Women Who Rock: Ally + Carina of Park Avenue Communications
TGIF friends! It may be the friday of a long weekend but I want to help keep you motivated over the weekend and kick things into high gear by sharing another installment of Women Who Rock. This time, I'd like to introduce you to two ladies who I've had the pleasure of getting to know over the past year, Carina and Ally of Park Avenue Communications.
I have a ton of respect for these two women. Not only have they started their own communications firm, they're active in the community, they put a high priority on living a healthy and active lifestyle and they happen to be incredibly kind and supportive as well. That's pretty much a killer combo in my books.
I think it's amazing how these two ladies have come together to build a brand and company that is making waves in Edmonton and beyond. So without further ado, here's a little girl power motivation and words of wisdom, courtesy of Carina and Ally!
1. Tell me a little bit about PAC, how did the two of you decide to go into business together?
A: Carina and I met in university. My background was in psychology and Carina’s was in politics. We both returned to post-secondary for further education and ended up meeting while getting our bachelor’s degree in communications.
We were fortunate to get consulting experience (course-mandated) while we were still in university. We found that we worked incredibly well together and had simultaneously found our passion in running projects and essentially being our own boss in the field of communications.
C: We were also lucky to have a few really excellent professors at MacEwan University, where we did our bachelor’s degree. They put the idea in our heads of going into business together, and encouraged us to pursue the entrepreneurial path. I think they recognized the natural teamwork through the projects that Ally and I worked on. It’s not always easy to find someone who counter-balances your strengths and weaknesses so well — areas that Ally excels in are areas that I would consider my weaknesses and vice versa.
2. I loved your post on entrepreneurship - when times get hard, how do you push through and stay motivated to keep going?
A: Well luckily, I have people around me that are very supportive of what I do. I don’t think I would be able to be a business owner otherwise. When times get tough, I turn to my partner or my immediate family for that extra push that we all need sometimes.
C: I would echo Ally’s sentiments about having a strong support system. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing without my partner and the incredible support that he’s been to me.
As Ally and I have quickly discovered, owning a business is an emotional rollercoaster. You invest everything into the business, so when it’s not having a good day, you aren’t either. When I’m feeling discouraged and need to re-motivate myself, I think of the alternative (working for someone else) and it reminds me why I chose this lifestyle and to keep moving forward.
3. Do you have any tips for finding that elusive work/life balance?
A: Oh boy, this conversation happens a lot in my household ha ha. I think balance means different things for different people and it comes and goes at different times of the year.
I think the key to balance is just always being cognoscente of your current wellbeing and happiness. Not everyone is an introspective person but being aware of your strengths and weaknesses regarding an issue like this is really important.
If you are in a time of the year that having a work/life balance isn’t attainable, find even small moments throughout the day to re-wire and decompress.
C: I have always struggled with this, and part of that is growing up in an age of technology when the expectation of communication is immediate. I have a very hard time not checking emails, not responding to texts or social media, and not answering my phone. I try to be cognizant that many work in a nine to five environment, so just because I am still working at 9pm on a Tuesday, doesn’t mean everyone else is.
It’s also important to find some way to unwind and turn your mind off at least once a day. For Ally and me, it’s safe to say this usually takes the form of daily exercise. Since this is one of our shared values, we both respect this time for each other and accept that this is normally a “do not disturb” time.
For me, I usually try to take one day a week (typically Saturdays) where I am on my phone/computer as little as possible. This at least gives me one day to semi-disconnect from everything.
4. For each of you, what is your biggest challenge with running your own business?
A: For me, it is more of the “shit no one tells you about” kind of stuff. Brand strategy- we can do that all day. We love it and we are good at it, but it’s the things that only experience teaches you that are the real challenges in business. It’s important tasks like managing client expectations or how to run a really great meeting. It’s also tasks like managing cash flow and determining the best pricing strategy. Running a business isn’t just doing the work you are great at but also doing things that are really boring, really challenging, and downright hard to figure out.
C: I would agree with Ally. Even if you have a business degree, there is a lot that you don’t learn in school about how to run a business. You need some sort of entrepreneur 101, and even then there are still so many curve balls that will get thrown at you! I always struggle with finding the time to run the day-to-day business things (like social media, invoicing, administrative tasks) on top of all the client work. If you can find great people to help you run the business so you can focus on the work, that is invaluable.
5. For each of you, what is your greatest reward with running your own business?
A: I love the small wins that happen on a day-to-day basis, and knowing the only reason they came to fruition was directly because of the work put into it. Running a business is hard but you can’t help but beam when your work has an impact on the clients you work with. That is the best part of what I do.
C: I really value clients who respect what we do and look to us for advice and guidance to improve their own businesses. It’s incredibly rewarding when you receive positive feedback from folks who appreciate the time and effort that you’ve put into a project, and you know that you’ve helped them with their business.
The freedom to be your own boss and make all the decisions is also hugely rewarding for me.
6. What would be your biggest piece of advice to women looking to start their own business?
A: Before starting your own business, I would think about why it is that you truly want to. Entrepreneurship is extremely hard and I don’t think that it is for everyone. If you have done your research, talked with friends and family, and determined your critical path from idea to opening the doors, then I would say go for it. But just mentally prepare yourself (and those closest to you) for the hardships that are to come and the support you will need along the way.
C: Make sure you have a plan and follow it to the best of your ability. It’s good to be flexible, but without clarity and direction you will flail, and the likelihood of success is lower. I would look to your network for guidance, advice, and support. If you don’t have a large network, then spend some time building it up. A lot of our success is due to the contacts that we were able to build up and the support they gave us. I would also look to the community of business owners in Edmonton (or wherever you might live). It may seem intimidating, but you’d be surprised about the positive response you will get just from reaching out for help from a few other entrepreneurs. They’ve been there, they know what you’re going through, and they will be more than happy to help.
7. Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
A: Well, brand-related I have lots.
“A great product is the minimum expectation of a brand;” “a good brand tells stories, a great brand inspires them;” “exist to create preference”— the list goes on and on.
But personally, the quote that speaks to me the most is “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I think that it applies to every aspect of life.
C: I have different quotes that have impacted me at different times throughout my life depending on what I was going through, but two that stick with me are: “in a world where you can be anything, be yourself,” which was from a Nike advertisement in the late 90s; and “it is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” That one comes from Franklin D. Roosevelt.