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.
Three years ago, I made a deal with myself - I wanted to have $100,000 saved when I'm 25. But I didn't mind if it didn't happen until the day before my 26th birthday.
One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible — and I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.
My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.
For the past three years, I've never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt free, I've got another year and $10K to go!
I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I'm white, I come from a middle-class family, and I was able to graduate college without any debt. All these things helped a great deal.
But my parents didn't raise me with a silver spoon. Paying for college was a collaborative process. We'd sit down at least twice a year to discuss how we were going to pay for the next semester. The first question they'd always ask me was: "How much can you contribute?"
I've been fortunate. But it also takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and responsibility to save and maximize your earnings. Feeling motivated and knowing that I'll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions. Here's how I'm getting to $100K.
- I side-hustled
This kick-started my journey towards six-figures. In addition to saving the majority of my 9-5 salary, my first year of freelance social media marketing made me quite a bit of cash that I could immediately save. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings.
2. I started investing early
Knowing that compound interest is so important, I wanted to start investing early to have my money work for me. Once I started my first big-girl job, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP IRA and a non-retirement investment account. My first job out of school had a 401(k), but you couldn't contribute until you were there at least a year. Knowing I wasn't planning on staying long — I was at that job for a year and a few months — I opened a Roth 401(k) and then rolled my earnings to my Roth IRA.
3. I negotiated salary offers and raises
Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. Growing up, I watched my father sit on hold, patiently waiting to negotiate our cable and phone bills. Negotiation was always part of my life, and I grew up with parents who knew how to do it. So when I was offered my first social media freelance gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here's a guide that can help.
4. I've automated my savings
Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you're saving just doesn't exist. I have 26% of each paycheck automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This savings account is purposefully at a different bank than my day-to-day checking account, so I'm less likely to withdraw from it and less likely to think about it. This "set it and forget it" level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for -- through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.
At the age of 24, I know that I am on the right track to make my goal a reality. Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn't an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.
It's possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that's debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you've got this!