Boss Lady is a series by Social Stylate that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Recently, we talked to Sabina Ptacin-Hitchen, co-founder of Tin Shingle, an online community and resource created to help small businesses and entrepreneurs by giving them educational tools and the content they need grow awareness for their brand.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I like to tell people that if entrepreneurship was a drug, I would be its pusher. I’m an entrepreneur, a small business expert, a business coach and a big believer that life is not a dress rehearsal so you might as well do all you can to do what you love and are passionate about, professionally speaking. After all, you spend so many hours of your life working, you best enjoy it! I myself am co-founder of Tin Shingle the small business community and resource. Prior to that I started and ran Red Branch Public Relations where we focused on entrepreneurs and lifestyle products/services. Many moons before that I was actually a high school teacher! I think I’m living proof that the universe will eventually lead you to exactly where you are meant to be, and usually knows what it’s up to along the way.
What prompted you to start your own PR firm, Red Branch PR, and then Tin Shingle?
Had you told me 10 years ago I’d be a business owner I’d have looked at you like you’re crazy. That said, I moved to New York in my twenties, I felt some sort of gravitational pull here and that I had to be here. I ended up falling into a job in public relations (for which I literally had to Google “what is public relations”). Long story short I fell in love with the industry and the media world, and within a year had started my own agency. That was nearly ten years ago! Before I knew it I was an entrepreneur and instantly felt “THIS, this running my own business and this world of entrepreneurship, THIS is what I should be doing”. As I began meeting more and more business owners around the country I started seeing that so many were good with their craft, their niche of business, but they were unable to figure out the “buzz building” end of their business, namely public relations, social media, online marketing, SEO…Along the way I met my business partner/small business soul mate Katie Hellmuth-Martin (a website/SEO pro) and she confirmed my feelings. There simply wasn’t a good place online where business owners could learn and get tools to get the word out about their businesses, and if people don’t know your business exists, no matter how good you are at what you do, it will not survive. We wanted to make those necessities accessible and affordable to all small business owners, and since we couldn’t it anywhere, we decided to create it ourselves, and Tin Shingle was born. We’re really trying to democratize those tools for everyone! Working in a community of business owners is a powerful experience and every day I wake up grateful!
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of PR as an industry?
I love the fact that the industry is so fast, never boring, and the days fly by. I love working with the media, I love all of the behind the scenes action that goes into creating a story or segment, and I love growing a brand. Watching our clients go from virtual unknowns to the next big things, and then the big things, was awesome. On the downside, the job can be 24/7 and is high stress/high pressure. That said, all of those pluses and minuses really helped me prepare for the life of an entrepreneur!
What inspires you?
Musts for me to stay inspired…
My daily walk where I unplug and take myself away from directly thinking about work – that’s often when the best ideas are born! It’s also good to look at something other than my computer all day long. There are so many places in Brooklyn that have become home to the moments when I finally break through on a challenge or come up with an idea that we turn into a Tin Shingle tool or resource.
Meditation – I’m a work in progress as far as meditation is concerned, but I do find that quieting my mind and body for a good 20 minutes or so a day to meditate can be a game-changer.
Other entrepreneurs – I love reading success stories and tips from other business owners, big and small.
Reading – everything from business and marketing books to historical nonfiction to magazines to trashy beach reads. I find the moment I dive into a book my inspiration kicks into overdrive.
Pinterest & Instagram – I’ve become rather obsessed lately with both.
What advice do you have for those looking to have a career in PR or run their own business?
The worlds of small business and PR each share skills you have to possess in order to survive and thrive: Be able to work hard. I don’t mean 9-7 hard I mean weekends at times, nights, and so forth. Be organized. Be able to explain what sets you (or a client) apart from the competition. Be able to get to the point, and fast. Create authentic and long-term relationships: success in both PR and small business are so dependent upon relationships and the communities you invest time and energy in. In terms of small business specifically: Don’t be afraid to do your day job while working hard in the background to get your your dream job off the ground. I know plenty of highly successful entrepreneurs who have done this. Like the song lyrics go, “sometimes love just ain’t enough”. Beyond a lot of passion for something you have to be ready to understand the business side, know what your revenue streams are going to be, manage your overhead and so forth. Don’t be afraid to go for it. The best things come to those who try, and the world is always ready and will make room for the next big [whatever you want to be] as long as you are willing to work for it and do it exceptionally well, while staying true to your unique brand.
Just for fun…
If you could have a dinner party with 5 people, living or dead, who would you invite?
Hilary Clinton, Mindy Kaling, my mom, Richard Branson, Ari Emanuel.
What is your favorite thing about living in New York?
The hustle, attitude and energy to go and get yours that is palpable and always pulsing here. It’s like advanced placement life and you’re always working to do better, compete harder…I enjoy that and thrive in that sort of environment. I also love that you can basically get anything, at anytime night or day, from food to shopping to entertainment. Can’t beat it!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I hate to consider any kind of pleasure guilty…I think feeling good means doing good, in business and in life! Things that make me feel good outside of work? I love to indulge in watching a series staycation-style at home with my husband and some takeout food. Our latest favorite was House of Cards. Okay and I won’t lie, I watch Bravo when I’m on the treadmill. It’s like having a front row seat at a circus.