I graduated from University of Houston with 3 internships under my belt – one per year after my freshman year. I was determined to get as much in-field experience as possible to know whether I wanted to go the non-profit route, boutique firm or big agency route. My first internship was at the American Heart Association and undoubtedly where I gained the most experience. I was the only intern and worked directly under the Director of Communications, so she relied on me to support her workload. That experience gave me the most confidence as I wasn’t simply doing remedial admin tasks. After working at a large firm the following year with over 100 employees on the top floor of a metropolitan Houston building, I was exposed to the ‘upward mobility’ aspect with the ultimate graduation being from a cubicle to an office with a door. The next year, in a kind of Goldilocks-scheme, I found my footing with my final internship at a boutique agency with 2 other girls, which enabled us to all work really closely together. I ended up getting hired at that firm and leaving 2 years later for the largest PR firm in Vegas. I worked at that company for 6 months before I realized I was drowning in a sea of employees, and was overworked and under-paid, and carrying most of the workload… but it was the name of the game if I wanted to graduate from a cube to an office with a door. I quickly realized… I didn’t care about an office with a door. Fast forward to today, and I have 4 employees with no cubes and no office doors – Neon PR has a large, open office with individual desks, to diminish a sense of hierarchy. Our open floor plan allows us to have the only incentive that matters- which is simply doing a good job for our clients and performing at 150%, no matter where you sit in the office. Our company culture is something I’ve worked hard to cultivate, and something that built itself based on my prior experience at other companies.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Finding great talent is hard. The culture at Neon PR is so important to me and building a great team is imperative, so getting that right and finding a balance of people who subscribed to those values of effectiveness was a delicate and evolving process, but when you find the right people, it’s truly rewarding.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I think any contention of my entrepreneurial pursuits that my friends and family might have had melted away when they didn’t see a lag in my successes, but in fact, progression.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
My exceptional clients and team! Working with great people and great clients inspires me to do better. The best days at work don't involve personal successes, they involve the success of everyone around me.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
That the people around you are what make your business better. I invested way too much time for way too long in people that had negating factors. Sometimes there’s no way of knowing if someone isn’t what you thought until you’re already involved, but I wish I would have ‘trimmed the fat’ sooner.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
To the young’uns: Don’t let anybody tell you that you ‘can’t’. And if they do, use that as a driving force to prove them wrong – but hustle in silence and let your success speak for you. Being young and having better ideas or knowing what works better than people older than you is intimidating. But don’t let the grind shine, let your results shine. It’s the age old ‘Don’t talk the talk – walk the walk’. You’ll earn respect instead of shouting about how much you deserve it on the path to it.
To the older, wiser first-time entrepreneur: Use the years you’ve spent working for other companies and observing various strengths and weaknesses to hone in on what makes sense for how to run your company. Learning from former company or employer mistakes can be the most valuable tool for running a successful company.