The last few months, since starting this blog and getting my freelance career going, have been quite a learning experience. I’ve learned that running a business, no matter how small it is (just me!), can be all consuming. It can leave you zapped of energy but excited for more. I look at this business as my baby. I have to nurture it, pay attention to it, and give it all it needs to grow. I also whole heartedly believe in learning from other people’s experiences. They may not be able to prevent you from making your own mistakes along the way, but they can help you understand that mistakes are always part of the process. A few words of wisdom is sometimes all it takes to inspire you to move forward.
When I met Dyan Dolfi-Offutt, the owner of Soda Pop PR, at Create + Cultivate, and she poured over us all her amazing knowledge of public relations, I knew I had to know more about her path to starting and successfully running her own company. So when she agreed to do an interview for me, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Soda Pop PR is a boutique public relations firm based in Los Angeles. It specializes in food and beverage, hospitality, and lifestyle brands.
Can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to the public relations field?
My journey to public relations is not a straight line or a short story that’s for sure. I went to college at Ohio University where I studied Communications and Public Relations. Graduated in 4 years (plus one summer quarter where the only course I remember taking is “Tuscan Cooking”.) Most of my friends knew what they wanted to do post-college – tech, business, get married, etc. – but I wasn’t ready to settle down so I moved to Los Angeles. After a number of frustrating years living in L.A. with the title “Actress/Waitress”, I reached out to a buddy who owned an advertising firm. He had a few small projects that needed project management. It was first time in years that I felt confident. I was good at it and made things happen. That gig opened doors for me and over the next five years, I worked at some of the best PR firms in Los Angeles, all which specialized in travel, food and hospitality.
What inspired you to start your own PR firm?
Truthfully, it all stems from a few friends and mentors believing in me. It was never part of my “5 Year Plan” to own a PR firm. I was at a point in my career where it was sink or swim. Although I loved the people at my previous job, I was burnt out. My health was in the toilet due to stress and it was time to make a change. Around that time I was presented an opportunity to start my own PR shop. I know for most people the idea of opening their own firm would be more stressful but for me it was the opposite. It was liberating, exciting, and inspiring. It was just what I needed at the time.
I’m a food lover and I love that you focus your expertise on the food and beverage industry. What made you decide to focus it on that?
Food has always been one of my biggest passions. Growing up in an Italian family food played a defining role in my adolescence. Both my Mother and Nana were amazing cooks and used their talents to bring people together which left a big impression on me. I also worked in restaurants from thirteen to my mid-twenties with experience ranging from a dishwasher to banquet manager. Most importantly, it’s fun to promote! We work with great brands like Tillamook, Union Wine Co., Salt & Straw and QUIN who continue to do cool things. Not too shabby.
What is the most rewarding part of running your own business?
It’s hard to pick just one. Creating a healthy company culture feels really good. I love managing my team. Watching them grow and become PR powerhouses is the best feeling. I also take great pride in the work we do for our clients. I don’t mean for this to come across gross or braggadocios but the amount of thoughtful and quality work we produce with our small team continues to amaze me.
Have there been any roadblocks you’ve encountered since getting started? How did you get past it?
My biggest roadblock is my tendency to overthink. The responsibility that comes with owning a business can be overwhelming at times. At least once a month I’m convinced the rug will be pulled out from under me. When worry and negative thoughts creep in, I remember to breathe and focus on the present and continue to do good work. A good 90’s hip-hop dance party always helps too.
Can you share any words of wisdom for others who want to start their own company?
GO FOR IT but be prepared for your brand/company to become your biggest priority, especially in the start-up phase. Love what you do; it makes the long hours and time away from family and friends easier to digest. Don’t under value your talent or work just because you are a new or small company. Know your worth! Get comfortable with the fact that on a weekly or even daily basis you won’t have all the answers but it’s your job to figure shit out. You were brave enough to start your own business so remember – YOU GOT THIS!
What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day or week?
I’d love to sound well-rounded and cool and say something like go to Hotel Café to scout out new music or focus on my photography. I’m not that interesting. Because my schedule is full with travel, meetings and planning most of the time my favorite thing to do at the end of a long day or week is to just chill. I love stopping by Silver Lake Wine, picking up a great bottle of wine to enjoy with my husband at home. Happy hour or dinner with friends is always a treat as well.
Thank you so much, Dyan, it was truly an honor having you on my blog. I appreciate the words of wisdom and sneak peek of the public relations world.