Hustle — when you put yourself in a position to control what happens around you, you’ll always find success. Starting my own PR firm was a huge risk, but slowly my reputation started growing, and businesses began to take notice. Owning your own life choices doesn’t allow you to just walk away, you have too much at state to lose. I have no choice but to succeed.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Meyers who leverages more than a decade of industry experience in media relations and brand reputation. As the New Jersey Ad Club 2018 Best MarComm Professional Under 40 awards recipient, Helen has helped her clients share their unique perspective and brand stories with a larger audience. She has the relationships with national and local media, as well as the expertise that continues to deliver results that successfully share a brand’s message.
Known for her savvy media relations and creative thinking, Helen developed a multitude of high-profile interview opportunities for her clients. Her clients have appeared in influential publications, such as LIVE! with Kelly & Ryan, TODAY Show, FOX & Friends, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, and more.
Helen holds a B.A. in Communication from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where she graduated with honors.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine. We lived 20 minutes from Chernobyl. Yes, I was born just two months before the plant exploded. Following the explosion, my parents relocated to Tbilisi, for safety, where my father grew up and had his brother and parents.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
My parents and I emigrated to the U.S. just shy of my 5th birthday to Brooklyn. We came as refugees seeking a better life filled with opportunities. I didn’t know many people. My father was the only one who was able to speak a little English.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
As refuges, we didn’t have a ton of money. In fact, we had none. My parents came here with $5 in their pocket. We slept in living rooms, on couches, with my great aunt, until my dad was able to find work and rent our first apartment in Kensington, a neighborhood in central Brooklyn.
I started kindergarten in Brooklyn. I didn’t know any English. Not even a friendly “hi”. I was immediately put into the ESL program and the school worked with me to help me learn the language, read, write and become socially engaged with my classmates. It was very difficult. I remember many days when I wanted to just give up and leave. I also didn’t come to school with traditional lunches. My lunch bag didn’t have Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches or Dunkadoo snack packs. My lunches were dinner leftovers packed into cleaned sour cream containers. Fitting in was extremely difficult.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My mother. She was my friend, confidant, and support system. She granted me the space to allow me to process my feelings and emotions. She also encouraged me to take advantage of our surroundings and taught me what the “American Dream” was all about. For my family, the American Dream, was the belief that regardless of where we were born, or that we didn’t have a trust fund, individual success is achievable through hard work, sacrifice and by taking calculated risks. She also taught me to be proud of my heritage and culture.
So how are things going today?
Fast forward, today, I run successful Public Relations boutique firm, 3DOTS PR. I graduated from Rutgers University and quickly established myself as a PR expert. That little ESL kid who couldn’t even communicate with her peers, today is spearheading national campaigns, writing press releases and articles, and has more than $5 in her bank account. The best part, I still speak Russian fluently, and thanks to my mom’s teachings, I am VERY proud of my culture.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Owning my own Public Relations boutique firm, 3DOTS PR, I now have the opportunity to share my clients, their stories, and elevate them among their peers as industry leaders.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
Hate crimes against immigrants needs to be fully criminalized and not tolerated. America is a melting pot. We all are immigrants. Our ancestors all came to the U.S. with the same dream.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Education — every dream begins with education. Whether it is technical school or a university, never stop learning and growing in the field/craft you choose. At Rutgers University, I discovered the field of Communication and instantly felt connected and knew my place in community was in the field of Public Relations.
- Work Ethic — every successful American Dream story begins and ends with work ethic. I have been working since I was 14. My first job was at Nathan’s Hot Dog. But my work ethic and reputation quickly traveled when I become the youngest store manager at retail chain. During the day, I’d attend 10th grade, and at night, I was working in retail closing the store and managing employees double my age.
- Everyone has limitations — not being born in U.S. and growing up in a household where English was never spoken, language barrier was the biggest challenge for me growing up. I knew I had to become better, so I read books to grow my vocabulary, and watched popular TV shows/movies to become immersed in the American culture.
- Hustle — when you put yourself in a position to control what happens around you, you’ll always find success. Starting my own PR firm was a huge risk, but slowly my reputation started growing, and businesses began to take notice. Owning your own life choices doesn’t allow you to just walk away, you have too much at state to lose. I have no choice but to succeed.
- Pride — I will never forget where I came from, and will teach my kids, their heritage. One day, my great-grandchildren will paint the picture that they are here thanks to their great-grandmother who made the sacrifice with her parents to come to a new country and not give up.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
I’m extremely proud with Millennials and Gen Z generations. We are mobilizing quickly and all for great causes. Together, the new generations are proving that our voices are deserving to be heard as we revolutionize activism. From BLM, to green living, to bringing awareness to school bullying and promoting green living. We care about each other.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Growing up, Oksana Baiul was my idol. A Ukrainian girl, just like me, she glided across the ice like the true champion that she was. She spoke with an accent but made no apologies for it. She was proud to be both American and Ukrainian. Kids need to see themselves represented in the media. Watching Oksana allowed me to believe that I can be a champion and winner in the life that I choose.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About The Interviewer: Vicky Colas, Chef Vicky, is an award-winning chef in the Caribbean food arena. In 2012, Chef Vicky was awarded a silver medal for Caribbean Chef of The Year at the Taste of the Islands completion hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. She was called to represent her country and be a part of the Culinary Team Haiti as a Culinary Chef Ambassador competing with 10 other Caribbean nations. The team was also awarded a silver medal for the Caribbean Team of the Year and received an Award for “Best Team for Taste of the Islands”. A published nutrition researcher, her study was selected in 2013 in the International Journal of Child Nutrition. Her recipe and interview have been featured in Essence Magazine online, Island Origin, and most recently the cookbook Toques in Black: A Celebration of 101 Black Chefs in America. In 2019, she was nominated in the “40 under 40” class of Legacy Magazine as one of South Florida’s “Black Leaders of Today and Tomorrow”.
Most recently, Chef Vicky was selected as one of twenty women candidates awarded for the 2019 James Beard Foundation Women Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) fellowship and is also part of a selective group of talented Chefs in the James Beard Foundation local food advocacy training programs. She is a wife, a proud mother of 3 boys, a business, and a food influencer in her community. Chef Vicky has been featured in her local news stations such as WSVN CH 7, Deco Drive, WPLG Local 10 News, 6 on the mix CH 6 and Good Morning Miramar.
Vicky is also a subject matter expert in the Hospitality, Culinary Arts, Restaurant Management, and Public Health (Dietetics and Nutrition) arena. She is a graduate of Florida International University (FIU) and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.