If you’re active on Instagram, chances are you’ve liked lots of photos by entrepreneur, publicist, and social media enthusiast Katie Sturino. The brains and bod behind The 12ish Style, her site exploring “style for size 12ish – 18ish girls living in a size 2 world” — as well as human mom of TOAST MEETS WORLD™, the famous floppy-tongued puppy mill rescue — Katie knows a thing or two about how to blow up brands online. Her fashion accessory PR firm “was Tinder before it was Tinder, but now everyone thinks I’m that Tinder.” Sharing the same trade name as a popular dating app notwithstanding, Katie makes her own connections promoting her clients’ small businesses, finding that she feels successful only when they are.
Wanting to offer that same boost to everyone, Katie is passionate about creating a safe space for body positive messaging. “For me, it’s less about selling clothes than it is about selling confidence to women,” she explains, “And making sure they know they are good just the way they are.” With the help of her two other canine kids Muppet and Pants, and alongside The Shelter Pet Project, Katie uses her expertise to encourage the adoption of lovable shelter animals awaiting forever homes around the country. “You have to pay it forward!” —Annie
Photography courtesy of Katie Sturino
Why did you decide to start your own business?
WHICH BUSINESS?! Lol. For the past eight years I have been running my own PR business. I started out on my own after a few years of working in the industry and realizing that while I loved the actual work of public relations (helping companies grow, pitching stories, etc.), the environments were often toxic. I knew I wanted to work in a kinder, healthier space… so I created it! My father is an entrepreneur; that probably has something to do with always feeling that I can do things on my own and be my own boss. My other business is the The 12ish Style, formed out of the happy discovery that other women feel the same way about their bodies that I do. Both businesses are very near to my heart!
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what it would be?
As someone who does PR for small businesses, my role is always changing. I become like a partner in the business, working through whatever needs to be handled even if it falls out of the scope of traditional PR. That is what you learn working with small businesses — there is no hard line on job descriptions! I end up caring so much about my client, and their success is my success, so I end up taking calls at midnight or meeting on a Saturday. It’s a 24/7 job, but I love it. As for The 12ish Style, I am still figuring out the business plan. For me, it’s less about selling clothes than it is about selling confidence to women and making sure they know they are good just the way they are.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
For The 12ish Style, it was be authentic.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
I think people are unaware of the things you have to take on when you run your own business. I am everything from the HR department to the CFO. I have to deal with weird tax rules and hiring and firing and promotion. It is a lot of hustle.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Trust your gut. It is always right.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience?
Stay in your lane! Do what you do and do it well. When I have tried to venture outside of my traditional client channels, it has been a struggle.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
Definitely being on 24/7. If you work for a major company, oftentimes when you leave the office you can punch out (unless you live in NYC — I feel like people here never stop), but working with small businesses means never punching out.
What business books and resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
The best resources I have found have been IRL [in real life] conversations with other people who have gone through it. For instance, talking with Stacy London a few weeks ago about The 12ish Style was beyond valuable. Stacy is so successful and I would never have thought that she would be giving me advice, but people are so willing to help if you ask. But you have to pay it forward! When someone tries to connect with you, do it.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Do you have the time?
2. Are you a self-starter?
3. Can you focus?
4. Can you work alone?
That’s four, but I think each is critical. Running your own business is tough and it sounds glamorous to be able to be in charge of your own schedule, but people need to consider that when you are the boss, it all falls on you. I didn’t even unplug during my honeymoon.