While working at Vibe magazine straight out of college, Jessy and a co-worker started Femme Arsenal, a cosmetics company which she then sold at age 27. After working as Director of PR and Marketing at Essie Cosmetics, and in anticipation of becoming a mom, she started her own PR firm. LaRue PR is a boutique agency specializing in fashion, lifestyle, home décor, and tech.
Title: Founder/CEO of LaRue PR
Education: Bachelor of Arts at NYU
Location: Bound Brook, NJ
Company: LaRue PR
Tell us a bit about your career path
I started working at Vibe the day after I graduated from NYU. While many of my friends were traveling and partying, I already was pretty focused on my goals, and at that time it was to write.
While working in editorial as an assistant I ended up starting a small beauty brand with a friend who was a graphic designer, a total fluke based on an ambitious day of diy-ing lip balm. Our recipe went over big with friends and it sort of snowballed into a brand. Initially it was a side hustle and at 22 years old, we were really winging it but it quickly morphed into something that had real potential.
One of the biggest breaks we got was when we shared our lip balms with an editor at TimeOut NY. The ended up featuring the product and it just took off.Up until that moment I had been a newbie and on the creative side of media. Being on the other end and watching press coverage create momentum totally opened my eyes and made me slightly addicted to securing coverage for my own brand. Within a month we were selling product to stores and that was really my first experience with the power of the PR. As my little beauty business grew I transitioned into agency life and got more traditional experience. Eventually the beauty brand became a full time gig and I focused entirely on PR and Marketing. Those years provided an accelerated learning experience.
When I sold that business, I moved into working in house for other brands in PR and marketing and eventually launched my second entrepreneurial initiative, LaRue PR.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I work heavily on brand strategy, content creation, new business, and of course all of the traditional aspects of PR from writing and pitching and beyond.
What type of person thrives at LaRue?
Someone creative that is all about a non-traditional approach and willing to take risks. I also don’t micro manage so I need team members that are organized, proactive and frankly, rabid about PR and branding!
What is the mood like in the office?
We keep the mood fun and relaxed. I’ve found a comfortable office environment allows people to work creatively. Being respectful and considerate of everyone on the team is a top priority because it makes for a happy and productive work life. I work closely with all departments and we promote a collaborative environment.
What are you really good at?
I would say writing and strategy are my strongest skill set.
What are three must-haves essential to your job?
We are big users of Slack, Asana and Planoly. It helps the entire team stay involved and up to date and also lets us liaison with clients. Of course, we couldn’t exist without email.
What is a recent job success story that makes you especially proud?
We represent Create & Cultivate – an amazing conference series for female millennial entrepreneurs. As a woman-owned business, all of the press coverage we have procured for C&C has been rewarding on so many levels. Press wins included local, regional and national coverage in the LA Times, Fast Company, WWD, InStyle, LA Confidential, Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, Bustle, Self.com and beyond.
I need team members that are organized, proactive and frankly, rabid about PR and branding!
Most memorable moment in your career thus far?
Lately, I’ve been participating in panels and events where I serve as a “mentor.” It’s really rewarding to share my story and offer whatever insight I can to people aspiring to work in PR and marketing. I’ve received some amazing “thank you” emails after these events that really have hit home.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
I’ve been in the industry a long time and have done the fashion shows and celebrity meetings. It did feel glamorous and exciting but in all honesty what really makes me feel like a “boss” is being the shot-caller for my company and consequently my own life. That feels pretty glamorous. I will admit that we do have a client taking us to see Beyonce perform in New Orleans! Amazing seats and lots of special treatment are planned. It’s a great client that we adore. That feels pretty glamorous too!
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
PR is hard work and no matter how successful you are. The day to day is labor intensive and often not at all glamorous. The upside is the parts that aren’t glamorous are what drew me to PR, to begin with. My favorite aspects of my career are the strategy, writing, and outreach.
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion/lifestyle communicators right now?
The industry has changed so much in the past ten years and will continue to do so. What worked three years ago to drive visibility, sales or interest might no longer be relevant. It’s important to stay current and pay attention to the ROI on your initiatives so you can gauge what is working and what isn’t. We regularly request analytics and stats on the campaigns we create and press coverage we secure so we can see what had an immediate ROI, what drove visibility as well as what didn’t work.
How do you stay on top of industry trends?
I’m reading all the time…the skimm, glossy, digiday, wwd, business insider, fast co and the list goes on and on. I view staying current on industry and cultural news as a job responsibility.
What do you wish more people understood about PR?
I wish more people understood all the things that PR encompasses. It’s more than getting press. Right now PR involves social media, influencers, brand development and so much more.
PR is hard work, competitive and by no means easy or for party girls.
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
When I was first starting out rejection really bothered me. After 18 years, I know it’s part of the business. I spend more time talking my team through how to deal with rejection and figuring out the what and why of it than anything else. Getting “no’s” now and then are just part of the gig.
What would you tell someone who wants to be like you when they grow up?
Network now. Stay up to date on social media and the digital revolution and become an expert. Read (fervently) anything and everything you can from the media outlets that interest you… fashion, tech, whatever it is. Pay attention to what successful brands are doing but always think about how you can recreate the wheel in a new and exciting way.