Unity This pandemic has definitely shown that we are more alike than we thought regardless of race, age, socio-economic background, and gender. We all want health, safety, fairness, and happiness. I think having to pause and being exposed to other people’s experiences as well as seeing the selflessness of frontline working heightened our sense of compassion and empathy. This will not only help in our everyday lives but also make us better business leaders.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephania Schirru-Hart.
Stephania Schirru-Hart is a Marketing and Public Relations analyst who helps professional athletes, fashion designers, and non-profits elevate to the next level. Her ability to turn her clients’ passions into profitable enterprises and tell stories around her clients’ brands enabled her to place them in notorious media outlets such as Washington Post, E-News, People, ESPN, Vogue, HuffPost, etc as well as secure partnerships with global brands.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I’ve always been in Marketing and Public Relations without even knowing. It started at trade shows when I was 14 in my hometown Nuernberg, Germany. I had to attract customers to the booths and talk about the products we were promoting. Then, after high school I took a detour, I thought, as a professional basketball player in Italy. It was fun but didn’t fulfill me so I decided to get my bachelor in Business Administration. I graduated with a double degree from Oklahoma State University and the University of Bamberg. Shortly after I worked for Coca- Cola Germany in Trade-Marketing and was very involved in national wholesale campaigns, trade shows, and new product launches. I knew I was in the right industry and wanted to further my education so I pursued my Master of Science in Marketing from Texas A& M University. After being miserable for 3 months in a direct sales position, I landed a marketing position with an online shoe retailer in Dallas, TX. I was in charge of events, press, marketing, sponsorship acquisition, model castings, etc. I had so many roles it was overwhelming at times but I learned so much. I built great relationships with media, brands, and decision-makers that after 3 years I felt confident I could create my own boutique marketing firm Dynamically Branded. I started with Natasha Hastings as my first official client and the rest is history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
I had booked my client for two speaking engagements in NYC, she just had had a baby and broken up with her fiancé. She had been through a lot in a very short time. It was her first time traveling for work. The speaking engagements re-ignited her light and made her remember who she was. She inspired so many women through her personal journey of resilience. Her eyes lid up, she had fun, got dressed up, and was treated like royalty her entire trip. I could really see a change in her demeanor and that she had gained her divine power back by the end of the evening. I love making these opportunities happen for my clients.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am working on a CNN piece with my newest client Priscilla Frederick-Loomis. She really gets to tell her story of the double pressures of being a black-female athlete. It will not only be therapeutic to her and others that experience the same but it will create awareness and conversations about racial and gender issues, which is crucial in today’s climate.
I’m also working on hosting a fashion marketing class for Fashion Design students in Italy. Most of these talented aspiring designers gain very little knowledge of how to run a profitable fashion enterprise during their studies. Many either quit, work for another design house, or choose a completely different career. My course will help them lay the groundwork of a successful fashion business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am extremely grateful for my mother and sister. Not only have they supported me morally and financially but I can count on them to tell me the truth. Scholarships are very limited for international students, I was ready to take a loan for grad school, but my sister saved me from debt and covered my expenses. I’m extremely grateful that I didn’t have to start my business and marriage with student loan debt like many others in this country. My mother always instilled a very high standard of excellence in me. She told me early on that as a person of color we are held to a different standard and that we won’t get by being mediocre. One of my elementary teachers even told her that I wasn’t made for higher education. B’s were a disappointment to her and I learned early how to excel in high-pressure situations. I always finished top of my class and ranked nationally in sports. My mom always believed in me and helped me build confidence.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic? Trying to entertain a toddler all day without other children around can be very challenging. We want him to learn and don’t just sit him in front of the TV or tablet so we’re very hands-on with him. Even if my husband is at home my son still always comes to me for food or to show me all the cool things he has discovered. Further, I got frustrated doing so much cooking and cleaning with my husband, son, and myself at home. With everything being closed my husband and I neither had a date night and much alone time anymore.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My husband and I took turns entertaining and caring for our son and on the weekend we went to different parks and arboretums to keep it fun for him. I started meal prepping which helped tremendously. My husband and I re-invented date nights. We ordered take-out and binge-watched Netflix shows once our son was asleep or went to local parks for picnics.
Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Running a business with a toddler at home was extremely challenging. You’re constantly interrupted. My business is also very event-focused. We couldn’t do any photoshoots, fashion shows, live-interviews, or speaking engagements. My athletic clients couldn’t compete or train, the Olympics, which lead to several streams of revenue, were canceled then postponed to next year. I’m also involved in the bridal industry and all weddings were either canceled or postponed.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
First, I closed my door when I was working. I hired more help and delegated tasks that were time-consuming so I could focus on strategic elements of the business as well as spend more time with my family.
Together with my clients, we re-evaluated our goals. Seeing that everything had moved digitally we had to pivot. We really focused on content creation and storytelling. We started participating in virtual speaking engagements and seminars, recorded home-workouts, sent influencers clothes to shoot lifestyle images in their homes, and one of my clients even established her own IG-Live show. I also started building relationships with gatekeepers of media and brands so when things opened up again we could hit the ground running, which we are doing now.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Plan for everything. I plan time to work, cook, spend time with family, clean, and self-care. I read the book “The miracle morning”. I get up an hour before everyone else gets up and take time for myself. It is during that hour that I meditate, workout, visualize, and plan from my day ahead. I’m really a lot happier and less overwhelmed. I also recommend hiring help where you can. If you can’t afford employees you could hire interns or part-time help. Be kind to yourself, not every day will be productive give yourself grace and take a break when needed. Also, be fully present. I don’t check my phone or emails when I’m with my family I try to give them my full attention.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Selfcare is very important. For me, that means working out, meditating, reading, and getting dressed up once in a while. I also take social media breaks, sometimes the information flow is just too much on social platforms. My family is very active we planted a garden, took long walks, and barbecued when the weather was nice. We bought nice garden furniture and sit outside enjoying the sun. With our social life currently being so limited, we face-time friends and family often which gives us a sense of connectedness.
Many people have become anxious about the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1. Time to get to the things you’ve never had time for
I’ve been wanting to plant a garden for almost 3 years now, but my schedule was always so busy. Buying organic produce can get pricey over time. Now I finally have my own garden and it has become my place of serenity. 2. A chance to deepen relationships and build new ones My husband is a Division 1 Football coach, this is the most time he has ever spent with us. Our bond got so much deeper and it was beautiful to see his and my son’s relationship blossom. During this pandemic, I also reconnected with relatives and built new business relations as well.
3. Crisis create new opportunities whether it’s new business models or new ways of thinking. Having more time to be still can ignite new fires inside us and spark creativity. Who would have thought that we would be dancing and jamming for hours to Dj Nice on IG Live?
4. This is not the end of the world Several European countries managed to contain the virus and their lives are almost back to normal. There is definitely hope for the U.S. if we act in unison.
5. Unity This pandemic has definitely shown that we are more alike than we thought regardless of race, age, socio-economic background, and gender. We all want health, safety, fairness, and happiness. I think having to pause and being exposed to other people’s experiences as well as seeing the selflessness of frontline working heightened our sense of compassion and empathy. This will not only help in our everyday lives but also make us better business leaders.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
There are several meditation apps out there. My favorite one is Inscape, it offers several guided and unguided meditation. I have meditation with family and friends via zoom before. Physical activity even just a brisk 15 min walk can relieve anxiety. Stop watching the news and get off social media. The constant flow of unfiltered information only adds to the anxiety. Last if you feel like you can’t handle it yourself talk to a licensed therapist or counselor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “Don’t sweat the little stuff!”
As a perfectionist, I always try to get every little detail right. I used to overthink and spend hours on minute things such as the background color of a flyer which simply robbed me valuable time and energy I could have invested in more important concepts. I stopped wasting my time with insignificant things. I’m neither going back and forth with people that have preconceived notions. My life is so much more peaceful and efficient.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @MsLally9 Facebook Stephania Schirru Website www.dynamicallybranded.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!