Reflections on the Creation of ShinePR on National Women-Owned Business Day
As a graduate of both an all-girls high school and a women’s college, I should have guessed that I’d join the club of women business owners. I’d flirted with the idea many times over the course of my career, but as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. It wasn’t until my job of 24 years was eliminated during the pandemic that I found myself considering all options. Retirement? Oh, that word sounded so good. A respected colleague, Sheila Ryan-Macie, had recently retired and shared her joy of throwing away all nylons and giving away all of her suits. But it was a bit too soon for me. I still had more to learn in the working world. And more to give. So I faced the decision whether to go back in-house or to start my own business. Two women business owners gave me the proverbial “Go, girl” nudge I needed to hang out my own shingle. And several more joined me as consultants, collaborators, and clients. I am so grateful.
My journey into business ownership began when my best friend Brooke Lively invited me to join her on a business trip in Phoenix. CEO of her fractional CFO business,Cathedral Capital, Brooke had a speech to giveto some lawyers and I suspected friendly advice to give to me. I hesitated, not wanting to hear it, butshe offered spa time and sunshine, which sounded pretty good. And she knew I didn’t have either the excuse of a college football game (my Army team wasn’t allowing fans to attend at that time), or the objection of travel expenses (I had airline miles from years of business travel, she had a hotel room). I reluctantly agreed, knowing an intervention about my next career move was on the menu for at least one of our weekend meals. I was right.
Friday morning, Brooke was in her work zone, prepping for her speech and adjusting her notes. I instinctively stepped into mine, too, firing up my laptop and searching for media in the area. “Do you ever give media interviews when you are on the road?” I asked. She shook her head side to side. “Would you be willing to do a few while we’re here?” She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. By the time we left for her event, I had landed her a one-hour, live business radio interview with Karen Nowicki, owner and president of Phoenix Business RadioX as well as a newspaper opportunity. Little did I know I was making Brooke’s case to launch my own business for her.
“See how easy that was?” she asked over our Saturday night dinner at the resort. “And how much fun?” She was right. “All I am saying is your skills are your skills. You can go back in-house and use them, or you can create your own business and use them. The difference is the latter provides more flexibility, longevity, and personal fulfillment.” She spoke about picking projects, choosing your work hours, and scaling up or down as you want. The struggle became real as she lobbied hard, making the case for eventually consulting part time as a way to transition into retirement. There it was again. The r word.
We made a comprehensive list of the pluses and minuses of each option as she finished her Dr. Pepper and I my margarita. Brooke shared the highs and lows from her own experience, a seven-year journey to a million-dollar business that began with running a 24-month loss. Hearing about the lessons she’d learned along the way, the community of business owners she joined for coaching and support, and the satisfaction of creating something yourself piqued my interest. She’d planted the seed. It was up to me to water it and help it grow.
Flying home the next day, I found myself scribbling notes at 35,000 feet. What was next for me? Admittedly, I knew I wasn’t going to find the cure for cancer or solve world hunger, but I also knew I wanted more than just a next job. I wanted a purpose, a why.
When all is said and done, what do I want to say I have done in my life? An existential crisis. I meditated, and I prayed. Clouds rolled by my window. Then came a moment of clarity.
As the sun peaked over the horizon, a thought popped into my mind. It was the same thing I’d taught for years to children in Sunday School: Let your light shine. That’s what I wanted. For my light to shine and for others’ lights to shine, too. PR for organizations that make the world a better place and contribute to the greater good. Meaning in my work. It was that simple.
Two days later, another respected colleague and friend Kelly Christiano called me to share that her consulting business Revelocity was taking off, and she’d be stepping in as interim CMO for a 20-year-old fintech to build out a marketing organization and strategy, including public relations. She asked whether I’d considered consulting. “Funny you should ask,” I thought. Talk about being glad you answered the phone. And receiving signs. I set up an LLC, we signed a contract, and I had my first client.
Now, nearly two full years later, our boutique agency has grown almost entirely by word of mouth with purpose as the cornerstone. Laura Wessells, Irena Bosworth, Regina Resendi, Sandy Gonsalves and I use our big business expertise to make mid-size and emerging B2B organizations shine—illuminating what sets them apart and how they positively impact the world around them. We have named, branded, and launched a variety of organizations—both new and established, for profit and not-for-profit—and served as publicists and strategists for organizations with operations around the world, including women-owned businesses like Cathedral Capital, Growth Minded Leadership Group, Influence Network Media, Sisumoi, and Workplace Surveys and Solutions. With five-star client reviews and a commitment to contribute 10% of our annual earnings to nonprofits, it is a joy to do the work we love.
On this National Women-Owned Business Day, I thank and honor both the women in my life who encouraged me to take this step and the women with whom I am taking it. Mentors. Clients. Collaborators. Colleagues. ShinePR’s progress and achievements are indeed cause for celebration, and I hope our story inspires other women to dream big, believe in themselves, connect with other women entrepreneurs, and encourage communities to support women-owned brands today and every day.
Martha Holler is the co-founder of ShinePR and has over 25 years of experience in public relations. Her expertise is amplifying brand purpose and delivering tangible and measurable results for her clients.