Annik is a Londoner by choice. In a world where you can choose to live anywhere, London is a pretty magical place to live for Annik. She runs PONY Express – a speaker and pitch training platform for entrepreneurs and for those wanting to play a bigger game. In her world, everyone loves public speaking as much as they love “Unicorns” and “Black Forest” chocolate brownies.
Annik says “If I had stayed in Berlin, I don’t think I would be running my own business now. London really inspires you to think bigger and helps you lose many fears because there is always someone out there offering support and solutions.”
How would you describe your experience of moving from Germany to London?
I love London. It wasn’t love at first sight though. When I first came to London, the buzz and constant flow of people everywhere drove me slightly crazy. It was too big, too fast and too loud. Berlin is like a ‘village’ compared to London. A company I worked for temporarily in Berlin offered me a role in London, and of course, there was some romance involved too. So when I packed my little VW Polo with everything I could fit in, I was 200% excited about what was to come. The longer I lived in London, and the more people I met from every corner of the world, the happier I became. London can be such an anti-depressant, truly keeping you happy and on your feet.
If I had stayed in Berlin, I don’t think I would be running my own business now. London really inspires you to think bigger and helps you lose many fears.
Who are the people that have supported you during this period?
Out of 270,000 German born people who are living in London, I know only two. We just don’t stick together as Germans. The great thing about England is that you share houses, so when I moved into my place in Blackheath, I made friends instantly. People in London take socialising very seriously and this makes it very easy to meet people in pubs, at events or work functions. It felt very smooth leaving all my friends behind. As a matter of fact, I made more new friends in London in the first six months than during my five years living in Berlin.
Do you cope easily with changes?
In a city like London, you learn to get used to change and it becomes pretty exciting. When you walk down Upper Street in Islington, where I now live, you notice new shops and restaurants popping up all the time. Things come and go. Many of my best friends have left London to return home to Barcelona, New Delhi, Warsaw, New York or Dublin. You constantly meet new people and it feels like starting all over again with friendships and business connections on a monthly basis, but you also grow your global network and can always have a place to stay wherever you travel to. On top of that, I got fired twice before starting my own company, hence you get pretty used to things being different from one day to another.
What are the main changes you have gone through in your life and their impact on you?
When I was 21, my best friend and I moved from the tiny village where we grew up, to Berlin. Having no jobs but only a flat to live in, we fell in love with whatever we had and made it work. All of our worries and fears are mind generated. We frighten ourselves by creating ‘monsters’ in our minds and then we believe them. At 25, I booked a one way ticket to Sydney to learn English. It was the first time in my life on an airplane and it felt pretty daunting. As soon as I landed, I met another German girl at the airport and started this adventure together.
All of our worries and fears are mind generated. We frighten ourselves by creating ‘monsters’ in our minds and then we believe them.
Knowing how to connect with people and build rapport is one of the most powerful things in life. Learning how to do that no matter where in the world you are, is a skill that I highly recommend. Getting a dog recently was also a massive change. At first, I wasn’t quite up for it, but my fiancé is a master at persuading and I am happy I gave in. Roxy, our dog, keeps me company at home and in the office. It has a very healing effect on my public speaking to clients and helps with putting things into perspective when going for long walks.
How do you feel now after spending many years in London?
I love London to bits for the possibilities, the fun, and the constant drive to reinvent yourself to stay on top of your game. Two of my highest values are freedom and variety. I think that if London did not offer all of these, I would move somewhere else. Particularly in business, where there are so many opportunities that you must learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.
How do you keep contact with your home country?
I am actually quite bad at keeping in touch with Germany. The reason for it may be because my life in London is so busy that I often forget about things that really matter. I speak with my family once a month and with my sister on a weekly basis, mostly because she told me off for not calling often. Technology should make it easier to stay connected, but it can also occupy us with trivial things like Twitter feeds or Instagram images. My fiancé and I have to allocate ‘quality time’ in our calendars and schedule calls with Germany or Australia.
To achieve your dream you probably need to follow your head and your heart. Enjoy the present moment and have fun with whatever comes your way.
Where do you see yourself living after 20 years?
My fiancé is Australian and runs technology start-ups, and my business is pretty flexible so Sydney or San Francisco might be on the agenda. The most difficult thing in life is to learn to live in the present moment. If you can do that, I don’t think it really matters where you live. If I had my way, it would be a pretty good mix between London and a sunny country. Roxy has a passport too so we shall see where our future takes us.
What is your biggest dream, and what do you do to make your dreams come true?
One of my biggest dreams has already come true since starting and running my own business. I always wanted this kind of freedom. Right now it is all about taking my business to the next level: the systems, structure and strategy. I am not naturally good at all these things so mastering them in the not so distant future is going to be fun, exciting and totally out of my comfort zone.
In London it is easy to find people supporting you in this business journey, and there are many start-up accelerators and other programmes offering guidance, so there really is no excuse. To achieve your dream you probably need to follow your head and your heart. Enjoy the present moment and have fun with whatever comes your way. Helping as many people as possible to overcome their fear of public speaking is what drives me. It has changed my life, and I know that it can do the same for others too.
Photo by Francisco Cruzat