE TEST. I took a PR internship with Essence Music Festival in the USA, where I met P Diddy, Jay Z and Mary J Blige. That was where I caught the bug for the industry. When I got back to the UK, I enrolled on a commercial music with marketing degree at Westminster University. While studying, I interned at MTV and worked with the head of its PR agency, Rachael Bee. She was my first female mentor and taught me that, as a woman in the entertainment industry, you have to knock a few doors down to be taken seriously.
I MOVED TO NEW YORK TO WORK FOR P DIDDY’S MARKETING AGENCY AFTER FINISHING MY DEGREE IN 2001. I arrived the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was a huge shock, but the way the people of the city came together was magical to witness. My mum kept telling me to come home but I’ve never been one to back down. I stayed for three years.
I WAS DRAWN TO BRANDS CONNECTED TO DANCE AND WORKED WITH JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE’S CHOREOGRAPHERS ON HIS TOUR.
I also worked on Mariah Carey’s UK album launch when I was 24, and she showed me how to own your femininity while demanding your worth.
I WAS HEAD OF MARKETING FOR MOBO BY 26. My pivotal mentor there was founder Kanya King; she took me under her wing and made me believe I was worthy of being in the room. But there were setbacks. Once, I was in the business class lounge at an airport and staff would not accept my passport because they didn’t believe I was British. I had to call my male clients to verify my identity, by which point I was in tears. In moments like that you can either give up or say ‘no, I deserve to be here’.
IN MY EARLY 30S, I BECAME COMFORTABLE WITH WHO I AM. As a boss, I had thought I should be stern, so I never smiled in photos, but that came across as inauthentic. There are archetypes in branding, such as ‘caregiver’, like supportive Oprah Winfrey, and ‘rebel’, like Gordon Ramsay; I’m what’s known as ‘sage’ because I want to change the world through information, but I’m also a ‘rebel’. I’m the opposite of the white, middle-aged male brand consultant; I’ll turn up with red-dyed hair or a large afro because I represent something different. Our difference is our strength.
FOR EVERY 100 PROMOTIONS MEN GET, WOMEN EARN 79. In my book, I encourage women to value what they bring to the table and to negotiate pay and promotions. I wrote about my marriage breakdown and outlined how, as a woman in business, you have to deliver despite any personal challenges; even if you have to do it with tears in your eyes and a broken heart.
BALANCING A CAREER WITH A PERSONAL LIFE ISN’T EASY. I went back to work within six weeks of having my daughter in 2012. I had a contract in Jamaica, so I took her with me. Now, I might work from home around the school run while other days I’m giving keynote speeches at Facebook. There are still challenges that make my heart pound, but I go for them anyway.
I Am My Brand: How To Build Your Brand Without Apology (Bloomsbury) by Kubi Springer is out on 3rd October
‘YOU CAN EITHER GIVE UP OR SAY, “I DESERVE TO BE HERE”’