In today’s interview we spoke to Alma Gerxhani from Manderina Promotions, an Albanian PR & Digital Marketing agency ready to get their story told. Learn more!

StartUs Presents Manderina Promotions
Describe Manderina Promotions in 50 words or less.Manderina Promotions, founded in 2014, is a Digital Marketing and PR Agency startup inTirana, Albania. We offer digital services to SMEs in Tirana aiming to build a solid presence through all channels for them. We combine experience in journalism and PR with deep knowledge in digital marketing to create unique and engaging content and distribute it in the right channels.
Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

Since my graduation I have been working for different companies, in numerous positions: teacher, journalist, online editor. After my MSC in ePublishing in London, I came to work as a communication specialist at Tirana Airport and the last job I had was as a PR consultant for the Council of Ministers in Albania. Even though they were quite high responsibility roles, I felt like I had boundaries in applying my knowledge.

To follow your own dream is hard, but it is so motivating and makes you feel complete, so that you really want to try. You have no boundaries in creativity and imagination, but then you need to be focused and have managerial skills to test and reshape your idea so that you can make money out of your expertise. I teamed up with Eva Kushova, an experienced journalist and media adviser, who is exceptional in creating content, offline and online. We complement each other, so this was a great factor pushing me towards entrepreneurship.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Well, that’s a big word to say. At Manderina Promotions we can’t pretend to change the world, but the life of some people, through helping their businesses to succeed in a new area of technology.

Nowadays brand reputation and client relations online are a two-way-communication: there are endless examples of big companies, squeezing or even failing, because of not adapting their business model to new technologies. We haveshifted now from traditional marketing like leaflets and flyers to online presence, website and social media advertising. Businesses all over the world caught by surprise are quickly adapting these major changes, while the majority of Albanian businesses lag behind. We will help SMEs not only be there, but succeed and turn their online channels into productive ones.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

There are two ways: the number of the new clients, and the satisfaction of existing ones. We monitor our performance daily and we report to our clients monthly. We use analytics and insights to monitor our clients’ presence online and our work results. We try to stay focused on what we are doing best. It’s been only one year, and people are starting to know our name. Due to our online and offline image we are getting more requests for cooperations from companies of different sizes.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.
They are never the same! But in general I start very early. First thing is checking and replying to urgent emails and then I sit down with my partner to discuss each client’s plan for the day and divide tasks. She takes care of catching the latest news and interactions we have going on in social media channels and create unique engaging content for each of them. Besides several websites, we maintain dozens of social media channels for several clients in different industries. Meanwhile I go through my to do list and I do some website update / coding / design. We use a web based program for organizing our work. It is very useful and productive, especially when I prepare my to-do list the day before.

After a quick lunch I do some reading / searching for ideas / possible clients / projects we can apply. I leave work at 4.30 or 5.00 pm to go home and spend the afternoon with my two children and husband. In the evening I do more reading (e.g. professional articles), attend online webinars or courses to keep up to date with a restless industry.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the service like you imagined it in the beginning?

We have a few clients already, they are happy with our service, but it took us time and energy to approach them and convince them of the value of our services and the difference in quality of our service compared to others. The process of approaching new clients is the most challenging for a new business. We are going slowly, but secure. We are constantly listening to our clients, adapting and reshaping our services in order to better meet their needs.

SMEs are operating in an unstable market and some of them are in on edge of surviving. So our work is to make them aware that if they do not invest in differentiating themselves from the competition today, their sales will go down and down. Is necessary for them to allocate a small budget on image building so that they can succeed tomorrow. While big companies, that already have budget are established, SMEs need a specialized and ROI service, a niche, and that is where we want to enter the game. We have data to prove that our clients who trusted our service have achieved a better image and sales in the long run. Furthermore, we have offered training to our client’s team so that the results are measurable and we succeed in our intervention.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?
I was working as marketing manager at Albania Holidays, an incoming tour agency. At that time I realized that there was a greater need for professional marketing services, and I could do the same work for more businesses. When I left, we agreed to outsource all the work I was doing there as marketing manager, to Manderina Promotions making this transition smooth. A year from later, we cover basic costs now, are self-sustainable, but need to grow and open new projects and possibly hire 1-2 juniors. These are good signals of growth.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

That is the most difficult part, because everybody pretends to know the digital world. On LinkedIn there are 30 companies or individuals in Albania who pretend to do media and marketing, and almost 70% of them have a non-working website. On the other hand businesses tend to outsource services to people in their network not making a proper search for professionals, and they usually judge only by the price.

Another problem for businesses in Albania is that they want to have quick earnings today, and don’t look for a long-term solution. The typical situation is that businesses have a website but don’t use it because they don’t know what to do with it. Even big companies have dormant accounts on Twitter, Linkedin or other channels but don’t have a proper strategy to unlock their potential. Our challenge is to first educate SMEs about the need for these services and then take this to another level, with the final aim to increase visibility and make online channels profitable. On the one hand we are active in professional groups and trying to establish ourselves as an authority in the field by publishing professional articles to our blog and by sharing in LinkedIn professional groups and taking part in discussions.

What do you look for in team members?
Be professional and focused, but especially I want my team to love their work and never stop learning, reading and invest in their professional growth. Above all I ask them to be trustful.

Why would a talent join your team?

Our policy is to offer everybody the possibility to grow inside our company, be dynamic and flexible. We really want to work as a team and contribute equally to the success of the company. We tend not to have distance between the owner and employee.

What was your most memorable moment so far?When we won the Protik Startup Accelerator in Albania. Manderina Promotions was one of the three companies that was awarded this prize. We profited from some high level consultancy in law and finance, as well as networking possibilities and exposure. We also were featured in the media for our business idea.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?Have the courage to go there and test yourself. If you succeed, you will feel just great and accomplished. If you fail you can go back and work for others anytime, as you surely are a well-educated and qualified person, since you feel to start something on your own.

Anything you would like to add?Thank you very much for this interview. It is great to find other startups in this network. Reading their interviews makes us think we are not alone:-)

First Published at StartUs Magazine :