One of the components to being a StilettoGal is confidence. Nicole Rodrigues Owns who she is and has built an award-winning PR agency from the ground up. She redefines what it is to be a confident woman in an industry that has so much stigmatism. Her story below is not only inspiring but it makes me want to reach even higher than I ever have before.
StilettoGal: Who or what inspired you to become an entrepreneur and start your own business?
Nicole Rodrigues: I’m the oldest of nine children so being a leader has always come naturally to me. For some reason, in college, I knew the way to really make an impact on the public relations industry was to start my own firm. I didn’t know when it would happen and I wasn’t sure how, I just knew it was a long term goal I eventually wanted to meet. From day one, I worked every day to be the best possible PR pro I could be. I wanted to master every level of the profession so when it came time to hire I would know the types of skills and personality someone would have to have to be successful. Now, 16 years into my professional career I can smile and know that the 19-year-old dreamer in college was RIGHT. I feel strong and capable to run my own team. I can identify great talent and I know how to train them to make them even better. I’m on an entirely new journey as a business owner and it’s exciting to see the growth and momentum so far.
SG: Do you believe mentors are an intricate part of starting a business and why?
NR: I know firsthand that mentors are an intricate part of starting a business because without mine I wouldn’t be where I am now. I’m blessed to have multiple mentors on the PR side of my career. In this stage of my career, Ken Rutkowski, entrepreneur, thought leader, networker, and co-founder/host of Business Rockstars Radio, is one of my best friends and a mentor I am blessed to have on my side. I think any great entrepreneur knows his/her limits and therefore should be open to guidance and advice from people who’ve successfully built businesses.
SG: What are three tips you can give to women who want to start their own PR or marketing firm?
Tip 1) It’s not as easy as it looks. If you want to build a solid company, you need to be solid in your PR skills and your ability to lead and teach. In order to grow, you need to be able to attract and retain talent. If you’re not good at what you do, how can you hold your team members to a high caliber?
Tip 2) Don’t send away great new business ops just because they don’t have huge budgets. My first pieces of business had zero to no budget and I worked hard anyway, just to have them as resume builders for the agency. Thank God for that, the great work done on those accounts helped attract bigger business ops and eventually led us to win ‘Best New Agency of the Year’ in Bulldog Reporter’s Stars of PR award competition. Now that’s helping impress others who want to give us new business.
Tip 3) Know and love social media tools. If you’re trying to make it in PR and build an agency that will be around in the future, recognize that without the knowledge of social media and digital marketing tools, you’re going to be lost like the other agencies that only understand and deliver traditional media relations.
SG: How do you define success?
NR: Success is setting goals, no matter how big or small, and reaching them. Period. In every level of my career I’ve set small and large goals for myself, knowing that if I accomplished those, over time, I’d be successful in my career.
SG: What do you want your legacy to be?
NR: When aspiring PR pros learn about, read about, and aspire to be like the game-changers and leaders in the field, I want to be one of the people who stand out. I didn’t get into PR just to do a “job.” I got into it because I love it and am passionate about everything our profession stands for. I know it often gets a bad rap because of others who don’t take what we do as seriously. I take my job as seriously as a doctor would take his job. I may not be saving lives at a hospital but often times I’m saving ENTIRE COMPANIES through strategy and hard work. I have brought companies to life as well. That’s the beauty of being able to work with startups. I love strategic public relations and want to be an inspiration to anyone else who loves or will love the profession just as much.
SG: What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
NR: I was a mom two weeks after graduating college. Imagine: 22, just out of college, married, with an infant, fighting to be recognized amongst all the other junior people in my career who had no hangups, big bills, or children at home. I had to work harder than anyone else to show my bosses and co-workers that I could do just as good of a job, even with huge responsibilities at home. My daughter is 14 now and I thank God she motivated me to be the best from day one. I had no other choice if I was going to provide the bright future I knew she deserved.
SG: What kind of shoe are you and why?
NR: The Christian Louboutin ‘So Kate’ heel. Depending on my mood, I can be multiple colors. Mostly black, because it’s classic and elegant, yet powerful. My ‘So Kate’ heels are my signature event and red carpet shoes. I feel the most ‘me’ in them!