GlobalEdgeTalk

Mirjana Prokic: The Founder of hangAIR Global on Life-changing Experiences

November 18, 2020 Alex Romanovich / Mirjana Prokic
GlobalEdgeTalk
Mirjana Prokic: The Founder of hangAIR Global on Life-changing Experiences
Chapters
1:40
Moving from corporate to entrepreneurship
6:22
Overcoming the fear of failure
11:34
Failure was NOT an option
14:43
How hangAIR was born
17:57
Developing hangAIR
22:52
Results or journey?
27:29
Lifechanging experience in Kenya
30:49
Advice from Mirjana
GlobalEdgeTalk
Mirjana Prokic: The Founder of hangAIR Global on Life-changing Experiences
Nov 18, 2020
Alex Romanovich / Mirjana Prokic

In this episode of GlobalEdgeTalk, we have an amazing guest, Mirjana Prokic. Mirjana is a founder of hangAIR Global, a company that creates an interactive multi-platform for body & mind. She is also a former Global CMO and Business Turnaround Specialist with 18 years of outstanding performance successfully managing Global and Regional B2B and B2C sales and marketing ecosystems for diverse companies and industries: specialist chemicals, premium consumer brands, commercial/industrial goods and marketing agencies.

Mirjana and Alex talk about her journey, what made her quit the corporate world and move to entrepreneurship, and she also shares her life-changing experience in Kenya which helped her battle depression. Listen now on all major podcasting platforms!

For more information on Mirjana, social media links, biography and exclusive materials, please visit our website.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/globaledgetalk)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of GlobalEdgeTalk, we have an amazing guest, Mirjana Prokic. Mirjana is a founder of hangAIR Global, a company that creates an interactive multi-platform for body & mind. She is also a former Global CMO and Business Turnaround Specialist with 18 years of outstanding performance successfully managing Global and Regional B2B and B2C sales and marketing ecosystems for diverse companies and industries: specialist chemicals, premium consumer brands, commercial/industrial goods and marketing agencies.

Mirjana and Alex talk about her journey, what made her quit the corporate world and move to entrepreneurship, and she also shares her life-changing experience in Kenya which helped her battle depression. Listen now on all major podcasting platforms!

For more information on Mirjana, social media links, biography and exclusive materials, please visit our website.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/globaledgetalk)

Alex Romanovich (00:01):
Hi, this is Alex Romanovich and welcome to GlobalEdgeTalk. Today's October 15th, 2020. And today we have an amazing guest by the name of Mirjana Prokic. She is the founder and the CEO of hangAIRAir global. She's the former global CMO of multi-billion dollar companies. And we will talk today about her journey, her path to entrepreneurship. Hello Mirjana.

Mirjana Prokic (00:28):
Hello Alex. It's pleasure to be part of this amazing podcast.

Alex Romanovich (00:34):
We are very happy to have you here as well. And also with us, we have my co-hosts Pauline Sushko, also dialing in from central and Eastern Europe. Hi Pauline.

Pauline Sushko (00:46):
Hi Alex. Great to be here.

Alex Romanovich (00:48):
Excellent. Why don't we begin to talk about Mirjana, you first and foremost? It is my understanding of, well, first of all, you and I have known each other from the Chief Marketing Officer's club and a few other encounters. You're UK based, you're in London, but you're originally from Serbia from what I understand, right?

Mirjana Prokic (01:09):
Yes, that's correct. I was born and raised in Serbia until I was just finishing my uni and then traveled with my parents all over the places and lived in various countries and then went back to Serbia. And then I ended up in UK where I am now a full time resident and British, so Serbian and British. So yeah, this is my home now.

Alex Romanovich (01:40):
Awesome. you had a very interesting career hit, a very interesting path. You after completing university, you're started with a number of large firms and by far the largest firms you've worked for as a sales and marketing director was Valspar in UK. And then you continued on with Farecla products limited, which is another very large firm also in London. And then you decided to give up the corporate world if you will, and decided to become an entrepreneur, decided to become a the owner of a very amazing, very interesting company, which we'll talk about hangAIR. So, first of all, let's talk about that move, right, in general, why did you move from corporate?

Mirjana Prokic (02:38):
Ooh it's always interesting question and I always get that asked and it's simple answer, I guess life took me through different corporations and one of the major issues I always experienced was that, how to call it, a worm inside of me wanting to do something on my own, being from the family wantrepreneurs. My, as my father was, as my granddad was, but there was always something I was never ready for. Actually I was ready, but there is always a journey that you need to go through in order to feel, yeah, that's the moment I need to do it. On the other hand, there are also many different happenings in my life that brought me to that decision. And one of them was you know, trying to be mom being in a long relationship for, for a while.

Mirjana Prokic (03:46):
And then not really succeeding in that. And then there was a moment when I just thought phew, so what do I do now? I am not fulfilled with the well-paid job, traveling around the world all the time being in the best hotels, you know top level conferences and summits and meeting amazing people, but there was always something missing. There was a emptiness, which brought me to another level of burnout, I would say as well because of another factor that brought me to that, which was traveling around the world all the time, sleep deprived, jet lagged, and always pushing myself to perform at my best capacities. And you can only do that as, you know, as long as you can, but actually there is a moment in your life that your body just says, okay, that's enough.

Mirjana Prokic (04:49):
I can't really deal with this anymore. And you're not superhuman. You're just human. And you know, all this together was happening over the years. And then suddenly I didn't know what happened to me. I just hit the wall badly and I didn't know how to deal with that. So my last job with Farecla in corporate world was actually very interesting because t hat was the most enjoyable one. But also, the most demanding one and the last three years were constantly from one side of the world to another. And the moment that we managed to sell the business, that was the moment when I bought the, I guess in my whole system said, okay, now you have to chill. You have to relax. Something is happening. You need to take some time off. In the same time I had this idea that was there, hangAIR, and I was trying to pursue, but I didn't have the courage. I was a little bit afraid or not really a little bit. I was really afraid because to leave safety net called salary was very difficult decision to make, and that fear blocks you from everything else. And then the moment when I made a decision, things just shifted and started going into in different direction. You know, many doors started opening and here I am now.

Alex Romanovich (06:22):
So is it, this is a very interesting topic you just brought up. Is it safe to say that what's holding people from becoming more entrepreneurial or becoming more independent, if you will, is the fact that they have invested so much into a particular lifestyle in particular position, and they just have a lot to lose, you know, they, they, they can lose their salary, they can lose the comfort level, they can lose their certain level stability, even if it's just a perceived stability and not real. You know, it's interesting because yesterday we did a podcast with Gil Petersil and he is in Bali right now with his wife and three kids. And he started with being an entrepreneur from day one. He started with being scrappy, still kind of a street level guy who had multiple gigs. I think he is involved with like 27 different companies on top of it. He's one of the top sellers for Tony Robbins worldwide.

Mirjana Prokic (07:29):
Right.

Alex Romanovich (07:31):
He has very little to lose other than his lifestyle, if you will. And it was interesting because he said, you know, look at any given point in time, you have to learn how to uproot yourself and just move to a different place with nothing in your pocket with nothing, you know, at all. And he said, that's the true spirit of the entrepreneurship. So is it, is it so difficult is because you have so much to lose?

Mirjana Prokic (08:03):
Okay. Majority of all of this is based on fair exactly of that losing your comfort zone and losing something that you're used to. Same like in relationships. If relationship doesn't work for a while, people decide to stay in unhealthy relationship because of a fear that they may stay alone forever. They may not find the person or whatever, and they're afraid, or we are all afraid to learn who we really are and be with ourselves. And the same thing with when you have always someone to pay your bills, or obviously you work for that, but there is always someone else thinking about you and your job and everything else. You are obviously delivering everything that you need that you promise to, but still, you don't have to think about everything from start to finish and you go to bed, you know, you close your laptop or wherever, you go to bed and you kind of forget about your job.

Mirjana Prokic (09:09):
You can have a break from it. So, and that's why, you know, we all have that phrase work-life balance. However, when you step out into entrepreneurship and, and that world, which is full of uncertainties, and there is nothing guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed in corporate world either, but you can always, you know, find someone else to work for if you don't like existing employer or you can always find a new job, but when you are doing everything yourself, everything depends on you, obviously your team as well is there, but the ultimate decision maker how everything is going to go is you. So I like that you mentioned your podcast from yesterday, because when you start as entrepreneur, all your life, you are doing that. Then you are in that freedom mode where you know that, yeah, you have this today, may, you may lose tomorrow, but you will be able to make it again next day or next year or whatever you have that spirit.

Mirjana Prokic (10:18):
But when you're in corporate world, and stepping out from it, there is that habit that you need to overcome. And to overcome that habit takes some time as well. So for me, it took me probably, well, year and a half to really remove completely that fear and not to be worried anymore about anything. And I invested everything I had in hangAIR, remortgaged my London apartment to take out cash and invest in this venture. Everyone was saying the time that I'm crazy that I need to really think about tomorrow and what if this doesn't work. And I said, there is no option that this is not going to work. That's not an option. You know, there is always an option to make it work, and I'm always looking in that way. So we are the only stoppers of what may happen in our life. No one else. And if we allow ourselves to step out in that unknown, Oh boy, I mean, doors are just opening. And that believes so, so important that belief that we have you know, you have to keep going.

Alex Romanovich (11:34):
So you're saying that in your particular case, kind of an interesting definition you just made, that failure is not an option because not because you know, culturally or otherwise you're programmed not to fail, but failure is not an option because there's just no other way for you to be successful and to find other ways to be successful. Right.

Mirjana Prokic (12:04):
Yeah.

Alex Romanovich (12:05):
You know, in America as you know, we have a saying that the sooner you fail, the sooner you succeed, right. And we encourage our society, encourage people to fail as often as possible. Right. Other parts of the world, Europe central Europe, Asia failure is shameful, you know, failure is not an option in many cases. And because of that, there is a tremendous amount of stigma and fear of failing or doing something that's not ordinary or not standard and so forth. How do you feel about this?

Mirjana Prokic (12:46):
In my world, I mean, there is a lot of discussion about failure and that word is very popular. Nowadays I just don't think I see anything in life as a failure, because I see everything as a lesson learned and you know, what really means to fail. It's life, you go up and down, you have a moments where you're shining and you have moments when you just want to hide away. But this is all part of the journey. This is the life and failure, you know, that word is just, I think, used in a way that I don't agree with. As I said, lesson, so you learn the lesson and there is always the way how to adjust. So many companies succeeded in many businesses and many people succeeded because they managed to adjust when those dips happen. They learn the lesson and they moved around and recreated something. So again, for me, that's lesson rather than failure. So it's nothing to do with culture. It's nothing to do with the parts of the world. It's just like I guess, mindset. And do we get influenced by what's trendy and what kind of topics are hot right now? So use those words or not. I kind of always for myself a little bit outside of that, I don't follow the trends. I have my own. So, yeah. So for me, it's lesson learned.

Alex Romanovich (14:27):
Great, great, great answer and great learning. Let's talk a little bit about your company, new company hangAIR. What sort of inspired you to come up with something like this? And tell us more about what this company is, what the product does, you know, and so forth.

Mirjana Prokic (14:44):
Yeah. So, as I said being from entrepreneurial family, my father and my grandfather were owners of businesses. And from early age, probably I was five when I earned my first money, my dad took me on a construction site to sell the water to workers and not really to sell, I kind of gave them water, they gave me some tips, but that was for me, like huge. I had my own pocket money. So so that was first kind of understanding of what it means when you make something and as a result of your work. And then you know, throughout my corporate career, as I said, especially the last 12 years I've been burnt out quite a lot and sleep deprivation hit me badly because you get up at two o'clock in the morning to get the first flight and ended up in China or you know, Asia, Monday morning.

Mirjana Prokic (15:56):
And then the end of the week you are in, let's say, Argentina or somewhere in America. And, you know, you're flying from one side of the world to another, within, in a matter of week. And that's continuous for years and years. And, you know, your whole life is disturbed and you start suffering despite a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet and exercising and swimming and everything I was doing still, you know, my body was crying for some help. So what inspired me was one day in Italy with friends. So we were just sitting there and having amazing feast and the, you know, how it is — Italian mom is cooking and talking about what each of us saw in the last three months that is interesting and unusual. And my friend's husband pulled out a picture from Copenhagen museum showing how people used to sleep and rest in 18th century in Victorian times as well here in UK, as well as in Northern Europe.

Mirjana Prokic (17:01):
And it was a picture showing the communal area where passengers were resting at night when they were going from one city to another. And instead of sleeping on the floor and sharing the floor with vermins and mice and rats and everything else, they actually had the hook on the wall and the rope, and they would put the rope around their chest and they would slouch. And I thought, Ooh, that looks quite interesting. And we started joking. I said, well, we are laughing now, but, you know, I just see this transformed in nowadays terms. And, you know, if I have something that is so convenient to rest and relax, when I'm traveling, I will be so grateful instead of sitting in another uncomfortable chair at the airport or you know sofa or wherever, because we spend so much time sitting and my back was really killing me.

Mirjana Prokic (17:58):
So that was something I wanted to explore more. Plus I imagined technology would be obvious choice to go and add to that physical product that I was having in my head how to build. So everything started from that evening. Lots of laughter, lots of jokes. And then and how about this and how about that and sharing the idea with the few more friends and all of that just led me to do a market research, understand more about possibility of that notion that I had. And I started spreading the word more with the trusted circles, and that's how I found a designer who was able to create all of that from my imagination. So we together spend months and months and months and months of drawing pictures of hangAir — a smart incliner, which what it is.

Mirjana Prokic (19:02):
And I'm trying to also understand, because it's all about body posture so how we can make it the most comfortable ever so that you have the place you know, during the day, lifestyle is crazy. You just want to disconnect and disappear from this world, your real world into another one where you feel same like back to your mother's arms. So she's rocking you and you feel so safe and so secure, but also visually you can teleport yourself in other parts of the world where you can actually decompress and de-stress. So you can have visuals of the Alps, or you can have visuals of Philippines and fish around you or oceans or whatever. And this is how hangAIR, the smart incliner happens. So we are creating industry first, product. It didn't exist. So we partnered with doctors and scientists and three top universities in London to bring in lots of signs and also NASA neutral body posture into our incliner. So that you have also elements of microgravity where you don't feel your spine. You just feel like, Oh, weightless. And this is something that you want to go back every day.

Alex Romanovich (20:33):
I am ready to buy something like this, because I've always had back issues. A lot of people having back issues where, you know, they, they, I mean, especially with, during COVID and quarantines and stuff we're sitting in front of our screens all day long on Zoom and doing podcasts like this one and so forth. So is this a consumer product as well? I mean, I mean, obviously it's a consumer product, but is this something for home for the home use as well?

Mirjana Prokic (20:59):
Yes, it will be. So we are starting with businesses first and it's all about, see it, try it, feel it, and then buy it. So it's different. There are lots of barriers of entry as well, because it's something unusual. It's not new because we were used to this position when we were children, we would try to reach something. And that comes from Alexander technique as well. And position is called monkey position, which every child is using. But then later on when we grow up, we just don't really align our body in that specific way. Because we start sitting hand does the problem that we will experience. So it will be definitely consumer product. Everyone will be, well, could, could buy, so, yes. Yeah,

Alex Romanovich (21:52):
Everybody's going to be hanging, right? So what you're saying is that it's not about walking, it's not about running, it's not about sitting, it's about hanging, right?

Mirjana Prokic (22:04):
Kind of well, that was the original idea to really help people hanging. But then as you said earlier, we talked about failure, etc. So if you start seeing our first designs and our latest design, which is not patent, pending, and what we're building right now, you'll see that you could say that we have lots of failures along the way, but actually no, we had lots of alterations. We had lots of new thoughts and changing things to get to the point where we say, yeah, that's it. So it's not going to be hanging, but you will feel like floating, like a flying and floating.

Alex Romanovich (22:46):
You know, there're floating chambers, right? They're water based floating chambers that are used for relaxation.

Mirjana Prokic (22:53):
Absolutely.

Alex Romanovich (22:54):
I like floating better than hanging, frankly. But you know, it sounds like yyou're looking at failure, not really as failure, but more of a more of a journey, right. And where you can fail along the way, obviously, you know, have many failures, many successes, but it's really more of a journey. Now quickly, are you a results oriented person or a journey oriented person?

Mirjana Prokic (23:23):
Bit of both. Results are obviously important. That's why we are doing things that we do, but we cannot be blind just by results. They will happen anyway, once you put all over yourself in what you do. If you want to desperately achieve something, and you're just focused on that end result, you miss all the beauty along the way. You miss all these amazing moments that have actually brought you to that end result. And then when you hit that end result, you feel like, Oh, okay, well, similar to buying a new car. You know, it's fun for a few weeks or a few months. And then another time you get in, it feels like anything else ever you had in your life. So there is no excitement anymore. So it's the same like anything in life happiness, what happiness is and same like what this is. It's a journey. You just need to appreciate every single, small achievement that you, that will get you to that final one finish that align and yeah, move forward.

Alex Romanovich (24:39):
Great answer. Great answer. You know, our audience consists of a number of different interesting people that come from different walks of life. Some are entrepreneurs, very young ones like Pauline here. Some are corporate folks who are either enjoying the corporate life, or they're stuck in the corporate, in the inside of a corporation. And one thing I want to talk a little bit about is the fact that you are you're a woman who is in her forties, although you look like in your thirties, we talked about that.

Mirjana Prokic (25:25):
Thank you. I feel like my twenties.

Alex Romanovich (25:28):
And you feel like you're, you're in your twenties, right? And you are full of energy. You want to continue to fail. You want to go down the path of of entrepreneurship and, and being part of a journey and so forth. And, you know, some people will wonder, what do you get all this energy number one, and number two how do you you know, stay afloat? How do you stay you know, inspired? How do you stay cheerful? Is it, you know, are you always that cheerful, you always that happy and that inspired, or have there been moments of failure and despair and depression?

Mirjana Prokic (26:14):
Yeah, well I am human, Alex, don't make me super human. So of course I have down moments and when I feel low, but luckily nowadays they are lasting for very, very short period of time because I learned how to deal with them and how to remove them from my life. So but it took me a while to get to the point where I actually learned that. And I've been battered a lot through, through my life in terms of feelings and you know, hitting depression hard. And really, I remember that was the beginning of 2019. That was the end point of my depression. And I think you, you and I went to one one of the CMO club summit in London when I really had the worst possible time of my life.

Alex Romanovich (27:16):
I remember that, I remember that well. And you and I met after that in New York city over lunch, if you recall. Right. And you were telling me more about the relationships and so forth as well.

Mirjana Prokic (27:30):
Yes. So what happened is that on that summit, I met absolutely wonderful woman who helped me to change my life fully with one single thing. She's running this brilliant charity, Global Angels Foundation, madam Molly Bedingfield. And I met her on that summit, and she told me about what were they doing in Kenya, the charity helping all these deprived communities led by women only, who take care of their children. And they have to walk for like 10 miles to 14 miles to get water from a dirty waterholes. Anyways, so when she said that, and I was in that horrible stage in my life that I, you know, you wake up in the morning, you cry, you don't know why, and you're melting down for literally all day long. And, and you don't know how to deal with that because you never been in that position before.

Mirjana Prokic (28:29):
And that's the hardest bit when you are kind of depressed all the time, or you, you are having that side more than others, then you kind of know and learn how to deal through that, I guess, easier. But when you're always cheerful and positive, and you, you hit that bottom hard, it's very difficult because you don't have tools to deal and you don't know what you need to do. So she then said, I'm going to Kenya this Friday. And I said, wow, I would love to come, because that was something that was the only thing I thought I would love to do to give, to help. So I sat on the plane next Tuesday. I was already in Kenya on Wednesday. And the one thing that changed my perspective on life was seeing people who have absolutely nothing. Well, that means nothing, literally nothing.

Mirjana Prokic (29:29):
They sleep on the bare ground. They don't even have a blanket to put between themselves, you know, their body and the bare ground. They have one meal every two days, if they are lucky, they have one every day. And you, you just look at those children and they only eat white corn. Ugali, I think it's called something similar to polenta thing. You know, the best a celebration is when they have garlic to add to it. It makes it makes it more tastier. And I was looking at, you know, what, they always smiled. And I thought, what am I crying about? What, you know, why, when I am. I have everything exactly. I have everything and they have nothing. They're smiling, I'm crying, something is wrong. So that was big awakening that took me big time. Obviously I, I then had the other tools to help me through, but now it's all about being calm and patient and, you know, nothing lasts forever. It's just you know things will be different next day. So just be patient. So that's my kind of motto.

Alex Romanovich (30:48):
What's your advice to what I want you I would like for you to give two types of advice. Advice to the young generation — advice to the gen Z's and millennials. And then I would like for you to give advice where your share your sort of feelings about this to somebody, to a woman who is on the inside of a corporation in her forties, maybe dreaming about something, maybe dreaming of taking that leap of faith, maybe dreaming of because there are a lot of, let me tell you that a lot of people out there like that, just not just women, obviously, but of men as well, but particularly women who are stuck inside of an organization. And they had, especially now with COVID and quarantines and, and restrictions and financial burdens, and, you know, they could be a mom. They could be, they could have a lot of, a lot of things going on. Right. What is your advice to those both individuals?

Mirjana Prokic (31:59):
So one advice that I received from my dad when I was in that difficult moment, trying to make that decision myself was he asked me one thing. He said, okay, so think about this in this way, you have education, you have skills, you have network, you have health. So these are things that you will never be able to lose, obviously apart from health, but skills and education and your network. So try it, see how it goes. You can always go back and find a job that you already are familiar with. So again, we are all different and we all see things in different way in terms of being strong enough or not strong enough to make that decision and, and, and take that leap. And trust me, it's not easy. It's very hard. So, as I said, I had to experience lots of things and hit the wall badly in order to make that decision.

Mirjana Prokic (33:13):
And sometimes from despair, those decisions do emerge, even though they look so scary and frightening. And you know, you just freeze, you're not able to function sometimes, but once you made these decisions, they, they, you know, one door closes hundreds of thousands of more doors are opening. So and I also believe in universe quality universe, or however people want to call it. We need to believe in something I believe in universe in myself. But it's something about the energy around us and, you know, it's just, I kind of say, let it be like a John Lennon said as well, let it be, there is life, there are plans. And sometimes we just focus on plans and if they don't work as per plan, as we want, we get in depression, we start being very frustrated that takes us off our path.

Mirjana Prokic (34:15):
And actually we ended up in the wrong place. Whereas we have to have both insight, which is, yeah, we have plans, but also life happens between those plans are on that journey. So we need to allow life to keep going. And, you know, there is another thing I want to also say or other quote, which is, you know, if, if you can't adjust or if you can't control the wind, you can adjust the sails. So, and that's exactly it, life is happening and this is the wind, but then your sales are there in your power to go around and find the best way to get to those plans and your goals. So but accept the life and trust

Alex Romanovich (35:05):
Great advice for both generations. And I, I want to congratulate you on that leap of faith that you took. It was not easy, but it was, I know, we know that you will be very successful. We're probably going to be looking at a billion dollar company and more, and I'm very happy to know that this will be one of the early podcasts of you at the in the beginning of the development of the dollar plus company, because I think the product is amazing. It's revolutionary. We I think we will definitely feature a lot of this information on the landing page and make our audience aware of this product and you know, connect them with you in a meaningful way. But I want to thank you very much. You're a great friend. You're, you're an amazing entrepreneur. You're a very inspiring person. And a lot of people are going to be listening to this and asking themselves a question, what is their path? What is their sort of a destination or journey rather than not necessarily maybe a destination. Yeah.

Alex Romanovich (36:23):
So thank you so much. And we're hoping to talk to you in the future as well.

Mirjana Prokic (36:27):
Of course, of course, Alex always pleasure. As you said, we are great friends. Look forward to talk in five, six years time, as well as you said to talk about what's going on!

Alex Romanovich (36:36):
Give it two or three years from now, you're not going to recognize my name. What are you talking about?

Mirjana Prokic (36:44):
Come on. That'll never happen!

Alex Romanovich (36:48):
Well, best of luck and let's let's talk soon. Thank you, Mirjana.


Moving from corporate to entrepreneurship
Overcoming the fear of failure
Failure was NOT an option
Developing hangAIR
Results or journey?
Lifechanging experience in Kenya
Advice from Mirjana