SG Lansing: The Long Games of Life and Public Relations

Tiffany Dowling joined Startup Grind Lansing's entrepreneurs last week with two important lessons: how to turn the word no into an opportunity, and how to get your story out.

Early Years as Mother and Journalist

As a child, Tiffany lived a simple life. Her father provided for the family as a truck driver, while her mother made taking care of her Tiffany her focus. At a young age, Tiffany's drive wasn't to be an entrepreneur, but a writer: her biggest aspiration was to win an Pulitzer Prize for her work as a journalist. She pursued this drive to university, majoring in journalism and public relations. She felt in flow, as if she was doing what she was truly supposed to do. In the last few years of college, things changed when Tiffany became a single mom.

Her immediate priority became taking care of her small family. Upon graduation, she began working for the Ypsilanti Press, where she won an award for an investigative piece. Unfortunately, the business of journalism is difficult. The paper ultimately folded, and she moved to becoming news editor at another newspaper. This taught her an important lesson: pick yourself up and get moving quickly.

Entrepreneurial Incubation in Lansing

As she gained insights both in life and business, she moved to Lansing to become Technical Article Writer at Neogen Corp., and then the non-profit manager at Starr commonwealth. When she next joined the state, she created a statewide marketing campaign for MI Works. The experience showed her the limits of influence to public organizations like the government. The more she learned and shared with friends, the more the question came up: when are you going to start a business?

When a dear friend and cofounder came along, their big project would be an advertising agency: M3 Group. From business plan to industry research to cost analysis, Tiffany dove into the data to make the ambitious venture work.

The importance of understanding her industry and having clear expectations with one's cofounder have been two important lessons she passed on to the Startup Grind audience. Be sure to have a long term plan for the business, and ways for each cofounder to have a way out to start their next business.

When Tiffany and her partner finally parted ways, she became a sales machine. Her secret: go into meetings like you've already made the sale, and understand: no means not right now. Every no becomes a learning experience in how to improve the pitch, product, and interactions.

For advice on Marketing and PR, Tiffany has help to give even to those without the money to hire an agency. She suggested writing ideas down instead of letting them float by, as your next marketing campaign may surprise you as it sometimes does her. Most of these efforts only cost time, not money, and can include putting out press releases, volunteering, and creating a social media presence on sites your customers frequent.