Interview with String Story
Suzanne Nguyen always wanted to be an interior designer. At age seventeen, and as idealistic as most teenagers are, Suzanne had a romantic view of the profession and believed it would be fraught with style and imagination. Devoting a number of years to the field, Suzanne became disillusioned with the harsh reality of the industry, her hopes of creative control stymied by mundane client briefs. Tired of the rigorous structure and constant feelings of turmoil, Suzanne quit her long-standing job as an interior designer and began seeking new meaning.
Disillusioned but no less inspired, Suzanne took to the streets with a vat of wool, using it as a way to connect people to the urban landscape. It was through this creative outlet that Suzanne adopted the apt moniker of ‘String’, a new identity that rekindled her creative reawakening.
Although her new lifestyle sated her creative needs, it wasn’t sustainable. On impulse alone, (though some could argue fate), String relocated to Sydney and found a new passion with an industry just as volatile as the arts: startups. Earning a position as the community manager for a local coworking space, String met a group of tech enthusiasts who ignited her interest in creative technology and social media.
Fast forward five years and String Nguyen is now the founder of ‘String Story’, a platform that produces and curates content. A tech strategist and video producer, String teaches companies how to better market their product and generate more inbound traffic. When String isn’t providing valuable advice, she’s regularly interviewing industry giants and speaking at global events.
I’ve read that you originally studied interior design only to find the industry lacked creativity. How did you go about starting over again?
It was before the final decision that I’d been acting like a ‘spider woman’ in the streets, revitalising urban landscapes in Japan with everyday string materials. Hence, where the name ‘String’ came from. I used it as a way to connect and tell stories and over time I started to do it digitally, still connecting the dots and connecting with people. That’s how I found my creativity again. To me, even finding a solution to a problem is a source of creativity. After that, interior design was of no interest to me.
What did you learn from your experience as an interior designer?
What I learnt from being an interior designer was how to develop the framework of a project, create objectives and think outside the box. I’m thankful for that experience. If anything, it led to me delving into user experience and design, and then gradually, the journey into the startup world.
Did you teach yourself social media?
Yes, I taught myself and just kept researching and spending a lot of time on it. Eventually, people started to ask me to manage their social media and do projects for them.
Favourite social media platform?
At the moment? LinkedIn. It’s given me the best return on investment as no one really knows how to properly utilise video to its full advantage. It’s the best place to create platforms and TV channels.
What has been one of the most positive experiences because of Linkedin?
Meeting Aruna Gobal on LinkedIn. She flew 26 hours from Holland to land in Australia. Currently, Aruna is on an international road trip to show a company how to build up a culture. Her secret? Personal and meaningful storytelling. I was in Melbourne for VidCon Australia and she was there for work. Aruna has amazing energy! I felt blessed standing next to her and I was instantly re-energised. Her mindset is mindful and so open. She has a real growth mindset too, where she is always thinking about growing. We spoke a lot about being human which I believe is all about telling stories that resonate. Tell your story from your heart!
How did the video version of String Story happen?
String Story just came about naturally through me being an artist and becoming somewhat of a brand. The name ‘Suzanne Nguyen’ doesn’t stand out but ‘String’ does. I find it’s more unique and really represents who I am. I love being creative and surrounding myself with creativity. I like to say that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) should be changed to STEAM, to allow for art. It’s much more important than people give it credit for.
You’ve managed to create your own personal brand quite well. How did you go about doing that?
I’ve discovered the secret formula for nailing your personal branding: I call it ‘The 4 V’s’: Vision, values, visuals and voice. Your brand is a manifestation of your beliefs, so take it seriously. A vision statement is the driving force for your hopes and dreams. It’s like you’re super(wo)man on a mission to save humanity. It stretches your imagination, excites you and provides clarity. It sets priorities, compels you to take action and challenges you. It can be as little as a catchy tagline. But just because it’s short doesn’t mean you can rush it. Writing your vision is important, so give yourself a chance to create something great.
Values are your moral compass. They are the framework you use to make all your decisions. Am I going to work with this client? Is this project worth my time? It all comes from your values.
When it comes to visuals, there are two types to consider: 1. Your online visual and 2. Your physical visual. On LinkedIn especially, you’ve got to think about how you’re presenting yourself. Like it or not, people make assumptions based on how you’re presented. Physically, don’t try and be someone you’re not. Authenticity shines on LinkedIn, and I can spot a faker from a mile off. Craft your signature look around you, and wear it proudly.
My final ‘V’ is voice. When your heart is consumed by an idea, you’ll want so desperately to share it that you can’t help but proclaim it with passion. Don’t settle for average. Keep chasing that great idea. For me, there’s no better example of this than LinkedIn. This platform was waiting for me to jump in arms outstretched, and let me be me. I feel like a child in a toy store every day now! I get to log on, play gleefully and create videos.
What ignited your interest in startups and entrepreneurs?
I realised that being a creative, and being an artist wasn’t sustainable and I desperately needed to learn business development because if you want to be an artist full time you need to start treating yourself like a business. In Melbourne, it’s much easier to be an artist as it’s very art-centric there. I went to Sydney to challenge myself and ended up working as a community and social media manager at a local coworking space. I spent most of my time with very tech savvy people, consuming all this content. I soon learnt to simplify the language so I could talk to pretty much anyone about it. That’s how I became a better communicator.
Could you elaborate more on the differences between the Brisbane and Melbourne ecosystem?
In a way, they’re the same as they’re both focused on creative technology but Brisbane is still a fairly new space. It’s like a chick flapping its wings and learning to fly with time. The government has been super aggressive in terms of making Queensland an innovative hub of creativity and startups. I’ve noticed a huge amount of money being thrown around and how much the scene has grown as a result. The lifestyle here is nice and very family oriented.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Travelling! The amount of travelling that I’ve been doing is not always great, and definitely not glamorous. A lot of it is just wasting time. It’s a necessary evil, but I get to meet amazing people and learn about startups, which is worth it.
Do people have a preconceived idea of what you do, or who you are?
People understand more of what I do now. Before, I don’t think I really positioned myself that well. But now they know I like startups and videos…and fried chicken.
Advice to people who fear pursuing their creative interests?
Don’t do it unless you have the passion for it. It’s only when you have the passion and the willingness to treat it like a business that you can succeed. I honestly wake up every day feeling like I’m living my life’s purpose. I get to travel the world, meet amazing people and interview experts on their field. Oh, and of course, eat fried chicken and organise fried chicken parties! It is a grind though, as not everything comes to me, it’s something I have to create opportunities for. If you don’t want to work your butt off for it, don’t do it.
Interested to hear more wisdom from the Queen of Linkedin? Follow String here.