If you’re currently involved in a northern Virginia nonprofit, you’re probably only one or two degrees of separation away from Helen Saks (LA ’22), owner of Striking Media. In the last three years, she’s built a successful media production business that’s sought after by organizations such as Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, Leadership Center for Excellence, Northern Virginia Family Services, and more. In part by going through Leadership Arlington and joining the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Helen has built relationships around the community that helped her build a successful business that makes a positive impact on the region. While she currently lives and works in the Arlington community, her career began in Europe and has included numerous entrepreneurial ventures.
While growing up in London, Helen thought “I want to make the TV shows that I watch.” So when she went to University, she threw herself into the student television station. That experience led to her landing in the comedy department at BBC right out of college on a late-night “post-pub humor” TV show. Eventually, she moved to France where she started her first business venture Funglais (a play on words between fun and ‘anglais’ meaning English”) a company focused on teaching English in a fun way. Since then, Helen has started numerous businesses, including a swim school and a book company.
In 2016, Helen and her family moved from France to the D.C. area. When she was ready to build Striking Media, she realized “I need to know people. I need people to know me.” The desire to build relationships and visibility in the community for her business motivated her to apply to Leadership Arlington.
Through building a network, Helen catapulted her business.
The program also gave her insights into the area where she is building her business, Arlington. “It gave me a much deeper understanding of this area, with all its quirks … In many ways, this area strives to be like Europe [with walkability, etc.] … so learning about what it’s like here … it was really a fascinating insight into a world I knew I didn’t know that well.”
Helen’s approach to building her business has been to focus on building relationships and networks in the region. “[Building a network] gives you a huge amount of confidence. It’s scary to walk into a room of people you don’t know, but now I have an established network, many of whom I consider to be friends.”
Helen’s service-minded attitude also extends to her leadership role as a mother. She tries to make sure her kids have an understanding of their privileged surroundings and the impact they can make in the community. Her children call her an entrepreneur with a sense of pride. “To give them a vision that you can love your work and you can have a family life … that’s really important to me as well.”
Helen’s career has organically driven her to work regularly with other female leaders, and she values the networks of women in this area who lift each other up. “I interact with many senior female leaders and they inspire me. I watch their leadership skills, how they juggle the many different aspects of their lives, and inspire respect. I look at their leadership with admiration.”
As a founder of numerous businesses throughout her career, Helen’s advice to people with an idea for a business is …
Through her entrepreneurial journey, Helen is making wonderful contributions to our local community and the Leadership Center for Excellence is grateful to have Helen as a Leadership Arlington alum. We particularly appreciate Striking Media’s work to tell the stories of local leaders.
Leadership Arlington, a program of the Leadership Center for Excellence, connects, develops, and inspires a diverse network of established leaders and empowers them with the knowledge and commitment to transform and support our community. Applications for the Class of 2025 will open in January 2024. Nominate a leader today!