Traditionally, the first act establishes character, relationships and setting; it’s where the first plot point happens. This series collects the ‘first act’ jobs, careers or businesses of entrepreneurs. Introducing Gina Lednyak…
Gina Lednyak finds opportunity. Or rather, she makes opportunities happen. “I started working when I was thirteen – literally the second I legally could. I worked in a cafe and was the barista and waitress,” she says. “But I started my first micro-businesses from the cafe. I started to make my own chocolate covered coffee beans and sell them to customers.”
Born in Belarus, Lednyak’s family escaped when the Soviet Union fell apart. They found themselves in New York City, with no English and $500 to their name.
“I saw my whole family absolutely hustle to make a living and work really hard to rebuild their lives” she remembers. “It made me want to make the most of the opportunity I was given and to make sure that life is fun; that work has a positive impact in your life, and the lives of the people around you.”
Her family’s hard work also added an urgency to succeed: “I felt that because my family had worked so hard to give me so many opportunities, I really had to make the most of it.”
She also became used to communicating with people at an early age, as a child, she learned English quickly and often had to negotiate on behalf of her family. When leaving Belarus, families were only allowed to bring $500 out of the country, and jewellery, however within a few months of moving to Brooklyn her family was robbed. While establishing themselves in a new country she and her family did not have much money, so she would often ask for scholarships or financial assistance.
“Whenever I’d ask my parents for something, like if I wanted to go to summer camp, they’d usually say, ‘Well, why don’t you call and talk to them, and see if they have a scholarship available?’.
“I became really accustomed to calling classes and summer camps and saying ‘I’d really like to do this but we don’t have that much money right now. Is there financial assistance available?” At the time, I hated it, however looking back on it, I genuinely feel that is where my entrepreneurial spirit was born, and my love of communication and connecting people’” If Lednyak harboured any apprehension in talking to adults, she always had her eye on the reward and, more often than not, found herself a successful negotiator long before she could get behind the wheel of a car.
“I have always done my own thing. I never quite fit into the normal routines. I used to do a lot of ghostwriting and then I had several small businesses. I started a dating adventure company when I first moved to Sydney, a ghostwriting business, a little tea company… Nothing prominent.”
At the same time she was freelancing and consulting in social media, and using social media to promote the companies she was building.
To explain her serial entrepreneurial ventures, she points to the concept of ikigai where a person’s talents and passions intersect with what the world needs. “I was just trying to find something that sticks, something that I enjoy, and something in line with my values and desire to create more magic in the world. Because I was only 19, 20, 21 years old, it was a whole lot of trial and error, however, I always knew communication was my niche.”
“I’ve had a few stints of working for other companies, one in NYC that lasted about two months. I was a sales consultant for a conference. I got fired pretty quickly.”
She reflects on the experience as something that consolidated her approach to work and life: “They had a very negative culture and I remember one of the things my manager said to me was, “You have to pop the bubbles in your voice.” Lednyak’s voice is sunny and bright, with a Californian cadence.
“I remember thinking at that moment, ‘I want to create a work environment where people get to do what they love, feel happy, fulfilled and positively challenged – an environment that allows people to be themselves, where they don’t have to pop the bubbles in their voice.’”
Shortly after, she started to consult in social media marketing during its infancy in 2009. As an emerging area, many organisations were interested but unsure how to use it well. With her background in psychology, Lednyak could see the potential brewing but her consulting and client base grew organically, to the point where she started to build a team. L&A Social Media was born, a business she’s successfully nurtured for nearly the last decade to be one of the most prominent and fast-growing social media agencies in Australia.