Joy Schoffler, principal of Leverage PR, a Caliber Corporate Advisors Company, is an internationally recognized author and speaker in the field of innovative financial services, marketing and communications. An active leader within the technology community, Joy sits on the advisory board of the SXSW Accelerator, AARP’s FinTech Accelerator, serves as the Executive Chair of the FinTech Professionals Association and is a mentor for the Yodlee Interactive Incubator helping to guide the next generation of financial technology companies. Read our interview with the lovely Joy below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Prior to establishing Leverage PR, I held the role of director of acquisitions for The PPA Group, a Texas-based real estate investment firm. During the two years I worked there, the company grew from four to 75 employees and made the Inc list for the fastest growing companies twice. These successes were due in large to executing creative communications and media relations campaigns. While my role was more on the investment side, I used PR to help the firm experience some pretty exceptional growth. In the process, I found PR was a really effective tool for raising capital and growing the business.
After leaving The PPA Group in 2009, I started getting offers from multiple firms to help them grow their businesses. Time and time again, I found creative communications campaigns worked wonders to achieve business objectives. When the projects kept rolling in, I decided to take the leap and start a business. I officially founded Leverage PR in 2010.
Tell us about your business.
Leverage PR is an award-winning Austin-based marketing and public relations firm that specializes in the financial services, technology and real estate sectors. Early April we announced that we’re very excited to have been acquired by Caliber Corporate Advisers, a leading strategic marketing and public relations firm based in New York. I will remain highly involved with the company’s future trajectory, though my role has evolved to focus more on high-level client strategy than running the daily business. Our clients are benefitting from the added value of an even deeper bench of industry experts in their corner, my employees are enjoying more opportunities for professional growth, and I’m getting the chance to pursue longtime personal and professional goals since moving into a role that requires less day-to-day involvement in the business. The acquisition is a win-win all around.
- 2016 Winner of the Austin Under 40 Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations Award
- 2015 Stiletto Woman in Business Entrepreneur of the Year for Marketing & Communications
- 2014 Women Communicators of Austin Outstanding Austin Communicator
- I have also held positions as a public relations officer in the Texas State Guard and as a finance officer in the U.S. Army Reserves
Where is your business based?
Austin, Texas — and now New York, too!
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
My first step was to drive growth through customer acquisition. In a service business – debt kills. I did not want the stress of high overhead without revenue. When I had enough accounts under my belt, the next step was to establish a winning team. I hired the best talent I could afford, because I knew my company’s reputation for excellence was our most precious asset. I needed people who would further underscore that attribute.
Finally (and most recently), I recognized that in order to really grow and expand in market share, Leverage PR needed a larger East Coast footprint. Having worked with the Caliber Corporate Advisers team in the past, I knew we shared a lot of the same values and goals. I’m excited to watch the results from this step really take the business to the next level as we continue to grow.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
The strategy for driving awareness of our brand was the same of that for our clients: utilizing strategic communications that helped put us in the right room from both a digital and an in-person perspective. I grew the firm by practicing what I preached and making it a priority to become a thought leader within the financial technology space. I’m the Executive Chair for the FinTech Professionals Association and an Advisory Board Member for SXSX Accelerator and AARP’s FinTech initiative. I’ve also been a speaker at dozens of conferences, and I was a contributing author for the Wiley-published Bloomberg business book “Crowdfunding: A Guide to Raising Capital on the Internet.”
My philosophy is to be truly plugged into the communities you serve. As a service provider this is especially key.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
My biggest challenge was growing the business while maintaining work-life balance. I’m a wife and a mother of two young children — and am also active in my community and kids’ school. It’s really tough to lead a successful company while raising a family and also finding time to take care of myself. I think women especially struggle with this as we have numerous commitments and often place ourselves last.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I grew the company to the point where I had an impressive book of business, a brand that was highly recognizable within the industry, and a team of rock star employees who impressed me daily with their dedication and ability to deliver results for our clients. Then I looked around and realized that I’d done what every business owner dreams of — I’d set my business up for success so much so that it no longer needed me at the helm to clear the rapids.
So I contacted a longtime friend and business connection, Harvey Hudes, who is also Founder and CEO of Caliber Corporate Advisers. We discussed what it would look like if his company acquired my company. A few months later, they did — and I have to say I really like the view! I get to spend more time with my family while remaining involved with the business I founded almost a decade ago, my employees have greater opportunities for mobility within their careers, and my clients enjoy an even deeper breadth of PR expertise for their accounts.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I keep in contact with other entrepreneurs — my clients are a major motivation to me. It is lonely at the top; I think that is one of the reason’s I love what I do so much. I get to work with successful business leaders by really connecting with them and helping to make a difference. I also have a lot of personal friends who run businesses — having a network to stay connected with is very helpful as a business owner.
I’ve also found it’s helpful to keep in mind what you ultimately want your life to look like — what kind of balance you want it to have — and to continue to work toward that goal.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
This is another area where establishing thought leadership is so essential. I’ve really worked to become a recognizable expert in the area where I do business. Potential clients take notice and will hire us before they’ll hire someone they haven’t heard of or can’t find out much about with a quick Google search.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
While running PR for SXSW 2017, I had the opportunity to listen to some brilliant panelists, speakers, and innovators, and I kept hearing a similar theme pop up: Define and keep your eye on what you really want in life, and go for it wholeheartedly.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Always make growing your business about building relationships and establishing trust through thought leadership. While short-term gains are important and the doors will only stay open with revenue, make sure to also make the time to build you network and help others where you can — even if you don’t see an immediate return from it. Do something small every day and try to help as many people as possible. Your reputation and your network are your two best tools for business development.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
There’s an app I’ve been using for goal setting, whether for personal or professional goals: Habitika. It gamifies habits. It’s basically a tool for setting small goals for yourself that you check in about daily as you work toward accomplishing them. I think it all comes down to setting goals and taking small steps daily towards accomplishing them.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Taking a step back from a principal role to one of a strategic advisor has been an adjustment. Learning where to step in and where to step back is a bit of a dance. It’s key to the new business’s success that I get the balance right, so it’s been a high point of focus, and will continue to be in the months to come.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Right now my focus is on helping to make sure the acquisition continues to be a great success for both our clients and our employees. So far, everything has been running very smoothly with the transition. The clients are getting great benefits from having such strong talent and relationships. The Caliber Corporate Advisers and Leverage PR teams are also starting to really gel — it’s been very fun to watch! I’m excited to continue to build the business within my new role.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Facebook Group www.facebook.com/LeveragePR
Hashtags #LeveragePR #womensupportingwomen