Where are they now? Zanna van Dijk

Zanna van Dijk
Zanna van Dijk
Entrepreneur, business owner and blogger with a purpose
BMedSci Speech Science 2014
Zanna discusses her favourite things about Sheffield, how she has built a career across a range of up-and-coming areas, and what the future looks like as a rising internet star.
Zanna van Dijk

What did you study while at Sheffield?

I studied Speech Science. I was attracted to this course due to a desire to help people, but to also use my scientific brain. I enjoy learning about biology and psychology, and after seeing a family member working with a speech therapist I thought ‘this is for me!’. I loved the course and everything it taught me; speech and language therapy is hugely rewarding.

What first attracted you to Sheffield?

Many things. The main thing being that it is the greenest city in the UK and I am a girl who was brought up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I also hugely respected the Human Communication Sciences department, as it was viewed as the best in the country. Plus, it was only a couple of hours from my parents’ home so I could easily pop back on weekends for a Sunday roast, dreamy!

Did you get involved in any clubs or societies during your studies?

Sadly not. I am a bit of a nerdy academic and I wanted to put all of my energy into my studies. My only escape from work really was the gym, as well as the typical university drinks outings of course!

What were some of your favourite things to do in Sheffield?

I loved the city as a whole, but as a country girl at heart I definitely took advantage of the close proximity to the Peaks and popped out of town on multiple occasions for a good hike. I also loved the parks and would spend many weekends relaxing in the city’s many open spaces.

What are your best memories of Sheffield?

I loved when my parents came to visit me in Sheffield on a Sunday afternoon. We would always find a new restaurant to try out, and ended up falling in love with the Graze Inn on Eccy Road, as well as various tapas bars across town. We are huge foodies.

After graduating from Sheffield where did you go?

I actually ended up travelling for a few months after uni as I never had a gap year. I backpacked through South East Asia and had the absolute time of my life. I hate to be cliché but I definitely found myself, and gained the perspective I needed to realise that I should pursue what I truly felt passionate about at the time. Fitness.

On my return to the UK I upped sticks and moved to London almost immediately, throwing myself in the deep end, becoming a personal trainer and building my blog. It was one big risk. Now, three years later, I haven't left. I love it here!

Your career is now ‘varied’ to say the least; what are some of the things you do?

I find it hard to explain all that I do as it’s a little hectic! I guess I am a full time fitness blogger and personal trainer. I am the first UK adidas Global Ambassador, an author of my book ‘Strong’, a designer of my own clothing and shoe collection, and the co-founder of the #girlgains movement. This is a global movement and events company with ambassadors across the globe from Copenhagen to Sydney. We host events in cities worldwide, which bring women together to educate, empower and inspire them.

I am also the founder of the ‘London Brunch Guide’ and of the ‘Living Consciously Crew’, as well as an event host for my own series of supper clubs for young entrepreneurs and an ambassador for the charity Sea Shepherd. It is hard to juggle it all sometimes!

You are described as an “Instagram star”; how did you get started and become successful on the platform?

I kind of dislike the term "Instagram star" as Instagram is only one platform, whereas I actually span a variety of platforms. I upload 3 YouTube videos a week and 2 written blog posts, as well as 2-3 daily Instagram posts and tweets/Facebook content. However, Instagram was my first platform and will always remain my favourite! I started over 4 and a half years ago as a hobby whilst at university and just grew it through time, dedication, hard work and consistency!

How did you go about developing all the skills you require for all your projects? Are you constantly learning on the job?

I am 100% self-taught when it comes to the vast majority of my projects, besides personal training of course as you need certifications in this area to be able to practice. I taught myself how to edit video and photo content, I taught myself to run a business, to host and organise events, to design my own clothes, to juggle multiple businesses. As these projects arose I just tackled them head on, otherwise nothing would have been done!

You’re also passionate about empowering women. How are you going about this and what do you hope to achieve?

The main way I go about empowering women is through the #girlgains movement, ambassadors and events. My co-founders and I love leading talks and workshops for women relating to topics such as self-care, self-love, business and positivity.

In terms of what we hope to achieve, this movement isn't about growing a huge business and brand, it’s about bringing women together across the globe and empowering them to be the best versions of themselves. It’s a true passion project and we love it.

Where do you see your career going next?

I get this question a lot and it is hard to know. This [media] industry is constantly evolving and changing and, as a blogger, you just need to go with the flow and adapt to the current climate. I would hope to continue my work with adidas and perhaps do another book further down the line, but let's see what unfolds over the coming months and years! What matters the most to me is to enjoy what I am doing and to be a blogger with a purpose.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self or a recent graduate?

I would definitely advise myself, as a student, to relax a little and have some time off my studies every so often. When I stopped putting so much pressure on myself in my fourth year of university, that was when I got my highest grades! I wish I had taken a step back from academia a little bit in my first three years and actually enjoyed the university experience a little more! Less time in the silent study area of the IC and more time out with friends!