This week I interviewed business owner Lori Ames, who started her own PR agency five years ago. Read on for her retelling of why and how she started The PR Freelancer…
Kevin: What inspired you to start The PR Freelancer?
Lori: Actually, I never intended to run my own business. But in October 2010 my son was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor and everything came to a screeching halt. It was while I was sitting in his Neuro ICU room, processing everything that was going on around us, and learning about what was in his future, that I realized I may never be able to return to my career in the city (I had been with the same PR agency for nearly 20 years). He was in between surgeries and wanted to know why I wasn’t leaving and going to work. I explained that I needed to be there with him because he was going to need a lot of help. He said, “Well then you should just start your own business.” And the seeds for ThePRFreelancer, Inc., were planted. He is now 5 years from diagnosis and is my hero.
Did you make any career changes to start your company, for example, leaving a corporate job?
The agency I had been with specialized in book publicity and I had been in the publicity department of a book publisher before that, so the path was pretty well laid out for me. I was going to do what I knew best.
Give us an interesting fun fact about the research or development process you went through to start your company.
The basic parts involved a lawyer and an accountant, to set up the corporation and to ensure all my paperwork with the government was in order. But the funniest story is about finding my first office space. For the first 6 months I worked from home because my son was receiving visit from nurses, therapists, etc. But I found that the dog would only bark when I had a conference call and that the cats had a fascination with sending emails. So when he was recovering, but needing less assistance, I thought an office close by would be a good idea. My husband suggested I look on Craigslist, and I saw an ad for an office that according to the description was just down the block, but I couldn’t figure out which building it was. I printed out the ad, which included a picture of the outside window, and had my husband walk up and down the road until he found a match! We are still in that space 5 years later – though with a few more people on board.
When you were first starting out, what is one piece of advice you wish you would have had? Did you encounter any unanticipated difficult obstacles?
I wish I had been prepared for the stress of hiring that first employee. You become responsible for someone else’s well-being by needing to make sure you can cover that paycheck every week. Now I have multiple employees, but that first one, who is actually still here, was nerve-wracking.
How have you grown your business knowledge? Are their specific websites, books, groups of people, or methods you have found most helpful?
One of our specialities is working on business books, so I learn something new each and every day from our clients, articles, and other business owners.
What is the secret to your success in keeping The PR Freelancer running strong?
We work really, really hard, but we also make sure to laugh just as hard. I try to make accommodations for each employee so that they are happy to come to work, not just happy to collect a paycheck.
Where can people find out more about your company or personal website?
Our website is www.ThePRFreelancer.com, where you will find our bios, samples of clients and media placements, as well as links to the two charities we vigorously support – the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF) and the Michael Magro Foundation.
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