Q&A corner: Cynthia Salim

Photo: Alumna, Cynthia Salim

Cynthia left King’s in 2010 with an MA in Human Values and Contemporary Global Ethics, acquired at the Dickson Poon School of Law

She is the founder and CEO of Citizen’s Mark, an entirely ethical line of high quality, Italian wool blazers for women. We speak to her about her experiences as a young businessperson and how her time at King’s helped shape her approach into entrepreneurship.

Please describe your career to date.

After King’s, I worked in international policy advocacy in the UN community in Geneva, Switzerland and at a management consulting firm. It was these roles in human rights and strategy that led me to my career as an impact entrepreneur. As a socially conscious millennial woman, I found it hard to find responsibly made clothes that were appropriate for these high calibre, professional environments. So, I moved to New York to start Citizen’s Mark, a lifestyle brand for a generation of socially conscious and empowered women on the rise.

What has been the most interesting/exciting experience in your work?

I’ve loved the process of building Citizen’s Mark from the ground up. We’re really laying the groundwork of what responsible businesses will look like in the coming years – entities that take into account the impact of their actual day-to-day revenue generating operations instead of focusing on corporate philanthropy. I travelled the world to build our responsible supply chain and developed our guiding philosophy: in everything we do, we consider how our decisions shape the kind of world we want to live in. Does the wool mill that supplies our suiting fabric purify the water after the dyeing process? Is our factory partner providing living wages to its employees? How can we portray young women as influential and credible professionals in our branding to help society get more comfortable with seeing us in those roles in real life? It’s exciting to realise how much agency Citizen’s Mark can have as a brand in reshaping society’s values and its impact on the emerging business landscape.

In what ways did your time at King’s influence you?

Attending King’s helped me think more widely about impact. I was a social justice activist in Los Angeles building a career in national public service when I started at King’s, and my MA in Human Values and Contemporary Global Ethics got me thinking about how I can make my mark on the global stage and across sectors. My time at King’s exposed me to more industries, amplified my vision, and gave me the relationships and personal capital to make it happen.

What advice would you give to students/alumni for success in life after King’s?

Take the time to develop your own voice. There’s so much noise out there, even in the good advice. Sometimes your decisions and life path might not make sense to others, but at the end of the day, you’re the one who knows your strengths and deal breakers best. It’s a learned skill to be able to process a lot of feedback and still hear your own voice clearly, but it’s an indispensable personal decision-making tool.

What has been most inspirational to you in your life?

I’ve been inspired by how much you can actually accomplish in a seemingly inflexible world. There is always far more give in the system than we initially believe. If you learn how to break the rules the right way, you can manoeuvre really effectively and create a community of people with a shared vision. Sometimes ‘no’ just means ‘not now’ or ‘not under these conditions,’ and you just need to find a different way of accomplishing it. Whenever I’m faced with a seemingly impossible challenge, I tell myself, ‘It’s not like you’re trying to fly to the moon.’ Then I realise – someone did fly to the moon. I’m inspired by what those who came before us have accomplished and what our generation is determined to take on.