Martinique Barbalich is not your typical 24 year old, in more ways than one.
First, she deliberately doesn't look typical. When I catch up with Martinique at her favourite haunt, Lorettas on Cuba Street, for our lunch to discuss her blog for the Residents, she is coo-ing around her sisters who are in turn coo-ing around two young children - family friends it turns out.
She is wearing high waisted black cigarette jeans. A gold watch on her wrist. Her hair is wild and loose, the kind that would make Lorde's hairdresser have a breakdown. Her denim jacket speaks less advertising chic and more like she just never bothered to throw out her genuine childhood number from the 90's. Wearing a flowered shirt that looks like camouflage from a distance, it’s safe to say Martinique is trailblazing her own style, with a little help perhaps from 'Man Repellers' Leandra Medine.
"I LOVE HER" - exclaims Barbalich over a green juice and peppermint tea. "She's amazing!"
It seems to me that these are complements that Barbalich is not even conscious could be applied to herself. She is a humble person, but one who strongly believes in what she is doing. At 23 she set up her first company, Martin Intl. Martin is a PR and advertising agency - "...but I hate the word 'agency'" shudders Barbalich. Based in Torrens Terrace, Wellington, Martin may only be just over a year old, but is already growing from strength to strength.
Meet Martin Intl.
Starting with Tuck Shop Pies, a Shanghai based, Kiwi ex-pat run pie company, Martin made its first move. The branding was unlike the typical 'Mrs Mac's' fare. These were to be sold to high flying Kiwis who wanted some good tucker, made with quality ingredients. The messaging was pushed that these pies are, though made in China, filled with New Zealand quality ingredients, from the butter in the pastry to the mince. The look is edgy, clean and fresh - much like Barbalich herself. Since Tuck Shop Pies took over some of the branding themselves, Barbalich hasn't stopped working with interesting brands. Workerbe raw organic lunch delivery, law firms and accounting firms make up just a few on the list.
Making her mark
Barbalich admits she hasn't done a major push on the brand yet - but that may change in the near future. One senses that Martin is no fly-by-night project and that this is something which Barbalich is planning for long term. She seems in no rush to push herself out. For her, work comes first, and she is ready to take on the challenge of growing her business. She employed her first staff member earlier on this year who has taken care of office administration. She also has her own vision for the look of Martin. "Martin for me - when it came to the branding - was about stepping back. I walked away from the computer and found some black duct tape. I made the brand out of that. I love the fact I can make it anywhere. I don't need to have a computer or anything. I just need that roll of black duct tape in my handbag. It’s about being versatile."
And versatile it is - Martin specialises in many areas communications & marketing strategy, ads, branding & re-branding, brand activation, social media management, web content, design, copywriting, product development, project management and Creative Collaboration.
"It has everything you want"
Barbalich is also a passionate advocate for doing business in Wellington, and as she puts it "If you are going to come back here and have a family, why not grow something for yourself?". Born and raised in Wellington, the eldest of four sisters ("Dad says he did something wrong in another life" she jokes) Barbalich comes from a strong family of entrepreneurs. Father Vlad is a property investor, her mother an artists and jewellery designer. Autie Elizabeth started the highlight coveted and successful 'Antipodes' skincare range (which personally I am a huge fan of). It seems like it was inevitable then that Barbalich would go out on her own. In 2013 she was left disillusioned by what she saw in the big advertising agency world. Suits, it seems, did not speak to Barbalich.
"This is my base" says Barbalich "Wellington is, in my opinion, one of the best places in the world to start a business".
Now she enjoys her own routine, which, admittedly, is a fairly gruelling one (see more on Tuesday's post). "My parents were always around while we were growing up" she remembers. "I loved that idea that I didn't have to be tied down to a 9-5 job - none of my family are like that". Nevertheless, while she may be able to sneak off for an extended lunch with a sister, Barbalich does not stop from 6 - midnight most days. It is all part of growing a business. And, she says, she would do it no other place except for Wellington.
"It has everything you want, and nothing you don't want. Wellington is compact, you can walk everywhere". Barbalich cites Wellington as being a world class city. "You can get the best food, the best wine, the best clothes, the best nature - why would you want to live somewhere else where you have to pay $80,000 just to be a member of a golf club??"
"Start them young"
More young people should start businesses in Wellington, Barbalich believes. Technology has changed business, and while it was once important to go overseas to a big city to make a start, Barbalich thinks this is no longer necessary. She has contractors all over the world, including a writer in New York, Cass. She has made these contacts through friends, friends of friends and seeing other people's work on social media.
"This is my base" says Barbalich "Wellington is, in my opinion, one of the best places in the world to start a business". And as I leave her to keep working for the afternoon, walking back towards Cuba Street, I can't help but admit to myself, I really, really believe her.