Industry Insiders: Haute PR + Style Founder And CEO Sabina Marini
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Sabina Marini, founder and CEO of Haute PR + STYLE, an international consultancy on event management, public relations, fashion styling and image development, was only 15 years old when she decided that, one day, should would be her own boss. Over the ensuing years, this determination influenced many decisions she would make, from the school she would attend, the company she would intern in, the person she would consider her mentor, the city she would live in, and so on. 15 years later, her business Haute PR + STYLE covers the full spectrum of public relations needs for some of the world’s most recognizable brands from its headquarters in Dubai and operational divisions in Riyadh, Jeddah, Paris, Milan, and London.
“I started from scratch, little by little,” Marini says. “I am Italian, so we keep things in the family. I don’t depend on anyone financially, but only on the fruit of my work. For that reason, Haute PR + STYLE is the result of years of perseverance and continuous learning. It is built on word of mouth about our success. The professionalism of our work is our business card, and for that reason, we don’t advertise. We are the industry insiders with the best connections in the East and the West, but this was not a one-day wonder; it took 15 years to build and develop.”
Haute PR + STYLE prides itself in having a wellbalanced pool of talent which combines the knowledge and experience across geographies. All of her staff, Marini explains, have a penchant for building long-standing relationships, as she considers the company’s “network to be its net worth.” She adds, “We don’t look for personal fame, but for our clients’ continuous trust and recognition. Our clients sign up for long-term contracts, and they recommend us to their partners. Staff turnover rates in big companies are high, and this is why we work hard on building strong relationships with all the people we work with, from the secretary to the general manager. We believe in respecting others, in treating others the way we would wish to be treated. You can never go wrong with that, because people understand that we don’t want their money, but that we want them to succeed, which in turn becomes our success as well.”
Marini describes herself as being straightforward and as an entrepreneur who does not take “no” for an answer. “My style might not work for you if you want to start with a bang on day one,” she says. “I don’t over-promise but I over-deliver, and I put my heart and soul into what I do. It has to be perfect, irreproachable. For that reason, the main lesson I have learnt is that you might get a no, a rejection, a snub from people who think they are better than you at times or older than you, but this should never stop you from achieving your goals. If you persist in your vision, plan for it, and create momentum, you willl succeed. I believe that having a clear vision and good time management inevitably creates momentum, momentum creates visibility, and visibility creates trust.”
Last year, Marini added a new business division for Image Development and Talent Management led by the company’s Partner and COO Saif Saud, who has been tasked with connecting internationally recognized brands with locally acclaimed talents. “For me as a Saudi businessman, the main reason behind establishing Haute PR + STYLE’s Talent Management division was to help athletes and artists from Saudi Arabia and the GCC, and to contribute to the new vision of Saudi Arabia 2030,” Saud says. “As we all know, sports and arts play a significant role here, and my dream is to bring the US experience to the GCC and to Saudi Arabia. If you want your athletes and champions to shine, you need to find them good reliable partners to sponsor them. Starting from sports equipment companies to fashion houses, our team makes sure that our athletes get the sponsorships they deserve. It’s a new market, and it’s a big challenge, and we’ve seen a lot of athletes turned into fashion and media icons like Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Lewis Hamilton, and Usain Bolt. I’m a strong believer that Saudi Arabian athletes have what it takes to be endorsed and sponsored by the biggest and the best names in the world.”
Saud’s conviction has been recognized by Saudi athletes and artists, such as Saeed Al Muwallad, a Saudi professional footballer for Pro- League club Al-Ahli and the Saudi Arabian national team; Mohammed Al-Owais, a Saudi professional goalkeeper for Al-Ahli and the Saudi Arabian national team; and the winner of the fourth season of The X Factor Middle East, Hamza Hawsawi. “Our goal is to work with the best, and we were very lucky to sign a deal with Al Muwallad,” Saud says. “As he was the first superstar to sign with Haute PR + STYLE, it was a true challenge in every aspect, especially because our talent and image consultancy management division was brand new, so we had to map out a plan with the help of our marketing team. Working with the best always makes things easier. A big name like Al Muwallad’s makes a good investment for any company, but this is where our work and reputation come in– having a good relationship with the biggest companies in the world and a good track record, and successful collaborations with them made it easier for us to connect them with Al Muwallad.”
The company’s commitment to its clients is also visible through Marini’s leadership style- her days last 18 hours, she says, and she makes it a point to be reachable on three phone numbers and three email accounts at all times. “I am very hands-on, and this is what my clients like about me,” she says. “I try to reply to all my clients’ emails personally, and I am the first one to turn up for event set-ups. I check on my teams in the different markets every day, call my partners, touch base with my collaborators, my clients, the influencers with whom I work regularly, and I make sure I know what’s going on around me.”
On her personal agenda is meeting at least two new people daily that is aimed at growing not only her network, but expanding her horizons, which she considers to be the secret of discovering and understanding potential opportunities. Similarly, she inspires her team to continue growing as well. “We always put the team in situations where they can really learn,” she says. “I went to one of the best business schools in Europe, and yet, I learnt the best lessons through practice- learning how processes, minds, and hearts work. I still believe that a good school is vital to access the best jobs, but it’s not enough if you are not ready to roll up your sleeves.”
Marini’s main advice for other entrepreneurs is twofold. Firstly, they should maintain cash flow at all times, keeping in mind that when things get rough, they will be the ones who have to keep boats afloat. Secondly, she advises a balanced approach to promoting oneself. “It might be a paradox, but as a PR expert, I advise people not to give out too much information and too often,” Marini concludes. “We work mostly with luxury and lifestyle brands, and I treat my clients’ image as I deal with a luxury brand, which means that being in someone’s face is not a style you want to adopt. It goes with the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you appear in public and online. For some people, even bad news is news, [but] not for us. We don’t play with people’s reputations, and the way this can impact their personal life. This is why we are called HAUTE, we don’t cater for everyone, we tailor for those who understand, and consequently, trust us.”
Images courtesy Geoffrey Hubbel.