Kristen Elworthy on Founding Seven Hills Communications and Embracing Her Desire to Story Tell
Hi Kristen! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
I’m Kristen Elworthy, and I’m the founder of Seven Hills Communications. We’re a PR micro-agency that works with mostly female-founded and mission-driven companies and personal brands in both the consumer and B2B space. Our wheelhouse is working with startups and emerging brands, and we love creating earned media strategies that help create validation for them as they build their brands!
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
I love hearing the stories of women starting things – whether it’s companies, nonprofits, writing books, whatever it is that is bringing their perspective and unique talents to the world. So it’s great to be among like-minded people!
So Kristin, what made you take the leap to start your own business?
More than a decade ago I started freelance PR consulting between projects (at the time, I was a journalist and had worked on a couple of documentaries). Before long, I had enough clients to support myself instead of finding a full time job, and we’ve grown steadily since. I have always loved working with multiple clients and building a business so it’s been a great fit for me.
Did you have a communications background prior to starting your own PR agency?
In my early 20s, I worked in tech marketing and PR, got a masters degree in journalism, and worked in journalism for some time. Journalism in particular was a great place to learn PR in reverse, and I exercise those storytelling muscles every day and that critical eye of what will be interesting to the audience I’m talking to.
Did you always have a feeling that one day you would be an entrepreneur?
I always knew I wanted to tell stories, but I definitely had some entrepreneurial tendencies! When I was a kid, I started a neighborhood newspaper and sold ads in it (for neighborhood babysitters). I loved the whole process, and that’s probably why journalism wasn’t quite the right fit for me. While now it’s a very entrepreneurial field, when I was reporting it was still pretty traditional in terms of working your way up from reporter to editor and so on.
When you first launched Seven Hills Communications, how did you expand your initial customer base?
I was totally unsure of how to market myself back then, so I actually reached out and applied for different freelance and marketing roles. A few of those grew into my first official clients and we grew from there. I had no expectations or ideas of how things would go – but I figured starting with people who were actively seeking help was a good first step.
So Kristen, what would you say is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way, and what did you learn from it?
Building a team has been both the biggest challenge and the most gratifying thing – perhaps alongside deciding to “go for it.” In both of those instances, I think the biggest takeaway I had was that I had to make a decision and a commitment, and then figure out the right process that would work for me and for what I wanted. The world is full of courses and consultants and advice – and in many cases that support can be very useful. But over the years I have learned that I know more than I think I know, and that once I make a decision and create a plan, it’s just about committing to it fully.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
When I started my business, I committed to working with a nonprofit in my community pro bono, so for more than a decade I’ve been working with a domestic violence nonprofit in Boston. Last year, their executive director retired and surprised me with their Community Activism Award. She spoke beautifully about how important it has been for their organization to have a partner that can help them navigate the media and deliver their message to help save lives – hearing about that impact was a really proud moment for me.
We all hear so much about work life balnce…Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes and no! Listen, it totally ebbs and flows so I think talking about balance is just another way to develop guilt and pressure on ourselves – and who needs that. I think protecting your time is the most important thing when you are an entrepreneur (or anyone, really!) and I am a work in progress on that. But blocking space on my calendar and having a system for tasks that need to get done in both work and home is a big help there. I block both personal space and work things that need to happen – otherwise I’m likely to schedule calls over them. And also, sometimes you are in a season where things are busy and crazy. That’s OK. I try to lean into those now instead of feeling bad about them – and also to recognize when it’s gone too far and it has become permanent and not a season. That’s key too!
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
So you hear a lot of people talking about setting boundaries and saying no. It’s good advice but when you are just starting – SAY YES! Say yes to everything so that you learn what you do and don’t like and get to learn every area of your business. You never know what might surprise you.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We are continuing to grow and work with amazing, emerging brands. I’m exploring ways to help authors and personal brands build their own PR programs, since they often do not have the budget to hire an agency and there are lots of things they can do on their own. Generally we want to keep doing what we love: creating validation and earned media opportunities for brands, organizations and people we believe in!