In 2014, Jessica Hope founded her company, Wimbart which is a boutique public relations company with heavy emphasis on Africa and emerging markets. They produce hyper-targeted, relevant & meaningful media campaigns for a range of international clients. Her impressive clientele includes iROKO, Ringier, She.Leads.Africa, Printivo, among many others.
The name Wimbart, as Jessica explained is significant. Back in the day, her grandfather who is black fell in love with her white grandmother. When her grandmother’s family got to know of this ‘horror’, they never spoke to her again. But her grandparents lived happily on Wimbart road at Brixton in South London, a place she remembers with fondness.
In this interview, she shares her journey from being a journalist to a budding PR guru and tips for startup owners.
Omotola Omolayo for Techpoint.ng (OO): Tell us about your journey from writing to being a PR person
Jessica Hope (JH): When I was in the university, I used to do a lot of writing in student magazines, student newspapers. I had a BA in History and a masters degree in religion and political art. When I left the university, I was the editor of a magazine and the editor at the time did not pay me, so I didn’t have any money.
Luckily, I found another job very quickly for another magazine, which unfortunately folded up soon after. And that was the end of my journalism career. I had two very bad experiences and I lost my nerve. So I looked to where my skill sets were being able to write, being able to put together a story and applied for a job in a PR agency, I had no experience in PR at all. So that was where I started.
JH: I’ve worked for ten years, I worked in some agencies, then in-house for a couple of organizations, then I really love museums and the creativity around it. So I managed to get a temporary job as a press officer at the National History Museum in London, which was an amazing place to work, I loved every single moment. Then I got a job as the head of press at the Jewish Museum in London and I was there for about nine to ten months.
Then Jason Njoku of iROKO secured his initial funding and he was getting a bit of press, but he didn’t have time to manage it. He said, “Jess, you are a PR person, quit your job and come and join me.” Three weeks later, I started at iROKO. A week, maybe two weeks after that, I was setting a New York office for iROKO. I worked at iROKO for three and a half years as the Head of Communications before I left to set up my own PR company.
OO: The highest point of your career would be?
JH: I don’t think I have reached my highest point yet, but for now, it would be setting up my company. This is because, by setting up my company, I kind of exceeded my own expectations. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur even though I’ve been around a bunch of them a lot. I’ve watched them operate and often they would talk about their entrepreneurial flair or spirit and they are building businesses, but I never really saw myself in that light until I started mine.
Jason (Njoku) was the one that gave me push in that direction. He used to tell me that he knows that I would soon start my thing, but I would go, “Oh, no, I want to stay. I haven’t really thought about leaving iROKO, it’s my family.” But a couple of startups (in Nigeria and Africa) had asked him if they could use my services, so he encouraged me to start, saying that I have a niche. So I took the leap in 2014, and that is the best decision I could have made.
OO: You’re British and you live there. Why did you decide to venture into the African market?
JH: It was pure chance. My time at iROKO opened my eyes to the African startup scene which was just getting vibrant. I enjoy it and it has been purposeful. Although I travel a lot, the core of my work is dealing with the international press. So most of it is virtual, as a good PR person, you need the internet to find people and you also need to be able to write. I am fortunate because I have spent a lot of time in Lagos and South Africa, so I have made a couple of face-to-face contacts, I just have to keep up with them on Social media and email. I also try to see them when they pass through London and New York.
OO: What are startups getting wrong in terms of image projection and branding?
JH: A lot of startups make their products too complicated and they try to communicate too many things. A press release should be simple, concise and straight to the point. But when there are unclear thoughts, then, it becomes complicated.
For foreign journalists, a simple straight forward solution is the best so that you can grab their attention easily. The companies that are easier to sell to the international press are majorly those who can state their functions in a line. For example, OgaVenue helps people find venues online. That’s a one-liner. You don’t have to quote the CEO, CTO and managers in your press release, that’s not what people care about. They care about the challenges that your company is solving. The solutions that you are providing. The growth potentials, what gap in the market are you filling? That’s what people care about.
OO: A day in the life of Jessica?
JH: I get about 6:30 am, pick my son, dress him, then we play for a bit. Then I take him to the childminder. I get on the train around 9. While on the train, I catch up on emails and social media. I arrive my office by 10 then sit with my team and map out weekly and daily activities and get down to work. I usually leave the office by 4 o’clock. Each day is completely different and comes with their own unique set of activities. I get home by 5 pm and feed my son, cook dinner and put my son to bed by 8 pm. I start working again by 9 – 9:30 till about 3 am in the morning.
Each day is completely different and comes with their own unique set of activities, but it’s what you have to do.
Nigerian startups raised $17.6m in Q1 2019, 8.5% higher than they did in Q1 2018. Find out more in the latest quarterly edition of the Nigerian Startup Funding Report here.
Writer. Photographer. Interested in African culture, history, politics and policies.