Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happy Birthday to us: reflections on our first three years

Mia, celebrating in 2009

At sunset on a beautiful late spring evening in 2009, I was walking on the beach in Weekapaug, R.I. where I lived, mindlessly tossing a ball to my black Lab, Mia. It felt like every other day, but it was a very different kind of day. For weeks, I’d been debating, rejecting, then reconsidering the idea of starting my own agency. After more than a decade in the cushiony security of the corporate world in New York, I was—frankly—terrified at the thought of starting a small business during the worst recession in recent history, in a state I barely knew, and focusing on an area that most people were laughing off as a joke (social media). Did I have the guts and determination?

And then, alone on that beach with my dog, I found the inspiration. From whom? From Mia. I threw her ball for the umpteenth time and there she was, running as hard as she could to, this time, outrun it. She didn’t. But she brought it back, dropped it at my feet and—panting heavily; eyes, nose and everything else covered in sand—wagged her tail happily, ready to keep working at it. Her determination at that moment changed my life and launched Miamore Communications. (As I write this and think back, it’s kind of funny how very much the first couple years of starting a business with no entrepreneurial experience is like chasing a ball that moves faster than you.)

It’s crazy how fast three years can pass. Miamore Communications has had great successes and its fair share of failures. But what amazes me most is how much things have changed since I founded this company. I vividly recall a grueling two-hour meeting in 2009 with the executives of a huge jewelry brand. My task was to explain why they needed to integrate social media into their public relations and marketing strategy. The owner beat me up quite a bit with his skepticism but, to his merit, believed—albeit grudgingly—that social media might be important and hired us. Today, his company has perhaps the largest fine jewelry brand presence on Facebook.

While my roots are firmly in fashion and jewelry, I decided early on that Miamore Communications would diversify into the general luxury and lifestyle categories; and that we would do everything we could to support those categories in our local community. We dedicated thousands of unpaid hours to support the successful launch of what was then a nonprofit group creating New England’s first business-oriented industry fashion week that supported local designers. For the past year, we’ve sponsored the nonprofit that presents the Rhode Island International Film Festival—the only Oscar-qualifying film festival this side of Tribeca, and the launchpad for independent film makers from around the world. We’ve loved every minute of it.

I’m happy to brag that, on the PR side, we’ve achieved client placements in every major (and minor) media outlet in Rhode Island and the Boston metro area; every jewelry-industry publication and website; major New York City regional press; and some heavy hitters on the national scene—including Oprah, Martha Stewart Weddings, People, and Redbook.

The double-edged sword of running a boutique marketing agency is the constant flux. We’ve worked passionately for small art galleries,start-up fashion designers, boutique travel companies, non-profit organizations and international brands; and absolutely thrive on both the challenge of working for various clients at once, and the variety that brings to every single day. But, having the people behind the clients we love come in and out of our day-to-day lives is an adjustment that I’m still getting used to.

I’ve read that surviving the first three years is one of the biggest hurdles to success for small businesses. I’m happy to finally be here. And I wouldn’t be without having been blessed with some of the most amazing interns, staff, partners and contractors. Todd, Steven, Cassie, Doug, Sam, Ryan, Amanda, Tessa, Nick, Bianca, Alysandra, Martha. From my first intern, Lauren, who was the only one who believed in Miamore as much as I did back in 2009; to Josh, Miamore’s account executive who is approaching his one-year anniversary and who—as crazy as things (or I) get around here—is forever passionate about our mission, our future, and our clients.

It’s amazing what can come from a walk on the beach, a rubber ball, and a passionately determined Black Lab. Mia’s at my feet as I type this. I think she deserves a belly rub.

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