Profiles

Gina Din-Kariuki: Writing my book in 18 months

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Public relations guru Gina Din-Kariuki. FILE PHOTO | NMG

When talking about successful female entrepreneurs, public relations guru Gina Din-Kariuki ranks high up on the list.

For years Gina blazed a trail in corporate communications, often the sole woman among suited men, hobnobbing with the elite of the business, diplomatic and corporate space.

Her company steered significant public relations events such as the launch of Safaricom or Barack Obama’s visit in 2018. Says Gina, “I am ambitious and was always determined to make my mark in my career and industry.”

At one time her company was the ‘most awarded PR group on the continent with over 150 accolades. “I have experienced success and failure in equal measure,” say Gina. “Failure is part of success and I have always risen to challenges that come my way.”

Personal sacrifices

Gina, 61, attributes some of her resilience and drive to her parents. Her father came to Kenya at 14 years old having stowed away on a ship from India.

“He had no idea where he was going, he just knew he wanted a better life and his courage inspires me all the time,” says Gina, who calls herself a ‘daddy’s girl.’ His death when she was just 19 years devastated her.

Born and raised in Nanyuki, she grew up in the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel which her parents owned and managed. Like them, she would become a self-made entrepreneur.

It was her father who encouraged her writing talent as a child and she long held the idea of honouring him in a book. But she did not expect to be writing her autobiography, Daughter of Africa, just yet.

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Gina Din’s autobiography book being sold at Prestige Bookshop, Bookstop of Yaya and TBC. PHOTO | POOL

“When Covid shut the world down, my daughter Natalya encouraged me to start my book,” she points out. Gina studied at the London School of Journalism and worked in media before joining the communications and PR sector. In 1997 she left a well-paying bank job to found Gin Din Corporate Communications.

Building a successful business has come with personal sacrifices. “I had a very little downtime, very little sleep and not enough time with my friends,” says Gina, adding that she thought, felt and breathed her business every day. In her view, the sacrifices were temporary saying, “if you want to achieve anything - a business or a career - there has to be some sort of sacrifice.”

Nevertheless, she would like to see more women in positions of leadership. “When women become leaders, they bring a unique constellation of attributes to the table and soft power that the world so badly needs right now,” notes Gina.

If she could turn back the clock a few decades, Gina wishes she had the confidence to take more risks early on. “I’ve learnt that everything in life is temporary and there is no linear path to success,” she summarises. “Stretch beyond your comfort zone and don’t let fear prevent you from asking for what you want.”

She has plenty of advice for young career women. “Walk through every door opened for you, use your voice, develop a robust network, become an expert in your chosen field and confidently take your seat at the table. Any table.”

Hard work, resilience, excellence and a strong sense of humour are key qualities. She advises, “Don’t get caught up in the glass ceiling story and don’t approach the marketplace as a businesswoman but as a businessperson.”

Just before the Covid pandemic, Gina sold her company of 23 years. “I can’t pretend I found it easy to walk into the evening of my life full of excitement and promise,” she says in her book.

First vocation

Writing Daughter of Africa over the course of 18 months took her back to her first vocation. Though the project required a lot of discipline and research, she enjoyed the process of retracing and reflecting on her journey.

“It was really cathartic to write about my childhood and in remembering the details, I was able to evoke some of the emotion,” says Gina.

Her memoirs are written in an engaging narrative style, whether it is describing childhood memories, recounting professional experiences from around the continent, speaking candidly about being an ethnic minority or the challenges of a mixed-race marriage.

“As Kenyans, we are not and will never be one thing. Being a Kenyan is not about the colour of my skin, nor religion or where my grandparents were born,” says Gina. “I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa lives in me.”

Just like her pioneering career, the autobiography has thrust Gina into a predominately male preserve. “African women, on the whole, don’t tell their stories often enough and I really believe when more women do, the narrative of the continent will change.”

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