How 10 years of experience in corporate PR helped Lexie Smith create THEPRBAR inc. and help entrepreneurs authentically connect to their audiences
Describe your business in a few words?
THEPRBAR inc. is an online coaching brand and education platform that teaches motivated entrepreneurs how to increase their influence, impact and revenue through PR.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Having had an accelerated career path at an early age (Sr. Account Director by the age of 22, In-house PR & Marketing Director for an entire Hospitality Group by the age of 23, and a VP of PR & Marketing of an Inc. 5000 8-figure company by 26) my health quite dramatically caught up with me in March of 2019. My body could no longer physically sustain the demanding career-centered lifestyle I was leading (I quite literally landed in the hospital). So, while I had known that I would one day transition into full-time entrepreneurship, this was my less-than-obvious “wake up” call. My health triggered me to begin to explore various business models – the goal, build a company that would sustain a happy and healthy lifestyle. Quite a bit of market research and soul-searching later, and THEPRBAR inc. was born.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I have been working in the world of PR and marketing for more than 10 years now. My first job was secured in undergrad for a bi-coastal tech PR firm. I then moved from Oregon (where I’m originally from) to Los Angeles thanks to the show Shark Tank (shout out) to work in a lifestyle-based agency. I eventually was recruited to become the PR and Marketing Director for a hospitality group in Los Angeles. My final position prior to launching my own business was serving as the VP of PR and Marketing for a high 8-figure Inc. 5000 telecommunications company. Quite a few niche pivots until I landed on the fact that I’m largely “industry agnostic” when it comes to PR and rather just love working with entrepreneurs, period!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No actually! In 5th grade, according to my yearbook, I wanted to be an “an Oscar award-winning actress in Hollywood”. By college that had transitioned into becoming the next “Erin Andrews” of sports broadcasting. I fell into PR by happenstance really, and unexpectedly fell in love. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I started to realize my true ultimate end game – entrepreneurship!
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 practiced exactly what I preach to clients today – I tapped into organic marketing and PR opportunities. Something I teach my students is a concept called the “6 Relations of PR” – this essentially refers to how a brand interacts with the public (relation 1), customers (relation 2), community, industry, media, and investors (if applicable) in pursuit of a specific revenue goal. For me, I started by focusing on developing an audience (the public) through social channels and partnerships, and tapping into various female-based networking communities for targeted introductions. I paired that with very intentionally offering free strategy sessions in exchange for reviews to start building social proof under my new brand name.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
When I first entered the online coaching space, I consumed far too much of other people’s content. I was easily roped into “all the webinars” and “all the ‘proven-strategies'” of others in pursuit of “the right way” to grow. By doing so, I was attempting to initially mimic THEIR growth tactics and ultimately ignored my own intuition and skill-set that I had developed over the course of my own career. This was a mistake! Thankfully, I realized this pretty early on and learned that there is no such thing as “THE one right way to grow”. This is a lesson I now pass along to all my students.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I think officially launching and going full-time with THEPRBAR inc. is something that I’m pretty dang proud of. Aside from that, there is no better feeling than seeing a client of mine succeed.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
“Tell me your understanding of my business and business model.” This is VERY telling of how much energy and research they put in before coming to the interview. I’ve seen this translate directly into future work-ethic too.
Aside from that, one tip I’ll offer if you’re a founder that is hiring, don’t let a piece of paper (a resume) deter you from listening to your gut.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We saw a lot of companies panic and cut their marketing and PR budgets first. This further divided the already pretty large variation and gap of pricing in the market. New “cheaper” pr-in-a-box solutions came to market, pay-for-plays ramped up, and overall pitching became harder as newsrooms too had to cut back staff. PR campaigns had to be incredibly thoughtful and in-sync with public and cultural sentiment, and almost everything had to pivot to digital. Business owners also became more open to the concept of “DIY-ing” PR, and thus I’ve seen an uptick in new players entering the coaching world as well.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
THEPRBAR inc. will continue to evolve just as the market is continuing to evolve. My offerings will level up and adapt to teaching entrepreneurs what they need to know NOW rather than 5-years ago. In the near future you’ll also see some pretty new and exciting partnerships being announced 😉
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
2020 was my first year of full-time entrepreneurship, so not only did I learn a lot in my business, I learned a lot about LIFE. Culturally and socially speaking, I am still learning, unlearning, and will be forever more. However, amongst the numerous takeaways I had, one that was deeply reaffirmed was the concept that “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” You have NOTHING in life without your health – both physically and mentally. You can’t learn, you can’t do, you can’t show up, you can’t make more money, you can’t give back, you can’t support others, you can’t do ANYTHING if you’re not well. Thus, health needs to always come #1. See here for more business takeaways!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
You can’t please everyone. I think I “knew” the concept, but I hadn’t truly accepted it yet.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Community! Community with other professional women networking groups – shoutout to the BRA Network, Six Degrees Society, and Digital Squad – and shoutout to my personal community and support system outside of work (family and friends.)
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
100%. I believe in the concept you should work to live, not live to work. I can’t say I’ve mastered this fully, however. One tip I do have is to set clear boundaries, and always take at least one if not two (the weekend) days off per week. Again to my lesson affirmed above, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I can juggle – in fact, I juggled on live tv for Good Day LA once (to help out a client, long story. haha) Also, big time fan of #SSDGM (if you know, you know.)
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Calendar block. Create to-do lists. Verbalize deadlines to someone other than yourself (so a client, a team member etc.) to ensure you are held accountable.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It’s more than just a job title, it’s a mindset and a way of doing and being. An Entreprenista is relentless in her pursuit to make her dreams a reality.