Christina Holm-Sandok of Brand-Architects & Style-Architects
Media Speicialist, PR and Marketing Coordinator, and Style Editor are a few of the titles the multi-talented Christina Holm-Sandok held early in her career. After working in a variety of fields early on, Christina finally found her niche in 2010 when she opened Style-Architects, a business offering styling services, event planning, and public relations and branding services for lifestyle companies. In 2012 she spun off the business services under a new company banner, Brand-Architects, offering public relations and branding services for businesses.
Along with successfully launching and running two businesses, Christina has become a staple in the Minneapolis creative scene. And to top it all off, she also recently expanded her family, welcoming a daughter in January. We're thrilled to share Christina's inspiring story on The Everygirl today. Read on to find out how she found and cultivated her passion, and advice she has for others looking to do the same.
Full Name: Christina Holm-Sandok
Current Title/Company: President + Creative Director, Style-Architects
Educational Background: Degree in Mass Communication & Journalism and a minor in Psychology from the University of St. Thomas
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
During the second half of my senior year in college I started working full time at Target Corporation as a Media Specialist. My boss at Target had presented at one of my classes so I approached her afterward and gave her my resume. I was incredibly persistent with my follow up and it paid off! I worked alongside the video producers as they created commercials, PR reels and internal videos. Needless to say I didn’t have much time for anything other than school and work until I graduated.
After working at Target Corporation, you accepted a job at ShopNBC overseeing the health, beauty, apparel and handbag marketing promotions. What was the transition from Media Coordinator at Target to Marketing Coordinator at ShopNBC like?
Since my role at Target was primarily in video production, I felt as though I didn’t get to see any projects from start to finish (also the nature of working for a large company) so my transition to ShopNBC was exciting. I worked directly with their wellness, beauty, apparel and handbag vendors on creating marketing promotions. Not only was I involved in the creation of the promotions, but I also saw them through to completion and analyzed the effectiveness. This was the point in my life that I realized that I loved strategy.
Following your time at ShopNBC, you took a job as a Communications + Marketing Manager at Children’s HeartLink. What were your job responsibilities in this position? What were the differences between your previous jobs and working at Children’s HeartLink?
During my junior year in college I produced a documentary in Kenya for Children’s Heartlink through the University of St. Thomas. We spent over two weeks filming open heart surgeries on infants, interviewing their parents and visiting past patients in their villages. We even trekked to a Maasi village in rural Tanzania! This experience was completely life-changing, so when a job at Children’s HeartLink became available, I jumped at the opportunity. I oversaw their public relations and creative marketing - press releases had to be translated into numerous languages and we sourced images from all over the world. The job was incredibly rewarding!
After working at Children’s HeartLink, you worked at a B2B Software Company overseeing their PR/Marketing. Not long after, you also began working as a Style Editor for both Twin Cities Luxury and Fashion Magazine and Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. How did you manage the responsibilities of working multiple jobs at once?
My day job paid the bills...and my night job fueled my creative passion. It was the perfect combination despite the fact that it left very little time for anything other than work. I was able to manage this for about four years until I realized that I needed more balance. I also got married during this career mayhem so it was quite the roller coaster!
In 2010, you created Style-Architects and in 2012, you created Brand-Architects. What was the inspiration behind each company?
I saw a need for a creative services company that helped both individuals and businesses create and curate their brand. Style-Architects was born in 2010, offering wardrobe and business styling services and wedding planning for individuals as well as public relations and branding services for lifestyle companies. With significant year-over-year growth, I spun off the business services (PR/branding) under a new company banner, Brand-Architects, in late 2012. To put it simply: Brand-Architects is for your business. Style-Architects is for your life.
In 2012, you created Brand-Architects, a company focused solely on PR and branding services. You are now President of both Style-Architects and Brand-Architects. Tell us about your responsibilities in these roles.
I oversee both companies from a high level strategy standpoint on a daily basis but Style-Architects has a strong leadership team in place so execution is smooth sailing. My passion is in branding and all of the psychology that goes into building or refreshing a brand so much of my time is spent advising our Brand-Architects clients. Everything from the logo, to the website design, to public relations campaigns, to the voice on their social media channels, to the copywriting on their marketing materials and website need to be cohesive - our team geeks out over making sure everything is in line with the company’s mission and for the appropriate demographic.
You have worked in a variety of jobs throughout your career. How have your career goals shifted since college? How did you ultimately determine the type of career you were most passionate about?
When I graduated from college I wasn’t exactly sure what industry or career was best for me. I tend to learn through trial and error, so after testing the waters in a variety of jobs, I was able to navigate where I wanted to end up. I think my diverse career experience was invaluable for starting two companies. For example, My experience as an editor has helped tremendously when we build PR campaigns as I now know what will get a press pitch picked up/noticed. Everything I learned and everyone I met has played a role in how we do business now. And I have always surrounded myself with people who inspire me.
Tell us about your team! How many employees do you currently have? What is the office culture like?
We have six employees, six part-time contractors and three interns. Our office culture is laid back yet fast paced - there is always a creative “buzz” in the office. Our team is made up of creative, intelligent and motivated individuals. We hold ourselves to high standards and put 100% into every project we do. There is always something going on - photo shoot prep, client meetings, brainstorming sessions, etc. It isn’t unusual to hear Bob Marley on Pandora and see someone making a fancy cappuccino on our Nespresso. We also have flexible work hours. I have worked hard to create an environment that my team enjoys coming to each day.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
Navigating through my career came with a ton of challenges but I found that by staying focused and learning from my mistakes, I was able to make smarter decisions. Owning a business and finding a great team has definitely been the biggest challenge. Your business/brand reputation is your most important asset so finding a staff that treats each client and project with care is critical.
What advice can you give Everygirls seeking employment in the PR/branding industry?
Network in the most authentic way possible. Meet with as many people in the industry as possible and come to each meeting prepared. Do your homework in advance, be respectful of their time and send a handwritten thank you note after you meet. They will remember candidates that go above and beyond to make a positive impression. And get as much experience as possible, even if that means taking an unpaid internship and working a side job to make ends meet.
You were recently awarded “Under 40 Woman Business Owner of the Year” by The National Association of Women Business Owners-Minnesota Chapter (NAWBO). Congratulations! What did it feel like to receive this honor?
I was incredibly honored - it was a pinch-me moment. But I definitely owe the honor to my team. Since we are a service-based company, my team is what keeps our clients happy and bring in new referrals. Have I said how much I love my team?! :)
What is a typical work day like for you?
I am an early bird so I love getting into the office early and plowing through emails over a cup of tea. After that, no day is ever the same! We may be prepping for a client photo shoot one day, assembling media kits another, and spending hours brainstorming a unique PR campaign the next (gummy bears and San Pellegrino get the creative juices flowing). My husband and I commute together, so we typically try to be home by a decent hour to get in a workout and make dinner. He also owns his own business so we both enjoy winding down with a glass of wine (for me) and a bourbon (for him) while chatting about our day before heading to bed.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Stop trying to swim upstream. RELAX and let life happen.
Christina Holm-Sandok is The Everygirl...
Morning or night?
Morning...I can hardly stay awake past 10pm!
Favorite way to unwind?
A glass of wine by the fire with my husband...or a day at the spa!
I wish I knew how to:
Surf, speak Mandarin Chinese, Riverdance and beat box.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Gwyneth Paltrow. She is my girl crush. I would order whatever she ordered.
Aidan or Big?
Honestly, my husband is a mix of both. He has Big’s business smarts and Aidan’s soft heart.