Today we're introducing Laura Scholz, Atlanta-based PR powerhouse and Pilates pro. Laura wears many different hats in the Atlanta community, but she pulls off each just as effortlessly as the last. Read on to learn about
Q: Prior to jump-starting Scholz Communications, what was your experience in PR and communications?
A: I got my first taste of public relations in graduate school, when I interned in the public information office of the Ohio Arts Council in Columbus, Ohio. I had two great female mentors there who were both under 30 and taught me the nuts and bolts of PR. They taught me everything – writing news releases, planning events, developing media relationships, creating story angles, and yes, using super glue to cut and paste media clips (I'm dating myself with that reference). My internship was supposed to be for a summer, and I stayed for more than a year until I finished my degree!
After finishing my degree from The Ohio State University (which was in arts policy and administration, not pubic relations), I moved to Atlanta and worked for a bit in grants and development, but fell back into PR a few years later when I took a position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
(ASO). It was the opportunity of a lifetime to work with a world class orchestra with over 300+ events a year. That's the role in which I really developed my passion for the Atlanta community and built relationships I still have, nearly a decade later. In fact, I recently just landed a new client based on a referral from a former ASO intern!
While I loved non-profit work, there wasn't much there in terms of compensation or upward mobility, so I moved to the agency side and worked for a while at MS&L
. While the work was corporate, I learned so much in terms of creative strategy, client management, and copywriting (MS&L let me write for the accounts I managed – a first in that office, I believe), that it seemed natural to venture out on my own after my second agency job ended in a layoff. I knew I'd always work for myself, and when the opportunity presented itself, I took it and haven't looked back. That was nearly seven years ago.
Q: We hear that Pilates play a big role in your life! Tell us about your background in practicing Pilates and how it fits into your busy schedule.
I grew up with gymnastics and swimming – very individual sports. I definitely went through a non-athletic phase in college and then took up running. I was always looking for something else at the gym, and the step aerobics and weight lifting classes just never did anything for me. I actually took my first Pilates mat class with my mother at the YMCA in my hometown in South Carolina. I was hooked. I started taking classes and private sessions in 2003 and eventually received my 700 hour teaching certificate in Authentic Pilates in 2012 because I truly saw a difference in my body, and I was able to run injury free AND improve my running times significantly. I teach about 15-20 hours a week, both group classes and private sessions. I love helping other people find core strength, balance, and alignment. I work with a lot of runners. Seeing them use Pilates to return from injury is one of my proudest accomplishments. I take class and sessions myself probably 3-4 times a week. I wish it were more, but there are only so many hours in the day.
Q: What do you love best about living and working in Atlanta?
The people and the sense of community. This is the biggest small town ever. Everyone you meet knows someone else you know, and there isn't the competition you see in other cities, regardless of industry. I run into people I know pretty much everywhere. A great example of this sense of community is the inception of The Giving Kitchen
. When my friend Ryan Hidinger, a popular local chef, was diagnosed with Stage IV liver cancer in late 2012, the community rallied around him for a fundraiser that raised nearly $300,000 to pay for his medical bills and support him and his wife, Jen, during his treatment. That inspired him to start a non-profit, TGK, to help other restaurant industry workers in times of crisis. The non-profit will have a unique funding model – proceeds above operating costs for the restaurant Ryan dreamed of opening, Staple House
, which will open later this year. Ryan passed away in January of this year, but the legacy he left – the impact he made on others, how he turned his own crisis into a way to give to others in need – and the way our community rallied behind him and the non-profit, is what makes Atlanta the best community for working and living.
Q: What would you best advice be for young women hoping to be self-employed in the future?
Soak up every opportunity you can and explore every interest you have, regardless of industry or function. I never thought I'd have three – writer, Pilates teacher, AND communications firm owner. I just kept pursuing my passions and exploring new opportunities. I never turned down a volunteer opportunity or freelance job that interested me. The other is to find good friends and mentors and to never, ever burn a bridge. The waitress at my favorite restaurant eventually finished college and became a reporter for a local paper. I've had a few Twitter followers give me business referrals. Always act professionally, especially online. People are watching. It doesn't mean you can't have personality; it just means that you're always representing yourself and your brand.
Q: Where do you see Scholz Communications in 5 years?
Everything is so fluid in my world. I had originally intended on abandoning PR to focus exclusively on Pilates, but I found that I still like to keep my mind and network active. I would like to continue to have a roster of cause and mission-minded organizations that I feel passionate about and to continue to share their stories with the world.
Learn more about Scholz Communications here, and be sure to follow Laura's adventures in Pilates and PR on Twitter, @LauraScholz!