Ellie Somerville McNevin is the founder of the boutique public relations firm, Gray & Co. Consulting. Prior to founding Gray & Co, Ellie worked at Charleston Weddings, Lonny, Architectural Digest, Luxe Interiors + Design, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Veranda magazines. Ellie has fantastic advice on starting a business, public relations, passion, cultivating inspiration, and more. She also has actionable advice that I want to start implementing right away.
What inspired you to start Gray & Co.?
I wish I could say that I had a very clear plan for Gray & Co. from the start, but the fact is that it evolved over time in a very organic way. My background is in editorial, and when I made the move to Charleston from New York, I knew I wanted to start my own business. I sort of let clients dictate what their needs were before making any kinds of decisions and gave myself time to learn what I enjoyed most and where I could really add to the existing market. With that information at hand I decided to move forward with Gray & Co. (before it was officially a business I was working as a consultant with local brands) and am thrilled to offer boutique public relations and consulting services in a more official capacity.
How would you explain Gray & Co.’s mission in a few sentences?
I spent a lot of time thinking about the Gray & Co. mission and actually have the full mission statement listed on the website, but to sum it up, I would say the goal is to offer a personalized approach to public relations, working to be in the right place at the right time in order to connect our clients to rare and exciting opportunities. I would add that I love working with smaller companies and helping grow their brands through national brand awareness.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start her own business?
Don’t think that the first business idea you come up with is what you’ll necessarily end up doing. Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur, but I have been testing different business ideas for years, and I’ve finally found the one that works for me. Even Gray & Co. has evolved drastically in its first year.
Starting a business is a constant learning experience, so always keep pushing yourself, but also be willing to ride the wave.
You previously worked at magazines and publications such as Lonny, Architectural Digest, Sous Style, Luxe Interiors + Design, and Hearst Design Group. What were your roles at those organizations?
I was a market editor with the majority of the publications I worked with, so I got lots of press releases and pitches and learned quickly what types of outreach worked and what didn’t. It’s my understanding of the flip side of the industry that gives me an edge in public relations. Additionally, since I was generally focused on products during my time in editorial, most of my clients are makers or retailers, as I’m pretty comfortable with that world.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
Nothing. Blissful ignorance is kind of a gift when you’re starting out in any career. When you’re fueled by passion and not by information, you barely notice the late nights in the office, coffee runs in the rain, or early morning meetings. It’s much more fun to learn it all as you experience it.
What are your plans for 2015?
One thing owning my own company has taught me is that good things take time. Once I’m onto something I usually like to see it happen right away, but I’ve made mistakes that way and am learning to slow down and work towards bigger goals.
In the next year I’m hoping to get an office downtown with a friend which would be a great way to bounce ideas off each other and would serve as an ideal location for client meetings.
As my business grows, I have also learned that there are certain things that I am really good at and other areas where I could really use help, so I’m hoping to hire someone this year whose skill sets complement mine and who can help me take Gray & Co. to the next level.
What advice would you give to someone who is in the first five years of her career?
Work hard, meet everyone you can, and be nice. Your reputation and network outweighs experience at this point in your career.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Given that as a culture we’re always connected, and as a business owner I’m perpetually glued to my phone and email, I generally find inspiration when I turn my phone off for the day. (It takes planning ahead, and I only do it on the weekends, but well worth it!)
Without the constant distractions, I find that I’m able to think deeper and more broadly about the work that I’m doing, and where I want to take my business. I often come up with really unique solutions or ideas for clients during this time because I’m able to give the issues at hand some serious thought.
Who is your mentor?
My uncle, the original “Gray,” is a great mentor. He lives nearby and offers great resources for entrepreneurs in the Charleston area. Earlier this year, I took his Entrepreneur Boot Camp classes and I learned so much that I’m ready to go back from round two just to soak it all in!
What is a fun fact about you?
I swear by Vitamin B! A friend recommended it to me a few months ago, and it really helps with sustaining energy throughout the day. Very important when you have your own company.
What is your favorite quote?
There are so many to choose from! I guess for this stage in my life and career, the quote that most resonates is, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts” by Winston Churchill.
Thank you, Ellie! Be sure to follow along on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter.
All images are courtesy of Ellie Somerville McNevin and Gray & Co.
P.S. Thank you so much to Courtney for making the introduction!