Female Founders: Brittanie Price of BCENE Public Relations On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Take your work super seriously, but not yourself. We pride ourselves on driving incredible results for our clients. Every day we land national stories, communicate industry changing news and partner with brands that are transforming the world in a radical way. And we also make ridiculous TikToks, trade memes with the media and circulate GIFS around our team Slack channels. Don’t get me wrong — I’m super down for the complicated, fast-pace world of communications so long as I can laugh and have fun along the way.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittanie Price, founder & principal of BCENE Public Relations. BCENE PR is a data-driven, award-winning communications agency with an extensive national portfolio touching every major media market. Since launching BCENE PR in 2017, the agency has more than quadrupled its client list and tripled in team size, now representing several Fortune 500 companies, including some of the largest and well-respected real estate firms and coveted lifestyle brands. Brittanie is known for taking emerging brands from “zero to hero” as the direct result of her expertise, whip-smart approach and extensive media and taste-maker connections.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Prior to BCENE PR, I served as the Public Relations Director at Streetsense (formerly Delucchi Plus), which was then a full-service strategic digital communications and marketing agency. I had the privilege to lead a band of brand storytellers and strategic communicators. My work spanned 10+ unique US markets and included overseeing the backstage beauty PR at NYFW for the iconic beauty brand, Sassoon Salon, in North America. While at Streetsense, I had the opportunity to oversee the public relations for several national consumer brands including Girl Scout Cookies, Mrs. Fields and Mamont Vodka.
My passion for unconventional storytelling began at an early age when I would spend hours in the magazine aisles while my mother shopped. I poured over the fashion glossies as a teenager and begged to take a few copies home. Fast forward 15+ years later, we now proudly place our client’s stories in the same publications that I once coveted as a young girl including: ALLURE, Seventeen Magazine, Southern Living, Town & Country, VOGUE, Woman’s Day and Women’s Wear.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked at several woman-led, woman-owned agencies. I’m fortunate in that I was championed and really raised by incredible female founders over the last 10 years. Women such as Linda Webster, Wendy Drake, Stephanie Lynch and Chris Delucchi, put me on the frontlines with media and clients, consistently gave me a seat at the table and took the time to groom me. Today, I stand on the shoulders of these giants and look forward to giving back what was so freely passed to me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Since 2016, BCENE PR has been the agency of record for OLIKA, a clean wellness hygiene brand, that offers an ultra-hydrating hand sanitizer. The brand was still new and emerging when The New York Times came to us for an interview in February 2020, right when the pandemic hit the U.S. We had a massive story go live, which coincided with the public panic and need for hand sanitizer. The volume of traffic from The New York Times story broke the OLIKA website and the brand quickly sold out of product. I’ll never forget the excitement of landing a national feature which quickly turned into a communications challenge as consumers were in desperate need of product and hungry for updates on shipping and restocking. The whole team really rallied together during an incredibly difficult time.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve shared this before, but I had a typo in my title for months when I first launched BCENE. A friend kindly pointed out the error after I went to print with my new business cards and brand collateral. I was mortified and knew it wouldn’t be the last mistake I made as new business owner. In that moment, I decided to laugh it off, fix it and move on. One of our company values is now, “We are examples of progress, not perfection.” While we are high performers who always go the extra mile for each other, our clients and the media, that doesn’t mean we are perfect. We make mistakes; we own them and then work hard not to repeat them. My favorite question when I interview potential new team members is, “Tell me about your biggest and boldest mistake in the workplace?” Pitched the wrong outlet? Sent your boss a nastygram meant for a colleague? Fudged up a client deliverable that went to press? I want to hear the good, the bad and the horrifyingly ugly. I usually prime a candidate by first sharing some of my own cringeworthy transgressions as I think it’s important to normalize imperfection across the board — intern to CEO. I tell the team — we’re in the business of human connection and if you haven’t noticed already, humans are messy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had no intentions of starting a company or becoming a female founder. I grew up watching my mother start several of her own companies throughout the years. Even today, at 56-years-old, my mother is still the hardest, longest working person I’ve ever met. She’s the ultimate networker, marketer and self-starter. In an act of defiance at 20-something-years-old, I vowed never to start my own company as it felt like too much work and uncertainty. Never say never, right?
BCENE was really the brainchild of my husband. He was traveling often for work and begged me to come on trips. Remote working wasn’t an option back then and so I couldn’t always join him. One night, we’re sitting on the couch, binge watching Game of Thrones, he turns to me and says, “start your own thing.” I refused. But it was too late, the seed was planted.
He’s since been my #1 fan, biggest cheerleader and ultimate support system both at home and in the business for the last five years.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
We’ve made great strides in the last 10 years, yet the pandemic set back women’s progress in the workplace and further widened the gap in gender disparities. According to the Washington Post, of the women who lost jobs in 2020, almost 90 percent exited the labor force completely, compared with around 70 percent of men. Likewise, a September 2021 study by McKinsey found that mothers are three times as likely to take on the housework and caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic.
In the last 24 months, it’s become painfully clear that we are operating in a broken system where women’s unpaid labor is the backbone of America. Between the lack of parental leave, the increased cost of childcare and the continued chore gap with household responsibilities, we’re now confronted with threats to recent advances in gender equity. It’s no wonder less women are starting businesses.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
There are dedicated organizations and more qualified individuals committed to solving societal and systemic challenges, so I won’t speak to those. However, I will speak to what we do as a company and in our home as I believe change begins with me.
While BCENE is a young agency in the midst of codifying our own company culture, we are committed to flexible schedules and remote working to accommodate all team members, including working parents, 16 weeks of paid family parental leave (including birth, adoption or fostering) and a commitment to put integrity before profit. We have a long way to go. In the future, I’d love to offer unlimited PTO, a paid mental health week, childcare benefits, one-year paid parental leave and support resources for first-time moms and dads.
Last year I became a mother and had a rude awakening to the struggles of working parents. The “double shift” that many women face between care of home and family, plus running a business after an 11-week maternity leave, was a recipe for burnout and I paid dearly with my mental health. I wish I could share the quick fix for readers, but the truth is there is no silver bullet. It’s been a long trudge to make it work as a female founder. In the last 16 months I’ve done it all — sought outside help, turned down new business, invested in hires in the midst uncertainty, handed off responsibilities to my husband and attempted to stay in my own lane with the household. Taking care of myself has been the hardest part of balancing motherhood and business. Self-care is having compassion for myself and that doesn’t always feel good. It means saying “no” to others and “yes” to myself more often. In the day-to-day that looks like, taking the first 30 mins of my day to meditate and journal before answering Slack messages, prioritizing “me time” before jumping into “mom mode” after my last client call and declining invitations or keeping boundaries on social events because my calendar is full and I need at least 8 hours of sleep to function the next day.
A friend often reminds me, “put your oxygen mask on first, before you help someone else.”
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I won’t sugarcoat it: being a female founder is one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. It’s similar to becoming a parent; bittersweet, scary and a beautiful wild ride all rolled into one. I’ve never laughed or cried so much than I have in the last five years. My proudest moment was sitting on a Zoom call with my full team right before Thanksgiving. We weren’t talking about anything heavy, in fact we were trading pop culture stories, swapping TikToks and simply eating lunch as a group. In that moment, I saw what we built and was deeply honored to be part of it. In my experience, it’s not the high-profile international brand we score or the full-page glossy cover story that gives me the most joy (although those things are pretty cool). It is the group of women we’ve brought together that fills me up. More women should become founders because we need each other and at the end of the day, it’s more rewarding than you can ever hope for.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
My favorite myth is that you can do it all and have it all. It’s a lie. I recently did a “day in the life of a CEO” mini VLOG on Instagram which showed the 30 second highlight reel of what my day looks like: making my bed, coffee, eating a healthy breakfast, a couple of meetings, working out and hanging with my daughter. What the video didn’t show was the sleepless night, waking up with worry wondering if I remembered to invoice clients, the temper tantrum before coffee, the mom guilt of not spending enough time with my kid, the discomfort of asking a client for bigger budgets, the low grade anxiety of meeting sales goals, the argument with my husband about who forgot to take out the diaper trash…the list goes on. I’m good at looking like I have all my stuff in one bag. The truth is I’m just like everyone else, calm on the surface and paddling like hell underneath.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
PR professionals are often granted unrestricted access to “the powers that be” and in the last 15 years, I’ve worked alongside the gamut of founders, business leaders and C-suite executives, across every major industry, vertical and size of business. In my experience, there’s no set formula, skillset personality type, astrological sign or enneagram that dictates success. The common denominator I’ve seen with successful leaders has been a willingness to “fight with a happy heart,” — whether you’re a Fortune 500 executive or an entrepreneur just getting started. In my experience, resilience and tenacity go a long way in business.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Experience > Knowledge. I would not change a thing about my journey as my mistakes were the most valuable teaching moments. For example, in building a team, I’ve been learning how to give better feedback, how to be more direct, how to ask for what I need, how to negotiate and compromise and how to coach rather than manage. One of my favorite writers talks about how “it’s all material for the next thing” — the good, the bad and the ugly experiences. To paraphrase, he says, “I think to get from bad to capable and then capable to good, you have to [experience an] exorbitant amount and you have to do it at a jarring pace.” While the author of this quote is referring to how to get better at writing — I think it applies to most learnings. Now that I’m 5 years into owning my own business and growing a team, I believe experience is incredibly more valuable than knowledge. It’s one thing to tell me about a lesson and quite another to experience the lesson myself.
- Take your work super seriously, but not yourself. We pride ourselves on driving incredible results for our clients. Every day we land national stories, communicate industry changing news and partner with brands that are transforming the world in a radical way. And we also make ridiculous TikToks, trade memes with the media and circulate GIFS around our team Slack channels. Don’t get me wrong — I’m super down for the complicated, fast-pace world of communications so long as I can laugh and have fun along the way.
- I am an example of progress, not perfection. We make mistakes; we own them and then work hard not to repeat them. I recently started a one-on-one meeting with an apology to a senior account manager. While the team member was working hard to protect my time, I was eager to get in the weeds of the work. The end result was a series of miscommunications on an internal call and all parties were left feeling frustrated. I’ve found that in building teams, it’s the unspoken expectations that become the biggest challenge. With the help of some honesty and vulnerability we moved forward and have a better understanding of each other and how we both work in our own areas of genius.
- “Thank you for sharing, you may be right.” This sentence has saved my bacon the last five years and I could always use it more. It’s helpful in any situation — whether taking in difficult feedback from a client, receiving a challenging media response or disagreeing with my partner. The sentiment ensures the other person feels heard and creates a space for me to respond rather than react. Try it on!
- Embrace the only constant in our industry — change. In PR nothing is guaranteed. The same goes for entrepreneurship. While I can’t prepare for everything, I am certain things will change. Whether it’s the arrival of a new social platform (hello TikTok) or a new way to approach PR with paid affiliate programs & NFTs, I’ve enjoyed the wild ride the last 10 years. For the next decade, I’ll do my best to take it one day at a time and know with the good and the bad — this too shall pass.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
At BCENE PR, we’re committed to using our powers for good. We donate our time, talent and energy through volunteer and pro-bono work each year and also give 5% of our profits to support health, wellness, family and women’s advocacy to include organizations such as Dress for Success, Kids Rank, Toys for Tots and LottoLove. In 2022, we will focus our corporate responsibility efforts on an organization selected by the team and will support with both a year-end financial donation and a dedicated Give Back Day in 2022. I also look forward to scaling our DE&I efforts both internally and on the client side. Since 2017, at least 25% of BCENE PR’s book of business has been in support of BIPOC-owned, LGBTQ+-led or female founders. We’re committed to focusing our business development efforts in support of those brands, while prioritizing and advocating for client support and paid partnerships with BIPOC & LGBTQ+ influencers, publications and creators across all accounts. We are hiring more diverse talent with the help of recruitment platforms such as Hue, Hire Black, Joonk, Freelancing Females and tapping into HBCU to recruit for current job opportunities. It’s a start and we have much to do as I don’t believe DE&I has an end destination.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Service work and volunteering has changed my life both personally and professionally. A team of sociologists tracked 2000 people over a five-year period and found that Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered at least 5.8 hours per month. Taking that concept to a broader sense, what if everyone took off one week every year and invested time in our communities to help others? I imagine we’d all get a boost in instant happiness and perhaps make some real change in the lives of those in need.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I could listen to Brené Brown and Austin Channing Brown all day. Every time I hear them on a podcast together or pick up one of their books, I’m forced to stop what I’m doing, pause, write it down, go back and re-listen or re-read. Even to be a fly on the wall for one of their conversations would be an honor.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.