Influencer, activist and all-round polymath Xenia Tchoumi speaks to Marie Claire editor-in-chief Andrea Thompson about harnessing technology to enhance your career
There are few whose job titles read as long as Xenia Tchoumi’s. An influencer, entrepreneur, activist, public speaker and now author, the Swiss-Italian (with Russian origins) speaks six languages, has given speeches at the UN and has amassed 1.8 million followers on Instagram.
After earning a degree in economics, Xenia cut her teeth in the world of investment banking before leaving to start her own online business. Since, she’s gone on to build a career as an influencer – using her large social media following to raise awareness of everything from the UN’s groundbreaking She Trades platform, to technology’s role in women’s empowerment.
(All while turning further job offers from leading investment banks down along the way, naturally.)
Xenia sat down with Marie Claire’s Andrea Thompson to talk tech, female empowerment and managing motivation amid a pandemic.
Can you tell us how you came to be involved in so many different areas of business?
I studied economics and I continued my studies until I graduated and I tried my way into finance. I went into investment banking, but realised quite quickly that the old structures and hierarchy of the big investment banks was not for me. I was always very entrepreneurial, and I left quite fast and decided to start my own business online.
I would say that it was through saying no to things, and trying things that were not working out, that I understood what would work out for me. So I wanted to just share my journey with people who are also trying to start maybe a new business or a new chapter in their lives.
Can you give us any tips on how to use technology to propel your career?
One of the things is to remember that everything you put online will stay online probably indefinitely – so be careful what you write and what you say. The most important part with the internet is to be consistent. A lot of people who want to become entrepreneurs or influencers think that publishing once or twice a week is enough, and that is not true at all. With the internet, we consume information so fast that we need to keep up with it on a daily basis. Content strategy is also something you’ll have to take into account. So it’s a full-time job – sometimes 12 hours a day – but it’s a very rewarding, freeing job as well. It gives you such independence that few [other] jobs are giving right now.
What was the inspiration behind your new book Empower Yourself?
I didn’t want to write a biography – I don’t think I’m important enough to talk about myself. But I think I can give advice on how to become mentally free, mentally independent, and understand who you are at the core. I have quite a lot of followers who reach out to me asking for advice. So I realised that the best way for me to leave something to these people is to actually write it down in a structure, with practical advice – I call them ‘power tricks’ – that can help you start a new chapter in your life. Or to simply use your problems, use your challenges, use pain, to move yourself towards a more progressive, happier lifestyle. Because we all have pain, we all have challenges.
This year has been horrible for most people. And I think it’s useful now more than ever to have a structure that gives you that positive mentality. It’s not toxic positivity: it’s about accepting what you have in life, going through it in the right way, and using it to change your life for the better.
The UN made you an official ambassador for She Trades – an initiative set up to connect women in business, and really empower them through digital technology. What does your role involve?
She Trades is a platform that connects women who are entrepreneurs, and who want to be connected to funding, other entrepreneurs, sourcing of materials, or anything else they might need across the world just through an app. You just need to have a business that is trading. It’s a very powerful tool. Anyone can download the app. And my role is to speak about it, spread the word and find, obviously, operators within these kinds of industries to get on to the platform and help other women.
How’s lockdown been for you, do you have any coping mechanisms you’d like to share?
Initially it was a big shock for me. I’m somebody who’s always on the go. I felt imprisoned – I think it happened to a lot of people. But at the same time, it was a really good reason to take it as a growth opportunity, and to create a new structure.
[One of my coping mechanisms] was to organise and clean the house and make my space better. I did it corner by corner, and it was very rewarding because you see results with simple things. It creates a certain structure that, even if everything else in your life – bigger things – are a little bit more messy, it helps you emotionally to feel more stable.
How do you stay motivated?
It goes up and down. People think I’m always so focused and so motivated and this is not true at all. I learned to accept that I will have days in which I want to do nothing, in which I’m low. But it’s all about knowing that it will get better. And also it’s about thinking, how can I make this better for myself? Maybe I should have a tea, maybe I should do a yoga class in front of my TV, maybe I should have a call with my best friend.
Another power trick that I use for motivation is to write down my ideal scenarios for myself. What would my ideal self be doing right now? And that is a powerful visualisation to then strive for that scenario.
How best can women use social media to build their personal brand?
What’s important for Instagram right now is consistent content that is within your field. Engage with your followers – even if there are just a few – respond to their comments, be receptive. Video content and reels are very important, because Instagram is currently pushing it a lot and you could go viral.
Another trick for growth is to engage with pages of the likes of your page. Connect with other pages around your own size – whether you have 1,000 followers or 50,000 followers or 100,000. Try to reach out to these other pages and do collaborations. That is the most powerful, organic and real way of growing. Because people who are actually interested in your content will be interested in their content and vice versa.