Favorite things to do in Austin: Drinking, eating, and chatting!
- Laura Beck. Marketing and PR consultant, entrepreneur, T-shirt lady, sports nut, Mom.
- In May 2010, Laura launched www.stripedshirt.com, a web site selling fan-wear specifically designed for women, kids and babies: two-color striped shirts to let this market show their colors and support a team, a school, organization, cause or holiday. Beck is now up to 14 color combination shirts, and 12 sizes from baby 6 month to women XL.
- Until May 2010, she ran the Austin office of Porter Novelli, a global PR firm, for nearly 10 years, opening it at the very end of the dot com bubble in 2000 at 29 years old.
- Under Beck’s leadership, the office grew to staff 16 people, service upwards to 25 clients at a time, and bring in about $3M in revenues each year. Beck’s focus for the office, and personal passion, has been largely technology start ups, working with entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life, gain critical visibility, create positive buzz. That continues now as an independent consultant.
- Prior to her 10+ years with Porter Novelli in Austin, she was with the Boston office working on clients like EMC, Sterling Commerce, CMGI and ZEFER. Before that, Beck was with Lois Paul & Partners working primarily with Lotus, now a division of IBM. She began the 18 year agency stretch at Weber Group, now Weber Shandwick.
- Beck is now a proud adopted Texan, but will always keep the Boston roots strong, especially cheering on the Red Sox. She is lucky to be raising two independent minded little girls, and as a Boston College alum, is a loud Eagle fan.
- [Photo by René Lego Photography]
- WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS?
- I think my strengths are networking and connecting people, communications certainly. Public relations is a big part of that, getting a story out there, story-telling.
- My career is focused on high technology public relations, and like many, I was at PR agencies most of my career. About a 2-year hop at twp when I first got out of college and then I landed at a firm called Porter Noveli. I was there for 14 years. The last ten, I opened the Austin office from nothing and grew it to $3 million and 16 people.
- WHAT ARE SOME BEST PRACTICES FOR TECH PR?
- There are points in a business that are beautiful PR opportunities you don't want to miss and you want to factor them in, plan ahead for them, and think about them so you can take full advantage. I call it digital breadcrumbs.
- There's kind of a history, or an archive, of your company or activities forevermore, and you want to start establishing that path of breadcrumbs long before you really need that Austin-American Statesmen or Fortune Magazine hit so that someone can do their backtrack history check to see, "Ah, they've been up to some pretty cool things along the way."
- WHY DID YOU LEAVE THE AGENCY?
- When I left Porter Noveli, almost 2 years ago I wanted to retire. I was done; I was burned out, exhausted. 11-hour days are required of a PR agency life. I didn't have 11 hours I was willing to give anymore to work. I wanted to start giving a bit more to my family.
- WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
- I built Striped Shirt with a focus group of one, so I started very selfishly. What colors do I want? What sports do I like? What teams do I cheer for? What do I need to wear to go cheer on my daughters? Really dumb way to build a business, by the way.
- I'm a marketer and I know this. I tell all my clients, "Do your research. Talk to people. Figure out your customer focus and how big you can get your customer focus. It will be an indicator of your growth."
- You should be able to go to a game, watch a game, or go to a Super Bowl party with a cute shirt on, and not a big logo and a guy's name on your back and a jersey built for a man. You should be able to find just a striped shirt in those 2 colors that you care about.
- At 39 years old, when I decided to leave the career I knew, I was inspired by all the entrepreneurs I had worked with for so many years before, and I thought, "I have nothing to lose. Let's do it. Let's give it a try and see what happens." It's scary as hell, man. I admire even more the startups that I did PR for, for so many years. It's a leap but a fun one.
- WHAT IS A STORY YOU KNOW THAT ILLUSTRATES THE MAGIC OF AUSTIN?
- Those very, very young, very new companies are helping our whole ecosystem in Austin. It's giving energy to older entrepreneurs who are more seasoned. I think SpredFast is just a great example, where it was 2 guys that started it at ATI, and they were able to recruit in Rod Favaron, an extremely experienced CEO who admittedly didn't know much about social, a social business platform.
- He knew about business process management and enterprise software. But here in Austin, old dogs can learn new tricks and there you have an experienced, amazing executive leading a business which is just a super idea, that's absolutely killing it.
- WHY DO YOU LIKE AUSTIN?
- The feeling I had from the beginning of arriving here in '99 was like I got a big hug. Yeah, yeah, sappy-sap, I know. This city gives you a big hug every day. I came from Boston, ultra-competitive.
- I worked for companies in Silicon Valley, ultra-competitive, ruthless and brutal. In Austin we're competitive -- but collaboratively competitive. We hold each other up, prop each other up, raise each other up because we give a shit. We care about what's going on here and hope for someone else's success nearly as much as we hope for our own.
- If you like that kind of a feeling about a city, you best move here 'cause I don't think there are many other places that do that.