West Coast PR Agency Owners Spill Business Advice for Building an Empire


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As more and more women embrace not only entrepreneurship but a commitment to pursuing leadership positions across all industries, conference like The Gritty Movement provide a welcome shower of inspiration, opportunities for connection, business development and of course, plenty of Instagram eye candy.

After a rousing keynote, Founders and CEOs of both Be Social and Covet PR (Ali Grant and Sara Brooks respectively) took the stage, along with the founder of a local boutique (Andrea Van de Vort, Shop Van de Vort) and Co-Founder and COO Kate Nowlan of the recently acquired women’s fitness apparel line Grace By Grit, to discuss their experiences building their businesses from the ground up.

To see PR agency owners so well represented throughout the conference, as well as the winners of our own Bespoke Communication Awards (Be Social won our Digital Presence award in 2017, and our Blush Award in 2018; Covet was named Startup Agency of the Year in 2018) was a real treat.

Under the banner of getting gritty and with a mind toward leadership, each laid down exactly what she considers to be invaluable components of scaling and growing a business. Enjoy these nugget of wisdom from some of the most hard-working, courageous and confident women in PR from the best coast!

Hire/Outsource as Soon as Possible

Ali earned a big laugh from the crowd explaining how she used to play receptionist “Be Social, How May I Direct Your Call?” when it was just her on the office. Each woman spoke about the challenges of getting the through hurdles and bumps around getting things off your plate when you’re simply in the habit of doing them. Sara noted that she had to ultimately realize that hiring an expert was actually a money-saver in the end because that person could accomplish in two hours what would have taken her ten.

Go Niche

Both Agency Owners were able to see a shift in the market and take full advantage. Ali spoke about starting Be Social’s influencer talent division upon realizing this is where so many promotional dollars were going and Sara attributes much of Covet’s early success to capitalizing on the growing wellness market, noting that clients want to hire deep expertise in their particular vertical.

Your PR Skills are Not Running a Business Skills

As Sara explained, “I started my pr firm because I was good at PR, not because I knew how to run a business,” explaining further how in particular, she’s learned to be smarter about hiring practices, resisting the urge to hire “100 more Saras” and instead look for team members that offer a complementary skillset, directing the crowd to “Hire people smarter and better than you,”

Invite Your Employees to Review You

Along with the challenge of learning how to run a service-based business comes the new territory of learning to effectively not only manage but lead a team. Ali sang the praises of Bonus.ly, a software that allows team members to recognize one another. Implementing true 360 feedback at Be Social has been a powerful way reflect and refine her approach. Sara noted that “you owe it to your employees to provide constructive criticism. If it’s all unicorns and rainbows all the time something is wrong.”

Find a Female Mentor

While not something she experienced herself,Ali reflected on how much a female mentor would have helped her to navigate so many business challenges, quipping that asking her 55-year old uncle for accounting advice didn’t always cut it.

The conference’s clear focus on exploring the function of leadership helped to anchor and streamline the days programming, keeping the conversation focused on critical business issues like management, growth, scale and of course, staying sane! In a conversation that likely made the ticket price for attendees, The Gritty Leadership Conference also hosted an eye-opening and encouraging conversation about female angel investing with investor Silvia Mah, Founding Partner at Ad Astra Ventures.

To stay connected and register for the next conference, check out The Gritty Movement


Crosby Noricks

Crosby Noricks

Known as the “fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory,” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and the “West Coast ‘It’ girl of fashion PR,” (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks put fashion public relations on the digital map when she launched PR Couture in 2006. She is the author of Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, available on Amazon. A decade later, Crosby is a successful fashion marketing strategist who spends her time championing PR Couture's growth and mentoring fashion publicists through her signature online course PRISM. Learn more about opportunities to work directly with Crosby at her website crosbynoricks.com