Annika Panzini: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Annika Panzini, who spent over a decade in Vancouver to hone her craft before eventually returning to Montreal to launch her marketing enterprise. We caught up with her to find out what inspires her work and what advice she would share with other young professionals…


Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am president and founder of Kika Marketing & Communications Inc, a full-service marketing, design and web agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Manila. We cater to national and international companies who seek our expertise in formulating the perfect marketing mix for enhanced brand credibility.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I always knew I was going to run my own business because entrepreneurship is in my blood.Every member of my family has operated their own business. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and encouraged me to take risks and let my imagination run free.

As a result, I found working for other people too constraining. I needed the freedom to establish my own set of rules, and so at 25 years old I took the plunge. And even though running a business is a lot of work, I would rather put more of my time and energy into being creative and productive than be tied to a desk five days a week doing work I find repetitive and boring.

Marketing spoke to me because I’ve always been fascinated with how certain factors such as human psychology and a society’s culture can affect a market’s purchasing behaviour. It’s a bit like detective work, where you have to suss out what makes it tick and then develop the perfect message to incite interest and build brand loyalty.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Best: The opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people. It’s always a privilege to share and learn from the inherent wisdom in someone’s life and business experiences.

Challenging: Managing staff across three offices with different time zones and catering to clients all over the world. Fortunately I share the workload with my business partner, Derek Pellizzari. We also have amazing account managers who ensure our clients’ needs are always exceeded.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
When my friends tell me they never see me anymore! That’s my wake-up call to slow it down.

Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
World domination. Jokes aside, our vision is to invest in promising companies as well as our own business ventures by leveraging Kika’s expertise and signature process. We want to diversify and build a strong portfolio of successful companies under the Kika umbrella. We’ve already finished negotiating equity on two innovative and global companies, so we’re excited to see where it leads us.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I hadn’t anticipated the challenges I would face setting up shop in Montreal. I figured it would be more straightforward like the rest of Canada; unfortunately that was not the case. I had to deal with the province’s business constraints, language restrictions, and government bureaucracy. It was a total nightmare going through all that extra paperwork.

Thankfully, there is a well-established entrepreneurial community that knows only too well the hassles of doing business in Quebec and are happy to lend their experience and counsel. Without their continuous support it would have been a lot harder to cut through the red tape. To be honest, I think I would have given up and just moved elsewhere.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Don’t get me wrong, money is very important to me. But does it equate to happiness? No. Success to me is when Kika won’t rely as much on me for the day-to-day. I’d like to eventually be able to take a step back and enjoy life’s small pleasures and of course jump to the next adventure!

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
It would probably be when I moved back to Montreal to establish our third office in 2014 because I found myself coming full circle.

A little background story to explain:

I left the city when I was 22 to discover the world. For the next 10 years, I had a blast in Europe gaining international work experience and then I ended up in Vancouver, where I established Kika in 2007. By 2013, business demanded that we have a physical presence in Montreal; after a lot of soul-searching, I decided it was time for me to move back home and spearhead the expansion. To be honest, it felt a bit like the prodigal daughter returning home after a 10-year exile…

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Don’t wait for things to come to you because success in business is all about the hustle. If you want something, don’t be afraid to grab it – no one else is going to do that for you. Figure out what your end game is and then reverse engineer how you’re going to go about achieving that objective. Then do it.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, but as corny as this sounds, nothing beats a home-cooked meal at my parents’.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
“Me” time? What’s that? I don’t have much of it, so when I do I usually go hard. Mostly attending social events or networking functions, but I do like to also get lost in a good book once in a while.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Oh man, that’s a hard one. I would say right now that it’s London. I have great friends there, and I love the nightlife, shopping, and overall bustling energy of the city.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
“Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna. That song just puts me in the best “zone” for taking care of bizness.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’d buy a patch of waterfront somewhere in Asia and run a health and wellness resort.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support several local charities including the David Suzuki Foundation. I just love what he stands for and I firmly believe that sustainable measures need to be established today to ensure our planet’s future.

What to you is notable?
I respect people who work hard to achieve their dreams. I also appreciate those who remain true to themselves, encourage others in their success, and help those in times of need.

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