Hello, Working Girl: Porsha Thomas of Ladypreneur League
Meet Porsha, the powerhouse mastermind behind Ladypreneur League – a community for women entrepreneurs. I have the pleasure of knowing Porsha personally and whether she's staging a photo shoot or leading an event, not one creative detail goes untouched! Below, Porsha shares her path to entrepreneurship as well as a candid look at what it's like running Ladypreneur League day in and day out.
Q: When did you first decide that the life of a creative entrepreneur was for you?
A: I guess it was two-fold. I knew that I wanted a non-traditional career (read: did not want to go into an office...ever) whenever I interned at DailyCandy Dallas in 2007. My editor worked from home and in coffee shops, traveled back and forth to NYC for DailyCandy, had the cutest studio apartment I’d ever seen, held and attended fun events, etc. With that internship I was like, yes. This is it. This is what I want.
The entrepreneurial side came into play whenever I got a marketing/PR job that I loved, but something there just wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t really know at that moment that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I think what I did want lead me to that conclusion. I knew that: a.) I wanted to live/work in more than one city, b.) I wanted to do what I wanted to do and c.) Despite my love affair with PR/marketing, I really wanted to write again and also to see how far I could take “this design thing." All of the signs were pointing to freelance. My boss at the time was awesome enough to let me try it out with her as my first account. So in 2011, I began freelancing graphic design, PR and social media management full-time. I also started an online eco-friendly magazine to quell the need to keep writing and hone in on my design skills.
Q: How did Ladypreneur League come to fruition and fit in with your regular client work?
A: So the whole “wanting to work in multiple cities” thing – I did end up making that happen and it has a lot to do with my starting Ladypreneur League. It didn’t take place how I thought it would per se, but I ended up leaving Dallas, TX for Washington, D.C. and then went from D.C. to Houston before ending up here in Atlanta. In D.C., Houston and Atlanta, I found myself looking for my “tribe.” You guys should probably know that I’m a natural networker, it’s seriously one of my favorite things to do. In Dallas, I’d spent seven years making connections and I was totally that cliché “lady about town.” I wanted that experience again in the other cities I moved to. Ladypreneur League came about because I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it happen. In the 3-6 months I was in each place (three in Houston, six in D.C.), I felt as if I were attending the wrong events, following the wrong influencers on Twitter and was ultimately just having no luck finding like-minded ladies. Ever the good-idea-haver though, I thought, “I’ll just start the group I want to be apart of.” So once I settled in Atlanta, it was time to make Ladypreneur League a thing. I decided to just go ahead and start after I attended a networking event geared at millennial women interested in the corporate world. I had a great time, but after I left I thought, “You know, I’m not interested in taking a workshop to revamp my resume to get hired by someone. I want people sending me their resumes because they want to work for me. Where is the ‘How to be a Boss’ workshop?” LL fit in with my regular client work because, as usual, the itch to write was picking at me, and as a PR girl, it was easy to pull from my love and know-how of hosting events to do it for LL. As a graphic designer, it was easy for me to create the brand look I wanted and to build the website. In a sense, LL became my new client.
Q: Where do you look to for inspiration when designing or strategizing for a brand-new client for your design and publicity business?
A: Pinterest, Designspiration, and Behance are my favorite places for design inspiration. I had the pleasure of working with a Houston-based branding agency for two years before going out (again!) on my own and I learned a lot from those guys as far as business structure and client strategy. Also, I don’t take on clients that I don’t love. It’s a lot easier to strategize for something you believe in than not. And it’s not even worth your time or the client’s if you don’t.
Q: As a part of running Ladypreneur League, you also run a highly successful workshop component to the site. How do you think that holding creative workshops aids entrepreneurs in landing new clients or generating a buzz about their services?
Because all of the women who attend our workshops are talented, downright awesome, and are fully aware that they can’t possibly do “it” all. Our workshops allow educational opportunities as well as networking opportunities. Our tag line is "Mix, Collab, Create," so our entire mission is for women entrepreneurs to come out and learn from each other, and then collaborate to create new endeavors. And it works! Our members often reach out to each other when in need of new services. I myself have gotten business coaching and reiki healing from a ladypreneur who attended one of our workshops.
Q: Walk us through what a day in the life is like for your business – client calls, lots of emails, lots of coffee?
A: Emails rule my world...and I used to be great at giving quick responses. But now with two sets of emails coming in, I’m lucky if I can respond in under 3 days! I do love coffee, but I go through a coffee/tea trade off every few months, so I’m currently sipping nothing but jasmine tea all day. I wake up at 7 a.m. if I’m late, and 5 a.m. if I’m early. I brush my teeth and make my bed immediately as my desk is in my bedroom. I need it to look like an office if I’m working from home for the day. I make my to-do list and then hop on the email-answering train (and this can literally take hours). I usually try to split my days between Ladypreneur League work and client work but this hasn’t been happening lately. So now I’m doing LL in the morning and client work in the afternoon. I love to cook (I’m totally sold on Blue Apron right now) so I stop working about 5 or 6P to whip up my latest meal kit from Blue Apron. When I’m stressed, I’ll stop working to cook way earlier than that. Oh, and a glass of wine is mandatory during these cooking sessions. If I have more work to do, I’ll sometimes hop back on my laptop after dinner, but usually I just wind down w/ the rest of that wine bottle and Good Times on Crackle or some crazy serial killer documentary on Netflix...or cults. I like watching cult documentaries too.
Q: For other women looking to embark on a career in design or creative entrepreneurship, what would your best advice be? When did you know that it was the “jumping off” point for you to launch your site and business, and how did you overcome any fear or apprehension that you may have felt at the time?
A: My best advice for women wanting to embark on a creative entrepreneurship journey is to make sure that you actually learn the business side of things too. It’s easy as creatives to just want to create all of the time, but unless you have a super star team (which starting out, probably not!) it isn’t like that. I remember taking Media Management or something like that (sorry, Professor Foote!) in college and being like, “UGH! I’m a journalist, who neeeeds this?” I totally needed it. You have to know how to respond (with tact) to a client who just really isn’t feeling your logo design but wants to head in an entirely new direction (which means they are going to have cough up more dough and YOU have to tell them, not your boss). Also, how are you going to structure your business and what about organization? Are you going to use Teamwork or Basecamp as your project management system? Are you going to store client files in Dropbox or Google Drive? How will you invoice and keep track of your accounting? And super, super important, you MUST have a bulletproof contract agreement. You’re going to get clients who slip through the cracks, but this is good. They will teach you what to include in your contract for the next client. I had coffee with Amy Sparks of Amy Sparks Photography whom I met at a LL workshop recently and she told me that in her contract for on-site jobs, the client has to provide food. I was like, “WHAT?! GENIUS!” But she discovered that she needed to add that clause because some a-hole had her shooting all day (at like, a catered event, y’all) and didn’t offer her anything to eat. Granola can only get you so far, you know? Jeez! Regarding the jumping off point, again, it came about once I realized that my job was great but that I felt like something was missing. Simply put, I just wasn’t happy. Content and happy are two different things, guys. Don’t forget that! And honestly, I think I was too feisty to be scared in the beginning. I was like, “PUH-LEASE! I want this now, I’m doing it.” I think that’s a trend in my life actually, I just jump into things. The fear set in a little later when I realized that I had to maintain my bills on a entrepreneur’s budget...that is scary. It’s still scary. I don’t think it will ever go away. Caroline Van Sickle of Pretty In My Pocket told me, “You’re just going to have to get comfortable living with a bit of anxiety.” And so, here I am. Anxious as ever and loving it.