Ann Ragan Kearns’s Journey to Launching Odyssey Public Relations
Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
Ann Ragan Kearns started her career in Public Relations in the Communications and Marketing department at People Style Watch magazine. From there, she honed her PR prowess at multiple boutique agencies throughout New York City where she learned the perfect brand launch, executed disruptive strategic partnership campaigns, and worked with some of the world’s leading brands in the hospitality, travel, sustainability, beauty, wellness, and luxury lifestyle space. Always a dream to create her own agency, Ann Ragan set sail on her own to launch Odyssey Public Relations in 2020. Ann Ragan lives on the Upper East side in NYC with her husband and four-year-old Wheaten Terrier, Barkley. Everyone has a story: we’re here to tell yours. Odyssey Public Relations is a strategic and creative communications agency dedicated to public relations, experiential marketing, and digital, influencer and celebrity services. Odyssey Public Relations specializes in travel & hospitality, beauty, wellness, and luxury goods. Our team creates custom, 360-degree communications strategies for each client, with tactical publicity, influencer, celebrity, and consumer campaigns that ignite buzz, build brands and help meet our clients’ business and sales objectives. From category and brand launches and influencer campaigns, celebrity endorsements, and pop-up experiences to a simple product pitch– our work is thoughtful and impactful with results that start from day one. We pride ourselves on our relationships with our clients who view us as extensions of their teams and an invaluable part of their businesses
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
I love the ability to connect with women founders in every industry you can think of! I have learned so much from the other members and feel so lucky to be a founding member. I am also a fan of the invaluable events and courses that are offered through the Entreprenista membership.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I have always dreamed of launching my own PR agency, and that dream came to fruition a little earlier than I had planned thanks to COVID. In March 2020 I was working at a previous PR agency mainly on travel and hospitality accounts so when COVID hit, I like many others in these industries was laid off. I decided to do freelance PR consulting for a few months to “test the waters” to ensure that I really did want to launch my own agency those few months solidified that I definitely wanted to continue down the business owner path. Since the travel and hospitality industries were pretty much on pause globally, I started working with lifestyle and beauty brands and was able to launch my agency with a full roster of six clients in August 2020.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I started my career in Public Relations in the Communications and Marketing department at People Style Watch magazine. From there, I honed my PR prowess at multiple boutique agencies throughout New York City working on a variety of brands across the fashion, beauty, lifestyle, wellness, and travel & hospitality industries.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes! I have always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur in some way. I remember I set a goal for myself while I was studying PR & Advertising at Penn State that someday I would be a PR agency owner- ten years later and I am so proud to say I have accomplished that goal!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out, and did it go as planned?
I am a bit of a perfectionist so I definitely put in a lot of time to achieve the branding and overall agency aesthetic that I wanted and knew I would love forever. I took a course in branding and website design and would work on my agency aesthetic, marketing and branding at night after I had finished my client’s PR work for the day. I ended up feeling a little burnt out trying to learn how to code and build a website so I eventually outsourced that to a lovely graphic designer to take off my plate. That was the first moment realizing as a business owner it is ok and necessary to ask for help and hand off projects to others, even if your company is your “baby”!
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
I definitely became burnt out from the hustle of “start-up” life. In the beginning, it was only me doing everything from news business pitching, attending to day-to-day client needs, admin work, invoicing, you name it- I was doing it. I felt “guilty” taking a break and resting or closing my laptop at 6 PM at the end of a workday and felt like I was missing opportunities if I “rested” or said “no.” This mentality really drained me and came back to bite me in the end about two years later when I finally felt severe “burn-out” effects. Learning how to have more of a work-life balance and also saying “no” to projects that do not fulfill me professionally have helped me and my business grow tremendously.
What is the accomplishment you are the proudest of to date?
Building and growing small, indie lifestyle and beauty brands into household names. In the two years since Odyssey PR launched, our clients have received prestigious beauty awards from Allure, Beauty Independent, CEW, Essence, SELF, and Refinery 29.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
100000% YES! I learned the hard way that it is crucial to have this even when you’re in the beginning stages of building your business and things seem to be going one million miles a minute. Take the time to slow down, rest and breathe! You deserve it! I found out that I MUST get some form of exercise in regularly to relieve stress and anxiety- even if it is a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood. Also, you do not need to respond to an email at 1 AM or Sunday morning- it can wait. I have become better at logging off and staying offline until the morning/weekend is over.
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
It’s ok to ask for help! Not everyone knows the answer to everything. It’s better to spend time asking for help and getting something done right with some assistance than trying to take it all on yourself.
What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
Odyssey PR’s second birthday! I am so excited and proud of what I’ve built and we’re just getting started!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
As a former Division I collegiate swimmer (We Are!) I have been following the new NIL rulings from the NCAA closely. I think it is great that young female athletes can now benefit from growing their personal brand and following. Odyssey PR is in the works with launching a branch of the agency to consult with collegiate female athletes on how to grow and maintain their personal brand through their collegiate experience and/ or professional experience and beyond.