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Seek & Thrive: With Experiential Marketing Maven and Hidden Rhythm CEO Cynthia Samanian

A conversation with Cynthia Samanian, Founder and CEO of Hidden Rhythm, an experiential marketing agency for natural food and wellness brands, and host of The Experiential Table podcast on why meaningful experiences are the key to a connected life.

Photo: Angela Carlyle

Monica: Thanks so much for chatting, Cynthia! I’m such a big fan of your work in experiential marketing for natural food and wellness brands, can you share how it all got started for you?

Cynthia: Thanks for having me! For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to the world of food. Whether it was watching episodes of Martha Stewart Living while in grade school or starting my first cooking blog in 2007, I loved all things food. More specifically, my passion for food is through the lens of gathering. And it wasn’t until recently that I discovered this revelation.

My parents immigrated from Iran in the late 1970s during a time of revolution. They arrived in the U.S. with little to no English speaking skills and certainly no family to depend on. I was born several years later and remember always having family friends over for dinner. It was a way for my parents to create their own community in this rather foreign land.

Several times a month, my parents would cook elaborate Persian dishes such as saffron rice with crispy “tahdig” and juicy lamb kabobs garnished with tart sumac. My chore for these gatherings was to set the table–and I absolutely hated it. Of course, like any other seven year old, all I wanted to do was play with my friends or watch a movie. But, thankfully my parents didn’t exclude me from the rituals of preparing for our guests. It was through these many years of setting the table, and eventually helping my parents in the kitchen, that I learned the importance of warm hospitality to facilitate connection.

Today, I do exactly that with some really wonderful brands in the natural food and wellness space. Through my experiential marketing agency, Hidden Rhythm, my team and I craft unique pop-up events to create meaningful loyalty between brands and their target consumers. I love applying the ‘old-school’ hospitality lessons I learned growing up to the modern form of marketing.

Monica: There’s nothing like throwing an amazing gathering with delicious food to bring people together in real life. How have you seen this translate into your work to create meaningful brand experiences?

Cynthia: There are a few ways I think about the impact our work has on not only our brand clients but also the guests, some of which include influencers and media.

First off, I believe that in today’s digital age, real offline connection is in need more than ever before. Despite being increasingly “connected” on social media, people feel rather lonely and isolated. Through our work, we’re able to bring people together in physical spaces to connect, whether that’s inside a massive pop-up apple orchard or a more intimate branded dinner. 

Secondly, I love that I get to work with brands that are making a difference in our food system. It was very intentional for our business to focus on serving only natural food and wellness brands, because I personally want to be able to root for our clients! In a way, I get to vote with my work. The brands we work with at Hidden Rhythm are those we want to see succeed and last for decades to come.

Monica: There’s definitely a wonderful element of health and happiness that’s incorporated throughout your work! How do you maintain those same elements in your own life?

Cynthia: Health and happiness are about feeling the best I can and being self-aware. It’s not about hitting a specific number on a scale or having a membership to a fancy workout studio. For me, it’s about being able to sit with myself and accept the journey I’m on. There are definitely ups and downs in the rollercoaster ride of running a business, so it would be inauthentic to say that every day is a happy one. That being said, I’ve become more aware of my emotions and have learned how to manage them so that the highs and lows aren’t so extreme.

I’ve also found that I’ve needed to find more balance in my life to maintain a solid state of mental health.

It’s funny, because cooking is my passion and in earlier iterations of my business, I was doing a ton of cooking for others as well as for blog posts and photoshoots. I forgot how to cook just for myself without making it a production for the blog or Instagram. Now that my business has evolved and I do less culinary content creation, I’ve reclaimed cooking as my hobby. Specifically, I’ve been obsessed with sourdough bread baking. It’s a process that requires patience, something I’ve never been known for having!

Monica: That’s so important to create boundaries to sustain a healthier life, what have you found works best for you?

Cynthia: As a business owner, the lines between work and personal are always blurred. And frankly, that’s what I love about it. I’ve always wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about, because I knew that would be the only way I’d do my very best. However, that’s just my perspective and something I wouldn’t recommend for everyone. Some people enjoy the separation; it’s a personal preference.

Additionally, I’ve recognized over my career that I thrive in project-based environments and that aligns well with my own lifestyle. I love working on projects that have a finite start, end, and goal in mind. Since my work and personal lives are so intertwined, it’s incredibly important that I focus on the type of work that fulfills me otherwise it’ll negatively impact my state of mind at home.

Monica: Passion and purpose are such important motivators in life, do you feel that you’re right where you’re meant to be?

Cynthia: Ever since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to run my own business. Yes, I was the girl in the cul-de-sac street peddling homemade potpourri and raspberry jam! I never grew out of that phase and ultimately believe it’s because entrepreneurship represents limitless potential and possibility. 

It all really ties back to being a product of immigrant parents and seeing how much they had to sacrifice and struggle to give me the opportunities I have now. My purpose is to create a business that provides endless roads to success for me and my team, as well as empowers my clients, including small business owners, to achieve their goals too.

Monica: Well said! Any final thoughts to entrepreneurs on what will help them thrive in their health and happiness?

Cynthia: Be flexible with yourself. I am a traditional Type-A personality and love a good checklist. But life is not a series of boxes you can check off from top to bottom. 

Over time, I’ve learned to accept windy turns and trust that the Universe will lead me down the right path if I continue to work hard, be kind, and listen to my intuition. I’ve had to pivot my business a few times in just the last five years, and my earlier self would have viewed that as a failure. Now, I know that the real failure would have been ignoring my gut and continuing down a path that wasn’t fulfilling me nor my business.

Learn more about Cynthia at hiddenrhythm.com.

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