Boya from China and Daria from Russia, founders of marketing agency MintMind
Boya Shen, from China, and Daria Dmitrieva, from Russia, met while studying Media Management at the University of Glasgow in Scotland – and were inspired to start a business together. Find out how these two ambitious master’s students became directors of their own international marketing agency…
Was employability and your future career an important part of your decision to study in the UK?
Boya: Employability was definitely a big part of my decision. I wanted to travel and see the UK and experience a different life as well, as I had grown up in China. The University of Glasgow had some of the best rankings academically and was a good choice for my Master’s degree – a way to further my dream but also to help me decide what my career was going to be like.
Daria: I did my undergraduate degree in Moscow, but my Master’s in the UK was definitely a career-oriented choice. It was a big decision; I had to quit my job to get some better experience and especially experience of international media. I wanted to get a better understanding of trends on an international level.
How did your degree prepare you for the working world?
Boya: My undergraduate course was more focussed on literature and I had done work experience with newspapers, so I wanted something to do with management – something more focussed on the corporate world. The MA was really helpful; we gained a lot of general knowledge about the economy of the media industry, the policies.
I was really impressed by the guest speakers we had on the course; they were high-level people from the media industry – from newspapers, magazines, the BBC, etc. – and we did lots of field trips as well. It really broadened my horizons and it’s thanks to the course that I saw lots of opportunities in the media industry.
Daria: There was a lot of support for our business. We had office space and mentorship through the University of Glasgow's enterprise hub, where we had to pitch our idea and business plan to a panel of professionals. It helped us to gain perspective, and we also had immense support with things like Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa applications.
Boya (centre) and Daria (right) received support from their university's student enterprise centre, iGnite
How did you get the idea for your business?
Daria: Our company is called MintMind (www.mintminded.com) and it is an international marketing agency with a creative approach. We had a big brainstorm session to come up with the name – we decided we like the word ‘mint’ because it shows we’re fresh and young, but it also refers to money, and we are definitely a money-oriented business as our goal is to help companies become more profitable and successful in new markets.
We do a range of digital marketing services including market research, social media marketing, web and mobile development. Recently we’ve been working with Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School on marketing to international students on platforms like WeChat and Weibo. We also do offline research, PR, events and also innovative marketing solutions like augmented reality.
Boya: We’re the two directors and are based in Glasgow, but we work internationally and focus on cross-border trading. We have people in the UK, China, Russia, South America and India… This came from our personal history of travels around the world, but also through our classmates from university!
The course really offered us connections as well as learning. Thanks to Glasgow, we now have strategic partnerships with marketing services in lots of countries.
What volunteering and internship experience did you get as a student?
Daria: I did an internship with a marketing agency in Glasgow. I worked on social media; in fact, I wrote my dissertation about social media. The university has a good website for jobs and internships that students can use.
Boya: I was the coordinator for an event called CREATE – I organised the launch and conference in Glasgow. It was for creative industries in the UK to discuss current issues.
What tips do you have for students looking to build up their CVs while they’re still at college or university?
Daria: I would definitely say: get as many internships as possible. Now that we’re looking for interns ourselves, we look at their portfolio and we want them to show what they have done, to show us some skills like web development or design.
I would recommend people take additional courses if possible. I attended a ‘social media week’ for digital marketing experts in Glasgow – it was 100% useful and helped from a networking perspective. I met people I could use for both my research and for work. Students need to network as much as possible – these relationships are really important to develop a business. The industry is very competitive so you need to gain some advantages.
Daria (front row, centre) and Boya (far left) with other student entrepreneurs at the University of Glasgow
Boya: It’s important for a person to ‘find’ themselves – who are you? What are you representing? Then you need a goal and you really need to go after it. Be determined. A lot of our classmates are in transition; still students who are not too sure what they want from the future. It’s important to have that mentality where you look forward, prepare for the future and have a goal.
What did you take away from these experiences – how are they helping you in your job today?
Daria: From my digital marketing internship, I learnt that the sector moves fast. We came up with this idea that we could provide services to UK businesses for new markets in particular, or for companies from emerging markets that want to come to the UK. We wanted to be different, and we knew we could operate in our native markets to offer solutions to businesses here.
Digital marketing is not all the same, so it was good to identify the potential, see opportunities in different areas and clarify our goals. It is essential to know exactly what you are doing and what you are doing it for.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Daria: We would like to grow our business in scope and in new services. Digital marketing is evolving in a crazy good way – there are always new opportunities, especially for people who are trying to learn, like us. I would be happy to add new features to the business and expand it from a market perspective: we’d love to work in the Middle East and other regions.
Boya: Our business is very international, and our goal is to bring the world closer through our work. It will help people to know more about each other, to communicate and interact with each other better. The global economy is going in that direction, and things are becoming more international from a cultural perspective as well.
Daria: We believe that if we can bring good-quality products and services to new markets, then we will improve international trade. This will definitely benefit the economy, but also communication: it’s all about staying connected and sharing great ideas, products and experiences.
Boya: That is what we are most passionate about at MintMind!