“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
After four years of being in business, I’m saying goodbye. While reflecting on how I would craft this final blog, I thought about how the process of starting and owning my own business is—if not more—important than why I’m letting it go. So, let me take you back to April 2013 when that entrepreneur spark was ignited in me.
I was living in Chicago, working for a nonprofit, and had just gotten off the phone with my friend Veronica Meewes. After surviving my third brutal winter, I made the decision to move back to Austin. I had some money saved and had an affordable place to stay (thanks Veronica!), but I didn’t have a job. I decided I would just figure things out once I moved and freelance as a writer, as I had done in the past. Veronica was freelancing as a food writer and had just told me about an article she wrote about boutique PR firms focusing on restaurants. She posted it on Facebook and it intrigued me. “We could do that but even better,” I remember saying. “We could start our own PR agency.” I think she thought I was kidding, but truthfully that was just the beginning of Small Coffee. Deep down, I was thinking about starting a business for months. That desire gnawed at me, but I didn’t know what sort of business it would be until that moment. When colleagues at work asked me what I was going to do I said, I told them I was going to start a PR firm. One said, “That’s brave.” I explained I co-owned a vintage clothing and housewares business in college with a friend. How hard could it be?
Before arriving to Austin in June, I sent my resume to five PR firms, asking if they would take me on as an intern. I had to start somewhere and get the lay of the land because all of my professional marketing experience had been at nonprofits in Chicago. The only PR experience I have under my belt was helping my boss with press releases from time to time, but as a former journalist I had received plenty of emails from the press, so I thought I could easily make the transition. One agency got back to me and I worked with them while I applied for jobs and wrote for a few local publications. I was just thrilled to learn as much as I could while living closer to friends and family. Despite my best efforts, I could not land a job—although I got really close a few times. People told me the Austin market was a tough nut to crack. After doing some small projects here and there, I landed a part-time job with Spruce that fall. Around the same time, I was the Managing Editor for Citygram, temping at an advertising agency, and helping a few small business owners in my network with their marketing projects. I worked all of the time, but I didn’t care because I was beginning to grow my network and my reputation, slowly but surely. In early 2014, I had a designer come up with my Small Coffee logo for a modest fee… and I waited. I suppose I thought I would magically meet a business partner who would want to start this business with me. In reality, I so busy juggling all of these side-hustles keeping me afloat, I didn’t realize they were getting in the way of me launching my business. Looking back, everyone around me was encouraging me to start a business but what I was lacking was confidence. I’ll never forget when my friend and former client Jessica Hannah told me I wasn’t 100 percent into my business because, even though I had a few clients I was working with, I hadn’t launched my website or gotten my DBA or LLC, or let the world know I was open for business. She challenged me to just give it my all—so I did! I quit all of my side-hustles, reached out to Women Communicators of Austin to get paired with a mentor who had experience starting a business and launched Small Coffee in January 2015.
Small Coffee was never meant to be a one-woman operation. I imagined after the first year I’d find an incredible partner who would help me scale the operation; and that we’d build in sub-contractors until we could get an office manager and a junior publicist. Being an extrovert, I wanted community. I did manage to achieve some of that by sub-contracting with designers, photographers and writers, and taking on some awesome interns—but I was top banana 24/7, riding the entrepreneur rollercoaster of highs and lows. I took the crisis calls at 8:30 pm and morning meetings across town at 8 am. I sent out emails while in Spain for a friend’s wedding. I drove to San Antonio in my old Nissan at 6 am for TV appearances. I was constantly selling myself and my business to new and returning clients, and I never dropped the ball (that I can remember). Small Coffee was my baby and I loved and nurtured it, even when I had doubts—but even with the support of my coaches, entrepreneur friends, mentors, clients and family, things began to change. Some might say that I got burnt out.
2018 was my best year. From the beginning, other entrepreneurs urged me to stick with my business for at least three years because that’s when things would get easier, they said. They were right. This year I received several referrals and cranked out dozens of proposals, spoke at a conference, made time for a productive work retreat and a couple of work-related business trips, and I outsourced work to help me manage six projects this summer. That said, I wasn’t fulfilled because I didn’t want to do it alone anymore. I was becoming apathetic and knew that it would eventually affect my business, because when your business is a service people are hiring you. I knew I needed to make a change. I made a goal a year ago to scale Small Coffee but it wasn’t happening no matter how hard I tried. In early 2017, I had participated in a visioning exercise and what I saw for myself in 2020 was community. I saw myself surrounded by other women, not as clients or as neighbors at a co-working space but as colleagues who worked with me. That idea kept coming back to me, and then hit me quite profoundly when, after doing some soul-searching this fall, I realized there just might be a community out there wanting me to join them. I didn’t have to create it.
Starting in January, I will be working in-house as a digital marketer for a local association that is all about building connections. I will have a boss who I’m excited to work under and will be a part of a marketing team that reports to a dynamic and enthusiastic CEO. I will not be calling the shots, but it’s okay because I know I have a lot to learn. A new flame has been ignited in me and I’m excited to see what happens next.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me on this journey. I want to give a massive shout out to my mentor Maura Thomas, who has given me valuable guidance over the years; Adil Dara Kim for his design brilliance; Cultivate PR for the internship; all of the organizations that didn’t hire me in 2013; Jessica Hannah for her encouragement and for being my wing-woman; Amanda Brown of Spruce for taking me into her business and inspiring me to work with other entrepreneurs; Jonathan Braden for giving me some funny yet helpful business advice when I was starting out; Neil Petty for connecting me to two of my first clients; Martha Hopkins of Terrace Partners for her praise, connections and creativity; Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier of Lick Honest Ice Creams for signing my first PR contract and for all of the adventures; Diana Vassar for being the best; Viva Day Spa for the massages; Ron Ray for being Ron Ray; Lauren Russo and Paige Henchen for their quality coaching; Women Communicators of Austin and Karen Aroian for bringing me in; Leadership Austin and Girls Empowerment Network for continuing to ignite the spark in me; Haley Schultheis, Rebekah Epstein, Jenny Hoff, Jane Claire Hervey, Kristin Scheel and Kelly Stocker for their help and for being inspiring boss babes; Lauren Everitt and Buck Wallander; Jenny Magic, Jen Spencer and Liz Feezor for helping me figure out Small Coffee’s messaging; Joel Valle and Lauren Hardage for being fountains of resources and philosophies; Sarah Wolf; Amy “Weiss” and Luke Weissgarber; SCORE; Samantha Youngblood and Kara Pendl of Karacotta for the mugs; Sarah Frankie Linder for putting up with me all of the times I was thinking out loud at our co-working space; Amira Jensen and my amazing interns for their hard work; my friends, family and husband Dustin Meador for their ongoing support; my clients; all of the Central Texas media and influencers I worked with; my publicist friends Sara Hussey, Cara Caulkins, Kristen Chin and David Wyatt for their referrals and advice; Veronica Meewes for getting me started; Annie Ray for her collaboration, headshots, space, wisdom and for calling me every day to check in; and my grandma Dominga for the dream. I love you and couldn’t have done it without y’all!