Céline Von Wallenberg comes from a marketing background and has worked in the corporate and startup world, before following her dream of becoming self-employed. She is a community builder and marketing consultant, and also a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum. Together with her former colleague, she recently also founded OM Insider a platform to help small businesses in the German-speaking region, to learn to ace their online presence for brand awareness and customer acquisition.
Hey Celine, can you introduce yourself to us?
Of course! My name is Céline Von Wallenberg and I am a 31-year-old, German-Turkish Marketer who lives in my hometown Frankfurt in Germany.
Can you take us through your journey as to how you arrived at where you are now?
It feels like a really long journey! I’ve been working in Marketing for the past 9 years in different fields ranging from Brand Marketing, to Corporate Communication before I was introduced to the startup world. I started working as a Senior Marketing and Community Manager for Yelp in 2014 and instantly fell in love with my job. It was a remote job that gave me all the creative freedom that I wanted. During this time I got to know a lot of small businesses since this is an initial part of the Community Manager job description at Yelp.
At the end of 2016 Yelp decided to shut down its marketing and sales efforts outside of the US and Canada. Which meant that me, along with 165 other colleagues, were made redundant. This was really painful for me because I loved my job and had no idea if I would ever find a job like that again. I knew in the back of my mind, that the only way I would ever find the same passion and freedom in a job would be if I were my own boss. At the time, I was still afraid to take the step towards entrepreneurship and ended up taking a corporate job offer. This was the real kick I needed because I did not want to be a part of the corporate system – I couldn’t act in an agile way, there was no creative freedom. I felt caged and knew I needed to get out and do my own thing.
So the journey started – I had a full-time job at a corporate company and signed on 2 clients on the side for my consulting business. I had accomplished the first step towards my own business and I was working crazy hours.
At the end of last year I went through a personal crisis, which made me realise “Yes, it’s time to do what you’ve been dreaming about!” and I became a full-time consultant, with a focus on startups in my region.
But I couldn’t let go of my love for working with small businesses, especially restaurants and small shops. My former colleague from Yelp, who was also made redundant at the time, and I decided to build our own company with a focus on teaching Online Marketing to exactly this niche – restaurants and small businesses. In the German-speaking region, small businesses still lack the knowledge to use social media for their business. This was exactly the reason why we founded our company, OM Insider.
As an expert marketer with over 8 years experience in your field, what were the first few steps to getting started?
I was lucky that I have a great network in my own city. I have great friends but also a strong network I can reach out to, through being a Global Shapers in the Frankfurt Hub of the World Economic Forum. My first steps came quite naturally, because I reached out to my network and wanted to see, who I could help. And just to my luck, I was connected to my first client through a friend. With the first client also came the second and over time the third. You get experienced through your first client, and understand the need and demand for the market and can answer it better by working with different people.
How are you helping leading organisations and entrepreneurs to grow their communities?
Growing communities has been part of my job description for the past 4+ years now. There is a lot of knowledge I acquired during the time, which I am now passing on to the startups I work with or also through personal strategy sessions that you can book via my website.
Communities are the backbone of organisations and companies and you can see more and more that companies are placing a lot of value into this field. If you look at Nike or Adidas, Yelp, Airbnb or Facebook – it’s all about community. Building it, nourishing it and growing it. That’s where I come in.
Having recently founded OM Insider, can you tell us about your company structure and the team behind it.
We are still a small company, with just the two founders behind it. Kristin Holm and I are the founders behind OM Insider and are 100% involved in the day-to-day of building our company from the ground up. Since our company is still in its initiation phase, it still largely depends on our expertise.
Kristin comes from a marketing background, having worked for 9 years at Marriott and then joined Yelp, where we were both colleagues. We instantly clicked and became really close friends. We were both let go by Yelp due to it closing down its international Marketing and Sales efforts, which triggered the idea for our business.
Just like Kristin, I also come from a marketing background and worked in big corporate companies, such as Bosch and the Unicredit Group, before joining Yelp.
You work heavily on expanding your client’s digital network, connecting corporates with startups as well as organising diversity and integration projects. Where could you see your self within the next 3-5 years?
I am very ambitious and have many plans for the future. I want to continue to have a leading role in enabling co-creation between startups and corporates. Big companies are starting to acknowledge the innovative ideas that young companies bring with them, which really excites me. I am also very passionate about enabling women in the workspace and want to drive more engagement towards this topic and create a platform for female leaders.
Of course, I also want to grow my business and turn it into a full-time, one-stop-shop for all things digital for small businesses in the German-speaking region.
How are you planning to expand?
As mentioned, I would like to grow my business, which ideally means a Headquarter with employees, offering various services in marketing and client acquisition.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally as a marketing consultant?
I think the biggest struggle has been communicating the value of marketing to business owners. You would expect that a CEO of a startup would understand the importance of marketing his or her brand, but it is oftentimes overlooked. I think that marketing is very often belittled and people don’t understand the complexity behind it. It is not just a social media post here and there, but it really is a long-term effort, that has to be planned out and acknowledged. Business owners are often impatient and want to see ROI too quickly and it is hard to prove the bang-for-buck with marketing.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
I would say that my father is my mentor because I am an only child and very much “daddy’s girl”. My father has been a banker and economist all his life and held various high-level positions at different banks. When I decided to start my own business, I got advice from him, because he is very good with finances and taxes. It is important to have someone as a mentor that you trust fully and whose advice is always 100% to benefit you. My father is basically my firm’s accountant and tax lawyer, and he has been a huge help in making my business grow.
What outlets do use to market your services?
Given that I have a strong network I can go back to and be very active with connecting startups and networks, I have been doing a lot of network marketing by going to events or speaking at them, to market my services.
Other than that, I have a website and use social media. Despite not having a very large following on Instagram, I have a very engaged audience and have gotten a number of clients or referrals via this platform as well.
Which methods are you using to build your own network?
Being a Global Shaper has definitely been a very strong and supportive network because it is also a global network. In every city you go to, you can always reach out to a Shaper – we are one big family. I am however also very active in other networks in my area, from female networking groups to startup networks.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions of the marketing industry are?
As mentioned before, the value is often overlooked, because people want fast results and sales and don’t want to invest money into their marketing efforts. Rather, very often it is looked at as an “added bonus”.
I have had to argue with quite a few business owners, who told me that they didn’t need a website or they didn’t need to be on Facebook, because they already had clients. You miss a lot of opportunities if you don’t have a strong and professional online presence, which is crucial in our time of digitalisation.
What would you like to see changed in within the marketing industry?
I think a lot is already changing in the marketing industry, however, I’m not sure if it’s for the better. With digitalisation and technology comes great changes. The world is drifting towards AI in every industry and of course marketing is affected by it too. For example, Zalando has just let go of 250 of their Online Marketing personnel because they are switching to AI.
Whilst I strongly believe in the benefits of AI and have worked with companies who contribute to revolutionising technologies. I do believe that marketing is very people-centric though and hence should not be solely run by a machine. Therefore, I would like the adaptation towards AI to not advance and keep the industry people-centric.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
Don’t undersell yourself. So simple and so true. We often tend to doubt ourselves and at the beginning of becoming self-employed, I think many make the mistake of underselling themselves, just to get clients. But it’s exactly the opposite. If you can provide value and you’re good at what you do, your services will have a certain value.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Don’t trust people in business because they are nice to you. They are not your friends. At the end of the day, in business, everyone looks out for themselves. Business is business and getting along with someone does not guarantee your job. I learned this very early on and know very well to keep the two separate.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
Work-life balance is very important to me and I think it’s crucial to keep yourself sane. Going to the gym, for example, is a necessity for me, to keep my creative juices flowing and blowing off steam. So I definitely make time to go to the gym at least 4 times a week. I also make time for family and friends and try to go out with them 2-3 times a week and work around it.
The highlight of your career so far?
This year, on International Women’s Day, a leading online publication around startups published a list of the Top Inspiring Women and I was on the list. Since, in my eyes, my business is still very new, this came as quite a surprise and made me very grateful. The article ended up being so successful, in fact, that they decided to turn it into an event series, with the Top 4 Inspiring Women giving a speech about their journey. You can find more information on this here.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Being appreciated for my work, having creative freedom and contributing to impactful ventures.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and leading female pioneers do you also admire and why?
Sophia Amoroso, for building her business from the ground up and becoming the ultimate #GirlBoss. Anna Wintour, for being an alpha in such a competitive industry and holding her guard since years. Michelle Obama, for not just being any First Lady, but giving her all to inspire others and give a voice to so many women.
How would you say you are intending to use your voice to educate others in the marketing sector?
My business already depends on me educating others about their marketing, via workshops and online courses, so I am planning to make the best of it.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I am really focused on reading loads of articles at the moment, especially around all the changes in the social media game and its algorithms. It’s important for me to stay on top of news in my industry.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
Full of marketing podcasts, from Amy Porterfield to Melissa Griffin. I listen to Podcasts when at the gym and try to use my time efficiently, by getting in a workout and also widening my knowledge-base.
How do you measure your terms of success?
If I get recognised for the work that I do, through interviews, articles or shoutouts, it definitely makes me very proud. And if I help a business owner reach the Eureka moment about their marketing, that means I’ve done my job right.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
It means doing your own thing and not caring about others. To stand against all odds. Choose your path and go for it!
Lastly, what is next for you throughout 2018?
Setting up our workshops, and growing our client base.