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Going the whole Hogg for success

When chatting to Samantha Hogg from Benoni words like strong willed and focused come to mind. And then you can only smile when she describes her young self as ‘Pippie Langkous’ who was always out and about, riding a bike, playing soccer or brawling in the park – clearly standing her ground.

You also soon realise that despite being small in stature, this is a woman with enough fighting spirit in her to conquer just about anything life throws at her. And on that fighting list, you can not only put herself but also her family, business and her team.

And yet, there is also much room in her heart to be generous, to reach out to others and to give, to have fun and most certainly live life.

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We catch up with Samantha at her business GinjaNinja in Farramere to find out about her journey in the world of public relations, what her life is all about, and about her recently published book Making Hotdogs – A quirky guide building a career in PR and making life   awesome.

Destined to go places
Samantha grew up as one of four – with two sisters and a brother in Northmead, Benoni. Some of her fondest childhood memories are the fact that they could play freely in the neighbourhood and that she could ride her bicycle just about anywhere.

‘I had very hardworking parents who did the best they could for the four children. Dad died in 2000 when he was 68. We miss his smile and laughter to this day.’

Looking back, she clearly remembers that she was the girl voted most likely not to succeed.

‘I had an undetected ADHD issue and did not do well in school. I also did not fit the mould of the South African school system back then. I was known for my sporting abilities, but nobody would ever have said that I would be where I am today.’

But that did not deter her. She started hustling and started babysitting at the age of 15. The family later gave her a job in their store and that is where the young entrepreneur came out.

‘I soon realised that I can earn more money giving aerobic classes (which I did, by the way) than working in the shop.’

At age 19 she found herself lobbying for a PR assistant’s position in a JSE listed company with absolutely no experience.

‘I can’t remember much of the interview, but I certainly remember how it ended. When asked if there was anything else I wanted to ask, I instinctively asked if I can have the job and got it. To this day, I am known for my honest and direct approach.’

Leaving an international career behind
‘Earlier in my career, I worked very long hours, but I don’t as much anymore. If it is required, I do without hesitation but it is not a regular occurrence anymore. I prefer for people to have balance in their lives.’

The decision to leave and start her own company was a struggle with infertility, mainly due to stress and related factors.

‘It ultimately made me choose to go on my own as opposed to building an international PR career. This decision also leads me to establish myself authentically as an excellent PR person, as well as an independent and strong woman able to raise her girls and build a life.’

Starting her business was not all sunshine and roses. Samantha started her business when she was pregnant with her eldest daughter and after a couple of years, one can safely say life happened.

‘I experienced a rather sudden and traumatic divorce, leaving me with two young daughters to raise. The stress and trauma of the past decade saw my health suffer and I developed several autoimmune diseases.

‘Living with chronic pain and losing my physical abilities has been extremely hard, but I have super-human tenacity and a ‘never-give-up’ attitude. I am not sure where it comes from, but my drive remains consistent and powerful.

‘I have had many dark days and several health setbacks, but I can either give in to it or I can fight to keep moving. The business has survived a business split, brand rename and many wins and losses, but because it is a business that supports my family and so many others, we forge on and learn from the losses and celebrate the wins.’

Up for the challenge
‘When you are an entrepreneur you are never not working, but I do have the best team in place and this makes my business easier to manage. As the business is 19 years old, it has been a rollercoaster ride of wins and losses, but we continue to exist and in fact, have grown 46 per cent in the last year.’

When touching on challenges she said: ‘Trying to do what is on my to-do list LOL. In PR no day is ever the same, so you don’t always get to control your time. That said, managing time is a skill and it can be done. I use music to focus my mind when I need to write strategies and stories for clients.’

Samantha takes her business personal and can rightfully remain ‘super proud of the legacy I am building for my daughters and the PR industry.’

The pride is tangible when she tells you how she still gets excited to see results roll in each month and how her team amasses, on average, R27m worth of coverage each month for clients.

She describes her highest accolade in the business as all the clients that have trusted her with their brands, the companies they have made famous, the technology industry’s consistent acknowledgement and support of her skills and her team’s service.

Being an author
She decided to commemorate her 30th year in PR and to write the book during the lockdown.

You can’t help but ask if she always wanted to write a book. ‘Eventually, possibly, but I did not anticipate writing one now.’ And when asked what is next, the answer was a definite yes for another book.

The book is in part business guide and part memoir. ‘It is a quirky and inspirational look at my life and career. It has some great giggles and some hard lessons learnt.’

And remember that first job she landed? ‘That first job is also where the title for my book comes from. I can so clearly remember making hot dogs during a PR drive at Nasrec, in July for a week out in the cold and this is something I will never forget.’

On a personal note
Samantha was married for 11 years before divorcing in 2011. She has two daughters, now aged 13 and 18.

‘I raised them alone for 10 years until meeting my new husband, Denis. We have been together since December 2019 and developed our relationship during the lockdown. He moved in for lockdown and has never left. We got married on 23 April 2022.

Weekends are about family time, resting, spending time with her dogs, having braais with close friends and watching sports and a good movie or series.

‘We live near Homestead Lake which is lovely for walks. I love visiting Victorian Secret for a sweet treat too. Oh and I love pilates and running as well as reading. In winter I knit scarves and hand them out to poor beggars I see on the streets.’

And if she could take this opportunity to leave a message to women it would be: ‘We have a responsibility to raise strong and powerful women and young men who respect and admire women for the goddesses that we are.’

OFF THE CUFF

  • Do you prefer food, travel or art? Travel
  • The one thing nobody or very few people know about you? I am introverted
  • Rain vs sunshine? Sunshine
  • City life vs outdoors? Outdoors
  • Your ultimate spoil? Time away in the bush
  • Your guilty pleasure? Hotdogs
  • Your pet peeves? Misogyny and prejudice.
  • Your best movie ever? Rocketman
  • Currently on your playlist? Tom Odell
  • Wardrobe must-haves? A good pair of jeans and white sneakers
  • Your motto in life? Dance like nobody is watching
  • If you could do one thing before you die, what would that be? Watch a Chelsea football game live and run 21km.

Text: CARINA VAN DER WALT.
Photo: KEVIN MARK PASS.
Make-up: STORM PASS.
Hair: HAIR BY MELISSA

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