PR is powerful. It’s the special magic of making a business meaningful to the media, making it something the media can work with. I’ve watched people’s profiles light up because of good PR strategy, and I’ve seen it make stock fly off shelves.
I built a tech startup on the belief that editorial coverage can happen for anyone if the right information is made accessible to them. I was interested in empowering businesses to tackle PR on their own behalf. Young businesses with big ideas but tiny budgets. Those that are newsworthy but can’t yet hire a PR firm. I wanted to build a platform that provides validated, up-to-date media contacts, sorted logically by industry.
My startup has now ‘gone live’ in a couple of major markets. It was picked up by a prestigious accelerator in Berlin just after it launched and now I’ve being invited to incredible conferences around the world. But the journey was rocky, and I was sustained only by belief in my vision and the belief my loved ones had in me.
Tomorrow’s best business communicators cut their teeth on snapchat captions
I was at the 10 year mark in my PR career and at the strategic forefront. My skill as a Fashion & Luxury specialist had taken me to big glamorous cities like Dubai and London. I’d run a highly-regarded agency with my name over the door for years. I was still in love with doing PR work when I turned my face to a new direction.
The world of PR has always been behind a velvet rope; an exclusive world with secret networks. My vision was to open this world of opportunities to those who also deserve a seat at the table.
When you set out to build something you believe will solve a big problem, that vision can be so crystal clear that you underestimate the weight of the challenges you will face.
Part of the problem was the unaffordability of Public Relations. Few bootstrapping businesses can afford PR consultancies. Another part of the problem was information accessibility.
There wasn’t a reliable, affordable resource for accessing media contacts for independent businesses in my corner of the world. Media data companies were serving the big end of town and the communications industry, but for small businesses there was nothing. No one was making the best use of digital technology to deliver small businesses the constant updates that happen in media.
I worked with developers to create a platform that delivered the names and contacts for key media people, sorted into tidy industry categories. Crucially the platform we built made this intel both affordable and fathomable to users who are outside the world of professional communications. We left out the complex metrics, I didn’t want it to alienate anyone with a good story to tell.
I’ve watched people’s profiles light up because of good PR strategy, and I’ve seen it make stock fly off shelves.
Enter here for a chance to win free media lists for your business.
How tech do you need to be, technically?
When you set out to build something you believe will solve a big problem, that vision can be so crystal clear that you underestimate the weight of the challenges you will face. I entered the tech world fairly read-up on it’s inequality issues. The stories of sexism, under-representation and funding discrimination were filtering through the media.
Here are the ways I navigated it and a few things I learned.
Firstly, I worked out early on that I wanted to self-fund rather than take on investment. My early experiences with the investment world cemented this resolve. This to me was an empowerment issue. It was really reassuring that there was early investment interest in the concept.
Words like ‘scalable’ were peppered through conversations, and “you can add a zero to that price point”. However I knew instinctively that if I took on investment early then List Co. would not make it to market as the accessible service I believed it should be.
I met with a female VC at this early juncture. I told her I was hearing out investment options, but I felt I could personally fund the project to launch. Her advice; “Lady, do it”.
Bringing something to market with the vision intact can be an ideal worth holding onto. You will be in a better bargaining position down the track once the concept has been ‘proven’. When it’s ready to scale there’s no doubt the right kind of capital will help your startup achieve it’s potential.
Secondly, I regret not learning to code prior to building List Co. Working with tech leads and coders requires you to think in new ways just to see information the way they see it. I strongly believe every creative thinker and business mind should learn to code. You may never use the skill to build something, but when the time comes to work with a tech team you will be a greater support to their work process.
How much can you withstand before it begins to take shape?
And finally, the setbacks. Realistically, most tech builds take three times longer than expected. When you kick off with all the gumption in the world you think your project will take six weeks to accomplish. This is something you will laugh about in the end.
It’s often said that setbacks can work in your favour. That’s truly an annoying thing to hear when you are facing technical hurdles and coders gone AWOL. I can look back now and see how the long technical delays that List Co. experienced made it an even better product. Six months in I had finalised the media lists planned for industries like Fashion, Interior Design, Travel and Food, but the platform itself was far from finished. So while I waited I began to build resources for the other markets that I have worked in and am passionate about, including the UK, Asia and the Middle East. Ultimately, launching with a number of markets ready to go has given List Co. greater dimension and opened up opportunity for the users.
List Co. is now live in the US and Australia with media contact lists for the consumer-facing industries. It will be launching in other markets soon also. The dream is to bring it to every market with an entrepreneurial community that needs valuable, up-to-date media contacts. Ultimately I hope it helps to change the balance of representation in consumer media.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.