‘Do great work for great clients’ – Renee Schonborn

Updated on 28 August 2014

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'Do great work for great clients' - Renee SchonbornCompany Profile

Name of company: Little Black Book PR

Years in existence: 10

Position: Owner/Founder

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?

My career history spans various disciplines within the marketing field. I started in corporate communications, moved from there into advertising and then found my niche in public relations. I am a mother to three very spirited children – aged 11, 9 and 4 and have been married for 14 years. I grew up in Botswana (although I went to a boarding school in South Africa) and now live in Johannesburg.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?

Little Black Book PR is a small public relations agency that focuses on media relations and stakeholder relations. Most of our clients are entrepreneurial in nature and span a wide range of industries – both business to business and business to consumer clients.

“The biggest challenge we have faced is the change in the media environment from traditional media over to digital and social media”

We align ourselves with other specialists within the public relations field, so that if and when a client requires services that are outside of our area of expertise, we can call upon our associates and provide a solution.

How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?

The journey began in 2004 and to be honest, it was a decision made without months of researching, consideration or crafting of business plans. I decided to leave the agency environment and to look for clients by cold calling – which proved successful.

I focused on the industries I knew well and from there other clients, from varied industries, have come via referrals. I have kept my core team very small and place a strong emphasis on continued learning, to stay abreast of changes in this very dynamic industry.

What were some of the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

It hasn’t been difficult – it has been a rewarding challenge. The biggest challenge we have faced is the change in the media environment from traditional media over to digital and social media. It requires a different way of working and is far more immediate and fast-paced. The digital media landscape is very fluid and evolves all the time. It is important for us to keep up with developments and to be agile in our response to the changes.

How many people does your company employ?

Our core team is a team of two. However we have a wide network of associates that we work with constantly.

What is your overall vision for your business?

It is simple – to do great work for great clients.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?

It is obviously different for each industry. In the PR business it requires creativity, tenacity, resilience and the ability to forge strong relationships – with clients and media. The startup costs are not big, but a strong network and good experience are crucial.

How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?

didn’t need to finance the business as such. I started from an office at home – with my laptop.

“Success to me is not a big PR agency”

What are the three things you attribute your business success to?

Constant learning and upskilling, strong relationships/good network and a dogged determination.

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

When I realised that I could use the skills and experience I had built up in the agency environment to start my own business. The timing had to be right. I needed the agency experience first.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I like to work with competent people. I don’t micro-manage as I expect people to be able to do their jobs well. I am inclusive when making decisions and value the opinions of others. Good relationships are key to me.

What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?

I have the privilege of working with Dr John Demartini and have found his business advice most valuable. I attend his public talks when he visits South Africa and there is always something of value to be learned from these.

What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?

My advice to entrepreneurs starting out in the public relations industry would be:

1. Make sure you have the right set of skills and experience for the services you want to offer

2. Remain curious and keep learning and upskilling

3. Build strong relationships with clients, service providers and the media

What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received? “

“To truly be successful, you need to grow the business”,  I have a small core team and a great book of clients and a strong network of associates to call upon when needed. Success to me is not a big PR agency.

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?

Definitely both.

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