It has been said that showing up to meet life head-on is half the battle. The founder of Danika Daly PR and her own educational workshop series, Danika Daly didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur, but embraced the opportunity as it unfolded. She originally thought she’d help people as a healthcare professional, but instead found the public relations industry an ideal match for her career goals. A job transition and relocation found Danika with a full roster of freelance clients who wanted to make the move with her, and it was then she “realized it was pretty much a full business already.” Her work in “brand management, social media strategy, event planning, digital campaigns, content creation, brand collaborations, and more for fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and tech brands” also earned her the attention of Adweek, who named her as one of the 30 Under 30 in PR for 2015.
With a solid science education in her back pocket, Danika still loves keeping up with the latest electronic advances. This investment facilitated the recent launch of an online version of her course Fashion PR Confidential to help “aspiring publicists get their foot in the industry door, entry-level publicists who want to brush up on their skills, [and] entrepreneurs who want to DIY their own PR.” Danika has been able to pull from her unique experience, knowledge, and toolbox to offer services that only she can. In this case, staying true to one’s diverse interests has helped shape the evolution of a successful small business. —Annie
Photography by Jinna Yang
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Starting my business happened organically, it wasn’t my plan initially. I was leaving a job and moving to a different city, and one of my bosses encouraged me to start my own company and gave me pointers. I felt like I was too young, being only 24 years old at the time. However, a few days before my last day on the job, acquaintances and friends of friends were calling me with freelance opportunities. I did freelance work for a while, and realized it was pretty much a full business already. So I then created branding, a website, and did all the official business things, thus Danika Daly PR was born in 2011.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what it would be?
I’d worked in different areas of PR, but ultimately ended up in fashion and beauty at my previous job after expressing my interest in those clients. While working on freelance PR projects I was also a freelance writer for several fashion/beauty/lifestyle-focused editorial sites, which gave me the opportunity to interview interesting people, and attend Fashion Week shows and other industry events. This helped steer me to my clients and guided my strategy. I also love the tech space, and have branched out into working with tech startups, mostly in the fashion space, but also some that are more science-focused, too. Fun fact: I have a Science minor.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Don’t undervalue yourself. This is gold because a lot of times when starting out you want to do everything really inexpensively so people will work with you. Sometimes even pro bono. With the right client, it’s okay to do this for a very limited time. But once you have that footing, don’t continue to undervalue your work. Charge clients for the value you’re providing them.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
I was very fortunate to get referrals from the very beginning, but the most difficult part was selling myself. I didn’t know how to talk about my accomplishments or myself because I felt I wouldn’t be taken seriously because of my age (which only worked against me once). As my client roster grew and I realized that it’s okay to be proud of your achievements and talk about them, I had much more confidence to speak up.
How did you finance your business in the beginning?
I saved money while working my previous job and freelancing, so despite not planning to start the company, I had money saved, which ended up funding the wee beginnings. I kept overhead and starter costs to a minimum and limited myself to what I needed. My parents were kind enough to contribute to the cost of my media database subscription and building my first website, which helped tremendously! The money I had allotted for that was able to go to other things. For anyone who is currently working a 9-5, and wants to take the leap into starting their own business — save, save, save! In addition to having money saved to start your company, you should also have at least six months of bills saved in an emergency savings account. That account will be a godsend while you build up your business and during slower periods.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Just like anything in life, there will be good days and bad days. It’s important to be grateful for all of it. Enjoy the good days. Celebrate accomplishments. Roll through the punches the bad days are throwing, and then learn from them.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience?
Not getting a client I really want usually feels like a failure, but that’s the nature of the business, since companies talk to several agencies to find their best fit. I had to learn not to take it personally.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
Since I started my business early in my career, I didn’t feel like I needed to sacrifice anything major per se. I’m doing something I love doing, and though I don’t have a clock-in/clock-out time as I would if I worked for someone, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It’s just natural because I enjoy it.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experience?
I celebrate any success, whether it’s landing an incredible press placement, or just seeing my clients’ brands growing under my watch. I love [seeing] their numbers increase. It’s all very rewarding. I would say one thing that I’m still really excited about is having been chosen as an ADWEEK “30 Under 30” in PR for 2015.
What business books and resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
I constantly read business articles online on Entrepreneur, Forbes, and other business sites and their corresponding print magazines. Some business books I highly recommend are: The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and The Ethics of Creativity by Seana Moran.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Do something you’re passionate about because as an entrepreneur, your business becomes your life.
2. Save up before starting your business because there are a lot of starter costs involved.
3. Nail your branding. Good branding matched with a good product/service will take you far.