Young Guns: Annette and Paulina from AnetkaStarrPR

  • Published
  • August 27, 2014
They earned their University degrees, completed multiple internships and fulfilled plenty of volunteer assignments. But even after applying for countless positions, Annette Szczepan and Paulina Kalisz still couldn’t land their dream job. What were two entreprising young go-getters to do? Why, go get it, of course.

We interviewed the founders of AnetkaStarrPR – a full-service public relations firm in Hamilton, Ontario specializing in entertainment, talent, fashion and lifestyle – about the struggles of creating your ideal career and what it takes to make dreams become a reality.

Tell us a little bit about your business. Who are you and what do you do?
AnetkaStarrPR is a full service public relations firm. We provide PR services for our clients in the entertainment, fashion and/or lifestyle industries. Our services include but are not limited to: public relations and marketing, press kit development, editorial placement, celebrity and stylist outreach, event management, and social media consulting and management.

Do you remember when you first got the entrepreneurial spark?
Annette: I never thought I would be an entrepreneur.

I always thought I would be working for somebody at a PR firm but after applying to countless jobs and being unable to get a PR job I was passionate about, I decided I would make my own job! Now I can’t imagine working for anybody else.

Paulina: I never would have imagined owning a business in my wildest dreams. When Annette approached me and asked me if I was interested in starting up a business together, I figured why not! Both our educational backgrounds are parallel to PR and compliment each other, so it works out perfectly!

Why choose this business?  What inspired you?
Annette: I always had a passion for the entertainment industry and for writing. I thought I would go into journalism but when researching internships, I found public relations. I researched it and after interning in PR in Los Angeles, I fell in love. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of developing someone as a celebrity and personal brand and I loved that I could be a part of that.
Paulina: I too grew up with a passion for entertainment and the industry itself. I have a background in marketing, and wanted to get into market research at first, but then realized I was more interested in the creative aspect of it. PR however allows me to do both – which is a huge bonus!

image of annette and paulina from anetkastarrPR

Did you have to convince your friends and family you were serious or were they behind you from the beginning?
Annette: My family has always been supportive. I usually don’t make outrageous decisions and even though they don’t quite understand what I do and how I make money, they want the best for me. I think everyone realized how serious I was about developing AnetkaStarrPR when I quit my full time job to focus on the business.
Paulina: I on the other hand make a lot of “spur of the moment” decisions, so my family thought it was just a hobby to keep myself busy with until I found something new because I’m the type of person who gets bored quickly. However, that’s the great thing about PR – every client is different, and there’s always something new going on. A lot of people have a hard time understanding what PR is, and what it is exactly that we do – however the support has always been there and everyone has expressed a fascination in our business.

Can you describe a typical day?
Annette: Typical day begins with checking emails from editors or journalists looking for people or stories. This way I see if anyone is writing a story/feature/interview that my clients could be a part of. Next I move on to emails that are responses to pitches or press releases I’ve sent out. I secure my clients interviews, features and manage social media. Sometimes we have events so we are securing sponsors, locations, sending out invitations to media and collecting RSVPs. No day in PR is ever the same but our goal is always to secure press and make the public aware of who or what our client is and what they do.
Paulina: We also don’t have set hours that we work, and as Annette said, no day is ever the same. There’s always something going on – whether its emails, calls, meetings, researching opportunities, events, or updating social media – it’s a 24/7 kind of job.

image of AnetkaStarrPR Clients
AnetkaStarrPR clients Elizabeth Ess, High Diamond and Carlos Morgan

They say you have to fail first to succeed – have you stumbled or has it been smooth sailing so far?
Annette: I don’t think saying we failed is accurate. We have definitely had some learning experiences. Everything from handling clients, journalists and our finances, it has all been a learning experience.

What’s your style on a day off: take time to recharge or always hustling?
Annette: Days off are battles. As much as I want to relax and keep my mind off my job, it has become a part of my life. My hand is always reaching for my phone to check emails. Even as I am writing this, I am in Poland on ‘vacation.’
Paulina: I don’t think there is such a thing as a “day off” in the PR world. I too am on “vacation” right now overseas, however, my phone is on all the time and my email is being checked every chance I get for any opportunities coming through. And if it isn’t business proposals coming your way, then it’s clients needing to talk to you about something. Brainstorming ideas for clients and what your next move will be with them is an ongoing process too. Our gears are always turning!

Any tips for a young gun just starting out?

Don’t let anybody discourage you. So many people will try to tell you to get a “normal” job or try to bring you down just because you’re doing something you love and you’re good at. Keep pushing!

Who’s your entrepreneurial inspiration?
Annette: Arlene Dickinson. A strong, Canadian female entrepreneur who worked in a similar field and started the very successful Venture Communications. She did what she was passionate about and never apologizes for being am entrepreneur!
Paulina: Kelly Cutrone is my PR “guru”. She’s a powerhouse, and doesn’t put up with any BS. You can’t allow for anything to stand in your way, and you have to constantly put up a fight for what you believe in.

What does the future look like?
Annette: Short term I’d like to hire an employee and move out of my home office. Long term I’d like to expand by hiring more employees, specifically ones who are young and passionate – ones who remind me of myself and can’t catch a break.
Paulina: We have both been looking at office space ideas, so I think that is our next step. Having a bigger team is also something we have discussed, as well as continuously growing our client base.

Content Manager at FS Local

Jesse is a typical class clown. Born and raised just north of the Toronto, he fell in love with the City on school trips to the ROM and the Science Centre. He tried Vancouver for a few years, but the call of home was too strong to resist. Today he lives in the North-East Upper Beaches. (What? It’s a thing!)

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