Erika Taylor Montgomery is the CEO of Three Girls Media, a marketing agency that delivers social media marketing, content marketing, and public relations to clients across many industries. Montgomery started the business when she decided she would never allow an employer to dictate her schedule again, causing her to miss out on important family events. Now, Three Girls Media offers a flexible work environment that lets all employees put family first.
Why did you start your company?
Right out of college, my career was broadcasting. I was on-air in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years on both radio and television. The last 10 years of my broadcasting career, I did morning shows. I was up by 2 a.m. and had to be at the studio by 4 or 5 a.m. It was a tough schedule to have with a young family. I started looking at career options where I could use my skills that I learned in the media, but not necessarily as a member of the media. I fell upon public relations and literally started cold calling public relations agencies in Silicon Valley. I fell upon one called PRX. The CEO had me come in that day for an interview and hired me on the spot. I started at the bottom of the food chain and worked my way up within a couple of years to director of media relations.
I’m the type of person who always likes to be growing and learning and challenged. It got to a point where I really felt that I had learned everything that I could learn at that agency. So, I decided to become a press secretary for the California State Legislature. I did that for a couple of years and ultimately decided I could not stomach politics anymore.
At that point, I was at a crossroads. I knew I could go back to another PR agency and work 70-80 hours per week for somebody else, or I could do something different. I never wanted to be in a position again where I was told, “You can’t go to your son’s cello concert because we need you here for this work project.” I decided to be my own boss and not have people dictating my schedule. So, I decided to launch Three Girls Media.
How did you fund the business at the start?
I used a $3,000 loan from a friend, which allowed me to subscribe to a media database that was crucial for my business to get started. With the very first client, I was able to repay that loan. We’ve been very fortunate to not have to rely on loans ever again. We’ve managed to fly on our own and to be successful financially, so I feel really blessed in that regard.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
We have an amazing CFO who also happens to be my husband. He manages all the money. Most of our clients are billed on a monthly basis. We generally have credit cards on file that we charge on a regular monthly schedule. Otherwise, my CFO takes care of all our corporate governance and our taxes and our payroll and our cash flow coming in and paying whatever outstanding bills we have.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
Needing to constantly be in sales mode and searching for new clients to bring in the door. It’s time-consuming, but it has to be done for the health and livelihood of the business. It’s the biggest challenge and something that I literally work on every single day.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
Two things are most rewarding. One is being able to help businesses shine. We’re able to help them with their marketing to look good for their consumers. It’s a really good feeling knowing that we’re providing a service that’s valuable to other companies. The other thing is knowing that I’m supporting a team of employees. I’m responsible for their livelihood and many of the things they do in their lives, like buy homes or send their children to private schools. Because of the jobs they have with Three Girls Media, we’re able to help them and their families financially, which is a good feeling.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made at the start?
When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I brought on a business partner very early in the life of the business. That ended up being an almost fatal mistake for the company. We ended up disagreeing about how things should be run. In one day she closed out all of our bank accounts and tried to fire the entire staff to close down the business. If you are going to bring a partner on in your business, always make sure that you are the majority stakeholder in the business so that you have control. Be very wary of who you go into business with.
What’s the smartest thing you did at the start?
From the outset, we haven’t specialized in a particular industry. We work with companies in any industry. That has opened us up to a greater pool of potential clients, and it keeps things really interesting. We could be working one hour of the day with a client in the hospitality industry, and then we could be working with someone in food service, and then we could be working with someone in health and beauty. It’s certainly lively!
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Look for good mentors. It’s one thing that I did very early on. I looked for other people who had started their own successful businesses. They were a tremendous resource for me when I came upon certain situations that I didn’t know how to handle in the beginning years of my business.
What’s next for Three Girls Media?
We’ve been in business for 13.5 years, and I’m very much looking forward to hitting that 15-year milestone. We’re always looking to expand our client base and to hire new team members. We’re always learning from our clients and perfecting what we do and how we do it.