On June 30, 2021, I celebrated a milestone event in my life as a business owner—the first birthday of my PR firm, empHowered PR.

It was a long road to that birthday, with plenty of growing pains. Strangely enough, I quit my job in corporate America on Valentine’s Day 2020. You read that right: I left my job a month before the world shut down due to the pandemic. 

What I thought would be a seamless process to establish my business, develop my website and start building my client list turned into the biggest challenge of my career. Attorney and accountant offices, the bank, and even the state closed down, sending my business plan to a screeching halt!

During that period, I spent a lot of time sitting on the sofa. Though I took a few webinars and networked on LinkedIn, my days became dominated by daily COVID-19 updates from my governor, and before long, doubt started to seep into my plans. I watched in horror as small businesses closed their operations and long-time entrepreneurs sought more traditional ways to make a living. In short, I prepared myself for the likelihood that I would have to find another job. 

Survive AND Thrive

But I didn’t want another job. I didn’t want to give up. So, against the better judgment of some friends and family and a good part of my own brain, I decided to keep going. To Survive AND Thrive.

Since those days sitting on my sofa, I’ve worked with more than 20 clients in the manufacturing, healthcare, and non-profit industries. I’ve helped communicate investments, develop robust communications and social media plans, and even managed in-person events in a safe, socially-distanced way. As my business grew, I expanded my office to a downtown location in my hometown and worked with a robust team of communications professionals based in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Florida, and California. 

When I decided to survive and thrive, I learned a lot about myself—about the kind of work I wanted to do and who I’d like to work with—and I went after it! 

How I Built My PR Firm

If I saw a job posted on Indeed or LinkedIn that piqued my interest, I made a connection with someone in my network who knew someone at the company so I could learn more about the opportunity and ask if they would contract out the work. (They did!) 

I began to attend virtual events at my local Chamber of Commerce to network and learn about potential opportunities in my own backyard. As a result, I am now a Chamber Ambassador and serve as a host for chamber events! I also joined other professional organizations and sought out opportunities across Massachusetts through those networks. 

As my state opened up, I registered for in-person events once I was fully vaccinated and felt comfortable to re-enter the world following a year at home. In doing so, I connected with new and former business associates, many of whom didn’t even know I left my corporate job and were pleased when I said I was out on my own! They offered to help me and share my business cards with their friends. I survived and thrived with a little help from my friends.

I work hard and provide value to my clients every day. Sure, word-of-mouth is great for finding new business opportunities, but it’s more than that. Word-of-mouth from a current client demonstrates my value. It is both rewarding and priceless in terms of my reputation. 

Working With Others

At the same time, I can tell you that a change of scenery is great, especially when you are sitting at a desk all day by yourself! I work a few hours each week at a local cafe where the coffee is delicious, and I can connect with other customers and learn what they do for a living. This typically results in a discussion, a passed business card, and sometimes, new clients! 

I found the Public Relations Society of America Independent Practitioner’s Alliance (IPA) and attend the twice-weekly “Indie Chat” virtual meetings. My fellow indies provide me with confidence and motivate me to grow my business while also being people I can depend on for advice, guidance, and support as a new business owner. During the past year, I’ve been appointed to serve on the IPA Executive Committee, I created and host the monthly Indie Book Club meetings and was honored when I was selected to lead the section as its Chair in 2022. 

Taking Care of Myself, Too

Organization is critical when running a business and managing clients across multiple industries! Each Friday, I look back on what I accomplished and look ahead to prepare for the following week. This includes writing in my journal about my successes, challenges, and opportunities, ensuring all my bills are paid, and cleaning out my inbox so I can enjoy the weekend with the assurance of meeting all client expectations and business needs. 

But even with all that going on, I never forget about my number one client: me. Self-care in these tumultuous times is vital for every person. Exercising with my Peloton friends, spending a few hours at a spa, and meeting friends for breakfast all fill my cup and provide me with the motivation to keep working at being successful. At surviving and thriving. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get off your sofa and follow your dreams. 

If I can do it, believe me, you too can survive and thrive. 

Lauren Howe

Lauren Howe is principal and owner of empHowered PR, a public relations firms specializing in brand strategy, crisis and reputation management, and corporate social responsibility. In addition to her passion for helping businesses find their brand essence and being strong community partners, she is addicted to riding her Peloton bike (#empHOWEered) and, of course, spending time with her family and her canine companion, Boo Bear. Learn more about Lauren and her business by visiting www.empHoweredPR.com.

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