Sakita Holley is the Founder and CEO of House of Success, a New York City based Public Relations firm. This year marks her fifth year in business and she talks about how she got started as a student at Howard University, challenges she has faced and overcome, as well as gives tips to those who may be interested in the public relations field. Sakita has also started a podcast, Hashtag and Stilettos. Dedicated to covering topics sure to appeal to the millennial career and businesswoman, the podcast has been dubbed by many, including Black Enterprise, as one you definitely need to listen to!
Tell us a about yourself, your background, and what you do.
I am the Founder/CEO of House of Success PR, a New York based beauty and lifestyle public relations firm. We work with brands to help them shape and share their story with consumers and other audiences through media and influencer outreach, events and experiential marketing, content creation and social media.
How did you get started in the PR Business, what sparked your interest?
I actually got started when I was still a student at Howard University. My initial major was pre-med with a minor in public relations by the second semester of my freshman year I knew I wanted to switch and focus on PR full-time. When I did switch my major to PR, I selected entrepreneurship as my minor because I was always very business-minded and driven.
While at Howard, I did about 7 different PR internships and started freelancing under my current company name 'House of Success' during my Sophomore year to get additional experience. I was doing press kits, writing bios, planning events and whatever else I could do (mostly for free) to hone my skills. However, I didn't decide to focus on the business full-time until about two years after graduating from college. I quit my PR job in corporate America and took a leap of faith.
You have been in business for 5 years, what are some things that you attribute to your success thus far?
Well, the biggest thing that I attribute to making it to this milestone is not giving up. There have been many moments when things have gotten tough when I could've easily thrown in the towel and found a job (and yes, I have seriously considered this), but I just keep going.
And the thing that I've learned about "success" is that it's pretty subjective. For me, I view my success not as an overall triumph but rather a series of successful or fruitful moments or results. I'm pretty hard on myself, but I'm also very realistic and know that there is so much more that I need to learn in order to grow as not only a person but a business owner. There's a lot more milestones that I hope to reach in this business.
What are some challenges that you have faced and how did you overcome them?
There have been many challenges. I launched the firm full-time in my early 20s and was pitching reputable brands and entrepreneurs who've been in business or in their respective industry longer than I've been alive, so there was a bit of a credibility challenge on their end and I think they saw it as "what could she possibly know."
One of the ways that I was able to get past that was by having a blog very early on, which still exists (HashtagsandStilettos.com), where I would share my opinion on different PR and business topics. This enhanced my credibility immensely.
Another challenge that I've faced and that many entrepreneurs or young professionals will encounter is the lack of financial resources. I literally started the business with $0 and a dream. I had just quit my job and still had bills that I needed to pay, whatever I had in savings was gone within a month and I didn't come from a family who could loan or gift me money. Starting out that way was ROUGH and I actually talk about this in an episode of my podcast (https://soundcloud.com/hashtagsandstilettos/5-thoughts-after-five-years-as-a-full-time-entrepreneur). But again, I was determined to make it work.
You not only are the CEO of your PR Firm, House of Success, you also operate Hashtags and Stilettos, and add in your Podcasts, you are one busy woman! How do you manage everything and what do you do to decompress?
Not to sound super old, but when I was first started the business five years ago, I had the blog then too but I also had way more energy and pulling all-nighters 3-5 times a week was easy because I could just bounce back. I didn't mind the sacrifice.
These days, I still work long hours and sometimes find myself opening up my laptop in the middle of the night but I'm more inclined to choose a nap or an early bedtime over doing more work. Not only do I not have that same energy, I realized two things: 1. the work will always be there and there will always be 'one more thing' you could do and 2. I made a deliberate decision to work on building more balance in my life and I don't want to work around the clock anymore.
I'm still working on my decompression methods, but last year I took a lot of trips which really did wonders for my mental and spiritual well-being, I like getting massages although I don't go enough. And on a smaller scale, I play games on my phone to try to take my mind off of the day or on rare occasions I'll watch a movie on demand.
What is the best advice that you have received from a mentor or someone you have admired?
The best advice I've ever been given always comes from my grandmother. My friends and I jokingly call her the prophet or oracle. Two things that she's told me that stand out the most at this moment in my life are: "One Thing at a Time," and "You need to create a beginning, middle and end for your day."
As an entrepreneur or any driven person, there's so much that we want to do and it can get overwhelming when you realize that you can't do it all at one time or when you've put too much on your plate. So when it does get overwhelming, I just remind myself to focus on the one thing that's right in front of me and then move on to the next because really, that's ALL we can do.
And having structure in your day whether you're working for yourself or someone else while pursuing passion projects on the side is super important. Structure helps you create balance in your life. Having more of both is a big goal for me this year.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to break into the PR business as well as anyone who may be an aspiring entrepreneur?
Do your research. PR is a field that touches any and every industry that you can think of so there's a ton of different ways you can break into the industry. Take whatever you're passionate about and find PR opportunities in that industry. For example, if you love animals you can get a PR job at your local zoo or Humane society. The possibilities really are endless because everyone needs PR.
If you're thinking about starting a business, make sure that it's something that you really care deeply about. If you have access to money or can raise money, do it because this will remove a lot of obstacles out of your way.
What would you say your life's theme is for 2016? What words/mantras are you living by?
Great question. My life's theme for 2016 is a constant reminder to myself that it's okay to live. The initial revelation for me came as I was reflecting on all of the amazing things I did for myself in 2015, like travel and enjoy the fruits of my labor in other ways. And now, the notion of not just being alive but truly allowing and giving myself permission to live is even more poignant because my aunt who I was very close with passed away a few weeks ago.
One of the things she would always tell me to do is stop worrying, stop stressing over things that aren't in my control and to really be present in the moment and enjoy myself more in whatever way I wanted. We're never going to be this young again and I want to begin creating the type of life right now, right where I am, with what I have that is enjoyable and fulfilling so that I'm not looking back 5, 10, 15 or more years from now wondering and wishing about what could've been.
How can we keep up with you and all that you have going on? (social media, website link, etc.)
You can find me everywhere as @MissSuccess. You can find House of Success PR on Instagram as @HouseofSuccess (link:www.instagram.com/houseofsuccess), the blog atHashtagsandStilettos.com, and the Hashtags + Stilettos podcast on Soundcloud (link:www.soundcloud.com/hashtagsandstilettos) and iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hashtags-and-stilettos/id1044200058?mt=2)