When Katie Hammond was 26, she already had an impressive career in public relations on her resume. She’d put in time at boutique firms as well as top agencies, earning the trust of both clients and media outlets every step of the way. She realized she had the experience (and the drive!) needed to branch out on her own, and in 2011 she launched her own company – 9SPR. Today, the full service agency offers clients a little bit of everything: relationships with the media and celebrities, brand ambassador programs, event planning, branding, digital consulting, product placement, social media… the list goes on. As her client roster grew, so did her staff. Katie realized that working out of her home would no longer cut it! 9SPR moved into a bright LA office, just steps from the beach, and Katie quickly put another skill to work – design. The space is bohemian with hints of industrial glamour, and though the offices are conducive to crossing items off of a long to-do list… we’re taking notes for our next living room refresh. Read on as Katie tells us about her professional journey, her love of design, and why Oprah can (and should) help with almost any business decision:
Tell us, how did you go about starting 9SPR?
I was working in the PR division at 72andsunny specifically with the modern parenting clients at their Los Angeles office. I not only found the work extremely rewarding but I also saw the opportunity for growth in that emerging market, which ultimately drove me to go out on my own and continue to be part of that growing space. It was scary starting my own company at such a young age but looking back it was the best decision I ever made. And I was very fortunate to open 9SPR with some amazing brands.
In your opinion, what makes a great publicist?
There are a lot of attributes that make a great publicist but you have to have an insane drive, thick skin, be quick on your feet, and let’s be honest a little OCD!
PR is not a career where you can go on vacation for two weeks and completely check out, so you need to always be ready to anticipate what is thrown your way. You have to wear so many hats (marketer, content creator, cheerleader) it is vital to always be curious and educate yourself on everything from digital trends to consumer spending to who is on this week’s cover of US Weekly. Brands rely on us to stay current on everything from industry news to emerging digital platforms. Overall, you have to be in the know because people are constantly looking to you for the answer.
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the field?
Just start! Tenacity goes a long way in PR. Intern at as many different types of agencies as possible to better understand the ins and outs of the industry. Make sure you set aside time daily to read magazines, blogs and watch the morning shows. It’s not uncommon for us to read through 15 magazines a day. And have a great attitude because no task is ever too small.
When did you know it was time to take the business to the next level and open an office?
When I was working in a corporate environment, my dream was to work from home, a simple one I know! So naturally when I started 9SPR it was out of my second bedroom. In the beginning it worked perfectly, especially since I was pulling long nights. However, as the company grew and I began hiring, it was not conducive and the lack of balancing work and my personal life was a challenge. After about a year we moved to an office space several blocks from the beach. The day I signed the first lease was so exhilarating but scary for sure!
Your company is growing fast! How many employees do you have now?
Between our LA and New York offices we have a team of seven.
What’s the hardest part about being a #girlboss?
I started 9SPR when I was 26. I have always been very driven but I had to win people over with my successes twice as hard at first because I did start the company at such a young age.
You’re seem like a busy gal! What are your top 3 tips for other working women to stay organized and on top of their work?
- Handwritten to-do lists. They are vital. Each week I start a new one with a column for personal and work to-dos. I have tried every productivity app there is but I have found nothing is as effective as my notebook. And it gives me an excuse to buy way too many pretty notebooks.
- Use Saturday to wrap up and plan. It’s my designated day to tie up loose ends from the previous week and start organizing for the week ahead. This way, my team has a game plan on Monday morning and it also leaves Sunday to regroup and recharge, which is so needed!
- It’s so important to stay inspired. My eyes are always open to different pieces of inspiration and using a channel like Pinterest has been really helpful because I can digitally dog-ear ideas and categorize them to easily reference at a later date.
Let’s talk about the office itself. Looks like you not only have a knack for PR but also design!
My mom is an interior designer so I’ve grown up with an appreciation for aesthetics. Its funny most people were always saving up for a concert in college but I was always eyeing the newest John Robshaw pillows or Taschen coffee table books. I’m an advocate of mixing styles. I often describe our space as bohemian with an industrial influence and Scandinavian vibe.
What was the initial inspiration for the space?
Our office is within walking distance to the ocean and I wanted that calming atmosphere to be reflected in our space. I have a slight addiction to textiles and rugs so there were a few key pieces that I knew had to be incorporated into the space and designed from there.
We recently moved into a larger office and from the get go, I had all of the major artwork planned. I am a huge fan of Slim Aarons and his Poolside Glamour photo was the inspiration for the seating area. I just love the vibrant colors he always used and the way he transports you into that amazing world he lived in! I tried to really meld that room so it is vibrant and stimulating but stayed true to the overall bohemian tone.
Did you encounter any challenges in the design process?
The biggest challenge was creating different work and seating areas within the open environment. We are a small team and I knew we needed a cohesive space that allowed for collaborations and at the same time was conducive for independent work and meetings. Also with our clients in the lifestyle and modern parenting arenas, we have a great deal of product samples and complete lines, which at times can be overwhelming if not stored properly. With our new office, I made sure that we’d have enough space to effectively house the product in a very organized manner.
What is your favorite space in the office and why?
The seating area! I tried to make it personable, comfortable and a place where people could brainstorm or take a client call. I have to say most of us are either in that room or at the conference table more so than at our desks!
This space is comfortable, but obviously allows for a lot of work to get done! What is your top advice for making an office both productive and inspiring?
I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with pretty things. You simply cannot be productive in a cluttered space so everyone in the office knows that each and every item from magazines to paperclips to client samples has a home.
A big perk of my job and inspiration point is being able to travel. Particularly over the last few years I have made quite a few trips to Europe to visit our international clients. I was really inspired by the incredible landscape of Iceland. We have three photos that I took framed on one wall in the office. They serve as continuous creative inspiration for me.
We love that! What’s the biggest business lesson you’ve learned in running your own business?
Naturally I really enjoy being involved in all aspects of the business and client relations and when I started 9SPR I was literally doing everything. But as we have grown, I’ve had to make a shift to focus on fostering our team’s talent so they feel empowered to handle pieces of the business so that I can use my time more effectively. I pride myself on the fact that we have a team of incredibly smart, savvy publicists and I could not be more proud of the amazing work our team produces.
Do you have an accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
Finding a career I truly love at such a young age and our client roster. I am so fortunate to work with some of the best companies in the business.
What do you attribute your success to?
It’s a cliché I know but my parents. My dad was a stockbroker for 25 years at Goldman Sachs and I don’t think I ever saw him take a sick day. He really instilled his work ethic in me and pushed me to find a career that I love. I am fortunate to always have been surrounded by creative entrepreneurs who really encouraged me to think big.
It definitely has paid off! Finally, we’re also big fans of Oprah. Tell us about the quote you chose to hang on the wall?
It’s Oprah! Need I say more? She crushes it. If we’re ever stuck we think what would Lady O do and more often than not, the answer comes to us!
To learn more about 9SPR, click here.