Kate Snyder of Piper & Gold believes that words have power. So, it’s no wonder that through her public relations company she is working to strengthen organizations, strengthen the business community, and connect those doing good things within the community using words and effective communications.
Founded four years ago out of Kate’s belief that she could use her public relations skills to make an impact and have a part in communication and economic development, Piper & Gold, located in Old Town Lansing, grew from Kate’s consulting gig into a PR firm working with government, nonprofit, and small businesses.
Where the Idea Came From
Kate has always had a passion for working for government and nonprofit agencies and before entering the startup world, she spent time exploring what PR really meant in those areas. From a small agency to Michigan Works! she developed a certain respect and pride in her role as a public servant. “I discovered that using my PR skills to make an impact on my community brought me fulfillment.”
She didn’t set out to build a company, but when she left her job to begin consulting in order to get more control over her environment and have a wider impact, her business began to pick up. Within 9 months she faced a decision; start turning work down or build a company and bring others on. It was a hard choice but Kate says building a company is where she’s found her greatest satisfaction. She’s loved, “seeing what we collectively can bring to clients and seeing the impact employees can have and the relationships and friendships that can grow.”
The Problem Being Solved
Kate looks at the Lansing business community and sees a lot of people doing great things, but she also sees a lack of awareness of these things. When she started the company she asked herself, “How could we draw connections, make people see the services available and strengthen the business community, nonprofit community and community as a whole?”
“I believe there is no organization and no situation that couldn’t be improved through more thoughtful, strategic, communications.”
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Piper & Gold specializes in working with nonprofits and govt agencies as well as small businesses.
Kate is excited to see that people are finally starting to acknowledge the cost of a communication breakdown. “It’s exciting to see the growing recognition of the role stretching communication plays in running a good business.”
She’s also enjoyed seeing the shift that ever-changing technology has brought about. “We’re seeing a shift toward digital storytelling and I’ve loved seeing new opportunities for connections. I love using new tools to facilitate things we couldn’t before.”
Kate says, like every entrepreneur, she struggles with balance.
“When your name is on it, it goes way beyond passion.” Once she started the business, she says it was a few years before she could get her head above water. “At first, it’s like drowning.” But, to overcome the overwhelmingness, she looked to others that had been through the same things. “It was critical for me to hear that others had survived.” And, eventually, she learned, grew, became more efficient and gained confidence and a staff. She also learned the importance of being well-rounded outside of her career.
“It wasn’t until I started business that I fully understood the importance of feminism,” says Kate. “I’d faced gender inequality but always had the luxury of having supportive and empowered team, I had been mostly insulated from it.” But, when she got into the community and realized how few females there were and how challenging it was to be seen and recognized as a respected leader in a field, it was eye opening. “I started to recognize how important gender equality is, and that we have a long way to go as it relates to creating gender equal work spaces and communities.”
This is something Kate wants to focus on in the future. “I want to do a better job of giving back and being supportive of vocal women.”
When Kate first started, she was scared of growing too quickly. “I can be very conservative when it comes to risk.” So, she tried to be very strategic about growth. “We are growing at a slow and steady pace and we work hard to keep projected growth at that rate so it’s manageable.”
Being so conscious of this has proved successful for Piper & Gold and Kate is confident that they have a level of sophistication it can take other companies a long time to achieve. To get to that point, they’ve had to exercise a certain level of restraint when it comes to new work. “If we don’t feel passionate about it, it’s not work we will do. We have to feel a connection with our clients, it’s how we stay inspired.”
Now a team of 7, Kate says she feels close to being the perfect size. “We don’t want to be the biggest, just the best.” The culture and the sense of family this small team size offers is important to her and the team. “It’s why we come to work.”
And, despite the challenges of growing a business in Michigan, Kate says they have been able to build a business as the underdogs. “It can be disheartening to be an entrepreneur in a state that doesn’t always reflect our values,” she says, “Yet, we have been able to grow and thrive in working with people and causes that are important to us.”
As Kate’s career has taken her through good and bad times in Michigan (she graduated when all you had to do was get a degree to get a job and then saw the bottom fall out) she’s fascinated to see that even though the region is different, it’s still struggling to attract and keep talent. She knows the problem won’t get away but gets a sense of pride from building a business that is having an impact on some of these enduring issues. “Our team is made up of the millennials that everyone wants to retain in Michigan.” She also sees hope through others who are building businesses. “The more we can continue support entrepreneurs, the better off the region will be.”
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Kate urges other entrepreneurs to make sure they take care of themselves. “It can feel like you don’t have time to do it, but it is absolutely essential in order to get perspective and to grow to have things outside of business that enrich you.”
She says finding a support network and reaching out and accepting help will allow entrepreneurs the chance to grow and take care of themselves in the necessary ways. “Take advantage of every resource out there, ” she says. “There are classes, workshops, mentorships, business coaches, incubators and more.” Being a part of an incubator, the NEO Center, she says was absolutely essential to growth.
But even before growing your business, Kate says others should understand their ‘why.’ “We want people to understand who we are and what makes us tick. We love being able to help people and community and the causes we are passionate about. It’s what motivates us. It’s why we do what we do.”
For others it may be different, but she encourages entrepreneurs to make their ‘why’ the cornerstone of their business and to not be afraid to share it. “Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. The more you can build a team that shares values, more people will want to be a part of that. There is power in being able to share that much of yourself and your vision with others.”
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Photo Credit: Kevin Fowler