Januska always wanted to come to Africa, hailing originally from Surinam and growing up in the Netherlands something was drawing her to the continent that she couldn’t explain. She finally got her chance through her brand marketing job with the Dutch corporation Heineken. Though her base was Nairobi it was an emerging markets brand activation campaign for the company and was also spread across Shanghai and Mexico City. While she travelled from capital to capital “returning to Nairobi always felt like home”.
It was an intangible feeling that made Nairobi so appealing to Januska. It definitely wasn’t an easier life, in fact it was “a combination of freedom and challenge” that excited her. Though less secure it was “so different to the monotone sameness of the Netherlands.” Januska explains “I like to experience highs and lows and Nairobi has this bipolar effect. Not everything’s positive but it’s always surprising and dynamic.”
She now has the full force of this dual experience as she builds her own brand agency Tungsten. Tungsten is the material of the small piece of metal in a light bulb, it points to the importance of small details in launching a brilliant idea or project. While she was working for Heineken she had a very different experience of the city. She says ” I had a driver and I’d sit in the back of the car watching the trees and the beautiful nature go by”. Nowadays she is just as likely to be behind the wheel, stuck in traffic, fighting her way to get to the next meeting. Working in the city outside of the bubble of corporate life she says she is “more aware of what is happening on the ground, in the city and in the country”.
Despite the challenging realities Januska is both ambitious and idealistic about Nairobi. In the city she can see “somewhere I could have an impact…. there (is) this blank canvas but also this momentum for us to move in an innovative direction.” Both international and local brands (are) flocking to the Kenya market but they need someone to help them realise their vision. It is a fantastic opportunity for a young career woman whose alternative was a steady climb up the corporate ladder, her steps laid out for her for the next 10 years.
Januska’s drive for professional success is matched by her belief in what she calls “creative collaboration”, something she misses from back home in the man-eat-man society that is Nairobi. She says “I really believe in the social value of creativity. In fact I would argue that creativity is one of the most important things in order to build a society on its own terms and leverage a culture that is unique to a city and a country.”
These are exciting times for Januska as she maps out the way forward for her business and her life in Nairobi. She explains that “Right now Nairobi has the opportunity to listen to itself and its people to create the future that it wants to have.” Tungsten offers Januska a role in that future.