Test Drive My Job: Amy Kauffman, Co-Founder of BlueBird PR in Dallas

amandamogul1Name: Amy Kauffman, 23, on the right

(with BBPR partner Kristen Kouk, left)

Current City: Dallas, Texas

Company: BlueBird Public Relations
Founder, Partner
Est. Oct. 2008

Mopwater: Describe your path to PR. What made you want to get into the field?

AK: While I didn’t “fall into the PR field” so to speak, I did take an interesting route. Sometimes you have to figure out what you DON’T want to do before you find what you DO find value in pursuing.

I was originally a Nutrition major when I went to The University of Texas at Austin and I quickly realized (after a brutal organic chem class) that being a dietitian was not the career path I wanted to take. If I didn’t enjoy learning and executing the material then, I knew that there was no way it would help me lead a fulfilling life down the road. So when I took some time and thought about my true passions I realized my whole life I have always loved writing and communications; always enjoyed literature, was the PR Class Officer for our high school, spent time writing for a newspaper and also sold their ad space. After taking time to reflect on this, I decided to apply to the Communications School. I knew I had no interest in being a journalist, but decided that Public Relations was the way to go. I am so blessed that I made the decision and was true to myself even though there was a possibility of not getting into the school, graduating late and an unspoken pressure to not change majors.

Mopwater: What were you doing prior to launching your business?

AK: I spent time in Austin as the Director of PR for Texas Campus Compact, a state-wide education nonprofit and my last position was leading the communications at a start up advertising/media agency in Dallas.

Mopwater: What kind of clients does your company serve and what services do you provide?

AK: Right now we are serving small to medium sized organizations from very diverse industries; entertainment and retail to industry machining and nonprofits.  We help build our clients’ brand and image assisting with internal and external communication; help build awareness through traditional and non traditional media and form partnerships with sponsors for events and charitable causes.

Mopwater: Describe your office and workplace. How many co-workers do you have? Where, how, and how often do you collaborate with them?

AK: I have an office in my home in downtown Dallas which has proved to be a great location to start a company. I have one co-worker and partner, my friend, colleague and fellow UT alum Kristen Kouk. We collaborate multiple times daily both inside and outside of business hours. Since we are currently in different cities most of this communication is done over the Internet or phone, but we meet in person a minimum of twice a month. Kristen is a very talented, persistent and ambitious individual. We mesh and work together mostly due to the fact  that while we both have a passion for PR, we have different strengths and weaknesses, varying interests and dislikes so it makes our collaboration unique, well-rounded and feeds our creativity.

Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day?

AK: It is difficult to describe a “typical work day,” every day is different but I normally start my day early; take some time to work out, read the paper, PR/Business websites, watch some national news. I recently began journaling, thanks to the advice of a client, in the mornings to serve as a time line and bench mark for my thoughts going into each day. I set a few goals every day to stay focused on the larger agenda and this also helps with not getting lost in the addiction of emailing, my crackberry, social media and blogs (which is not always easy). Some days I may meet with potential clients or other public relations professionals, have a phone call with writers/bloggers or pitch current clients to various media outlets. Overall, I would say 60% of my day is planned and the other part changes daily based on new leads or people inquiring about BlueBird or one of our clients.

Mopwater: Describe a recent project where you produced results you were really proud of.

AK: We had a recent project with ShuAddikt, a new online designer shoe boutique offering services like complimentary personal stylists and private trunk shows. We partnered with a hot downtown venue for a “Stilettos and Sushi” event, launching the company locally. We earned coverage from D Magazine, Dallas Morning News’ Quick Magazine, other local publications, fashion sites and every woman’s favorite, Daily Candy. Besides the earned media, it was a large turnout and there was a Betsey Johnson shoe giveaway and gifts for all of our guests; just a great launch event. That project has caused industry publications to feature the company as well as other fashion and beauty magazines here in Dallas.

And looking forward, our next project we are very excited about is Texas Campus Compact’s Lobby Day at the Capitol in Austin, TX. We are organizing all the arrangements for media and will be present this Monday, March 9th to lobby for service learning and civic engagement at Texas schools and universities to help close the gap primarily among first generation students.

Mopwater: What is it like to work for yourself?

AK: Working for yourself is one of the most rewarding things I think someone can do. Waking up knowing that you can create the day and every day after that is an amazing feeling and the possibilities are virtually endless. One would think that it would get lonely and sure, some days I have no reason to leave a 5 foot radius, but I am constantly interacting; with my partner, different media, bloggers, clients, potential clients, local events, I actually have to make time for myself to read, spend time with family and keep that balance in my life.

Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks?

AK: Although I love pitching or getting a great lead, I’d have to say my favorite “task” and biggest reward is connecting people. It goes back to seeking out beneficial partnerships. Whether you meet someone through a networking event, research or have a random introduction,  I love having a new puzzle piece and seeing where it will fit down the road.

I don’t dread writing releases although there are definitely those moments of writers block. A client of ours, Tim Wackel, taught me a valuable lesson, “to respect, protect and direct my prime time.” So I am a morning person, and most creative during the first few hours of the day so this is when I schedule time to write releases, proposals or projects that require a little more thought and energy.

Mopwater: Since you just launched BlueBird in October, tell us what it’s been like to launch a business during such a deep recession.

AK: To be completely honest, I was not scared when I launched my company; I was (and am) extremely excited and saw all the opportunity and potential for a fresh new PR firm. There is a need for public relations, especially in a recession. This is a time where companies can get an edge over competitors and gain loyal clientele/customers through added value in their relationships. Of course there are those moments of worry, but you can never let fear consume you. I remain focused on the goals I know I am more than capable of achieving.

Mopwater: How has business been so far?

AK: Business has been very good these initial months, despite any “economic doom and gloom” that we all keep hearing about. We have established contacts and earned the business of companies and individuals who are passionate about and focused on their success and want BlueBird a part of that goal. More importantly, we have expanded our network of entrepreneurs and communications professionals; the people I have met in the past few months alone have been valuable business resources, mentors and a system of support and outlet for ideas.

Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about working at BBPR?

AK: My favorite thing is that I get to create and mold what BlueBird is and will be, again an amazing feeling to know that you can make, impact and have control of the mark you will leave in this world.

I believe Roy Spence described it best in a recent interview with the Austinist, “the thrill of life, at least in my experience, is to create something that was not there before […] You have a chance to build something that wasn’t there before – don’t give up, don’t give in, and get on with it.” Mr. Spence is dead on and a thought leader in the industry, I enjoy any of his material and insights. This was a great interview that actually also featured my partner, Kristen Kouk.

Mopwater: What do you wish was different about working at BBPR?

AK: This is simple, Kristen and I are actually working from two different cities. I can not wait for this to change in the next few months. The power of collaboration is such an important part of creativity and idea generation. We are amazing working together now; 1 + 1 definitely equals 3 or more.  I can only imagine how much our productivity level will increase once we are working from the same city, same office.

Mopwater: Do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 years? If not, where do you see yourself?

AK: I will definitely still be a part of BlueBird, but I do see myself pursuing other goals such as writing a cookbook and starting a nonprofit. I have other aspirations, but in five years, I’d say that’s a good projection of where I will be and what I will be working on.

Mopwater: When you decided to go out on your own, why did you choose a partnership instead of a sole proprietorship or single member LLC as your business legal structure?

AK: Initially it was a venture I was getting into on my own and had major hesitations about bringing in someone else so early on. I knew I had to be 100% sure that anyone that joins BlueBird had the passion, desire and commitment to be a part of a brand new company, and that is hard to come by. But, thanks to the perks of social media I now have a fabulous partner.

While Kristen was working with a small agency in California she saw that I had changed my Linkedin profile to “Owner of BlueBird Public Relations.” She immediately emailed me and asked for me to tell her more and inquired about how she could help and even sent me her resume. Kristen and I have actually known each other since our freshman orientation at The University of Texas and I was very aware of all her successes throughout college, her energy and passion for public relations and was most impressed that she reached out to me in a very selfless manner. It was a natural and mutual decision that we would build BlueBird together and I could not be happier with that decision.

Ogilvy always said to surround yourself with and hire giants; that’s exactly what I did.

Mopwater: What’s behind the name BlueBird Public Relations?

AK: The name BlueBird actually hit me when I wasn’t even thinking of names.  My Nana used to know everything (from my grades to my occasional mishaps) and she used to tell me that a bluebird flew to her window and told her all the news. I realized that the little “bluebird” knew the scoop and knew who to tell to get the word out, just like a great publicist. I knew this was the perfect fit and I  had to have my Nana’s mantra live on through my company name.

Mopwater: What aspects of the industry are you most excited about?

AK: I get my wind and energy from establishing partnerships for clients and telling their stories. Whether it is an earned piece in a local paper, national trade magazine or a getting a sponsor for an event or new relationship with a blogger, I love helping other passionate people communicate their message and reach an elevated potential for their company.

On my desk I have the very first piece of coverage I ever received framed as a constant reminder. It is about 300 words in the Austin American-Statesman, no mention of my name but it was my press release and I knew that I made that happen. Nothing is a better feeling than that. I look at it daily to remind myself that no matter how many hours it may take to draft releases or pitch stories  the end result of establishing relationships is worth that time and energy ten fold. Those 300 words to me is more than just a blurb in the paper, it is what this industry is all about.

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