Advocacy PR Specialization Thought Leadership

Start Making Cents: Starting a Firm During Economic Downturns

Editor’s Note: Throughout this week, we will be featuring PRSA members who also happen to be entrepreneurs, running their own PR firms or consultancies. We’ve asked our guest bloggers to provide insight into the realities of running an agency and how others can get started. Janet Tyler, APR, president of Detroit-based Airfoil Public Relations, kicks off our series.

Prior to launching Airfoil Public Relations, my partner and I worked together at another firm where we had launched and nurtured a technology practice that grew 100 percent over the course of three years.

Through this experience, I came to understand two significant things that would ultimately make my life and my career fulfilling beyond imagination: first, that my partner and I were very successful at complementing and maximizing each other’s talents and business instincts; and second, that we would need to strike out on our own to fully capitalize upon those strengths.

We also shared a desire to simply have fun doing what we love, and realized we needed to create our own space where we and our team would have the freedom to do that.

So, nearly 11 years ago we did it. We set up shop with five employees, a modest office, a white board and great aspirations of becoming a technology public relations firm of respect and renown.

And we never looked back.

This is actually quite a remarkable thing when you consider that just 60 days after launching our firm, the entire technology world imploded when the infamous dot-com bubble burst. As hard as it was, those dark early days were a gift — they dictated and cemented not only Airfoil’s financial discipline but also the simple values that have kept us steady as the technology marketplace has rebounded and receded multiple times.

These same processes and priorities are the assets that have allowed us to innovate, achieve and succeed through the years, and most notably, through the recent global economic crisis.

Starting up was most certainly a huge risk and challenge — particularly in our industry at that point in time. But I would take the gratification of setting up and fulfilling our own business vision over the passive “success” of working to achieve someone else’s vision, time and again.

Apparently, if you’re contemplating a PR venture of your own, there’s no time like the present: Inc. magazine recently named “public relations firms” as one of the “Best Industries for Starting a Business” over the next five years. I couldn’t agree more.

For those wondering whether “this” is their time to start their own firm, I say it just might be!

Janet C. Tyler, APR, is president of Detroit-based Airfoil Public Relations, which specializes in technology, automotive and green public relations. For more insight on how you can start your own PR firm, check out the PRSA 2011 Counselors Academy Spring Conference May 13-15 in Las Vegas.

About the author

Janet C. Tyler, APR


  • This post is invigorating! I started my own communications/design firm six months ago, and haven’t looked back since. I have not feel this alive, this creative, this challenged, in years. There are many naysayers who think it is crazy to go out on my own now, but there has never been a greater need for messaging that cuts through the clutter and an integrated strategy to reach audiences.
    Amy K. Harbison, Open Window Creative Strategies

  • Janet — excellent article capturing all the emotion of starting a firm. Thanks for sharing your insights.

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