It was just about a year ago that Teresa Coles casually asked me if I could stop by the WECO so she could run an idea past me. As we settled into the cozy comfort of the green room, I was a bit bowled over when she asked if – after nine years of owning my own public relations consulting firm – I would consider joining the team at Riggs Partners. And not just joining the team, but heading up a new division to add public relations to the agency’s already impressive suite of services.
To fully understand the shock, surprise and overwhelming sense of “Me? They want me?” I have to take you back to 1998. I was in my second job out of college, working as the Community Events Coordinator at Carolina Children’s Home, a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected children. As with most nonprofits, the children’s home often struggled with having the resources to produce the kind of materials that we needed to help us solicit community support. We heard that a local marketing firm was going to offer free services to area nonprofits, and applied to see if they would develop a brochure for the Home.
As you may have guessed, we were selected as one of the first nonprofits ever served by Riggs’ signature program, CreateAthon. What they probably saw as a small, simple, 8-page brochure was like gold to us. When we went to speak to civic organizations and potential corporate sponsors, we now had an attractive, professional piece that beautifully described our work and explained how our community could help us give our kids a better life.
Over the years, I had numerous opportunities to observe Riggs through our shared professional associations and connections. I attended open houses and parties in their old office on Lady Street. I dropped off snack foods and supplies one year for CreateAthon, just because. I cheered for them at industry awards shows, because it’s great to see good people do well. I even got a chance to be their client when I worked for another nonprofit in the early 2000s.
In 2011, I reached out to ask if I could volunteer at CreateAthon, and received a very enthusiastic call from Teresa inviting me to work alongside her as an account manager for two clients. Of course, I was hooked and again volunteered for CreateAthon in 2012, this time serving as a lead account manager. It was a true full circle moment to go from CreateAthon client to CreateAthon volunteer.
I loved being my own boss for nearly a decade. Some of the proudest work of my (gulp) 20-year career came during that time. I was fortunate to work with amazing clients and meaningful causes. But just as I felt the pull in 2004 to venture out on my own, in early 2013 I was feeling the pull that it was time for a change. I just wasn’t sure what it was.
Thankfully, Teresa did. To say that I’m grateful to be a part of this team is an understatement. I have the best of both worlds – the opportunity to develop our public relations department with the same entrepreneurial spirit that I used to build my own company, and to be a part of an incredibly talented and generous team.
So, the next time someone invites you for a casual conversation, keep your ears, your heart and your mind open. That conversation just might change your life.