Kristin Marquet is the founder and creative director of Creative Development Agency, a small public relations firm based in New York City. The business works with fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands to build their sales funnel via influencer marketing, social media marketing, and digital, print, and broadcast PR. Marquet also runs Fem Founder, a service that helps fellow entrepreneurs build and nurture their businesses.
From Job Loss to Six-Figure Business Owner in One Year
How did you get started running your own business?
I am from New Jersey. I studied English literature in college. I worked as the head of PR and marketing for an international law firm for about a year. I left there and worked for a big consulting firm for four years. Then, the financial crisis happened and I lost my job because all of our projects came to a stop and the whole New York office was shut down. They gave me a good six months to figure out what my next move was going to be. I said to myself, “I can either go get a job or I can try to parlay this one client that I have into a full-time business.” That one freelance client I had gave me referrals. So, I was very fortunate to build my business that way. From there, I was able to build a website and start doing some local PR for the business. I started doing some social media marketing and, ultimately, built out my brand. I also became a contributor for Inc. and Entrepreneur. My first year was my first six-figure year. It took me by surprise! From there, I just kept scaling.
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Managing Business Finances
What kind of initial investment did you make in the business? How do you manage your finances overall?
Before I decided to really put my all into it, I took a small portion of my savings to learn how to code and build my own website. That’s essentially how it started. I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t had to take on any outside loans. I was able to put the money I was making back into growing the business.
I use credit cards for things like office supplies or if I’m meeting a client for lunch. Checks for things like our rent and the bigger overhead expenses like insurance and salaries are cut from our business savings account. It’s a good thing that we have a line of credit now just in case one month a client decides to take a little longer to pay.
I have a bookkeeper who helps keep things organized on a month-to-month basis. For the larger things like taxes, I have an accountant and a tax attorney.
Business Challenges and Rewards
What’s been the most challenging part of running your own business?
The hardest thing about running the company for me is the balance of keeping a consistent pipeline of clients and being able to execute for our existing clients. Unfortunately, a lot of our contracts are three months, six months, or a year. After the initial contract, clients go month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter. Our clients turn over about one time a year. It’s hard to keep everyone happy while trying to also qualify leads and manage everyone’s expectations.
You work a lot of hours when you own a business, but you get to work from home when you can. You do get to pick and choose which projects you want to work on and what clients you want to work with. It wasn’t always like that, though. The first couple of years I had to take whatever came my way.
Also, I know it sounds like a platitude, but you’re only as good as your team. I’m very fortunate to have the girls I have because they have a great work ethic, they work well together, and they actually listen to one and other.
Business Lessons Learned
Is work-life balance a struggle?
When I was first starting out, I felt the need to take on any project that came my way for scalability purposes. The first year, I grew very quickly. I came from a corporate background, so I didn’t have the foresight or wherewithal to know how to scale a business. The first year, I worked around the clock like a crazy person. I was trying to make everyone happy. I learned from a lot of trial and error to focus on quality not quantity.
I would tell others not to let your business get in the way of your personal life, because you only get one of those. My husband and I are going on our fifth anniversary. We went to Europe for two weeks for our honeymoon. During that time, I had to see clients in Paris and Milan and he had to see clients in London. In hindsight, we both wish we hadn’t had done that. It was difficult for a long time, but we learned how to work it out, and now I don’t work nearly as much as I used to!
At the beginning of the company, I was really persistent. For a lot of entrepreneurs, if they’re not seeing results in the first month or the first quarter, they decide they’re going to look for a job or find a new project. The first month when I was doing freelance work, I didn’t have a referral. But the second month, I did. If I had given up during that first month, I would probably be in some corporate position now and that’s not what I want.
Advice for New Entrepreneurs
Any advice for people just starting out on their own?
Be persistent. Test the market. Be sure there is a demand for what you’re going to offer. When you’re going to market, your product or service doesn’t need to be innovative – It just needs to be unique or different in some way, though it doesn’t have to be diametrically different than what’s out there. And you have to be slightly better than your competition. That’s really what it comes down to.
What’s Next for Creative Development Agency?
We just recently launched a new department called Media Launchpad, which is essentially a media matchmaking service for fashion and beauty brands. Since we focus on fashion, beauty and lifestyle, we know that those smaller emerging brands are always looking to get into national press or to collaborate with influencers. I decided to put this platform together for them. We just finished beta August 1, so we’re going to be going public with it in September.
Image Courtesy of Kristin Marquet
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