CEO of the month – Samantha Siyieyio Kipury

Samantha Siyieyio - Business Monthly Magazine

Samantha started off with one client, Nokia. But through DAN Kenya’s mantra of Innovating the Way Brands Are Built, she has been pivotal in growing the network from just one client to what is now the fastest growing agency in Kenya, with billings in excess of Ksh 400 million annually

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage, they say. In 2010, at a corner of a 5 square foot open office off Ngong road, 25-year-old Samantha Siyieyio Kipury sat alone, her courage spilling over, filling the empty space around her. Her life had just taken a trajectory that would propel her career in the media industry in Kenya; she had just become the founder, director and sole employee of what is now one of the top three media agencies in the country, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) – Kenya.

With such a heavy crown, you would think that there was years of grooming and preparation before she took this leap of faith? Well, Sam, as her colleagues fondly call her, had begun her career in advertising only 2 years prior. After graduating from Monash University in Australia with a Bachelor of commerce in marketing in 2007, she joined what is now one of her major competitors, WPP in 2008 as a media planner. Samantha rose through the ranks to the role of media manager in 2009 and then, at the end of a new decade, took the leap of faith to open the Kenyan office for DAN Kenya.

Samantha Siyieyio - Business Monthly Magazine

Samantha started off with one client, Nokia. But through DAN Kenya’s mantra of Innovating the Way Brands Are Built, she has been pivotal in growing the network from just one client to what is now the fastest growing agency in Kenya, with billings in excess of Ksh 400 million annually and over 130 employees. In just 10 years, and with fluctuating economic stability, this is truly a feat worthy of mention for a business owner and leader.

Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor. But rather than the traditional sense of a mentor Samantha says that she tries to surround myself with people who make her think bigger, those who make her think different. “I have had the privilege of working with some truly phenomenal people who push me to be better, Dawn Rowlands our DAN Sub Saharan CEO, Janice Kemoli, Regina Karani, who was actually my very first client, James Wanaina and Chris Pasha. They have all been instrumental at different stages of my career in pushing me to define the life and career I want, and to be unapologetic in pursuing it.”

The best leaders don’t know just one style of leadership, they’re skilled at several. As a young woman in leadership, Samantha admits that in the beginning, she struggled with what her style of leadership would be, as many do. “I started by trying to imitate the style of leadership that I had experienced and seen to be successful – this came across as incredibly inauthentic. Over time I have developed my own version of servant leadership; understanding that as a leader you need to get in the trenches, roll up your sleeves and motivate your team from that perspective, rather than dictating action from outside.

This perfectly illustrates that, you are in this together, and they perform that much harder knowing that you are right there in the fight with them.” You can see this clearly when there are high stakes pitches and tough deadlines, she will be first one in, at the crack of dawn, and with her good-naturedness, will ensure the team keeps up the energy till they cross the finish line as one.

The best leaders don’t know just one style of leadership, they’re skilled at several. As a young woman in leadership, Samantha admits that in the beginning, she struggled with what her style of leadership would be, as many do.

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As DAN Kenya expanded through the years from a media agency to offer 360 degrees in advertising solutions for global and local clients across creative, traditional and digital media (SEM, SEO and Social Media management), with creative services including communication strategies, content creation as well as public relations, Samantha would time and again face the need to make tough decisions.

“First thing I do is wait for the feelings about the decision I have to make to pass – this might take a few hours or a day.” She urges people to never be afraid to ask for time to think. “Time to think is crucial to making the right decisions. Throughout my career, I navigated a lot of tough spots through using this principle. After that, I think about the pros and cons and ultimately go with my instincts. If it’s a particularly tough one, I typically run it by a trusted person (usually my brother) for a different perspective. Then I make the call.”

And for someone who anchors her decisions on her instincts, she recalls that her toughest lessons came when she did not listen to her own voice and went ahead with prevailing thoughts because it was easier than giving a contradicting view. ““Where There Is Truth, There Is Peace”, a really good friend of mine said this to me and it’s what I always think about when I am trying to make a decision. The truth never leaves you with worry or confusion, it always comes with peace.”

In the course of her career, many lessons stick out. Her greatest, she believes is this; “Chase knowledge and wisdom, not money. When you chase money, sure you get it, and that’s fine for a time, but then you plateau because you were focused on acquiring wealth rather than knowledge. Put yourself in environments where you will learn throughout your career, the money tends to follow and far surpass what you would have earned the other way around.”

Samantha Siyieyio - Business Monthly Magazine

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With such a successful career at such a young age, what keeps Samantha grounded is her favorite bible verse: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure and lovely, whatever is admirable –if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things and God’s peace will remain with you. “When life gets really tough it’s tempting to fall into negative thought patterns about situations, people and worst of all, yourself. This verse reminds me that whatever the situation is, search for and think on the good – this is how you protect your mind from all the ups and downs of life.”

So, what would Samantha want to be remembered for? “That I helped people – especially young women. We are so prone to feeling insignificant and doubting our abilities, we do not get enough chances to shine and when we do, we talk ourselves out of them. I say “we” because this was me for a long time. I hope that when I get to the end of my life that I will be remembered for helping them unapologetically live to their highest selves.”

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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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