Ellevest’s “Women in Power” series explores what it really takes to run a business when there’s still an entrepreneurship gender gap. In this episode, Mallory Blair, founder of Small Girls PR, talks about being a CEO and founder at 21 years old, her darkest hour as a leader, and why she’s a financial feminist.
Mallory Blair on building her business
Money was a constant conversation in my household. I grew up raised by a single mom who really struggled with money, struggled to make ends meet. I made it my mission to have financial security and make sure that I never had to go through that. I'm Mallory Blair, and I'm the CEO of Small Girls PR.
What it’s like being a 21-year-old CEO
I started Small Girls PR out of college when I was 21. I hadn't interned in PR; I had never worked in PR. A lot of starting my own company was the idea of not wanting to have to rely on anyone else for a paycheck or job security. When you're an entrepreneur, and especially when you're a bootstrapped entrepreneur, the joke is that you can work whenever you want, but you have to work all the time.
For the first couple of years, we were the cleaning person, we were the office administrator, we were the scheduler, we were the director, we were the assistant. I think we actually opened our business with less than $100. So we definitely had the fire under our butt and that hustle. And we had to really test our services very quickly and integrate really quickly if something wasn't working — because then we couldn't afford to feed ourselves at the end of the day.
Most Saturdays and Sundays we were in the office, and if we weren't, we were out networking and hustling and trying to get more clients. There were so many times early on where we were really worried. Really worried about money, really worried about, “Can we still continue to go on next month?”
When you try to quit, but your partner won’t let you
The lowest moment that I ever had at Small Girls was probably about a year in. And I remember calling Bianca and telling her, “Mmm, I don't think I'm cut out for this." Bianca talked me out of it on the phone and was like, “Give me 48 hours. I'm going to make something happen.”
And that was just a testament to how Bianca works, why she's such an amazing partner, but also that your lowest lows can provide your highest highs, where it made us realize that like, “Oh no, we should keep doing this.” And no matter what roadblock we hit, we can’t just throw in the towel.
The most valuable lesson that I've learned as a result of starting my own business has been that you have to continually invest. We actually started in a co-working space that's about a block from our current office. We were the only company that was bootstrapped. Everyone else had funding, and we're also the only company that's still around seven years later.
I think the moment I think that I've made it is the moment I should no longer be in this job.
I'm Mallory Blair, and I'm a financial feminist because I'm comfortable talking about, dealing with, and leveraging money for access to opportunities.
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